All posts by Rebecca Butler

About Rebecca Butler

Rebecca Butler lives in Fort Worth, TX. Here, she fancies herself in a community that is at the genesis of change. By day, she is a self-proclaimed-intensity-junkie yoga teacher, serving as the lead teacher at a local donation based studio known as Karmany Yoga, a mother, and a wife... By night {when the house sleeps}, she is a writer, a dreamer and a poet. Her most meaningful moments are sometimes spent pushing a stroller, listening to her latest muse {from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer to Caroline Myss} and picking up poop from a 90 lb silver lab puppy named Gunner. Her mother passed from ALS (Lou Gehrigʼs disease) in early 2012. Through this journey, Rebecca learned more about life, love and laughter than any book could have possibly taught her. It is in her memory that Rebecca chooses to live each day in Joy... Joy for life - the ups and downs, breaks and bruises and the glory. Oh, the glory. You can find out more about her teaching & writing at www.rebeccabutleryoga.com You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Inner Child Loves Arm Balances — Yours Might Too

Day 26
photo: stephcarter
One way I love to connect to my inner child is on the yoga mat. It is precisely this reason that I love to practice and teach arm balances. When you first get an arm balance, there is a rush of that familiar, perhaps long since dormant energy of — Look at me! Look at me! Look at what I can do! It is the energy of a child. It is packed with frivolity and joy and pride, yes, pride!

We are taught at an early age, especially those of us living in The Bible Belt, that pride is a bad thing. That we are not deserving of pride.

I am here to say — Bah!
Yes, you are.

The mere fact that you are celebrating your mobility, not taking it for granted but rather indulging in it, savoring it, playing with your edges and boundaries, thereby increasing your strength and your flexibility, is something to be proud of! You are not a couch potato! This is a big deal. Yea you!
Not to mention, entering a yoga studio for the first time can be intimidating, to say the very least. Many studios morph into clubs and cliques. It takes courage to walk in the doors and let yourself be seen trying something new. Often times we go our entire lives never trying something new for fear of looking silly. This is not your inner child. This is your institutionalized child who is worried about how they look more so than how they feel. Your inner child knows not of caring about appearance. Your deepest inner child craves wanton abandon and fearless living. Getting your butt on the mat, trying something new, sweating and making new friends is exactly what your inner child is craving. Add in an arm balance or the building blocks thereof and your inner child is in heaven.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve introduced to arm balances. It’s a large number. Subsequently, I can’t begin to estimate how many eyes I’ve seen light up and fist pumps I’ve seen in the air.

It’s good stuff.

And I myself enjoy it too. When I accomplish something new on the mat, it is exhilarating and I enjoy the endorphin high for days. I invite you to give it a go. Let your inner child free in a yoga studio. Listen to your instructor. Flirt with your edge. Be playful and mindful and see what happens. You just might end up sublimely happy. And you’re worth that, aren’t you?

“One Man’s Trash”: Why We Should Uplift and Not Condemn One Another

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 12.53.59 PM

Never condemn anything. The energy of condemning implies separateness. -Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, The Power of Intention

The other night, I was watching a nature show. Sometimes when I’m hanging out with the family, we get tired of all of the animated cartoons, so we turn on the nature channel. It entertains the baby and gives husband and I a reprieve from “Curious George.”

The program featured the environment around Great Salt Lake. Apparently, it’s packed with brine flies. They were showing swarms so thick it that the sky turned black when they took flight. My skin crawled at the sight. I could imagine the scene and I shuddered. My first thought was, “Gross!” And then I even felt a gag crawling up my throat.

Immediately, the announcer said, “But to one creature, this is heaven on earth.” And then they featured a scene of a sea gull running along the shore of the lake with his beak stretched wide open. He was gobbling down an “All-you-can-eat-buffet of flies,” as described via the emcee. I started laughing as the bird looked totally thrilled with the situation.

The lyrics of one of my son’s favorite songs from this past year, “Thrift Shop”, popped into my head. “One man’s trash that’s another man’s come up.” A “come up”, according to UrbanDictionary.com, is “a bargain or a find that is of value to the finder.”

And then so did the quote above from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer about never condemning anything.

This is a truth that is ever present in my life: the wisdom of never judging. No sooner do I place judgment on something than the Universe will instantly give me evidence as to why I shouldn’t partake in such folly.

The truth is we can’t possibly understand another person or creature’s life. We’ll never know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s footsteps. Sure, we might relate to others. We might even have a lot in common with some. But at the end of the day, we are all living our own lives. We are each making choices based on our feelings in the moment and the faculties available to us. And while we are all connected, we are also all unique.

You’d think being in an industry like yoga that this would be a no-brainer. The word yoga, after all, means union. But you might be surprised how often different yoga “brands” take sides against one another. It’s inherent in the capitalistic business environment to be competitive — unfortunate, but true.

