All posts by Lauren Wessinger

About Lauren Wessinger

Never say never! Four years ago I left fashion and business to raise babies and teach yoga. I moved from the gorgeous desert after 32 years and moved to Fort Worth, Texas...and can honestly say I love it. After a lifetime of scribbling intently in journals, I now share my heart via my writing with the world (or whoever will read it). My sweet supportive husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage, and my biggest living inspirations are my son and daughter. I am living the life I created, and living a life that I love. Connect with me on Facebook or Twitter, or through my website

A Letter To My Disenchanted Yoga Student

Ambassador Meghan CurrieI saw a student out in public today. It always throws me for a moment when I see someone outside the studio, seeing them in “real life.” In our quick chat it came up that she’s been disenchanted with yoga lately. This is someone who has been known to say yoga is her religion, which of course I completely understand. Deep in the most internal cell in the marrow on my bones, I understand. But I could see it on her face, the confusion, frustration, and even a hint of sorrow.

Part of this practice is one of self-discovery. Last year, maybe longer, I was going through a phase where I thought “this sucks…all this uncovering, unshielding, digging into truth, who wants to face this junk.” I really thought I was better off living in my naivety and blinded to the truth of who I am and how I want to live. It was painful to feel my fear about breaking through the shields I used to fight through life from behind.

This practice puts you in the spotlight. You can prance and dance around the stage but the light chases you. It shadows you until you either slink back into the darkness, hoping nobody will notice, or decide to embrace the message. Step into the light, it coaxes you.

It is at these crossroads in the practice that we decide for ourselves how the rest of life devoted to our own truth will play out. When I think of all the times (yes, there have been several in the last 15+ years) I have fallen out of love with yoga, I look at each one as fondly as a relationship that didn’t work out, and that I am better and stronger to have lived through. Each time I come through, I leave something about the practice behind that was making my spirit heavy. It could be anything from elements of a style of yoga that didn’t feed me, a teacher, my own internal dialog to a pose that challenges me or simply the frequency in which I practice. Just like I don’t live anyone else’s dogma, I don’t live anyone else’s yoga.

When I can leave something behind, oh the beautiful truth that is ushered in is always worth the wait. My breakthrough, your breakthrough, could be to viscerally feel that there is so much more to this practice than what we do on the mat. Sure, on paper, in words, we know. But to feel the beauty that this practice is so much more than a handstand, so much more than a downward facing dog, so much more than savasana…that is a gift in itself, to feel without moving. Because in all truth, there might be a day when we can’t move, and stillness is all we have. Stillness, and our practice.

This is also when the practice becomes yours. Not mine, not your mentor’s, not the yogi’s next to you…yours. This is when you start to see that just like there is no one religion for all of us, there is no one yoga for all of us. The only yoga that is for all of us is the one in which we breathe, move and create a vibration that inspires people to move closer to truth. Everything else is for you to define.

This is also when you step away for a moment, and see your own self in all your unique glory. This is when you give gratitude to the group you are in for honoring you, carrying you when you needed it, and supporting you as you find your way. We are rooting for you. I am rooting for you. As my friend also with us on this path says…your soul is rooting for you.

Disenchanted friends, near or far, whether we know each other or not, stick with it. Know that in this place of struggle and confusion lives a gift. This is your chance to step into your own light and define what this practice looks like for you. It is quite an exciting time if we choose to see it as such.

Love is Love: 4 Steps to Overcome Judgment

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 11.47.44 AMA soul is a soul is a soul. Love is love. You are not right, and neither am I. You aren’t wrong either. You are who you are, and I am who I am.

There is no such concept as absolute, right or wrong when it comes to who we choose to love or what color we were born as. We live in a dynamic time and have been gifted with being present to some big social inequality changes…Obama being elected President, DOMA having been nullified, women gaining more and more control over their own bodies. With each progression, there is a fire inside me that ignites. It is one that burns down one more barrier telling me I can’t be who I am. Even though I am not African-American and I am married to a man and if I were to accidentally get pregnant today I would not abort, it symbolizes one step further toward society allowing people to be themselves, to be who they were born to be, to be who their DNA dictates. We can change our character, our hair, our body…but we can’t change who we are at a soul level.

