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

 

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

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.

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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

 

You Belong Here

“There is nothing to fix. Each one of us is made to fit our lives. Precisely. The measurements are exact. The tailoring is to a tee. The height. The width. The depth. It’s perfect. We need not ever struggle to fit into the fabric of ourselves…”

My favorite astrologist, Chani Nicholas, beautifully integrates her advanced wisdom of constellations and universal constructs to bring a meaningful voice to the motion of the cosmos. Another Full Moon. What can it really mean? Regardless of the literal efficacy of horoscopes, there is meaning, inspiration, motivation and strength to be derived from knowing that we are but one small piece of this world, and we are not alone.

This week, Chani divulges on the Full Moon in Virgo, as each full and new moon presents an important variable for the most subtle aspects of our world – including and especially our moods, our thought fluctuations, our consciousness. She brings simple awareness to the fact that we are all connected, and important. I find myself taking her words to heart each week, and hope you might find they fill your heart during this Full Moon as well…

You Belong Here

There is nothing to fix. Each one of us is made to fit our lives. Precisely. The measurements are exact. The tailoring is to a tee. The height. The width. The depth. It’s perfect. We need not ever struggle to fit into the fabric of ourselves.

We are all complex, paradoxical, flawed. As we fumble, topple and blunder our way out of the messy cocoon of unconsciousness (an ever-evolving, never-ceasing emergence), we do so perfectly also.

But we worry that we are wrong.

We fear we are ill-shaped. We fret that we were a mistake. We wake in night sweats, covered in panic’s perspiration. We question the meaning that makes us. We second guess our nature. We refuse our resplendency. We want to be another. We are taught to be other. We want to be in accordance with life, but we tend to attack our own.

Not fitting is excruciating. It’s excruciating as long as we try to fit. Or fix. Or make different our distinct markings. If we added up the hours spent counting the things”wrong” with us, we would be buried under a heap of lost time. What could we do with the energy otherwise? What life can we steal back from what the internal naysayers took? What will we do when we discover that we are as we were meant to be.

Have you ever felt this way? Lost, lonely, lacking. I know I have, more than once…and regardless of the “truth” it’s safe to say that believing that you already fit, and that you’re already perfect will bring much more happiness and bliss than you could hope to find any other way. When I practice believing in my own perfection, I find that I am perfect – there is no more pressure to change. But, when I do get lost in what others say or think about what I should be, should say, or should look like, I find I drop deeper and deeper into my own confusion and withdrawal. I get tired, quiet, and frustrated. I feel sorry for myself.

What I’ve found is that being yourself is liberating. Believing in your own innate goodness, believing that you don’t have to change for anyone, is a gift that no one can take away from you. And it’s a gift that only you can give yourself. Try it. Live yourself, love yourself and be free from outside perception. When you forget or begin to waver – as is human nature – come back to your own perfection. I hope you might find that loving your own unaltered integrity is the satisfaction and belonging that we’re all really searching for. Inner peace. Liberation. Acceptance.

Time and time again, I forget I have nothing to prove. But thanks to Chani’s words this week, I remember, and can strive to come back to this place time and time again.

It’s already in you.

Happy Full Moon! May you find peace and blessings in every corner you explore in the coming month and always.

// Find more and/or sign up for weekly (free!) horoscopes from Chani at her website: http://chaninicholas.com/

Seeking Surrender – Guest Writer: Shelby Sih

We all have a story to share and lessons learned. This is the story of Shelby Sih, a rising senior studying Communications, Political Science and and Global Social Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University. In her spare time, Shelby is an evolving yogi and yoga instructor in Boston, serves as Editor-in-Chief for Woof Magazine, and as the Mission and Mentor Development Coordinator for Strong Women and Strong Girls at NU.

By finding parts of ourselves in others, we can begin to know how small our world really is. I enjoy learning from and seeking inspiration from Shelby, and hope you will enjoy her story as well.

