Blog: AltEd

The Still Life.

After my second “vacation” home (to Los Angeles in April, and Connecticut last weekend), I’m surprised to find a palpable landing back home in Florida. My travels around the country to see loved ones, friends and family, and to frequent my old stomping grounds, came with all the usual emotional turbulence one would expect. Happy and those less-than-happy memories surfaced, and the intangibility of home (“Stop this Train!”) reminded me of the inevitably of aging, impermanence and my own growth.

I found myself in an odd predicament, as I prepared for my high school reunion. (Yes, I planned it. Yes, I was class president. But no, I am not any longer! I’ve retired.) The familiar stress of event planning and on-site logistics, paired with a few unfortunate hiccups in the long days that preceded the event reminded me of my high school self: Eager to please, relentlessly offering my energy to others yet so drained as a result that I miss much of the experience myself. This is my pattern. I miss quality conversations with old friends and I might be seen (I’ve been told) as self-centered for my “lack of caring about others” when the time for chatting came. Instead, I hover close to the bar overwhelmed, jittery and foggy-feeling. The show must go on.

We like to paint pictures of what something “should” or “would” be like. I had one for this milestone event and I know others did too. But ultimately, my proudest memory was right before I left the house. I had answered all the questions, called all the vendors, secured the decorations, arranged the guest list, collected, deposited, and disbursed funds, and on. The only thing left to do before I left the house was be still. I looked in the mirror, one last make-up check, and was surprised by a tsunami-like welling up of pride.

Though I might still fall into old patterns from time to time, I am aware of them. And awareness gives me choice. I found myself proud, not of who I am on paper – business owner, Masters degree holder, international traveler, author – in fact, speaking to these “titles” like accusations actually triggers some nerves. These are roles that I play, that I am honored to hold. They do not define me. I am not that.

As I looked in the mirror, I felt a startling ease and affection for the person staring back. I trust her. I’m inspired by her strength. Her ruthlessness. Her endurance. I admire that in the hardest, darkest times she continued to extend her arms, heart and mind to others. (Even though she should have been home prioritizing self-care.) When there was nothing left to give, she gave whatever she had left. She knows who she is unapologetically. And in recognizing there are many things she doesn’t know, she moves through life differently than before. Her ego, and eyes have softened.

I went forward to the reunion and enjoyed the following day with extended family, feeling immersed in a sense of (relative) calm and all-encompassing love.

Of all the changes I’ve made in the past ten years – the cross-country moves, the ass kicking’s and getting my ass kicked – there are a few lessons I feel have changed me the most:

I now know that the purpose of life is to love. That being still is not a sin. That finding stillness is not shameful. That being “productive” is not required to “succeed.” I’ve softened.

My gaze is no longer dominated by a sense of fear, confusion or disillusion, but is held with compassion, understanding, and tenderness. My heart affirms my own personal mantra and place in the world (which coincidentally, is likely yours too):

I will accept you no matter what. I will love you no matter what. I will be the best I can be, and accept my imperfections. I will set boundaries to protect myself from those who might misuse or abuse my energy. I will be present when and as often as I can, and permit myself to retreat into solitude as needed to recharge and re-energize. I will surround myself with people who support me and my goals without judgment, and allow for them to change and evolve with time.

I will love as often and as much as I can bear. I will understand when love cannot be returned and hold space for forgiveness, healing and growth. Even after being hurt, I will continue to love. Fulfillment is love. Look no further than those closest to you. They and you are all you need.

I’ve come to see that finding stillness is both the means and the end. A still life in the present moment is a happy life. I intend to spend the rest of mine pursuing exactly that.

Stop looking, you’ve already found it. The still life.

My heart whispers: Rest easy, you are perfect. And I think that one’s for you.
All bound up in love, devotedly yours,

Amy

 

Guest Post: Meditation and the joy in every moment

Ben began his practice in 2003, Since studying at his local physiotherapy clinic, Ben has expanded his scope to include yoga acupressure, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine and applied kinesiology.

Meditation and the joy in every moment
By: Ben Rogers, Edited by: Amy Osborne

Meditation has been described as “no mind” or “not thinking.” It is a stilling of the mind for a sustained period of time.

Mastering meditation can sometimes feel like coming home. You feel as if you have simple rediscovered something that has always been there. The door into tranquility that you know has already been within you is now opened.

For example, if you work in an office, are a musician, painter or another creative field, you likely know that in the midst of creation you are not thinking – but the work is simply flowing through you. Allowing this to happen is quite a challenge, which is why meditating and sitting down before work can be very helpful.

Your mind does not like to be switched off, it will constantly interrupt your meditation, demanding your attention.