It’s incumbent upon us to rise above this temptation to condemn. I vote for uplifting one another, no matter what. Who can you uplift today?

Disempower Your Fears by Exposing Them to the Light

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 12.38.59 PM“So I just discovered Intent.com,” she said looking up at me from long dark lashes.

I nodded.

“And I found your writing,” she continued. “I found your piece about giving voice to your fears. So I wrote some of mine down.”

[Read the article here.]

I felt a smile crawl across my face. This private client is young and hungry and beautiful beyond her ability to even fathom. Her bravery never ceases to amaze me. She is about to embark on her first yoga teacher training; she just got accepted to her desired master’s program. We have been meeting with the intention of preparing her for yoga teacher training — both physically and mentally.

“Can I read you my fears?” she asked in a hushed whisper tone. She looked absolutely terrified. I could tell if I made one false move, she might bolt for the door.

“Absolutely,” I said. I steadied myself, uncrossed my legs and sat up straight. I wanted to be fully present for her. I took a deep breath. In her ever-wise ways, my young student did the same. And then she began.

The first fear came with tears. Her bottom lip was trembling. She had articulated it clearly with essential language. She wasn’t hiding anything. Her courage was astounding. Ironically, her fear centered around not being able to speak clearly and be understood. I knew it to be relevant as I had mistaken her name when I first met her. She has one of those names that has many similar derivatives. I called her by the wrong one for the first couple of weeks of knowing her. She didn’t correct me for some time. This was a good fear of hers to squelch. I could see how this would serve her well. I encouraged her to continue.

Her second fear was easier to share. She was getting more confident in this process. It was not wholly unrelated to the first fear and it is one that many young women suffer: the fear of not being taken seriously. This one was familiar. I too had suffered this one, but I was not as wise as she at her young age. I wasn’t working with the tools of awareness and integrity in quite the same manner. I knew this one wouldn’t hold much power over her for long. She only needed to see the value in what she has to offer. I gently persuaded her to go on.

The third fear was the most cliche, the most predictable, the most common. She laughed as she read it. But the laughter was an attempt to cover great, long-standing sorrow and self-loathing around this very common issue of body image. I let her release this anguish. I did not attempt to mask it. I let her see it for it’s gruesome self — a man-made demon, the product of programming and media assault, wholly and completely without merit for her or any woman.

That was it. She survived. She looked so relieved, already lighter.

“Ok,” I said. “Let’s discuss them.”

We went through each fear, point by point. We traced them back to their earliest known similar fears, memories, and origins. I explained to her the teaching’s of Eckhart Tolle in his book, A New Earth. I relayed to her the ways in which he explains a pain body and how we each have them as large, energetic masses of pain that we carry around. They start early, when we are young. Then we add to them. We build and build them until before we know it, they are making decisions for us and acting without our permission. Many people are ruled by their pain bodies — spending their time looking for misery in the outside world with which to feed it. This is why you see some people’s eyes light up when they hear of someone else’s misery. This is why some folks gravitate towards gossip and gore, rather than light and love. This practice of voicing your fears helps to dispel your pain body’s existence. If we clear these dark energetic masses, we no longer have the need to add to them or feed them.

My student was nodding. She was doing great work. She was sharing fearlessly each thing that came to mind, no matter her perceived limitations.
Fears are universal. There is no greater connection than that which we share over our fears. What’s more is that we all have a similar reaction to our fears. We do a fascinating exercise in Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training’s where we take the time to verbally describe our reaction to fear:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Constricted throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Arm pits sweating
  • Shallow breathing

And so forth.

Then we share these descriptors with the group at large. Some one hundred and fifty plus people share their reactions to fear. The amazing thing is: we’re all the same in our response. It’s biological. It’s the fight or flight response. It’s primal stuff. And yes, the fight or flight response is a very handy mechanism when you are actually in a life threatening situation. But that’s not what we are talking about here. We’re talking about being afraid to speak in public for fear of our inability to clearly communicate and being afraid to be seen because we have a negative body image. And no matter how terrifying that may be, we’re not going to die from it. There isn’t a dinosaur that is about to eat us. Our biological response is not appropriate for the situation. Therefore, we have the unique opportunity to begin to overcome these fears.

As we discussed these principles, my student began to perk up. She became lighter and lighter and soon, she was smiling with incandescence and ease. Once she became so effervescent, I asked her to teach (and practice) some sun salutations. She bounced up and beamed her way through them.

I offer you this practice humbly. Dis-empower your fears by exposing them to light. Darkness cannot grow in the light.

A Blessed Life: Practicing Gratitude in the Face of Robbery

I Dedicate You My Heart !If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep at night, you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the one million who will not survive this week due to illness.

