Falling off the Yoga Mat

Many a yogi will tell you that your mat is your temple, the place you leave your shoes outside its borders and when you step onto it, you enter into an in-between realm of who you are in this moment inserted into the process of who you are becoming.  Often, photos in yoga magazine show perfect postures of bodies bending and stretching on the mat, a knowingness of ultimate perfection of being in oneself.  But I will tell you from experience that some of the times that I have fallen off my mat is when my body shows me exactly where I am as well as where I am going.

I am a yoga teacher and there is nothing quite so humbling as falling out of pose as you are leading it to the class.  And then falling again.

Early on I took this as a sign of the necessity of practice, that I just didn’t have my yoga legs under me yet.  As I moved forward in teaching/my own practice, I began to realize that falling off my mat in front of an entire class was an important part of the process of growth for both them and me.  It showed them that everyone falls, even the teacher. It showed me to find humor and humility as a constant sidekick to kick my embarrassment off the mat.

My yoga mat offers a space into my most (im)perfect self.  It is a place where I can work within the contexts of embarrassment and shame as well as trust and compassion.  It is a place that catches me, even when I fall off of it.

And so this has also become my style of teaching-play, humor, and falling and falling and falling.  I constantly need to remind myself that the growth process is not about proving something.  Falling out of pose in front of a large class relates that perspective and I think there is an appreciation in the teacher making mistakes and owning it.

For me, this is my practice, this is my journey.  Falling, laughing, and coming back to do it all again.

What catches you when you fall?

image credit

Mess Up: A New Mantra

In times of uncertainty there are a few things you can count on.  Things like getting lost, not knowing what is coming, being unsure if you’ll even have a pillow to rest your head on for the evening.  You know, the normal stuff.  But inside these indeterminate spaces, there are things you can embrace.  And one of them is messing everything up.

So often we go through life believing that we need to hit it out of the park on the first try, like we are trying to prove something.  I am one of those people.  And this need-a-home-run-everytime mentality has stopped me from pursuing certain avenues in life that I took the detour from because I thought I’d fail before I even started.

Of course, it is easy to say Just Do It, but standing at the crossroads looking down the path with the Big Bad Wolf of failure awaiting his dinner, my feet so often start walking in the other direction.  It isn’t until miles down the road that I check back in with my surroundings.  And often that nagging feeling of not-quite-right lets me know that I chickened out.

So how do we combat these ideas of the need to be right and perfect and imagining the book signings before words have spilled on the page?

Mess Up.

This is my new mantra.  Not Fail or It’s Ok to Not Be Perfect or something about Thomas Edison’s inventions.  Messing up is part of the system of getting it right, or not.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matter is just getting it at all, where the disfiguration of falling flat on your face adds to the uniqueness of your own story and creation.

I was talking to a friend the other day about really wanting to follow some of my passions that have always sung in my heart but I never allowed them out of the cage for fear they would be seen as ugly-or worse, normal.  He himself currently walks a path of truly living his passions even when it is hard.  And why?  Because he finally has accepted that he cannot not do it.  Plain and simple.  No real stretch of fame or fortune.  More just a listening to his own insides telling him the direction he needs to take.  I long to give me own pulse airtime.  And so, I have decided there is one thing I can do.

Mess Up.

It’s the only thing to count on when we are facing the scary passages of uncertainty, especially when we know these are the routes we must wayward.  We can not only accept but embrace that we will fall, that it is inevitable, and it is part of what makes our lifespaces so authentic.

Someone told me once that we are constantly comparing our B rolls to other people’s A rolls.  These accomplished people look so simple and elegant and all-knowing, and I often wonder how they seem to glide through their passions and accomplishments.

They messed up.  Probably a lot.  Probably more than they want to tell you.  Maybe those people were just always more comfortable operating inside of statistics.  Maybe they didn’t care how many times they fell before they rose.  Or maybe they did, but they couldn’t not keep following their own heartbeats.

For the rest of us who think we should just come out of the womb gracefully slipping into our full potential, I have two words that have been my lighthouse throughout the process.

Mess up.

Have you messed up today?

image credit

Why Pretending to Be a Plesiosaur Might Be the Most Important Thing you Do Today

Close your eyes really tight and see if you can feel the world moving beneath your feet.

One says: Well, now that you mention it, yeah.

Now close your eyes and see if you can feel your body growing.

Ten say: Well, now that you mention it, yeah.

