red dot little duck

The Lies We Tell

UPindia

I have spent a great deal of my life believing I am less than. That because of my shape I am less. Because of my past, I am less. I’ve believed that being heavy – curves and “a little extra” – meant I wasn’t good enough to have the things I desired and longed for, like companionship and acceptance. I’ve been much heavier. I lost quite a lot of pounds and then a put a few back on. And then off, and then on. I’ve beaten myself up. I’ve shamed myself and joked about it. I’ve belittled myself and tried to make myself small so I could somehow feel accepted by my peers.

A whole lot of lies perpetuated by years of misinformation and societal conditioning.

Beliefs have power. The things we tell ourselves matter. We can create pain when what we want is relief from it. So, how to unearth the truth? Shift from the negative to the positive?

To start, recognition of self-deprecating patterns and toxic influences is a must. Whoa! We have to see our patterns for what they are. And this means relationship. Relationship to our families, our partners, our friends, our teachers. Relationship to money, to objects, to food. Simply stated you would think it’s a snap. Just don’t do this or don’t do that and everything will be good! As a recovering addict, I know what it’s like to want something so badly that the consequences don’t matter. The risk of being physically or mentally stunted within the indulgence is easily overlooked, and afterward the inevitable return to a belief of being “less than” starts the pattern all over again. The internal bully encourages the turmoil and then to justify the internal abuse, the pattern repeats.

There is a line that my teacher quoted in an article not too long ago stating that “if you argue for your limits, you’re sure to have them.” I’ve been pondering this a lot. In terms of practice, in terms of general life skills. There are many ways that I dilute my own power. One of them is believing that I’m not as capable as or generally not as good as others because I haven’t attained specific goals. So what? This is, by no means, a statement as to what I am actually capable of or the depth of my understanding or the level of my own sacrifices. And, who sets the standard of these goals?! I have a BODY. I’ve explored my limits within it and will continue to do so. I’ve studied my injuries and the lethargy, the depression, that can accompany them. I’ve incorporated ways of moving, ways of practicing when my body was unable. I’ve broken the barriers of my own mind in order to make it to my mat and discover joy. What an accomplishment!

I’ve lived all the excuses, indulged in excesses and I’ve perpetuated enough self-hate because of them to fill a life time. Through it, it’s been my experience, that to feel joy, to bathe in the relief of self-awareness and acceptance, to feel the calm of contentment, one has to award themselves a generous amount of empathy and compassion. Practice a great deal of self-care, self-LOVE. Surround themselves with positive people — genuine, loving people.

In the end, the fact is, I’ve been blessed with a BODY. Blessed with the ability to do more than I though possible. The more I learn about myself and the world I have entered into, the more I understand about real beauty and how wonderful it is to be so lucky to have this life.

Survival

 

You know it’s going to be rough when you realize your arms aren’t working properly. Every step, every motion (even the simple ones) are abnormally effortful and your mind hasn’t quite caught up to the fact that your so depleted you can barely speak. Then it hits you… “I’m sick and this could be bad.”

On arrival to Mysore, I was already feeling the effects of a long and awful car ride from Bangalore. The dreaded four hour drive, mid-day like a smart lady, with an alright but far from good driver brought the familiar back pain to a full on assault. Forward, backward, twist… None were accessible. Even sitting or laying down was terrible. Tenderly I went about my first few days, gentle, alert, breath-focused rhythm — slowly.

Then the fever hit. My flesh, burning to the touch, as goosebumps crept over every inch of skin. Getting to the toilet and back to the bed was all I could manage in an effort to win the battle for survival. I don’t think I’m gonna make it. After thirty-six hours of sliding in and out of consciousness I laid on the floor and tried to relax my body on the cool marble tiles, (- crazy how in our most vulnerable moments we get hit with epiphanies -) and it struck me — “I’ve been scrambling to ‘be somebody’ and it just doesn’t feel right.”

I’ve been out here, traveling around, jockeying for a place to belong while spreading myself thin, depleting my resources and decimating my energy stores. Granted, these have been some incredible times with some truly beautiful people, and I feel genuinely blessed to have been out here sharing in all this. I don’t regret for one moment any of my experiences out here. The fact is though, I’m tired. Grasping, clawing at something I’m not meant to attain… I’ve been trying to be bigger then I’m meant to be. It took a lot to admit that to myself. Expelling all this effort, striving to scrape up enough teaching opportunities – over here and over there – to support myself and share this lineage I’ve been witness to and discovered over years of study… and it’s killing me.