If you have money in the bank, any money at all, money in your wallet, spare change in a dish some place in your life, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. 92% of people don’t even have that.

(All three quotes above are from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and his presentation on Gratitude.)

One time a couple of years ago, I left money in the console of my car. I deal mostly in cash. I had skipped going to the bank and left a wad of ones and fives in my console to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Not smart, I know. At the time, I was pregnant, and I was also raising my eight year old boy. This meant, when I exited the car each afternoon, I had many elements to manage — book bags, yoga bags, grocery bags, etc.

One night I absentmindedly left my doors unlocked. When my son and I got in the car the next morning to hustle to school, I realized my car had been broken into, the console had been raided and my wad of cash was gone. I was very bummed. I was irritated with the perpetrator and myself for leaving the money there in the first place. I grouched and grumbled and was so animated, that my son began to cry. He was concerned, anxious, and scared. Recognizing this, I started to pull it together. That’s when it hit me: the thief had not only taken my hard earned yoga money, he/she had also stolen all my spare change. I had no idea how much that even totaled. It was certainly not something I even noticed. So the thought occurred to me: Maybe the thief needed the money more than I did. I mean, maybe not too of course. But maybe, given that they stole every last penny, maybe they did.

Right then, I turned it around. I released my anger and my frustration. I wished the thief best of luck and love. And I started to comfort my son, while also simultaneously pledging not to leave money in the console again. And of course, to this day, my son double checks to make sure I have locked the doors each evening.

According to Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, treasuring our divinity means being in a constant state of appreciation. Dyer professes that it is in this state that we train ourselves to look for things to be joyful about, happy about and grateful for. When I am steeped in gratitude, life seems so much simpler. I am not overwhelmed with things I wish were different. I am not viewing the world from a lens of lack. I am not drowning in self-pity or sorrow. I am abundantly aware of the blessings in my life. I am full of… I am just full. It’s such a delightful way of being. I offer you this humbly. Gratitude. It’s a practice worth engaging. It’s the practice of looking for the beauty around you at all times. It’s so fulfilling and enriching. Give it a try.

photo by: Joe Fakih Gomez

Giving Voice To My Fears Helped Me Find Empowerment

urlOne day in the not-so-distant past, like within the last month, I had a rare moment of complete clarity around my fears. Usually, when I’m wanting to unearth such things, it takes hours of work, awareness, and meditation. But this was different. All of the sudden, I just had a vivid moment of clarity. They all came to me. At once. Naked. I grabbed a pen and started writing.

1. Parent guilt: I am afraid I do not create space for, or dedicate enough of myself to quality time with my children. I am afraid I allow them too much screen time.
2. Spouse guilt: I am fearful that I am not pulling my weight financially or responsibility wise. I am concerned that I might not be doing enough work to keep the workloads fair between us.
3. Fear of finances: I am worried I will never make enough money to pay the bills and/or accumulate savings.
4. Fear of aging: I am terrified of weight gain, wrinkles, hair in unwanted places… I am concerned that I will become less and less attractive over time.
5. Charlatan fear: I am petrified that I am full of conflicts. I am frightened that I may not be disciplined enough.
6. Fear of insignificance: I am astounded by the grandeur of my dreams. I question my worthiness of such lofty goals that are in line with the great people on the scene like Brene Brown and Jennifer Pastiloff.
7. Fear of not “doing” enough: I am anxious that I am not planning enough workshops, applying to enough conferences and/or retreats.
8. Fear of being a bad friend: I am ill at ease around the decline of the welfare of some of my friendships.

Once I captured all of these, I felt somehow relieved. And then, I had to, absolutely had no choice but to write on the opposite page, the left hand side, I had to write more words of which I did not even understand their origin…

Relax, it’s all OK.
Trust yourself.
Be in love, of love.
Stay connected to your magnificence.
Believe — it is exactly as it should be.
Connection = Joy
You are enough.
Riches come in all forms.

I look back at my journal and read these words. I realize, they came through me, not of me. They were not words I concentrated on or carefully chose. My pen flew across the page, the words pouring forth. I could not have stopped them had I tried, which I most certainly did not.

With regards to my fears — What I realized is that these are the ways in which I expect to be perfect. I expect to be the perfect parent, spouse, forever youthful breadwinner, infinitely important and perpetually wise and kind. In reality, I am not perfect. I do have some perfections, but I also have many imperfections. We all do. And in truth, I am doing the best I can daily.

I drew comfort from these words which transpired during a recent discussion between Oprah Winfrey and Brene Brown on Super Soul Sunday on March 17th.