After the fire simmers down a little, melancholia sets in and takes me to a place of sadness that there even needs to be a fight about any of it. I cried today in tears of happiness for my same-sex couple friends, but also in pain for what they have to fight against. What is happening that we need to fight for love? Why can’t we as a developed society support our own families just as much as we support families that look different on the outside than ours but are the same inside? Why can’t we use our life to love our communities, the charities we dedicate to, people in need…instead of bash what we don’t agree with?

It is absolutely a choice whether we live in an angry state or a tolerant state about how other people live their lives. Anger will not change the world. Judgment will get us nowhere, except to grow old, tired and shut down. Holding onto bias-fueled resentment is hurting the person resenting more than anything. Imagine being free of that feeling. Imagine the space that could be created in life if that wasn’t there. The joy. What if you weren’t afraid anymore to let that junk go? What if you decided today was the day to pull back the curtain of insecurity and fear and step through to a life of love and freedom for you and everyone who crosses your path? In theory, it’s that easy.

I was not raised around discrimination of any kind, and it makes my stomach churn to know it is happening. That said, I have been through stages of my life where I judged, where I was stuck in small-mindedness and where I was hard on myself. Judgment is judgment, so here are my humble ideas to help as it really is all one in the same:

1. Look up. Look up to the sky, to the full moon or to the stars if you live somewhere you can see them clearly. Look up and be reminded of how this life is so much bigger than all of us. Look up and be reminded that the stars you are seeing have the same matter in them as lives in each of us. Be reminded of the very real fact that we are all infinitely connected, regardless of what the ego would like to think.

2. Hunt your trigger. We all get triggered by something in life, many things usually. Maybe for you, it is two women walking hand in lovely hand…or a bi-racial couple walks by smooching…or someone of a different race happens to make you mad but you find yourself getting more angry than you might at a person of your own race. Stop. Breathe. Instead of numbing out in your angry pain and going unconscious to it, notice the feeling. Track it, trace it, don’t let that lead get away. That trigger comes from somewhere in your past. The only way to heal is to find out the root and the connection to your life now. This trigger can be overcome if you want to be free of it bad enough.

3. Take your own power back. Usually discrimination comes from family. “I grew up this way,” is not an excuse. While it may be true that you did, it absolutely does not excuse it now. Say you grew up poor…most likely you didn’t want to perpetuate that economic state as you grew into adulthood. Most likely you don’t blame your adulthood financial troubles now on your economic state as a 10 year old. So why would you perpetuate this? Instead of picking and choosing what we blame our childhood on, let’s step into the light childhood can lend to this life, and see it for what it is. Let’s take it back to the now.

4. Be kind to yourself. I have been around enough to know that the people who are hardest on others, are hardest on themselves too. Love for the world starts with a deep, passionate love affair with ourselves. Get the help needed to heal old wounds. Not bandage them, but heal them for good. Life it too short to live in the past. See beauty now. No regrets at the end of this gorgeous life.

 

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

-HHDL

Top 10 Life Lessons Learned From My Dad

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.55.32 AMWhere I am concerned, my Dad’s heart is always on his sleeve. He is so grounded in truth, so deep in his thinking, and so moral about humanity that I wonder how I got so lucky! Of course he doesn’t see it that way, and wonders instead how he got so lucky to have me. We have been through a lot together over the years, and in his “lead by example” way I have learned so much from him that I have taken into my own adulthood. My favorites:

1. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. You  never know what kind of day someone is having and what they’re  going through. Know that most bad moods, angry words, or scowling faces have nothing to do with you. Put yourself is someone else’s shoes when you can and try to see life from another’s perspective.

2. Don’t judge someone by what color their hair is, what their job is, how many tattoos they have, or who their parents are. Just because they don’t fit a socialized mold of “acceptable” doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the most caring humans you might ever meet.