Somewhere within each of our minds there is a sanctuary away from the noise and disruption of our own busy thought process. Meditation is about calming that chatter of your mind and rediscovering the calm and still space within yourself.



Breathing and meditation

Don’t forget to breath, that sounds very obvious, but it is a natural instinct for some people to hold their breath when concentrating. Don’t gasp for air, as you get into your meditation your breathing should become more gentle and rhythmic.

Posture for meditations

First imagine the top of your head is being pulled towards the top of the ceiling by an invisible string, so it feels as if your head is floating above your spine. Your chin is slightly lifted, perpendicular with the floor, to open and expand the heart and throat centers.

Relax your shoulders, drawing them back and down, and gently ease your chest (heart center) forward.

Focus and meditations

When you are ready, close your eyes and focus on your breathing, as it comes in and out through each nostril; this is one possible point of focus. This is where your attention can stay. Take several deep breaths and allow your diaphragm to lift, expanding the belly with each full inhalation. Three count inhalation, three count exhalation.

General tips for meditation

  • Don’t think about the past or future – you are participating in the present moment
  • Don’t strain, just breath
  • Don’t have expectations – It may be amazing or just difficult the first, third, and thirty-fifth time you meditate. The practice is simply being with any experience that might arise.
  • Don’t be disappointed – the benefits of meditation come with regular practice and persistence

Exercises for joy on the go

Whether you walking across your living room or across town, consciously slow your footsteps and pay attention to each sensation in your heel, the ball of your foot and then your toes when they make contact with the ground. (Walking Meditation) Notice how this simple practice relaxes your stride and your breath as your attention settles into the fullness of your present moment awareness as you go along with your day.

Observe your thoughts as you walk. What are you thinking about? Can you see a tree, person or car go past without internally labeling it? Practice moving though your surroundings without attaching thoughts, stories or judgments on what you see.

Exercise your heart (cardiac/circulatory system) whether it is bicycle riding, skating or dancing. Find an aerobic activity that brings you pleasure and you can joyfully commit to for half an hour or more during the day.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could skip past the pain and fast forward to the bliss? The truth is to experience true contentment, we must be willing to feel all of our emotions, from despair to sadness. Our willingness to accept the moment, acknowledge the emotion and be willing to let that go is to find true peace.

Meditation is a tool that teaches us to meet ourselves (and others) where we are, and to be with whatever thoughts and feelings arise without attachment or judgement.

While the practice of meditation is profound, it is also quite simple to learn. There are many types of meditation, from walking meditation, contemplative writing, chanting or focusing on objects. But all forms of meditation begin with getting still and quite inside.

 

Join Amy for Meditation 101 at North Port Yoga to learn six methods of meditation to kick start your personal practice. amy@northportyoga.org / www.northportyoga.org

 

Married to Yoga.

Wow, what a wild ride.

There are moments I have an awareness of how much changed I’ve endured, how much I’ve shifted in the past 6 months…year……okay, 5 years.

In the past five years, I am plus one Master’s degree, plus one yoga studio and subsequently down one “wedding fund” (and boyfriend, for that matter). I made the decision to use my wedding fund to live my dream, henceforth I am: Married to Yoga.

From Boston to Los Angeles to SW Florida, from government affairs to yoga studies, from over-time perfectionist to master delegator, relationship lover to solo adventurer. I think mostly I’ve realized the importance of realizing that nothing is perfect. Nothing can be forced. Very little is actually known. I now fully know that what we allow ourselves to feel and think is how we see the world. That the world is not what we thought it was, or is. And that, in fact, the rest of the world is just like us. We are one.

It’s difficult to settle into my new home and as a studio owner in North Port, FL, as daily glimpses of my past lives (past jobs, places, people) remind me of how much there still is to learn, to know and explore. So many things that I thought were, are not. And as many things I thought would never, are fully – resonant. You never know how your reality will unfold when you stop trying to control its direction. But, you can know that no matter where it takes you, when you release control, it will be the most right thing that you have ever done.

There’s definitely a reality that we aren’t aware of, that can begin to answer all the questions we have about life, what happens next, and why bad things happen to good people. This has been my journey, to explore to “why” of life. There is a rhythm, though perhaps not a reason, to the fragility of life that doesn’t accurately represent reality: that all is one, everything is universal and all that are born must perish, and will be born again. There are cycles and formulas to life that we can only gather by tuning in to our own patterns.