There is a bulging disc in my lower spine that’s pressing into my nerve centers. Admittedly, I don’t know exactly what it all means and Gods know how long it’s been there, but it’s likely one of the stronger roots to this reoccurring road block called chronic pain. It’s a horrible thing to live with. Especially when what you love to do is move and breathe and share it with those who could use some healing of their own. It’s telling me that I haven’t been listening. That this constant travel and grasping at opportunities is not my dharma. I am not meant to be out here spreading thin my power, depleting my energy trying to be something I’m not. I’m meant to put down roots and cultivate a forest.

My dharma is to discover and revel in self-love. I am destined to BE MYSELF and be strong in who that is. I don’t have to try and be someone I’m not, I don’t have to ache to be seen, I don’t have to fit into someone else’s mold. My dharma is to build a loving space and strengthen bonds with my friends who support this effort. My dharma is to surround myself with a loving supportive COMMUNITY so I can let my walls down and allow myself to be loved too. My dharma is to GIVE EVERYTHING of myself, to share this yoga from a coffer FULL of bhakti and deep love for its gifts. Ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga. Breath. My dharma is to teach what I know; what I’ve learned from my teacher and from my own depth of self-study, TO AND WITHIN, a community of people who love and support the same ideas. My dharma is to stand still, stand tall and gather myself up to not just survive this life, but to LIVE it fully and completely.

Homework 1. Kovalam, India

This last week David asked us to write about our experience with some of the principles he has offered in regards to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Hatha Yoga. The alignment and awareness of the body in space, in movement, in breath. This was my response. 

THE INTERNAL PROCESS:
POSITIONS 1, 2 AND 3 OF SURYA NAMASKAR

Clunk. Shoulder joint resists the reach to first position. Damn, it’s still there. What to do…? Hands together or not together? Doesn’t matter. Investigate the motion, the rotation, reach OUT —-> extend through the entire wingspan, the entire length —-> better… yet, maybe reach forward, at a diagonal. Yes that’s it. Scapula position? Down and in? Check. Breathe in, full complete extension from feet to fingertips. Opposing forces centered around and over the axis. Spotlights shining, brilliantly lighting up each checkpoint. Where is my pelvis? Snug as a bug in the hold of the bandhas.

UP, OUT, FORWARD, DOWN.

Throw the top half forward, fulcrum–the pelvis. Braced legs; femurs, quads, hams, and adjust for balance. Take care that hamstring. —-> How can I be more prepared? Do I need to be more prepared? —-> Be as prepared as possible and follow through; accept the risk and use it to your advantage. Breathe the breath all the way out. Ahhhhhh… lifted pelvic floor, the lower belly hollowed, flying up and inside. Palms fixed to the floor, drawing a consciously submissive torso securely into an established foundation of leg power. Weightless stability cultivates the sweetest inward, emptiness. A brief moment of, solitary joy.

UP, OUT, EXTEND, BALANCE

Inhale the torso to horizontal. Risk! Keeping the balance, extend the spine forward. The legs! Hold the legs! Don’t lock your knees back (WHY WOULD YOU?!), inner rotation for the upper thighs. Pelvic position unfolds.—-> What?! Wasn’t it like that before? How did I not notice this?! —-> Shift tilt. Fingertips grip the floor and aid in spinal extension. Front of the body exposed and open to the floor, yet protected by the stability of the spine and the grandeur of the in-breath, the power of uddiyana. What a glorious position, it’s the perfect preparation for the jump back. It must be.

Plans

The plan. Mom was supposed to come visit me in North Carolina. She was to meet my Durham family and we were going to celebrate our birthdays together, create some new memories. Less than a week before her trip over here she fell seven feet off a ladder, cracked her head open over a chair and got taken to the hospital where they found a tumor in her brain. Change of plans.

The one instant in which she fell created a ripple of possible outcomes. She could have died. Could have been paralyzed, or broken her limbs. The tumor could have been cancerous. She was lucky. We were lucky. Last Friday, my mom had brain surgery. Lucky it was benign. Lucky it wasn’t a millimeter to the right. Lucky she is now home, healing, resting. Still, nothing about it was ideal. Positioning, swelling… not ideal… brain surgery… not ideal.

Even though the fall was painful physically and emotionally, and created limiting factors which fostered frustration through lack of control… the fall led to discovery. Something was found that could have become much worse as she went about her daily life.

This is what happens. We make plans and those plans sometimes fail or change outside of our control. Accidents, traumas, heartaches — things we may not have had the foresight to avoid — these things have the ability to TAKE from us. Take self-confidence, take from the love we have for each other, the love we have for our lives… this life. I mean, look around out there. This world is fucked up. And how much of that is due to the need to control everything around us?

So, not every change of plans will lead to something terrible. Changes can shake things up, expose flaws, create an imbalance which forces us to seek stability. To search for answers, creativity, compassion, devotion, communication, love. Change teaches us to be malleable, to express gratitude for consciousness and can bring clarity around relationship. And as hard as it is… can lead us to an experience of relief in relinquishing control.