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“True surrender requires an opening of the heart to the unknown.” – Gurmukh Khalsa

Surrender to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Surrender. These are phrases I have heard countless times throughout my yoga studies and practice. Yet I always had a hard time embracing this part of the practice. I struggled with the feeling that surrendering was somehow conducive to giving up or giving in. What about fighting for what we want and being in control of our lives? How would surrendering to the present moment get me out of a tough situation or keep me striving forward in my life? I had glimpses of what I thought it might mean and knew the theory, but was hesitant to fully embrace this practice in reality – until surrendering, unknowingly at first, became a vital part of my practice.

In the last six months, my life has thrust me between two extremes: I went from spending my summer at a yoga retreat center in Spain to my busiest college semester yet. As I danced between these polarities, I found myself struggling to keep up with the pace of my life, feeling that my heart was often a few steps behind my body. Even though I was physically present, and my mind was telling me I was excited to embrace these new environments, emotionally I hadn’t caught up yet, creating a dissonance I couldn’t quite understand at first of wishing for what I had just left behind.

During the summer, I spent over a month in the mountains of Andalucía, Spain working at an international yoga retreat center. My days in Spain consisted of taking or teaching yoga classes and meditating in the morning, gratifying chores such as washing dishes, gardening or mopping, reading and writing in free time, and evenings spent watching the most beautiful sunsets and clear night sky with the other volunteers.

After the initial travel stress and transitional period subsided, I was still left with an uncomfortable feeling. I knew that something more was at play. As I sat with the feeling, I came to realize that this long-desired free time was in fact unsettling to me. That I didn’t know how to slow down or be still. Despite years of practicing yoga and meditation, wishing for time off, complaining about being so busy and actively choosing to spend my summer in a place so conducive to peace, I still couldn’t allow myself to relax into this state of being. I was trained to be in a state of doing.

Initially, all I wanted was to hide from the discomfort I was feeling. On top of that, the dissonance of feeling some kind of disconnect in an environment deemed “perfect” – and not actually understanding why – only made my discomfort worse. I found myself trying to deny the feelings I held or wondering why I felt anything other than happy in this yogic paradise. The more I rejected my inner experience and found myself wishing away what was happening presently for me, the more I struggled to find any connection with or understanding of myself, which was a main reason I had come in the first place.

Given the fact that I was in an environment designed for introspection and solitude, this was not a feeling I could hide from. Unlike many other times when the simplest and easiest solution was to throw myself into work to distract myself from what’s going on, this time I had nowhere to run. My work left me alone with my thoughts, my daily yoga and meditation practice made me sit with my emotions and my personal time reminded me that I should be rejoicing in this long-awaited time-off instead of running from it. All I could do then was lean into it.

So I did. I began to meet my inner struggle with curiosity and open arms. I welcomed it in. I embraced it.

Once I stopped resisting my emotions, I began to see why I was feeling unsettled, and that this discomfort held a purpose, a message of sorts.

As I shifted my approach – instead of denying how I felt, welcoming it; instead of labeling my emotions as “negative” and trying to get rid of them, labeling them as “interesting” and wanting to know more about them. I felt myself begin to accept all that was happening for me. Although I wanted answers and to understand why, I also knew that sitting around and hypothesizing about why things were the way they were wouldn’t yield actual results. All I could do was continue to be present within each moment. I began to let go of the ever-strong grasp of control that I hold around my life. I gave in to all the emotions and experiences that arose with faith that they were there for a reason. I embraced the moments of pure joy and the moments of anguish or frustration. I stopped trying to formulate answers or make excuses and instead let myself be with what was. The less I fought the discomfort, the easier it got, until it almost entirely subsided. Unknowingly at first, I was learning to surrender.

And (somewhat surprisingly) my world around me did not fall apart because of it; in fact, it began to feel more fulfilling. The dissonance I had about feeling bad subsided so that I could then sit with the discomfort itself without all the labels and assumptions I had previously attached to it. As the discomfort became more of a teacher than an enemy, the control it had around me (and that I tried to have around it) subsided so that I could learn from it without being attached to it. Without the need to control – to qualify and quantify and objectify and categorize everything – I began to meet each emotion and each moment that arose with curiosity and equanimity instead of judgment.