I’ve been put in a vulnerable position lately to share my story, when in reality, I’m still awaiting the happy ending – or any resolution at all. I don’t feel I have the clarity to retell a narrative I can barely understand for myself. The story of my own life’s progression. So, recently, I started writing, not just about how I feel but why I feel. What I feel. What are the patterns to my own natural rhythm? Rather than allow my emotions to rule me, or to feel bad that I feel bad, and certainly rather than allowing my worries to manifest into a million different reasons or worries “why”; I’m going back to basics. At the first impulse of emotion or reaction, I want to know what that worry is about. That’s all. I’ll write it down and then I’ll let it go. Not to be obsessively dissected or philosophized. Just to be simply acknowledged and maybe even understood. (Or maybe, not yet.)  I’m going to try this method of observation and note taking in hopes of uncovering “why” I am. “How” I work, and how I can do better for myself and others.

After five years, I’m getting to know myself again. Having peeled back the layers of my identity over years of self-study, of yoga. It’s scary but so necessary to know who’s there at my very core. The me I’m finding is so real, and more importantly, is someone I can proudly be with for the rest of my life…As long as I (the seen and the Seer) shall live. So my journey seems to be opening to an entirely new chapter, where I can’t deny what is and am forced to flourish therein, the present moment. Married to yoga.

Sending love and good vibes always in the hope of inspiring or at least walking with you on your own journey of unfolding; however that might be.

Om Shanti, xo

Amy

 

Perfectly Imperfect

All of a sudden, I feel like Britney Spears. She was right. I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. And, it f***ing sucks. Excuse my language.

I have become more adult in the past six months, it feels, than ever before. Although this could be attributed simply to my fleeing Los Angeles (where adult children thrive) in my new role as a business owner in suburbia, there’s also been a lot of other shifting. Shifting into a sense of suddenly knowing. Knowing what? Ironically, I have no idea. And yet, a calm persists. I’ll take it.

[Shakti rams her head against my leg in a rewarded effort to engorge her beef meaty bone.] Perfect imperfection is a practice I’m embracing full force. It means that I can arrive 10-15 (sometimes even 20) minutes late to any engagement and feel justified; I’m imperfect. Haven’t you heard? I still feel terrible but send an early notice text that I’m running behind. I’m imperfect after all. And that’s all imperfect people are expected to do. Move forward. Be human. Embrace whatever’s happening with humble honesty. We’re all imperfect after all.

So, I’ve found some of the happiest moments during my indulgence in imperfection. It’s a painful thing to lose people due to a perceived imperfection, or several – just because nobody’s perfect. I’ve found that many of the people I admire most in my life have lost others through a prolonged misunderstanding, or unresolved disagreement. It’s a painful point, but I’ve realized that self-conception is everything. And that if I can truly live with myself happily, I’m more able to live with others well. I honor the moments of my imperfection as benchmarks and growing pains. Anyone who can’t wait out my darkest moments doesn’t deserve my best and brightest. An unfortunate truth.

I’ve learned that honoring myself is an acceptable first priority. I’m ever grateful to the many strong women in my life who have encouraged me to feel, honor and acknowledge the difficult moments in my life. The sooner we acknowledge our vulnerabilities the stronger we become. I believe it, and I’ve seen it. I’m ever stronger from the village and tribe that has emerged in this community. With me, not from me or for me, they thrive; we thrive.

It’s clear how we can be happiest in life, finally. Loving others, serving others, loving yourself, serving yourself. From there, everything else comes easily.

More adventures to come no doubt. Just an update to let you know I’m thinking of you. Like love notes from my heart…I’m inspired to approach life with curiosity, because I have a reason to share it. Thanks for reading.

Cheers/YOLO/with gratitude,
Amy

Where do we go from here?

You know, I feel I’ve been writing an awful lot but it hasn’t be here. And it’s time to connect what I’m exploring with who I am, which is what I believe this blog to be. Me, in words.

Whenever I travel, I meet people who are above me and below me on the social totem pole. I meet people who have more and less than me, who understand more or less than me, who feel more or less the same way that I do. It’s a new experience on this trip to San Antonio that I look forward to the responses of others, the interactions of others, to shed light on and make sense of the life I live. For a long time I lived ignorantly in the reality that I already knew all that I needed to know. That I was always right. That I could trust myself, and perhaps no one else. While the latter statement may still be true, the others have met their demise. I have risen out of my graduate program (as I hope many others do) realizing that I know nothing. That I am rarely “right.” That I have so much more to learn that I cannot possibly learn in one lifetime. In fact, I have come to believe that the most dangerous people on Earth are those who believe they have nothing left to learn. Those who believe that they have all the answers.