Reset

May 31, 2016 my Grandma died. She was ready… In her nineties, living with dementia, alzheimer’s, heart failure. A pretty rough and scary exit. And she handled it with as much beauty as anyone could possibly do in her shoes.

gramsThree Generations.

She lived through some tough times. Serious tragedies and heavy losses. And even at the hardest of times she filled her life with love. She grew up on a farm outside Circle, Montana and rode a pony to and from school by herself every morning until her folks had to move into town. I wish I could remember that pony’s name. When she grew up she became a nurse and served as a caregiver for most of her life. She had three children, George, Margaret, and John. She outlived George. And her husband, Fred.

She didn’t get a drivers license until her kids were nearly grown. She would park her car outside of town and walk in to get her shopping done. She made the best cookies. She taught me to make them too. The white and blue ceramic container that lived on the credenza was always filled with ginger snaps (my favorite) or lemon iced molasses cookies (also a favorite). She didn’t mind us taking them when we thought she wasn’t looking. I loved watching her dance. Especially when grandpa would throw on a big band record and they would sway through the living room, giggling. After grandpa Fred died it was amazing watching her learn to be on her own after 60 plus years of marriage. Her personality blossomed. She kept busy with volunteer work at the hospital, playing bridge with her girlfriends and enjoying a pint of cold beer with a hot slice of pizza from the Cove in Polson.

She loved her roses. Grandpa’s roses. Flowers in general. Always wearing jewelry; earnings, necklaces, her watch, lipstick with a flattering top and some nice slacks. She loved to wear those sweatshirts that have paintings on the front. Loved them.

There was so much to know about her. To learn about her. Things that where either too painful to retell or her ability to recall was lost. By the time I became truly interested in her history it was already too late. I am sad about that. I’m sad I didn’t spend more time with her. That’s the hardest part about when someone dies. The moments that didn’t get to be.

When you’re making a movie you get the opportunity to “reset” the scene. Put all the props back to their starting position, go back to the bottom of the stairs, light a fresh cigarette, make that dramatic entrance, stage right, once – twice – three times…  but we only get one go at this life. She was the last of my grandparents and the last direct connection to that era of family history. What I have left of her are beautiful memories, letters she’s written to me over the years, and this crazy desire to bake cookies for people on any variety of occasions or events.

Grandma, Millie Mielke – 1925-2016

Six Minute Savasana

All I want to do is sleep. And then all I want to do is practice. To breathe, move — keep moving, develop strength, grow, find silence, balance, challenge in grace. Long days making movies, lots of running and moving things around is tough on this already “rickety ship” of a body I’m in. All I want to do it sleep, but I don’t. I make cool props and decorate sets and sweep up floors and dig up cactus…. and I practice. And I love it.

JoBackBench

Backbends. I NEED them. All day I need them. Desire the effect derived — spine ascends into the chest, breath in, shoulder blades broaden, support, legs rooted, length. UP, OVER, UP. Reach, lengthen, breathe. This — supporting my development  as a human wanting something better in her world. Supporting the creative, the life I’m living. As I work on this film, “I Am That“, I have to remember ever so clearly, that finding presence in each movement, each breath will allow me to do this thing to the best of my ability. Practice: ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga,  supports my world.

The exciting part about working with talented, creative people is learning new ways to look at things. To work out challenging situations, find solutions that not only work, but turn out pretty fucking awesome. My friend Joy Marzec has been writing stories and dreaming of making movies most of her life. As a long time friend and yoga pal, I am constantly inspired by her will to make this happen, this something collaborative, this something MAGIC.

 

Last Piece of Chocolate

There is a thing among ashtangis about chocolate and coffee. Many of us anyway. No coffee no prana. Dark chocolate for desert. Our love of it usually leaves us traveling with varying amounts of our favorite kind. Of course India has chocolate. Yes of course, but I brought two bars of the “super yum” stuff anyway.

India is amazing. The colors, variety of smells, the food, chai, the history, the grit, the kindness of the local people. Kovalam, Kerala holds a special place in me. It IS a special place. It has a special flavor. Festivals. It’s heart shines beautifully across the Arabian Sea. Sunsets over an intimate Boardwalk. The city on the sea, fishermen’s lights. Rickshaws. Restaurants bustle making parrotas, curries and veg biriani. Juice. Oh the goodness of fresh juice. Puppies cafe for coffee and lemon sorbet. Coconut cake at German bakery. Bananas tropical. The guy selling cashews. My beach guy. My tailor at work with his son trying to get me to buy “at least two more”. Jewelry, pashminas, miniature elephants. Beach dogs. The beach. The Arabian Sea, beautiful, warm and mesmerizing, serving as a backdrop to a four week investigation into Ashtanga yoga.