3. Every dream and every goal is attainable no matter how far out of reach it may seem at the time. Break down your dream into small steps. Do three things a day that will lead you closer to your dream.

4. Religion is a personal decision and something to be used with respect and love. Don’t push your beliefs, or your lack of belief, on anyone else. We simultaneously walk our path alone and together, and each person has their own way to self-discovery and their own definition of “divine.”

5. Your past is not an excuse for your present. Not. An. Excuse.

6. Don’t hide who you are just to make the people around you more comfortable. You have every right to shine and to be yourself, because yourself is pretty fabulous!

7. Be dedicated to your body and your health. Life is so much easier when the body is whole.

8. “Disappointments, failures, weakness, making wrong decisions and mistakes are all part of life. Some of the most valuable life lessons come from these times,” taken verbatim from a letter sent to me in college from my Dad.

9. When your family needs you, really truly needs you, drop absolutely everything and go to them.

10. Anything worth doing has a certain amount of fear associated with it. Don’t be afraid of that fear and know that moving forward can be scary. Again, taken verbatim from a  letter my Dad gave me upon high school graduation…”As you head in a new direction in your life, don’t let fear keep you from moving ahead. Moving       forward can be scary because you are going into the unknown. Staying  where you are is usually safe and comfortable but you never get anywhere. You have so many qualities that will take you anywhere you want to go.”

Above all…always let your kids know you support them one thousand percent, no matter what they do, where they go or who they become. They need you and life is a whole lot easier to manage with that kind of love.

Honoring My Mother on the Anniversary of Her Passing

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 10.26.43 AMIt’s a practice of healing and cleansing, one of renewal and expansion. As the shift happens, a rawness sets in. It is a total unshielding of spirit/heart/energy…whatever you choose to call it, it really doesn’t matter as it is one in the same. Once the breakthrough has taken place through yoga, you can’t hide.

Today she would have been 73. And fabulous.

A few sweet notes came in, three or four from family. I rolled through the day aware, but unfazed. I have been through 7 birthdays now without her, and 7 deathdays. I don’t miss her any differently on these days as I find little significance to the anniversary and birthday. Every day, any day, could be one of those dates. All those dates hold is one moment in time where she came, and left. There is an entire lifetime in between, so those are the days l choose to celebrate and honor.

Or do I? Is this my triumphant ego talking of my healing path? Am I seeing what is really happening here? Today, I had a distracted morning yoga session. Happy but not, light but heavy, sorta wanted to be there sorta didn’t. The class I taught in the evening was about the same. “Totally disconnected to spirit,” was how I described my feelings to a friend after class. Without seeing the connection to the importance of the day, I chose to teach heart openers themed on balance between all facets of ourselves needing acceptance, honor, and love. All facets include flaw, beauty, scar, perfection, imperfection, insecurity, spark, and even consciously choosing dark when light is handed over on a white glove. In order to live a life of honor and self-love, we must self-love all of it. Just as we need to deeply feel pain so we feel joy in even greater measure, we must also honor the dark and the dingy so we can even more so love the easier to love pieces that ignite us.

It wasn’t until 9:30 this evening that I realized why I had been off all day. It wasn’t so much that I was full of sorrow and pain, it was that I hadn’t taken the time out to honor her. It has taken me years to get to a place where the pain of losing her isn’t so strong it shows up physically in my body. As much as I don’t want these days to be of significance, as much as my ego would like to decide when and where I shall feel…the heart doesn’t follow suit. My energy body needed to honor and love her. My soul needed to connect with her through some kind of ceremony. Living in a much more raw and unshielded place these days, it just doesn’t fly anymore to let my mind do the driving.

For my 36th birthday last month a friend gave me a tuberose candle that has two wicks. Unbeknownst to her, it was my mom’s favorite scent. I lit two flames tonight, laid for a few minutes with each of my sleeping babes, ate rainier cherries (her favorite), and sat in the quiet to write this piece.

It doesn’t need to be a big production to quietly and ceremoniously honor the heart. It doesn’t need much…just a little attention, some raw love, honor, and recognition.

Heart mended for the time being, maybe even on its way to being healed.