Particularly in light of the past week and “he who shall not be named” (a fond title I borrow from a past lecturer), we confront a reality that I have not yet know within my lifetime. One of explicit racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and simple injustice. And yet, I feel surrounded by hundreds, thousands, even millions of Americans who are likeminded in their beliefs, values and compassion for all others. This weekend, at a Global Religions conference in San Antonio, TX, I leave not necessarily optimistic, but hopeful. And I understand that although the state of our world is in peril, that we are in good company. I was reminded by fellow yogis that relying solely on our intellect will surely kill us (from the inside, out). Living in a linear world of “this, then this, then this,” shows us the way to self-destruction and climate debacle. While living in a world of intuition, of feeling, of compassion, even of fantasy – of heart and consciousness – allows us to live happily (not ignorantly) but positively contributing to a society we can never save, but still save ourselves. This way isn’t isolationist, in fact it’s quite the opposite; it’s all embracing.

I gladly take on those who tell me I live in a fantasy world, that “when I grow up” and shake off my rose tainted glasses, I will see how foolish I was all these years. To them, I can only say that I hope to God (whomever she may be) that this is never the case. That I believe the only contribution I can give to the world is my ability to see beyond the struggle. To offer hope, and love and compassion, even in our darkest days. And if the horrors are all true, if we are facing a decline in civility of humanity, bring it on. Because I know that, until the day I die, I will stand in my truth – which only means that I am full of love. And I will love everyone I can wrap my arms around as long as I am able. Why? Because what service is there in doing anything else? Hate, violence, skepticism, doubt, and fear are only signs there is more work to be done inside. And once we figure out our own selves, work our own shit out, through yoga – learn to love the face, the body, the being we see in our reflection in the mirror – then and only then can we move forth and see the beauty in the outside world, in Nature (most fully) and see all others as this same absence or fulfillment of love.

Start by confronting those feelings and thoughts inside that you don’t want to deal with. This is our work. Our “dharma” in Eastern tradition, our purpose. This is our work. And, it is work. It takes months, even years to face. But know that when we raise out of this hell (which may in fact be the “hell” referenced in Christian Scripture) there is only joy, praise, love and heaven on earth. Seek community in yoga, in Buddhism, in Christianity, in business partners, or whatever your community might be. Seek community and know you are not alone.

If you ask me: Are you religious? I am not. If you ask me: Are you spiritual? I am. If you ask me (as many have) under what lineage? I say: many. I see the truth in every system of beliefs. And to those I may not yet fully understand, I embrace with welcome inquiry. I want to understand. There is not a single person on Earth who does not live and die with the same aspirations for love, prosperity, family, and kinship as his/her neighbor. Only cultural ideals and misinformation divide us. Don’t confront your enemy with hate but kill them with kindness. I have no regrets living this way. And intend to continue living the same. Because, I can’t see any other way.

Love, love, love.

A

The Ungrateful Prom Queen

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be someone I wasn’t. And, what’s worse, I didn’t even know I could be anything other than what I thought I was. I didn’t know I could be happier, but I felt like I could – and I should. My stress level was out of control, trying to be someone that not only met, but consistently exceeded others’ expectations. At first it felt like I was doing well accidentally (winning awards, getting straight A’s, and surrounded by friends) but eventually it became harder to maintain a record of excellence. But, this was my identity. I pushed through. Vulnerability isn’t “cool” in any setting and I didn’t want to appear weak or incapable. No one wants to hear, “I can’t handle/don’t want to take this on.” There is a reputation to uphold, grades to get, positions to win.

I was Prom Queen. Did you know that? However, I was also Class President the same year, which made me also” Chief Prom Planner.” Unlike most girls my age, I dreamed of watching the moment I was creating for the King and Queen play out; from their crowns, to their walkway, slow dance and even the variety of roses for the Queen’s bouquet. I never dreamed of being the one on the dance floor, the one receiving the crown and bouquet. The moment was beyond surreal. And, in the end, I felt somehow disappointed. I never had my moment of pride for creating the perfect moment for others. My own strange dream, or vision of what “would” happen never happened. And, somehow, I haven’t been able to feel good about that title ever since.

It’s funny and eerie, the amount of control the brain has in navigating our lives. Connotations, or neuro-pathways, reinforce our initial impression which is based on the “story” we ourselves have created. Soon enough, we create a narrative around our increasing sense of reality or opinion on a certain issue. (Political parties, for example, representing our personal narrative of what is “right” and “true”.) The stronger the neuro-pathway, the easier this idea or thought comes to the front of our minds, automatically assimilated into our personal narrative and view of reality. We can give conscious awareness to break a certain thought pattern, or perhaps a new stronger neuro-pathway of opposing view emerges from self-study, or education. Our emotional reality and even material reality (where/when/why we take action) is dictated by our inherently formed thought patterns.

Prom Queen = shame, embarrassment, undeserving. This is one of many possible realities.

This moment has passed along with many others like it. I could have been more malleable, more open, more willing to participate with, rather than against, the unfolding events before me. I could have enjoyed, thrived, allowed myself to fill with joy, awe and gratitude; but I didn’t.

