A special message for my South San Mateo Coast community, and all those impacted by California's historic wildfires.
My dear friends,
How are you doing?! I have been trying to connect with as many of you as I can. If we haven't connected, please drop me a line when you have a chance and let me know how you are doing.
Jim and I are okay. We were in the Sierras on vacation when the storms came through and didn't learn of the fires until we came back onto the grid on Wednesday. We cut the trip short, came home, and evacuated with the rest of you on Thursday. The chickens, our other two cars, and a few belongings are being cared for by a wonderfully kind new friend on Skyline near Half Moon Bay. We are gratefully living in Mitzi (our Vanagon), which is currently parked in a friend's driveway in Menlo Park.
So it will be awhile before I am able to offer yoga again. I have not done any asana for several days, relying on the grounding meditation practice that we have done over and over and over again to keep me centered and present. I hope you will join me in spirit.
Many of you are far more spiritually mature than I am, so I can only offer this. Patanjali (our sacred yoga sage) has guidance for us during times like these (especially on social media!). There are those who will handle today's uncertainty better than you. Take hope and inspiration from them. There are some who will not handle it as well. Offer them compassion; perhaps a virtual hug. And of course, take care of yourself. Our community, California, and beyond, need our loving and present leadership more than ever.
This is what we have been practicing for.
I hold all of you in my heart and in my prayers.
This past week, I introduced some dynamic new flows into our yoga practice before bringing ourselves into stillness. How did you feel? What thoughts popped into your head? What did you learn about yourself? Practicing with another teacher (Julia Midland) in this way earlier in the week was a revelation to me, so as I do with all of my meaningful self discoveries, I offer it forward to you.
What did I learn? My judgmental side, the one I thought I had “kicked to the curb,” is in fact, quite alive and kicking back. Yikes!
As soon as we started the unfamiliar flows — with 25 or more other yoga teachers in the Zoom room — my insecurities started to rise up. “I can’t do these flows! I look ridiculous! The other teachers here must be wondering how I was allowed in the room!”
Ever felt like that? (Choose your own context.) Everything I “preach” about pausing and letting go was completely inaccessible to me in that moment.
So I stopped. I just stopped. I took a few deep breaths in tadasana, and re-centered and re-grounded myself. I honored the truth of my insecurity and I listened to my inner wisdom. Brené Brown was there telling me, “vulnerability is the birthplace of everything we are hungry for.” And Aaron Neville was there telling me, “everybody plays the fool sometimes.” (So lighten up!)
Then I started again.
This time, I followed my own advice and let go of the judgement. I didn’t worry about the quality of my movement (except for being safe!) and I just started flowing with her and the 25 other yogis who I was now able to see in myself. Sometimes I accessed the flow, and sometimes I didn’t. I didn’t care. When she said “see how big you can be,” I reached and reached, and I toppled over, giggling. I have no idea if anyone was paying any attention to me because I went into my own little self-indulgent and meditative world. And boy did I have a good time!
Then we paused again. And my confusion became even more clear.
I was reminded once again that we practice because it’s unlikely that any of us, in any single lifetime, will ever completely rid ourselves of our demons and achieve total enlightenment. And we can never know when and where these gremlins will show up. But they will come, and when they do, we have a choice each and every time as to how we will welcome them. Will we look at them (ourselves!) and say, “Ugh, not you again?! I thought I banished you!” Or will we look at them (ourselves!) and say, “Oh! It’s you. You’re the one who reminds me that my pain is my purpose. My mess is my messenger. My greatest strengths wouldn’t exist without you, my greatest weakness. What do you need right now to feel grounded and whole? How about we start with a couple of deep breaths.”
Perhaps more importantly though, was the gremlin that didn’t show up (at least not this time!). That’s the one that might have had me closing the computer and quitting the class because it either, “wasn’t my kind of yoga” or worse, “she wasn’t my kind of teacher.” You know this gremlin. It’s EVERYWHERE these days. It’s the one that says, “you should…”. The one that closes our mind to others' perspectives and points of view. The one that becomes defensive or discouraged at any hint of a disagreement. The one that puts more weight on others’ actions (or inactions) instead of focusing on our own. The one that makes any challenge more about the messenger than the message. It was the release of this gremlin that created the space for me to take myself out of my comfort zone, risk making mistakes or looking silly, learn something new, really enjoy the class, and expand what I have to offer to you!
In yoga philosophy, we call this gremlin the asmita avidya, which is Sanskrit for our ego getting in the way of our ability to see things as they truly are. I can’t be sure it won’t be back, but now that I have truly experienced the joy of dropping my defenses and giving that particular demon a break, I’ll be better prepared to choose the right action next time.
So I invite you to listen to your demons. Welcome the ones who serve you, and release the ones who don’t. Because the one thing Aaron Neville didn’t get right in the song, is that when we can drop the ego and find the self-compassion to be vulnerable and imperfect, we actually can guarantee “that the one you love is gonna’ love you.”
Where does the space between the breath take you?
My intent with this blog is to share the learnings and resources that have been the most helpful to me on my journey to my highest self, with the hope that you find them to be helpful, too!