So You Wanna Be a Blogger? Six Steps to Get You Started.

Phone Home
The blogosphere is blowing up these days. If you’re reading this, you are a part of the movement! Blogging is gaining serious momentum as a social media tool and is lighting a fire to the idea of connection to ignite business and relationships. Ever wondered if you too could be a blogger? You can. Here are six things I have learned from my own experience as a blogger to get you started:

  1. Seek inspiration. Don’t think you have anything to write about? You do! If you are breathing and alive, you do. There is inspiration under every stone, with every glance and with every heartbeat and interaction. Be alert and awake to your own life enough to see that there is a spiritual lesson around every corner. And remember a blog piece doesn’t have to be spiritual. You can blog a “how-to” on new ways to get into handstand…or innovative ways to use coconut oil…or interesting ideas for kid’s lunches to get out of the less than stellar PB&J rut. If you think it, you can write it.
  2. Let other writers inspire you. I received this advice a few years ago, and it has changed my writing. I thought I had to blaze a new writing trail and do it all on my own. It was a huge relief to know I could allow myself to be inspired! Relentlessly read posts and books by authors you admire. Let their style soak into you. Then, make it yours.
  3. Write as though nobody will read it. My most moving and influential posts are the ones I wrote as therapy, and then eventually sent to be published. When you write for an audience, without realizing it you fall into “what will they think?” and you start to hold back. Don’t hold back. What the world wants to see is real, raw passion. Not the cleaned up edited version of reality. Let words move through you to your fingers, edit for grammar and spelling, and set it free.
  4. The piece that makes you want to puke when you think about sharing it is the one that most needs to be posted. Every single time I have wanted to puke before hitting SEND but sent anyway, the results have been liberating to say the least. The things that move us, the things that we’re afraid of and the things that inspire us cause us to feel deep down in our bellies. The topics and subjects people deeply connect on are those that we most are afraid to speak on. Liberate not only yourself, but others, through this connection.
  5. Be prepared to be turned down. For every enthusiastic “YES we’d love to post your work,” there can be several “no thank yous.” That’s OK. It could mean a few things. One, try a different blog site. Maybe your piece isn’t quite what they are reporting on right now. Two, have a friend read your piece and ask for constructive criticism. Be open to their reply. Three, write something new. I have boatloads of essays I have written that I won’t ever submit to a blog. They stay on my personal blog indefinitely. Lastly, do not attach your self-worth to how your writing is received. We are infinitely more than our stories.
  6. Be prepared to be amazed. The universe doesn’t smile on hesitation. Life isn’t handed to you wrapped up in a perfectly square box tied with a stunning gold bow. It just isn’t. Put yourself out there. Research each blog to find out how to submit new writing. Don’t wait for someone to ask. Over and over, again and again, share a piece of yourself. The rest is up to the universe to decide how your blog is received. You may just be amazed at the results. I have been, time and time again. The posts you think will be judged harshly are actually setting you free, one word and one reader at a time.

Shine on, new blogger, shine on.

 

Photo credit: Flickr

How Healthy Is Your Energetic Bank Account?

Yeah!Practicing yoga is like making a deposit into an energetic investment account. Every little bit helps, and it will grow exponentially depending on the commitment made to build up the reserve. Just as the account can be piddled away through mindless spending, your precious energy can be depleted through mindless living.

We save things to be used for a rainy day, or a thunderous year. Money, food, clothes, breath, your physical and energetic self…all these things are looked after, used and then replenished through conscious living.

Your energetic bank account is of the most precious areas in life to nurture and let thrive. To build up a reserve is to commit to something wholeheartedly. The commitment could be to your yoga, meditation or prayer practice. The commitment could be to live a truthful life in all the many facets that make up you as an integrated part of society. The commitment could be to walk grounded, lead others to beauty or live purely for this moment. The commitment is in the choice, and the energetic reserve gets deeper and more stout with each action, thought, and speech that supports this choice.