So next time, I decided, I’m going to be ready.

Well, next time is now.

In an incredibly serendipitous series of events and countless misfortunes along the way, I have found myself with an amazingly compassionate and lovable pitbull – and a yoga studio…In Florida. That’s: I have a yoga studio in Florida.

After ten years in Boston and LA combined, I am back at “home” with my parents living in North Port, FL where the air is clean, the water is warm and the yoga is damn good. I’m bringing LA love and Northeast academia to SW Florida to bring traditional yoga to the people. It’s such a gift, despite any sacrifices along the way. My journey is just beginning. And, it’s my job (in yoga) to recognize that.

There is an opportunity to be grateful in every moment, not just the momentous ones. Regardless of how much you have or how much you’ve received in life, our mental wellness or self-regulation dictates our attainment of happiness. The oh-so-elusive purpose, light and self-compassion that drives every person forward can be found and maintained through practiced awareness cultivated through yoga practice.

Perhaps my “Ah-ha” moment was the idea that I could ever be unhappy in the face of magnificence. I needed to find out why and how I could find more value in every experience in my life. A journey in yoga ensued and I haven’t looked back.

Happiness isn’t in the yoga. It’s in the ability for a person to forgive themselves. To love, challenge and care for themselves. And, to learn to love all others.

I’m proud and privileged to commit to working toward this sense of discovery full-time. It’s a dream. I hear my heart say: Be present. Rejoice. The universe hears all that sh*t you’re throwing out there. Just be. Be happy.

Go easy on yourself. And know that others – even the seemingly “perfect” out there – are going through a similar process. We all just want to be in community, accepted just the way we are. Start with yourself (= meditation, yoga, self-care) and the rest will come.

Woo! Exhausted and exhilarated. So grateful for all those who have supported and stood by me along the way. The journey continues at North Port Yoga

 

xo Love,

Amy

Recovery through Ritual

This past Monday, I finished a cross-country adventure with my dog, Shakti, in a very solid 6 days, 5 nights.

The decision was only slightly less of a shock to me than it was to close friends and family. I needed a change. I saw myself slipping into unhealthy patterns. Following the nurturing replenishment of family and friends in my hometown, I allowed myself to consider and prioritize my own needs. To do this, my ego needs to step aside. Sadly, this has meant leaving behind relationships that I had come to cherish, that nourished me. Sacrifices are made when we endure change. And, I’ve learned, we can’t always know that the outcome is worth the struggle. But when we make a decision with our own best interests at heart, I believe you can’t go wrong. With this blind trust, with myself and Shakti in mind, we have arrived in Florida. We are home.

Packing up my apartment in Los Angeles and venturing across the country has reminded me of an important and enduring aspect of yoga tradition that I have found useful in my own life. When everything is turbulent and it’s impossible to see to the other side, or during a period of calm, in the eye of the storm, consistency of practice – or rituals – endure and cultivate grounding. Despite the whirling winds and monsoon rains that welcomed us on the final stint of our journey, breath stilled my mind and subtle reminders kept me present and grounded.

I mean this literally, that deep breaths seemed to arise from my chest and mouth even before I consciously recognized a potential threat. Breathing through it in this way, occasionally glancing down at the mala wrapped around my wrist, or switching over to mantra music when I felt my nerves were creeping too high, I strived to maintain balance and equilibrium (mentally and physiologically) with effortless intention.

I think of these as “passive rituals,” material items or bodily techniques (i.e. asana, pranayama) that are consistent and instigate a particular notion of familiarity, grounding, contentment, or peace. Like psychological triggers using symbolism, mundane objects or physical techniques can have a positive affect on our mental and physiological being regardless of personal perceived connotation. Assimilating traditional Eastern symbolism into my daily life – or whenever I choose to refer to the item or repeat the task – has proven to maintain contentment, calm and determined vigor whenever needed, even and especially in moments of crisis. As I told my parents while gripping my mala in post-hurricane storms in Florida, “I’ll be there soon, come hell or high water!”

As I settle in to my new temporary home at my parent’s house, I am also reminded of deliberate or “active rituals.” The day following my arrival, a process of settling in began. Unpacking the first items from my car, I hung Tibetan prayer flags reading “Om mani padme om,” a traditional mantra honoring and emphasizing the importance of devotional practice, along the top of a hutch in the kitchen. A subtle but poignant reminder of my intention to cultivate peace and tranquility any place I reside.