This is how I attempt to relate gravitational axial spin and geologic time to kids.  Funny thing is, they get it.  I think, more than anything, because they allow themselves the open space to feel it, or at least to believe that it is possible they can feel it.  And to knowingly embody the physical law of gravity is a seemingly difficult task.  It’s about as easy as feeling your own bones grow.  And these kids get that too.

Comprehending change in space and time takes unyielding imagination.  We are always experiencing shifts.  Strange how as we get older we seem to feel our bones grow less and less. Instead, we replace those vital understandings with not-enoughs and too-muches.  We rarely just stop and remember that the planet is revolving underneath our feet or that plesiosaurs once roamed our seas.   More devastating, we stop wondering if we can even truly imagine at all.

Do you remember being able to play inside spaces of your mind that allowed you the ability to really connect into these kinds of moments?  You know, like feeling yourself on a rock in space rotating around a ball of fire.  Let’s give it a try.

Imagine, 90 million years ago you were under water.  You weren’t you of course.  You were anything else you wanted to be.  I’ll suggest being a plesiousaur because this is my personal favorite, but an ichthyosaur or ammonite will work just as well.  You are simply imagining another reality.  A reality that may or may not have ever actually existed but that’s not the important thing. The ability to imagine it is what really counts.

Igniting our bodies and minds and hearts inside the stretching space of imagination truly is a vital part of ourselves, helping us dream up and then live out our most profound passions that only surface when we allow them without judgement.  And when you stop and think about it, a thin line separates imagining you are a plesiosaur swimming in ancient oceans or imagining you are becoming the person you want to become. It’s all about flexing those conjuring muscles of play and possibility.

We, and the world around us, are always becoming.

We, and the world around us, are always manifesting what we can dream, imagine, and pretend.

Kids get it.  Seriously.  Ask a five-year-old anything.  Or better yet, just listen to what he or she has to say.  Is it really more discombobulated than talking about tax season, mortgage, world politics, the economy, or credit card debt?  I personally prefer the imagination push-up of thinking of what it would be like to see an ancient sea creature swim past me in this very moment.

Kids play and imagine because no one has told them they shouldn’t stretch their minds and hearts to be as far as they can dream.  The beauty is, this awe-inspiring ability of the human mind never has to fade if we don’t let it leave.  Instead we can play with it every day in whatever way we want. And once you get on the journey of imagining the impossible, becoming a momentary plesiosaur is only the beginning.

So start today, right this minute.  Imagine that exactly where you are that 200 million years ago something with big, shiny teeth was swimming by or eating out of a 100-foot-tree or sinking into a swamp.  Imagine that this very space where you are right this moment will transform into something else in another 200 million years, something only the imagination can produce that may someday be real.

Imagine, imagine, imagine.

Stopping to imagine that the world is literally moving under your feet, is one of the best things you can do today. To gift yourself a glimpse into your own temporality.  To gift yourself your own wild imagination.  To gift yourself a moment to feel your own bones growing. To gift yourself the space to imagine the sky’s-the-limit you that can become exactly who you imagine yourself to be.

What kind of ancient creature would you have been 90 million years ago?  What kind of person will you be tomorrow?

image credit

Walking the SheWolf

Her name is Zoe, and she doesn’t trust. 

She has a crooked smile.  You can’t tell until she bares her teeth, what is left of them.  I was told she lived with a street man who kicked her so hard one day it shattered her jaw and never healed.

Her name is Zoe, and she has lived a life I did not know existed.

Her bottom teeth are missing, filed off.  The best guess is, when she was young they sawed off her teeth and chained her to something and allowed fighting dogs to up their courage by repeatedly attacking another who could not fight back.  She had no teeth.  She is lucky to have lived.

Her name is Zoe, and she is afraid.

She is half wolf and half Malamute…a beauty of ancient times.  Her 90 pounds looks like it can take care of itself.  She’ll sit for a bone, but she’s not sure, even if you talk real sweet and give her treats and dinner and take her for walks.  She has 5 years of living what is horrid to most and unimaginable.  It is unimaginable.

Her name is Zoe, and when she is happy her tongue flops to the side.

She has had many years of pain and many years of happiness.  She loves you when she knows you and just wants to be scratched behind her ears.  She has walked through a life of liminality, thrusted to the threshold by no choice of her own.  Remaining when she was tied, running when she was free.  She is the creature who hunts and is hunted.  She is always walking inbetween.