As you let this soak in, know there are things that not only add to this energetic account but also those that deplete it. An energy leak could be anything from biting back your truth, a relationship that sucks the life out of you one sip at a time, or even toxins physically ingested through mindless consumption. Just as the commitment to fully live is a choice, so is the desire to slow the leaks, or even stop them. You choose, and then you make change.

Who cares if you have a healthy energetic nest-egg? I want you to. I want myself to. There will be a time when you need every cent of that reserve. There will be a time when your life’s work of getting strong, wise, and grounded will be pulled out from under you. There will be a time when you will be so incredibly thankful that you put in the effort. Through that effort you will have amassed love, compassion, clarity, vitality, and an understanding of your part in this vast place we call home. There will be a time when you will need all you’ve got.

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photos by: R'eyes & Andres Rueda

When Your Friends Have Cancer and You’re Healthy

We're thinking of youEvery day without fail, I find something to be grateful for. Consciously grateful. Some days it is a search. Some days it feels like making something out of nothing as I try to piece together a grateful state of being. Ironically, other days I have so much gratitude I can barely contain myself, bursting with love and excitement for all of life as it is. Lately, the mantra grateful for health has been dancing around me. Driving, half-asleep, waking up in the morning, showering…grateful for health taps me on the shoulder, stares me right in the face and makes sure I’m listening.

We have a beloved student who comes to take yoga. Her husband is in hospice, dying of cancer. He is in his early 30’s. I cannot get them out of my head. My heart is bleeding for them, although I don’t think that’s what they need. I haven’t met him yet, but she seems so clear about what’s transpiring. I can see obvious the pain behind her sparkling eyes, but there is also this surreal sense of calm. It is absolutely breathtaking to be around her.

My own husband, Eric, was diagnosed with cancer a few months after we were engaged. We were 25 years old, and eloped in San Diego the day after his diagnosis. My mom had been battling breast cancer for 6 years by then. The jury in my head and heart is still out on the everything-happens-for-a-reason debate, but being so close to my mom’s cancer taught me not to fear it so much once Eric was diagnosed. I was intrepid and wise beyond my years at 25 but the scared child part of me could have easily headed for the hills had I not been already going through it with her. She had shown me for a long time that cancer doesn’t always equal death, and cancer doesn’t mean you have to stop loving the life you have now. Until the day she died, she was a lover of life. She was the most passionate and kind woman I have ever known, up until her last day.

Seeing our beloved student going through what she is going through hits home. It goes straight to my gut and has been starting to feed my fears of one day losing my own husband. I don’t need him. I could live my life without him knowing I would survive. But I want him. There’s a huge difference to me in the two. I love him and want him around until we’re gray and old and our tattoos are all stretched and wrinkly. My life is so rich with him in it.

I am turning 36 in a few weeks. I have never been one to shy away from age as a number, as I do believe I get better with each passing year. We all do when living a conscious life. My mom was 36 when she had me. I feel her deeply as I approach this birthday. Even though she’s not here, I feel camaraderie with her. It is similar to the one you feel with other women who have also gone through the mind blowing experience of birthing a human. As an only child we were always very connected. I know we still are. She was so worried about me throughout her sickness and treatment. After every surgery, every test result, every treatment…the first question out her mouth was always “how is Lauren?”

I don’t have cancer, and I am so grateful for this absence in my own body. I don’t want to worry about something I don’t have, much less manifest it into my life by somehow thinking her path is mine too, especially as I reach this connected age. But there’s guilt there that makes me want to worry as if I myself am sick. Why do we feel bad for feeling grateful that something isn’t happening to us? The hushed whispers thanking God, or whoever it is we thank, that we have our health today or that it isn’t our child who is ill. Empathy and compassion do play a role here, and gratitude doesn’t  always need to be shouted from the mountain tops, but for our own health we need to feel viscerally that it is OK to be  grateful for what we have…or don’t have. Knowing gratitude replaces fear, it is necessary to allow ourselves to feel  fearlessly grateful. So without feeling guilt about it, about her, I am steeped in gratitude for the health I have at my youthful age of 36. She would want it no other way.