That evening, I burned sage stored inside my brass singing bowl from India, atop the nightstand in my new room. I stored my mala, recently bought from a holistic yoga studio in Berkeley, where a great friend from school now works, in a dish by the door along with several gems and other jewelry to remind me of the beauty in stillness and the strength of my roots. I keep an affirmation card from my dear cousin reading, “I am wise. I seek answers within myself,” in a visible place in the corner of the room. Running out in the rain to steal back my bolster (large pillow) from the car, I look forward to re-kindling a daily mediation practice with the help and encouragement of these symbolic reminders. I sit atop my bolster during my morning coffee and bring it into a quiet space to sit comfortably in meditation, allowing my knees to fall below my hips supporting my lower back. All of these are either active or passive rituals representing my intentions and motivating my endurance in an effort of blind trust that everything will be okay.

img_4259

While “passive rituals” include objects we might see or activate with subtle or sub-conscious awareness, “active rituals” encompass any process during which we set a conscious intention. This may be as simple as lighting a candle, burning incense, lighting sage, sitting in silence, listening to mantra music, or even writing thank you note’s or calling a dear friend who may benefit from your active attention. There are no limits to what can be conceived in these moments, cultivating creativity, focus, compassion and peace.

For the first time in my life, I’m not sure where I’m headed. But I whole-heartedly know (despite my nagging ego) that the journey is worth enduring, that it is worth the sacrifice, and that all I have to gain is more than I can presently imagine.

I’ve learned in truth that if you can imagine it, you can have it. Doors open when we set genuine intentions for ourselves. I never bought into this psychological logic more than now. Anyone can have anything they can put their mind to, because anything we can dream has the power to be gradually cultivated through conscious awareness, endurance and self-compassion. With the creation and proliferation of new thought patterns, it becomes easy to see how the object(s) of our desires are attainable through opportunities and options we may not have considered before.

I know there are many I cherish in my life right now who are enduring a process of healing from loss, betrayal, deception, or hurt. I besiege us all to remember that everything is impermanent. Nothing is forever. Periods of pain will subside, and ultimately the only guarantee is that our lives are what we make them.

So much love to those enduring loss. I send daily love your way. Slowly, slowly I too am recovering through ritual.

In the future, I plan to share a post on “yoga for healing” encompassing the physiological significance of specific asana and pranayama practices that provide a tangible method for processing and relinquishing grief, loss, and other forms of residual trauma.

Enduring love. Namaste,

Amy

 


 

Mantra Music to inspire:

 

On being REAL

This week, my work is in the height of its expansion – breaking through a concrete wall on the South side of the building to create new work stations for employees working on a highly confidential project. As a result, there is no parking, no air conditioning, increased noise level, and low morale.

Is there ever a better time to practice yoga?

Yet, a lot of people seem surprised when I share that my own practice nowdays doesn’t always contain asana postures. In fact, finding myself in an unfortunate conglomerate of transitional life circumstances, asana is the last thing my body or mind feels fit to undertake. And that’s okay. Here lies my yoga: non-judgement during my own process of flux, transition, and hardship, and instead a self-awareness of what I do need. Be it rest, time with friends, or a glass of wine – it is all okay. Part of yoga, as we know, is being compassionate and empathetic toward your neighbor, particularly during times of hardship. This same rule applies to yourself. Forgiveness and understanding can reduce and virtually eradicate stress.

Today I was three hours late to work. I overslept my alarm, tried to anticipate but miscalculated my boss’ needs, and had to bring my pup to doggy care to allow myself the time to make up the additional hours at the end of the day. At one time in my life (not too long ago), I would have experienced physical pain in my chest, a headache, nausea, and perhaps even hyperventilated over my inability to meet my employers’ expectations. My identity was absorbed in others’ view of me, particularly that of my employer. But not anymore.

For better or worse, I’ve undergone a transformative process through yoga by erasing and re-scripting my personal narrative to one of understanding, of self-care, and of compassion. There’s still work to be done to adopt unconditional self-love (I too have my days…), and carry this understanding into all aspects of my life. But I will say, I no longer have anxiety attacks and it’s not the meds (because I’ve tried those too). Rather, it was my willingness time and time again to stop and say: What will really happen if I do this? What is the worst case scenario? And I was surprised to see time and time again, that the thing I feared the most was others’ opinions of me. Yet, they had no idea who I really was or where this decision was coming from. Trusting myself to make the best decisions for me and remaining open-minded to criticism, communicative with all parties, and transparent about my intent – I’ve found that the worst case scenario rarely comes true. And, if it does, I know in my heart that I did the best I could, and we can’t please everyone in this life.

Nina Simone  (featured above) says in a song, something like, “If we spend our lives trying to please everyone, we’ll die still trying.” Putting ourselves first in daily decision making is something I feel strongly about. Because only you know where you’re at, and only you have to live with the consequences. Go easy, be compassionate with yourself, and you’ll find the same compassion and caring – with practice – translates into everything you do.