Her name is Zoe, and she reminds me that even the toughest, most beautiful can have ugly terrifying pasts. 

She’ll pull you down the path, stopping to sniff and looking back to make sure you too know it’s a good smelling spot.  When strangers come close, her body tenses.  I hold the leash tighter because I don’t know what she’ll do if a strange man tries to touch her.  Many hands have hit her with intention to break her body, tied her with intention to break her spirit.  They forgot that she is a being completely on her own.  Or maybe they knew and needed something more helpless to make themelves feel strong.  If her paws allowed, her stories would be read by many, her journeys traveled by those who are also walking a path between forgetting and remembering.

Her name is Zoe, and she has healed (mostly).

You never know what is left over in the places of the heart.  Sometimes you can follow its lineage up into the eyes.  Sometimes she looks right at you.  Sometimes she looks away.

Her name is Zoe, and she takes full joy in little things.

Sniffing a tree, doing tricks for a treat, being so happy to be rubbed under her belly.  She has not forgotten.  Memories of scars don’t fade completely.  But she crookedly smiles and her eyes relax when she sniffs the scent in the wind.

Have you walked your SheWolf lately?

image credit

Is There an Art to Letting Go?

I walked through a hospital today listening to Kid Cudi on repeat on my headphones.  I saw people looking down at the ground.  I saw people walking quickly.  I saw a teenage girl yelling and crying into a phone while running with five others following behind.  I saw an elderly woman with a walker smile at me.

It wasn’t until I looked in a bathroom mirror that I saw the black mascara streaks smudged deeply into my face.  No one seemed to notice.

I thought she was doing better.  I wasn’t even going to come straight to the hospital when I got the call, but they said she was ready to go.  She has been battling breast cancer for years now that spread into her bones.  She has two young girls in high school.  She is so young.  This is bullsh*&, and I am angry.

And she is letting go.

Unrelated, I recently have been scarfing up every single article on letting go, whatever that means. I mean, seriously, what does it mean? Can someone tell me?  It seems to be that no matter what I come across, I just don’t seem to get it.  And I am trying really hard.

Everyone has a quote, or 10 ways to do it, or some personal I-now-see-the-light-that-was-in-myself-the-whole-time story.  I am not so convinced that letting go is something attainable in 10 steps or through bubble baths reading Pema Chodron.  Instead I see inspiration in trapeze artistry-part courage, part good timing, and part it just works out.  Or it doesn’t, and you fall.  And my guess is those guys fall a lot more than they catch.

Maybe letting go is simply realizing that your brain shuts down for a nanosecond, and when you look down, you see that whatever was in your hands in just not there anymore.  Or maybe it’s that slit beginning of slowly starting to focus after an episode of holding on with all your might, eyes closed, teeth clenched, silently repeating just let go just let go just let go.

Or just maybe it’s like repelling, making so little rational sense to slowly back down off the side of a rock backwards with nothing but a rope that I think is tied tightly. Key words here are I think. This experience has been so excruciating at times I actually cry.  I keep telling myself just let go just let go just let go  but each time I never seem to get closer to embracing it.  I’m not even sure I have ever fully been in awareness at the moment of true release.  I just know when I’m on the other side.

Yes there are steps. Yes there are books. Yes there are experiences.

But actually letting go?

It is that complete in-between space in between tightening a life grip and completely releasing.
Maybe there is no art to it.  Maybe there just is an is.  Maybe you’ll never completely know how you did it.  Maybe you’ll just know when it’s gone.

So here I am, for months, attempting to let go of holding all of the pieces of my heart smashed into shards by betrayal and unkindness and deceit.  And yet today I am walking through a hospital with my friend in one room of many.  She is so strong.  She is so knowing.  And she is just letting go.

Because I guess one day you just do.

Do you know how to let go?

image credit

LifeSpace Destuffing: Get Rid of What You Don’t Want to Find Out What You Do

I recently met someone who has been a complete throwback to my travel days.  Random adventuring followed by taller tales, sleeping wherever there’s an open space, and most of your worldly possessions fitting into a few cubic feet.  Anyone who has ever rocked the fancy-free lifestyle knows that the less you have, the less you have to lose…literally and figuratively.

My current home consists of three years of consolidated collecting, especially in an attempt to create “home.”  I sometimes miss the days of this is the best of my three holey shirts.  And as I soon will be transitioning LifeSpaces again, I feel compelled to investigate what I don’t want to find out what I do.