Hindsight has allowed me to see that I was beginning to surrender, and that I was relinquishing some of my control in exchange for more openness and faith to the beauty of life in all its facets.

All too soon, my time in Spain came to a close. I was thrown back into my regular, overloaded schedule as a college student, making free time virtually nonexistent. Once again, I felt myself resisting my current situation. Only this time, ironically, I longed for the days when my biggest responsibility was making sure the dishes were washed and I could decide in the present moment what I wanted to do. Instead, now I barely had time to even cook for myself, let alone live without my agenda dictating my every step. At least this time I knew what was causing the discontent.

But this was the life I (mostly willingly) chose. Despite the stress and exhaustion, I ultimately knew there wasn’t anything I would happily or willingly give up. Which meant I needed to change my internal environment since the external one felt like complete chaos.

If practicing to surrender to my situation in the mountains of Southern Spain was a step into the unknown – a bit unsettling at first but an important switch to a more fulfilling time – trying to surrender amidst the chaos of Boston was like clinging to a life vest in tumultuous waters: a survival tactic and true test of all that I had been working towards. But maybe this was the point of going away in the first place: to be able to come back to “real life” and dive headfirst into the waters, knowing I now had the tools to stay afloat.

As I slowly changed the narrative from which I viewed my situation – embracing the chaos, finding purpose in the responsibilities, remaining present with the priorities in the moment instead of all that was ahead of me – I was able to exist amidst the whirlwind of activity with a level of unattachment that made me no less involved or passionate, but instead kept me at a level of peace within. That’s not to say that I wasn’t stressed out most days or feeling completely overwhelmed by all that I had going on, but instead it meant that I was able to stay afloat (even when it felt nearly impossible to do so) without drowning in my external circumstances.

It has taken daily reminders (some in the form of self-made notifications on my phone to stop and breathe, or my morning meditation to set my intentions for the day) to keep me coming back to this practice of letting go, even if just a tiny amount more. Without this intent of surrendering to my situation, I would have continued wishing for some ideal version of my life and applying unneeded, unrealistic pressure on myself (i.e. wanting to recreate the peaceful bliss I felt in Spain, thinking I need to do at least an hour of asana a day, etc.). Even though these thoughts and self-induced pressure didn’t disappear, I was at least more aware of them, which made them feel a little less threatening. While I still experienced moments of panic and moments of wishing things were different, I also had more faith in my ability to handle what came my way and more acceptance that this was the way things were supposed to be in this moment – and that was okay.

Like any aspect of yoga, learning to surrender is a practice, and one that takes time, patience and nurturing. It’s also an important reminder to me that I’m only grazing the very surface of yoga and still have much work to do.

Now trying to surrender is part of my daily practice; a reminder to myself that each moment holds a purpose that may remain concealed from me at first, and that wishing moments away or holding onto some ideal of control only strengthens resistance to the present. Surrendering does not mean becoming complacent with life; instead it means welcoming all of life’s moments in order to connect to a higher state of living; one that doesn’t depend on an outer environment or external circumstance, but rather to an inner strength and openness that is ready to embrace the life that I’m leading right now.

Om Shanti (Peace) xx

 

// Photo Cred: Shelby Sih @ Om Dome in Suryalila, Spain (Summer 2015)

 

No Escaping It: "I Am That"

Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

There’s no escaping it. I write and I write and I write. My fingers on the right start to feel crippled and numb, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m not sure what drives me. I’ve been after that answer for years. But, I know that my heart aches to know it. That my mind dreams about it. And that by giving my full self into everything I do, fostering love in myself and striving to understand the incomprehensible – this fills my heart and gives me more wealth and fulfillment than I’ve ever known.


2015-09-17 15.50.25-1
“I am THAT!” – Instagram
Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

“I am That” will sometimes pop into my mind while catching a glimpse of my own reflection. It’s a phrase often referenced in classical theological discourse and is even alluded to in the popular Hindi mantra: Om Namah Shivaya. I like its simplicity, and its resonance on some unknowable level. And so it’s stuck.