I also feel the need to say: Please feel for your friends and for yourself when you confront one of those rare, but severely disruptive challenges in your/their life. “Coming out of numbness,” as I’ve previously referred to it, is a slow process of untangling the psyche from self-absorption. During trauma our psychology is innately bound by the need to survive the casualty at hand (at least this is how our body and nervous system registers drastic change); and thereby we are likely to find ourselves at a loss for the usual social aptitude or casual lightness that she/he may have previously enjoyed.

When trauma or crisis occurs, we go into survival mode. Parts of our brain that are unnecessary for our survival shut down and those that are most pertinent go into hyper-productivity mode. Meeting my own needs and those of others I directly care for (children, pets, elders) is my top priority. Recognizing social signals and norms to protect the feelings of others, emotional intelligence in an external sense, aside from recognizing signs of danger through hyper-vigilance are not necessary for survival. This is when you might notice a friend has “changed” or gone off their rocker. Nurturing, love, patience and forgiveness heals all. Judgement, condemnation, or agitation causes separation and hurt. There is a method to the madness, and time does heal all. But it’s not always so clear when you’re the one stuck in a fog.

Forgive, forgive, forgive and your life will be so much richer. Forgive yourself, forgive others, and strive to understand your enemy. Then, and only then, are you on a path of yoga.

Easier said than done, but it starts with your relationship with you. I’m still working on mine. Knowing my boundaries and recognizing my flaws without internalizing them to a point of pain or self-destruction. Acknowledgement without internalization. Awareness without judgement. We’re here to learn and grow. Don’t stand in the way of your own process.

This is a valid reflection of my own process over the past several months and as I continue to re-find myself as an individual, a woman, a professional, a yogi, a friend, a sister, a daughter. There is room for growth in every role we play, but ultimately we should strive to be the same throughout. To have the same light shine and to let our flaws show true so we may learn from them, grow from them, and leave them behind – as a snake sheds its skin. I look forward to the day when I can finally show my true colors again. Until then, I am an eager slave to my own process, to an understanding of my and others evolution as painful and unpredictable; however, impermanent.

This too shall pass. Stay with it, stay with yourself, stay with me.

So much love,

Amy

 

Coming out of numbness

Coming out of numbness. What the fuck does that even mean? When we go through a period of intense emotional exertion and purging, our bodies and minds need time to recover. I won’t cite a text in support, but can tell you from a series of traumatic life-altering impulsive decisions passed, and from my current emerging circumstance, that loss and grief are real. It’s numbing. And surprisingly it’s noticeable; but only to those closest to you (and even this might surprise you).

Just because you’re a yogi doesn’t mean you don’t have hiccups (figuratively or literally). I make a lot of mistakes. I look back on my day and wonder if I came off differently than I intended. I’m insecure and cautious. But, being a yogi means that I walk through my day knowing that at the bottom of it all, there is a net to catch me. That I am someone who is just as important (and equally insignificant) as every other human being. I am valuable, I have a contribution to make. It’s a foundation in my heart that goes beyond friends and families, and formalities. In darkness, it’s easy to get lost; but the Self is a cheerleader, teacher, wise man and friend. The voice inside that says, “This will get better.” “Hang on a little longer.” The change in my life has been incessant for over three years now. From job to job to grad school to job, the only consistencies in my life – friends and relationships – have also largely dissipated. So there comes a time when we question ourselves; did I make the right decisions? To trust, to go forth, to give our energy in this particular direction?

I don’t regret a single decision I’ve made, because at that moment I thought it was the right one.

So, either I live with the consequences or I stay true to my impulses, perhaps revealing another side of myself. Life is about this journey, of mistakes and folly. Our only job in life is to follow it.

That’s where I’m devoting my attention now, to my present ever-evolving circumstance. With an awareness that a flow to life exists which I have no power over. Like a current, it sweeps us through life at its leisure, pulling against our selfish attempts to disembark, to choose our own direction driven by mind and matter rather than by heart (intuition). Taping into that foundation – the one I cultivate and continually find through the repetition of daily meditation – gives me a place to go, to remove myself from outside pressures to reside in nothing. It’s also in their songs, have you heard? Listen. The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan to name a few. When we give up ourselves to creativity in any form, we give our minds over to the current trajectory of our lives. In Buddhism, this is called “right knowledge.”

Sometimes I find it difficult to reign it in, as they say, when my mind expands to a point of all-encompassing awareness. I can feel the cries abroad and here at home in my heart. And I know many others share this gift and torture. What can we do? Love our neighbor despite themselves. Be true to your values, and if you need inspiration google the Yamas and Niyamas; every religion hits upon these tenants in some form. No matter what you call them, they’re useful and important.