Where I am at in this almost 36th year of my life is a place of seeing, very clearly, the fears that want to encompass me and shut me down. I am afraid of cancer. I have seen it ravage bodies of those I love, and those that lived through the treatment barely made it from side effects alone. But I know I am afraid of cancer and to me, this is a very powerful position to be in. Knowing my fear intimately I can face it, stalk it and chuck it to the wayside. Because I am choosing not to stoke the fear fire of one day being without my husband or of myself getting breast cancer, my heart more easily finds the gift in our health today.

Recognition of my old patterned ways of thinking that gratitude is always followed in pain are starting to dissipate. I will be grateful for my family’s health on this day, and I will let it end there. There doesn’t need to be another ending to the gratitude story. It doesn’t mean my heart isn’t bursting with pain for my many friends who are dealing with tragedy. But I wholeheartedly know their pain is theirs, and I am a better support system when I don’t take it on as my own. It doesn’t mean I love them less. In fact, I can love them more this way. I can connect with them from firsthand experience without bringing both of us down deeper as I try to own their story. Knowing it is a practice, I will keep this guiltless gratitude tool in my back pocket ready to be pulled out in full force if I myself fall ill one day. The practice of gratitude, even when it seems impossible, can heal the deepest wounds.

Without the expectation that fear has to follow, I will find joy in our life as it is. Right now. And I will allow myself to be excited about what’s up ahead, without the dread that all good things come to an end. Nothing ends. Things just change shape, ebb and flow, and I choose to ride that wave fearlessly.

Joy without fear.

Excitement without dread.

Gratitude without guilt.

Let’s do this. Let’s live life in radical appreciation.

Vast

♫Tonight, Not Again...♫Mission: Breakthrough.

The intriguing name of the six week yoga challenge at the studio I teach at In Fort Worth, Texas. Each week being a different spiritual theme, this upcoming week is a focus on life itself. Broad? Yes. Scary? Possibly. Freeing? Most definitely. As I think about what message I want to spread to my students this week on the gorgeous topic of life, I can’t shake the feeling I have had for weeks now about the sheer vastness of it all. Life, that is.

Topics for the week could include anything from unwell inner dialog, to self-limiting beliefs we use to excuse why we aren’t living up to our full potential. As I examine my own self-doubts, it has been comforting to me lately to wholeheartedly know that all of us are under the vast umbrella of the universe. Although the doubts we hold need to be examined for origin, I am slowly starting to see the crack in the façade. These doubts and limits we put on ourselves aren’t real. We think they’re real as we put real energy around them, and even start to build our entire life around them. We end up manifesting them into our reality by obsessing, over-thinking, demanding and worrying about what-if’s and coulda shoulda wouldas. But they’re an illusion. Like trying to squeeze a cloud, or catch the finest sand in your fingers…decent intention but fruitless effort which gets us absolutely nowhere.

What spurred this feeling of spaciousness within me was something I used to do all the time but had somehow forgotten about.

I looked up to the night sky.

Where I grew up in the desert of Arizona, most nights you could see every single star in the sky.  When we moved to Texas a few years ago, I looked up one night and the view seemed different. I couldn’t see the stars, for one. So I stopped looking up. The night a few weeks ago that I chose to look up I saw every single star in the sky.

I know better than to think life here is different than life anywhere, because it isn’t.

Life is where I am, wherever that happens to be.

I know better than to think the sky here or in Arizona isn’t the same sky we all share.

I know that no matter who you are, you’re in it, under it, around it… you are it.

I spent a lot of time in Sedona as a kid and young adult, and I used to have this feeling standing at the edge of the red mountains that I could do anything in the world. The universe was mine but didn’t belong to me, and there was no limit to any of it. Vast. I lost that somewhere along the way. This elusive feeling, which can only be physically described as space in my lower abdomen, is starting to come back. I am lit up, and it feels amazing.