“I am That” has become an unexpected reassurance that I have not, until now, fully acknowledged. It arises from a place in me where I guess that intuition, pre-cognitive dreams, and strange meditative experiences come from. It’s not posed as a suggestion when it pops into my brain, but as a forceful assurance. There is no reason to worry. “I am That.”

I am so blessed – with education, good health, family and friends; I am so lucky to be born into a wonderful family who taught me how to be authentic in life above all else; I am so powerful for having made it this far, for having chased a dream and allowed myself to find love and be loved along the way. “I am That,” and that is ever changing. But, there are also parts of me that have never changed and will never change – and from that place, I’m glad to have a reminder that I am here, present, and ever-evolving. This means forgiving yourself, enjoying every moment, and loving with every ounce of yourself while you have the time, the energy, and the power to give. “I am That.” Something pure and forgiven. Innocent and all knowing. I am that.

It sounds crazy, like something you’d overhear two old ladies discuss after church. But really it just means allowing yourself to move on, rather than clinging and obsessing over past mistakes, embarrassing moments, or bad interviews. It means having the courage to be authentic, to wear what you want when you want, to go where you want when you want (if I hear one more person say: “I’m too fat for yoga”…) , to live compassionately, to always give the benefit of the doubt, to welcome your neighbors and befriend your enemies, to life in a way that represents you, that you’re proud of, and that enables you to give your time, resources or energy back to those in need.

I’m not reading from a textbook or quoting last night’s lecture. There is no specific way of going and no certain outcome. Each path is unique, and after a five year journey from Copley Square Bikram to LMU, I have learned that I know very, very little; except that: “I am That.” And, since life is so short, I strive to live as fully and as best as I can.

I am thankful to yoga for giving me many paths to choose – different schools, ideas, and ways of thinking to explore – and for giving me many tools – mantra, yoga /asana, meditation, mala beads, freeform expression. Some I learned through reading, but others through exploring and moving within my personal practice. Thank you for the ability to practice as I please, to move freely, and to eventually gain the power stop judging myself.

This is what it means to live in yoga (to me). Without any assignment to religious denomination, political party or economic status; anyone can be healthy, engaged, and happy – but it comes with a price. It demands opening your mind and giving in, or rather seriously “letting go.”

When I moved to Los Angeles two years ago, I had a strong ego and a very specific list of priorities. (And I was fucking killing it, if I do say so myself…) But, sometimes, when we allow things to ruin our plans the best things can finally happen to us.

******************************************

Today, I’m also pleased to launch AYearInYoga.com!!! Be sure to check out my new and improved (inter)face 😉

I have a while to go before I get it where I want it to be – including more classes, workshops, and events scheduled, and videos, techniques and practices to share! I am so appreciative of having you along for the journey! It inspires me to know that there are other strong, intelligent, courageous people (particularly women, woo woo!) who are willing to learn, strive and expand in the name of yoga. In the meantime, don’t forget to bookmark me, share with loved ones & friends, and check in every now and again to see what I’m up to!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Stay tuned! Sending love always,

xx Amy

// Photo Cred: Thank you Matt Annese for capturing so many amazing photo ops! @ Big Sur, Halloween 2015

No Escaping It: “I Am That”

Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

There’s no escaping it. I write and I write and I write. My fingers on the right start to feel crippled and numb, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m not sure what drives me. I’ve been after that answer for years. But, I know that my heart aches to know it. That my mind dreams about it. And that by giving my full self into everything I do, fostering love in myself and striving to understand the incomprehensible – this fills my heart and gives me more wealth and fulfillment than I’ve ever known.


2015-09-17 15.50.25-1
“I am THAT!” – Instagram
Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

“I am That” will sometimes pop into my mind while catching a glimpse of my own reflection. It’s a phrase often referenced in classical theological discourse and is even alluded to in the popular Hindi mantra: Om Namah Shivaya. I like its simplicity, and its resonance on some unknowable level. And so it’s stuck.

“I am That” has become an unexpected reassurance that I have not, until now, fully acknowledged. It arises from a place in me where I guess that intuition, pre-cognitive dreams, and strange meditative experiences come from. It’s not posed as a suggestion when it pops into my brain, but as a forceful assurance. There is no reason to worry. “I am That.”