So where to begin when destuffing your life?  You can move through the material and the emotional simultaneously, and anyone who has ever had to move, starting with packing up all of the big, fun things with precious wrapping and care and then moving down to angrily showing all the little leftover frustrations in a box to go with or be left in the free pile can relate.

Declutter the stuff stuff

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo challenges destuffers to touch every single owned object in attempt to examine what things inspire joy.  According to Kondo, all those random vacation T-shirts, chipped plates, too-many hand creams, half-finished art projects, old posters, and shoes clothes that haven’t seen the light of day for years can potentially zap your energy.  By holding them and deciding if they bring joy to your LifeSpace, you can decide what truly resonates.

You also give yourself permission to release those things you should hang onto, like the random trinkets gifted that you never truly liked, notes saved from high school, or that way-too-expensive dress that you have never actually worn. You can realize they did all bring you joy at some point and thank them but then send them on their way to make someone else’s space a better place.

Declutter the other stuff

As we move through our lives, we collect material and emotional totems.  A remembered first kiss moment, the last time we held our friend’s hand, the first time our new cats came out from under the bed to look around their new home.  These moments create our inner LifeSpaces.  We also hold onto other things, like the anger for someone we trusted who lied, the friend who ended up not being such a good friend after all, and of course, worst of all, all of the terrible thoughts and ideas against our own selves.

Revisiting these moments inspire us to clean out our emotional mementos.  These are the times of intense housecleaning where we can have a safe space to try on each individual memory.

External and internal cleaning lets us take stock of what we have in our lives and if that truly syncs up with the person we are now and the person we are becoming.  Our homes are what reflects us both inside and out.  Getting rid of what no longer serves you, both materially and emotionally, allows us to decide what it is we truly want to manifest in our lives.  Make your space vibrate at your best level of self and see where you go from there.

Hold five items in your home and see how they resonate.  Please share.

image credit

What happens when you go looking for nothing? You might see a red fox in downtown San Francisco.

Intentionally losing yourself feels exhilarating, terrifying, and gratifying all at once.  It feels like jumping onto a metro train not knowing where it will take you and hopping off at a random stop because the houses look pretty.  Or like the feeling of wandering through a park for hours every day in an attempt to know all of its lines and zig zags and trees, knowing you haven’t even seen a sliver.  Or like the feeling of slinging a backpack on and way-warding through foreign lands, mountains, deserts, or wherever your feet are being called toward.

Getting lost gifts you new insights.  Stories like Siddhartha and The Alchemist teach us that you must lose yourself to find your way home.  A time period of wandering movement becomes a necessary part to understanding our depths, in part because it is while we are lost that we are open to looking at things that we wouldn’t normally see.

I recently ventured to get lost for hours everyday in Golden Gate Park  for about a week. One evening, my randomized footsteps led me to a calm, giant pond, surrounded by a path and trees. It was dusk and completely isolated (and eerie knowing I was actually located in the middle of San Francisco). Out of the corner of my eye I saw a brownish-red colored object about 70 feet away from me.  Haha, I thought, it must be a red fox!

Here is the part where I should mention that I had just seen the movie Wild based on the book by Cheryl Strayed about a woman who hikes much of the Pacific Crest Trail alone and was intrigued with her companion hallucination of a red fox. So it only made sense that I too would see a red fox, meeting my spirit animal alone at dusk in the middle of over 800,000 inhabitants.

And then I thought, get real, its just a tree stump.

I started walking the other way when my mind shifted again, thinking if it is a tree stump, why don’t I just make sure.  As I started to move closer, the would-be tree stump got up and bounded away with its bushy tail bobbing behind it.

I couldn’t believe it.  It was a red fox.

Sometimes in the midst of normal life we only look for what we want to see or what we think we should be seeing.  Getting lost allows us to wander through our own liminal realms where we receive gifts of knowing that this world is full of fortuitous moments to snap us out of “normal life.” When we open our wandering path and change our vision to look for something ridiculous/silly/meeting-our-spirit-animal-in-downtown-SF, we may come into contact with these in-between spaces where time freezes and we know the world becomes the most unforeseen/beautiful/synchronistic way we can imagine it.

Later that night a Google search showed me that indeed red foxes were being spotted again in the park, although this observance was incredibly rare.  A chance opportunity had graced me, but only because my mind allowed me to walk that in-between space, that place where you might just catch a glimpse of the illusive red fox in Golden Gate Park.

When’s the last time you purposefully got lost?  Share below.

Image credit