So that’s the take away. And in the meantime we will continue to explore what it is to emerge from numbness and isolation; regardless of your outward persona. Whenever you doubt, question or fear, know it is not you. We all suffer from the same vices, and the only way to emerge gracefully is to move harmoniously.

x Amy

Challenging Concepts of the “Western Yogi” Part III: Safe Spaces in Yoga

Part III: Safe Spaces in Yoga
By: Vivi Vallin, M.A.

I am currently in a yoga teacher training at a studio in East Los Angeles called People’s Yoga. They are the first yoga studio in this particular area of Los Angeles and are going to be celebrating their two-year anniversary in the coming weeks. People’s Yoga prides itself in making yoga accessible to the community of East Los Angeles. Classes are affordable, some are bilingual or in Spanish, there are classes for families to practice together, many of the instructors are people of color and the studio is accessible via public transportation. This year they offered their first 200-hour yoga teacher training. The others in my cohort are also people of color. All different backgrounds and ages but sharing the experience of what it is like to be a person of color who has been drawn to yoga on their own healing journey. As we learn about yoga together, we also share our experiences of feeling excluded, navigating being undocumented, being a queer person of color, how yoga is viewed by our families, and how we view injustices every day. We have a space in yoga to integrate our cultural and ethnic identities and experiences from that identity. This process is powerful.

On a personal level, I believe practicing yoga brings you closer and closer to your authentic self. Although yoga did not originate in Mexico, practicing yoga as a Mexican-American has brought me closer to my own culture’s healing practices, my roots, my history, and my family. I think this is because of yoga’s ability to cultivate self-awareness and self-love. In yoga, we embrace all parts of ourselves. From this space, I can see that a yoga practice brings individuals closer to who they really are. Each of us is unique. Our stories and experiences are unique. If we allow space to share and unite these stories, the experience of each of us will be richer and more full.

Black, white or brown (or however you identify) – we can all be united in our experiences of trauma, pain, sadness, joy, happiness, and gratitude. These are universal human emotions that link us together. We can heal together.  As we move toward this ideal, we still need to acknowledge that there is a need for safe spaces to heal for marginalized groups. It may look like a yoga studio that opens in East Los Angeles. It may look like a workshop about traditional Mexican healing practices. Each community should have the right to access safe spaces to provide wellness and healing, individually and together. Each community should have the right to choose the practices that will help them heal. Healing movements and leaders historically emerge from within their own community. In this case, as fellow brothers and sisters in color and among all throughout Los Angeles, our shared role is to respect and support this work for authentic and accurate cultural representation in any way we can.

BLACK YOGA TEACHERES ALLIANCE

When I heard about the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance (BYTA) I was excited and wanted to learn more about their work. The group was founded in 2008 and first began as a social media group. The goal was to create a safe space for teachers, students, practitioners, healers and enthusiasts to discuss yoga, share resources and create community. They wanted to create a place to explore the many paths and types of yoga, while also incorporating the authentic spirituality that black yoga teachers bring to the practice of yoga.

The BYTA provides their collective community with resources about teacher trainings, educational programs about yoga, scholarship opportunities and yoga publications. It also launched its first national initiative named Yoga as a Peace Practice: Redefining black lives and restoring peace and pride in our homes and communities. The initiative includes offering curriculum to yoga teachers so that they can take action by offering yoga, meditation practices and yoga based on lifestyle philosophies among those who are victims of violence (BYTA.com).

Since 2008, the group expanded and will be holding its first major retreat and conference in August 2016. The speakers being highlighted are black yoga instructors who have been leaders in this movement for a long time. The BYTA wants to celebrate and highlight these leaders that do not often get the recognition and space to share their wisdom and experience. The conference information describes that there will be an emphasis on the experience of being black in yoga and in this nation, as well as spaces to share and heal in community.

The Black Yoga Teacher Alliance currently has a Kickstarter Fundraiser organized by Jacoby Ballard of Third Root Community Center. The fundraiser aims to raise enough money to support 10 scholarships to black yogis who otherwise would not be able to attend the conference. A second goal of the campaign is to have 1000 white yogis donate to support the campaign. This would be a sign of support and send a powerful message that these types of safe spaces and events are important.

I donated to the BYTA scholarship fund because I support their efforts to create safe space for and to celebrate black yogis. They are not only sharing yoga but also leading the way with national initiatives that use the practice of yoga to engage with major issues such as violence and victims of violence, especially in black communities. I encourage those of you who are part of a yoga community to also support by donating to the scholarship fund, finding out more about the BYTA and/or attending the conference to learn more about their work first hand. Their efforts and contributions to the broader yoga community are valuable and are contributing to breaking stereotypes of exclusivity in mainstream yoga.

 

BYA logo

 

See what the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance is up to, get involved or donate here.
Photo Cred: BYTA.com