I am so blessed – with education, good health, family and friends; I am so lucky to be born into a wonderful family who taught me how to be authentic in life above all else; I am so powerful for having made it this far, for having chased a dream and allowed myself to find love and be loved along the way. “I am That,” and that is ever changing. But, there are also parts of me that have never changed and will never change – and from that place, I’m glad to have a reminder that I am here, present, and ever-evolving. This means forgiving yourself, enjoying every moment, and loving with every ounce of yourself while you have the time, the energy, and the power to give. “I am That.” Something pure and forgiven. Innocent and all knowing. I am that.

It sounds crazy, like something you’d overhear two old ladies discuss after church. But really it just means allowing yourself to move on, rather than clinging and obsessing over past mistakes, embarrassing moments, or bad interviews. It means having the courage to be authentic, to wear what you want when you want, to go where you want when you want (if I hear one more person say: “I’m too fat for yoga”…) , to live compassionately, to always give the benefit of the doubt, to welcome your neighbors and befriend your enemies, to life in a way that represents you, that you’re proud of, and that enables you to give your time, resources or energy back to those in need.

I’m not reading from a textbook or quoting last night’s lecture. There is no specific way of going and no certain outcome. Each path is unique, and after a five year journey from Copley Square Bikram to LMU, I have learned that I know very, very little; except that: “I am That.” And, since life is so short, I strive to live as fully and as best as I can.

I am thankful to yoga for giving me many paths to choose – different schools, ideas, and ways of thinking to explore – and for giving me many tools – mantra, yoga /asana, meditation, mala beads, freeform expression. Some I learned through reading, but others through exploring and moving within my personal practice. Thank you for the ability to practice as I please, to move freely, and to eventually gain the power stop judging myself.

This is what it means to live in yoga (to me). Without any assignment to religious denomination, political party or economic status; anyone can be healthy, engaged, and happy – but it comes with a price. It demands opening your mind and giving in, or rather seriously “letting go.”

When I moved to Los Angeles two years ago, I had a strong ego and a very specific list of priorities. (And I was fucking killing it, if I do say so myself…) But, sometimes, when we allow things to ruin our plans the best things can finally happen to us.

******************************************

Today, I’m also pleased to launch AYearInYoga.com!!! Be sure to check out my new and improved (inter)face 😉

I have a while to go before I get it where I want it to be – including more classes, workshops, and events scheduled, and videos, techniques and practices to share! I am so appreciative of having you along for the journey! It inspires me to know that there are other strong, intelligent, courageous people (particularly women, woo woo!) who are willing to learn, strive and expand in the name of yoga. In the meantime, don’t forget to bookmark me, share with loved ones & friends, and check in every now and again to see what I’m up to!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Stay tuned! Sending love always,

xx Amy

// Photo Cred: Thank you Matt Annese for capturing so many amazing photo ops! @ Big Sur, Halloween 2015

A Changing Tide

“I’m sorry I haven’t written,” seems to be a theme of my posts lately. So, as often as I think of writing, I don’t want you to think that you’ve been forgotten. I wish I could even give a reason, but other than fairly consistent writer’s block and a fleeting awareness of some sort of tension, of being in the eye of the storm in the midst of change, I got nothing.

While it has been over a year of mental, mindful, psychological, and spiritual metamorphosis, in a constant awareness of change, the year ahead promises to be one of materialization; but not without hard labor. I feel like I’m shifting – into adulthood, into independence, into my relationship, and all the wonderfully complicated things that go along with all those rites of passage. And, at the same time, I’m actually shifting. I am noticing the way I once behaved or phrasing I once used, no longer seems to fit me right in the moment. The style of my clothes over the past year has evolved, and become cubbies full of mediocre thrift store finds, yoga apparel, authentic India kirtas and remnant college t-shirts. But what will I be when I finally surpass my self-instated, grad school budget thrift store mandate? Will I still shop at Ann Taylor Loft, Express and American Eagle? (I think AE is taboo after 20, but their jeggings are genius.) But, who is this person I’m growing into? Who will that be? Will I like her? What can I do to help shape her, the future me?