I was driving home from dinner with my son on this Easter evening, just he and I. We enjoyed a fancy dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, his favorite place to dine. We saw easily 25 families celebrating the day and the gorgeous weather at the various parks we passed on the way home. It energized me, and I said to my son that we should do that next year. We should go to the park with our family and friends and dine and hunt eggs and just be together. He said “Mom, why wait a whole year? Let’s do it tomorrow night. No need to wait for the good stuff, Mom. Let’s just do it while we can. Because we can!” Yes.

Once the kids were in bed, my husband and I looked outside our bedroom door to the evening falling outside. All at once we saw the first bat, heard the first hoot of an owl and saw the first star appear in the sky welcoming the night…once again reminding us that the universe is in perfect order and harmonious balance if we choose to see it that way and allow ourselves to be a part of the magic.

Why wait? Let’s get to the good stuff now, while we can and because we can. Life is so vast, and such a gift. We ourselves are also so incredibly vast and have so many gifts yet to be revealed.

Indulge in Connection

_________It is easy to move in the shadows, to look down and avoid a stranger’s glance. It is easy to not draw attention to your magnificence and to shame others for showing theirs. What if you decided that today was the day you were to step out from under the cloak of invisibility? What if you decided today was the day you felt worthy of your place here on earth? And you allowed yourself to be seen? Allowed yourself. Allow yourself. Allow.

I shudder to think about what life is without connection, with others and ourselves.

Our days are the same, and completely unique at the same time. There are the days you wake up electrified, feeling like a million bucks, spry and light. And there are the days you have to peel yourself off the mattress, grumbling to whoever you can take down with you in your own personal drama of the moment. These days are the same because you’re still you. You’re still there in the quickening, and you’re still there in the grumbling. You’re you, all the time.  These days are completely unique at the same time, lest we forget each breath is a chance for change.

Yesterday was one of the peel-me-out-of-bed days. Nothing and everything was wrong simultaneously. Oh, the ironic struggles of the western world.  I decided though that instead of showering my shit upon others, I would shower myself with salt and attempt to cleanse whatever energy was draped over me. Once clean, it was time to step away from the wallow. I decided to connect. As much as I wanted to ignore a helping hand and ignore my innately generous heart, the one I was born with that sometimes gets me in trouble, I decided to connect.

Instead of announcing I wasn’t cooking that evening and we’d do take out, I went to the market with the intent of buying fish to create a beautiful meal for my family. The fish monger with a face I love to linger upon each time I go, smiled so freely at me it would have made my day if that was the only connection I made. I kept going.

In the wine section, I picked out a new Pinot I thought my husband would love. We’re going to Oregon wine country in May. The wine guy struck up a conversation with me about the bottle I chose and as much as I wanted to politely, fakely, smile and walk away…I stayed. Now he is setting us up for behind the scenes tours at wineries not even open to the public as we embark upon our 10 year anniversary trip, not to mention at no charge.

My son had karate later that day, and instead of sitting in the car to read as I wait for him like I usually do, I went inside. Something was pulling me into connection, toward people. I went inside and saw a friend who just happened to have read a piece I wrote on Buddhism and Atheism for Intent. He said he loved the piece and that he is actually part owner of the blog. It is a piece I thought would cause me to loose students and friends. It has turned out to be the opposite, and completely liberating. He was so excited for me, thrilled about the essays themselves, and I became excited for myself again from his infectious spirit.

As I turn around someone asked if I was me.

“Are you Lauren from Karmany? I recognize you from your poster up at Lululemon”

“Why yes, yes I am.”

He is a photographer, local, with beautiful New York fashion quality results. He doesn’t work with someone unless they fit a project he is working on, and he doesn’t charge any money because of that. I need to get some new photos done but am tapped out on money with my recent website creation. He has no idea of my financial situation, but ends up asking if we can do a modern, industrial yoga shoot together. It was my vision, exactly, to the tee. I gratefully oblige.