Practitioners from all over the world travel to Kovalam, India to study yoga. Those of us who come to study with David Garrigues get a little something extra special… A taste of his enthusiasm for practice. In these four weeks David pours his entire self into working with each individual as much as possible to help them grow and deepen their understanding of what this yoga can reveal. He works to show us ways of practicing with devotion, with fire and intelligence no matter our circumstances. He pushes us to our edge, brings us to face our fears, lights the fire of tapas and at the same time teaches us to soften, to nourish and enrich these experiences we encounter on the mat through compassion and empathy. An enormous offering.

After packing my things and organizing myself for the next round of happenings, I sat waiting for my friend to take me to the airport. Somehow I still had one piece of delicious dark chocolate left from my little stash from Scotland. While waiting, enjoying this last little bit, looking around the now empty house I had occupied for the last month, practiced in, chanted in, enjoyed tea with friends in, rested in… I contemplated the enormity of the last four weeks. The people, the experiences… this years intensive will occupy my thoughts for some time to come. A sensory overload; an amazing in-depth teachers intensive, assisting my teacher, practicing with and meeting students from around the world, reconnecting with old friends. Another year of adventure in yoga and connections — my love India — has come to a close. Now to integrate what I’ve learned and continue forward.

Series of Moments

Embarking on yet another new year, thinking about new beginnings and change and all that… I specifically recall one of a few distinctly significant moments in my timeline. I was relaxing at the bar where I worked, my day off, imbibing in an afternoon beverage (as I often did) where I found myself feeling disconnected, heavy and sad. Sitting there next to the dart board, munching on popcorn, I remember thinking… intensely, “something has to change.

IMG_2796It wasn’t the first time I recall these words permeating my being in a full and complete way. I had been working on change. I was back in school and getting my feet on the ground after four years in an ugly situation involving addiction and isolation. But, I knew how to get out of that situation. It wasn’t easy but I knew what to do… leave and start over. This time, however, it had to be more, it had to be deeper, I had to develop something new within myself.

A friend of mine had recommended I try yoga. I told her, “yeah, that sounds nice, but no way I’ll ever be doing that.” Two days later I found a flyer advertising a local yoga studio welcoming beginners. Finding this flyer after telling my friend no way was interesting, yet my full interest wasn’t solidified until after randomly finding two more flyers in the coming days. I decided to take that as a sign and just go.

I showed up to my first ever class extremely self-conscious, unhappy and terrified. I will never forget it… that class changed the course of my life. For the first time, I connected with my body through movement and breath in a way that left me feeling light. I hadn’t felt light my entire life. It was one of the most physically challenging and emotionally rewarding days of my life. The next day I bought a mat and a class pass. Those early experiences were incredibly influential. Yet it all took time to resonate, to lead to deeper and more inspiring experiences. (The evolution of that is still happening.) Some things happened faster than others, positive and challenging things, but the truly important part was discovering the will to follow a path toward real change.

Now, twelve years later, I take a moment to reflect on what it took to begin and where that has taken me. Two years after my initial class I found my teacher, whom I’ve had the opportunity to grow with over the last ten years. I now teach and travel and continue to study. All of the experiences leading up to now have been instrumental in my growth and development. It all started with a desire for change and that one class. It’s difficult to express my appreciation to all of those who have been part of that but I hope you know who you are. Today, from a place of gratitude, I take a moment to envision the road ahead and count my blessings.

Mosquitos

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I forget that pain does not have to be the center of my attention. That the life I’m living is one abundant with JOY and BLISS. That when I trust, really trust, magical things happen. Impossible things. That I choose to live the way I do and I actually enjoy it. I forget the amount of love, support, inspiration and freedom that is gifted me everyday. Everyday. In immeasurable ways.

I forget that I can choose to discontinue unnecessary suffering, guilt and shame. Enough suffering. That I have the power to embrace the beauty of this life I’ve created. Beauty. The life in which I continue to investigate, nourish, be inspired by, and above all… enjoy.

All So Ridiculous

Heartbreakingly in love with the experience of this life. Through thoughts of love and those of pain, how intricately woven together… so heavenly heartbreaking. Blessed to be cursed by romanticism — a suspension of mind and body in the clutches of vast emotion and emotionlessness.

How clarifying the experience of death could be, leave the world behind to writhe in it’s own beautiful illnesses. I would die to relieve these pains of existence from the world. Our world. My world. Relieve the pain and guilt derived from desire and craving. Change perspective.

Fear of enjoyment, of participation, of self-discovery, of discovery of Self, of being discovered. Fear of loss, fear of gain. The intricately woven aspects of love and pain, joy and sorrow.

It’s all so ridiculous. It’s all so ridiculous.