All we can do is surround ourselves with the best of what we find in the world, and hope that a little bit rubs off on us.

A bout of high anxiety lately has reared its ugly head, just in time to disturb my peace of mind on a regular basis. There are so many things to keep track of these days; so many things to do and loved ones to tend to. When it all starts to spin, as minds sometimes do, I recently find myself gently putting my hand on my heart, and just feeling my heart beat. It’s a simple practice that brings me back to the moment. To where I’m situated in the room, wherever I am. And it reminds me, of my aliveness. As individuals, we’re prone to errors, complex, fragile, and very much alive. After this practice, you might find as I often do, that you move forward with a different perspective. A lighter, more grounded perspective. (This is a practice of mindfulness).

As my perspective evolves, I’m finding the content I’d like to post is as well. This means the possibility of guest posts, more creative prose, and the potential of more well-intentioned, but real discourse. My hope at this moment, as it always has been, is to share what “yoga” (broadly, or “yoga studies”) has taught me as a variety of tools to help make daily life easier, happier, and lighter. It doesn’t mean subscribing to a religion, political party, or an activist group. Yoga is free and you can call it whatever you want: hatha, vinyasa, bikram, kripalu, hot yoga, meditation, mantra, free movement/dancing, prayer, asana/yoga classes, kirtan, moving, walking, or eating meditation, for instance. Or, just placing your hand on your chest and practicing mindfulness by observing your heartbeat, and listening to your breath. Or, just closing your eyes and listening to the ocean, hearing the birds over head, and allowing yourself to feel a part of Nature for that single moment. Or, just catching a wave, going for a run, hiking through a national park or going through an asana class – any of these can be your yoga; when you practice mindfulness and your awareness turns inward (i.e. you become aware of your thoughts) as a result.

For all the definitions of yoga I have given over the past year, I also want to clarify that I have likely too casually adopted the Indian popular norm of: “Yes! But, also no.” Yoga, for me, and as it’s represented through yoga studies, includes and encompasses many, many things in the realm of psychology, experiential physics philosophy, language, physicality, subtle anatomy and beyond. Yoga is very much still a mystery. It’s large, it’s all encompassing, and yet it’s very specific, carefully articulated, and traditionally austere. In a modern Western context, yoga means “asana” or the physical practice of yoga. Yoga has been so widely popularized, that it has essentially claimed itself the name with it’s own meaning of “yoga” as asana (& of course, Lulu Lemon). Yoga in India, yoga in Tibet, yoga in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Russia may be very different depending on religion, sect or lineage (i.e. Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Islam, Muslim, natural healers and indigenous populations, to name a few). Yet, they all share an experiential or internal component that we, in the West, entirely lack. Possibly the first self-proclaimed American yogis were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, as the Transcendental movement closely parallels and directly incorporates key Hindu yogic literature (i.e. Bhagavad Gita, Upanisads, Samkhya Karmika). Yet, Transcendentalists have little mention in society today in connection to yoga. Not to say this is wrong or inappropriate; cultural appropriations occur organically and are a reflection of contemporary societal norms. And, we’re ever evolving.

How will yoga look in the West in twenty years? Fifty years? Will I still be practicing? Teaching? Studying? I look forward to finding out (not too soon!), but hope I might help promote a “middle road” concept of yoga that is all encompassing, personal and creative, that can serve as a moment of optimistic rejuvenation in your day and mine, every day. For thousands of years, these practices have been used for centering, for finding peace and balance (among other things). Why not now, during such a troubling time in our world, wouldn’t we want to find a more peaceful way of being personally, for ourselves and others.

I hope you’ll stay on as my creative reinforcement and encouragement through this crazy journey – and my hope is that I might say something that you find helpful in your own evolution. As Jack Johnson once said, “We’re Better Together.”

Spread the love!

TGIF (Almost), xx
Amy

Photo: Taken at sunset on September 12, 2015 – San Onofre Bluffs, CA