All of this in a day… actually all of this in four hours, to be exact. All because I chose to allow. I allowed myself to move past the primal part of our brains that is Velcro to pain, and conceded to open interaction. It takes practice, but over time the practice becomes habit and habit becomes effortless. When you least want to, look up. Lift your gaze. Get out of the damn car. Enter society, humanity. Let the stranger catch your eye. They see something in you. They see your light, or your soul. Indulge in them, and see how in turn you are indulging yourself in connection. It is why we are here…connection.

photo by: Liz Grace

Terrifying Stillness

CarolineMuellerPhotography_Wessinger2013 7I just finished my first clean eating cleanse. It was simple, but like most things described as simple it was anything but easy. Three weeks of eating incredibly healthy. No coffee, alcohol, refined sugar, gluten filled carbs…did I say no coffee?

The first week was rough eating just veggies, and a lentil here and there. The coffee thing was the hardest. I love the taste and the ritual of it in the dark mornings, but I don’t love being a slave to the drug. I felt like it was coffee in the morning, and a “wine down” (as my friend Amber likes to say) in the evening. In between was a mixture of extremely healthy food, a burger here and there, a few kid snacks and chocolate. My husband found it odd that I felt the need to do a clean eating cleanse as I eat healthier than the average person. I have to eat this way though as I have had hereditarily high cholesterol since childhood. I was starting to feel like I didn’t have a grasp on my coffee habit, sugar habit, and wine habit. Cleanse to the rescue!

For the first week while forgoing coffee (and wine…and sugar) there was an odd, quiet hole I started to feel. It is a space I used to feel in my mid-20’s once in a while, but it hasn’t shown its face in a good five years or so. Almost like a subtle physical thirst but I knew nothing I could drink would quench it. It was like I needed to put something in my body to fill a hole, but no tangible thing could fill that hole. I only felt this eerie space when I was alone. It was brief and occasional, but viscerally penetrating. It was a time which during my mom’s life was starting to end. Maybe it was the whole she was starting to carve out as she left this earth. Maybe it was simply stillness that made me uncomfortable.

Last night I taught a restorative yoga class to a packed studio. We don’t offer it on the regular schedule so when I do offer the class I get a great response. Some people crave it, asking me again and again when it will be offered next. Some people come to lovingly support me as a teacher and friend, or maybe to try something new. Some people aren’t quite sure why they’re there.

I read the room as we settle in and intuitively guess which category almost every student falls into. It is apparent right away that several students can’t stand the silence. We have music and I led the class through a spiritual awakening theme, but there was much silence of the body.

Until recently I didn’t understand the concept of letting the body just be. I thought hell, my time is valuable and if I am going to get on the mat I am going to work my butt off. I even did a five day intensive workshop with Judith Lasater and although I adore her depth of mind, I still didn’t think I needed restorative yoga. I still didn’t think the concept of allowing myself to just be applied to me.

It doesn’t need to take a lot of time. At home I get on my mat and spend 15 – 20 minutes in one pose. My body leads me to what it needs that day. There has been an incredible gift to being alone and still with my breath. As I feel a subtlety of space like never before I am learning to more confidently revisit softness, knowing I am not losing some fictitious battle by taking a step back. I am learning to walk steady into nothingness. I am learning to be OK with not doing anything at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love more than anything to teach and take a sweaty kick ass yoga class. It is my first passion to bring my body to the mat in this way as much as I can. I have found intense healing and breakthrough after breakthrough in my practice and in my life after countless sessions. I aim to practice intensely in a way that also heals so I can do this forever. I love it. It is my religion. I also recognize though that I can stay more present with the intensity than I can with the quiet and still. Being alone with my breath, even with 50 other yogis in the room, scares the shit out of me. The still silence is terrifying. But I am starting to set my power yoga ego aside once in a while and realize that in a world of accomplish, do, strive, overcome…there has to be room just to be.

Now, as I start to feel this space reappear as I ingest less toxins and take a few minutes for nothingness, I stay. I stay and curiously sent some breath into this place. I stay with the discomfort of an unknown emptiness, knowing there is something there for me. I ask questions of my soul. Why are you so terrified of the quiet? Where is that young girl who loved to be alone? What happened to make her afraid of space?

I am grateful for the life that allows me to even be able to ask such questions of myself. I am grateful for the life that allows me to choose what I eat. I am grateful for the life that allows me to share my deepest soul work. So grateful.

 

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