O: “Perfectionism is walking around projecting the facade that everything is perfect — clothes, car, relationships, family but really, we are slaving to the ultimate fear that people are going to see us for who we really are and think that we won’t measure up to our desired image.”
B: “We think of it as a 20 ton shield protecting us from being hurt, but really, it protects us from being seen.”
O: “It’s kind of sad. Perfectionists are striving for a world that doesn’t exist. It’s attempting to be beyond judgment. But really, there’s no such thing.”

So what is the answer? According to Brene Brown and her 12 years of accumulating scientific research on shame, vulnerability and courage, “The cultivation of gratitude and joy is the way home.” She goes on to say that, “The most terrifying, difficult emotion that we as humans experience is Joy. Not shame, humiliation, fear. Joy. When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. [We say to ourselves] I’m not going to soften into this moment of joy. I’m going to beat vulnerability to the punch. We try to dress rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch.”

What if instead of slaving to our fears, allowing them to remain silent and hidden, what if we acknowledged them and voiced them? When you voice something, it begins to lose it’s power over you. And who wants their fears to have power over them anyway? I’m comfortable wagering a guess that the answer is no one. None of us want to be ruled by our fears. So how about it? What are you afraid of? And how does perfectionism play a part? How about freeing yourself right now?

Hold On: Surviving The Dark Night of the Soul

photo (20)I’m in the desert. Well, it’s sort of the desert. It’s really a mish-mash, a smorgasbord, a cacophony of reds and blues and purples and muted greens and earthy browns and soft yellows and hints of white… It’s lyrical. Mountains meet desert, rocks meet sky, layers of earth pile atop of one another, a delectable sight. The air is savory; the days bright. I can see the energy dance off the crisp lines of the horizon. My soul hums joyfully every moment. My heart is on fire.

She comes to me here. She comes draped in pain, dangling heavy around her neck, clinging both in and outside, angles sharp, heart heavy, oozing horror like lava. My arms haunt around her, wanting to hold her strong, remove her hurt, remove her scars festering with treachery and fright. She cannot believe the magnitude of the shame. I can feel it on her instantly. Her once bright cheer vanished, extinguished like a light. Her optimism, confidence eliminated, now, in her words: “I’m just a shell of myself.”

She comes to me because I am the poster child for single motherhood. I survived. I have a healthy, thriving boy, a new marriage with growing pains but still trucking along and a new family, somehow growing tighter everyday. But my success seems worlds away.

I beg of her. Please hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I know you cannot fathom this but there is wonder ahead. I know you don’t want to hear it now, but you can trust that the universe is ultimately kind and that everything is going to be ok. You are courage incarnate. This pain you bear, you are not alone. It will get better. You may not believe me now. You may not want to hear my words. You are not alone.

Your baby loves you. Your family does too. Your ex is confused; he’s in pain too. I don’t know all of the details, but I don’t have to. I’ve lived this song. Listen, he wants to be more of a man, he just doesn’t know how. Maybe his actions are not valiant. Try not to judge him. We all want to be the hero, not the villain. Often, we are convinced the problem lies not with us. We just don’t want to see it, the darkness within. We all want to shine. At least at some point, that is what we want the most. Sometimes our failures astound us, blind us, sideline us and make us full of disgust. But try not to focus on that. Instead, see the beauty in this. I know that will piss you off right now. But try anyway. Look for the gift. For you are midway into the dark night of the soul… Be still now. Rest up. You’ll need your stamina.

You are going to survive. One breath at a time. You may not be able to stand your reflection right now, trust me. I get it. I was there. I was so sad and so lonely and so broken and convinced it would never change. But everyday I got up and I tried. Some days were easier than others. I never stopped trying. Don’t stop. You can do this. I know it. Hold on tight.

Above all else, you’ve got to learn to be nice to you. Right now, you are pain seeking pain. Right now, you are resorting to blame. That doesn’t serve you. You have a hand in this. You are a part of this. You have got to start loving you, prioritizing your needs, listening to the secret desires of your soul, believing that what you want does in fact matter, that you can in fact make miracles happen if you only try and above all else —stop loathing yourself. Please, stop. All that self loathing is chipping away at your soul. I’ve been there. See my scars? Self inflicted each and every one. Just don’t do it.

You are beautiful. You are connected. You stare into my eyes, yet you are worlds away. You want to hear me, yet you are standing in your own way.

This will get better. It will.

I love you. Please love you too. And hold on. Hold on tight. For this is the dark night of the soul. Caroline Myss says we go there so we can learn the truth of life when we survive. You’ve got this. But it will not be easy, nor for the faint of heart. On the other side of this abyss of agony lies ecstasy of the greatest kind — inner peace. You will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what you are made of — the good shit, the straight dope. You will know what is your cryptonite; you will know your battle cry. You will be grounded, aware, strong and infinitely resilient. But this will be no easy plight.

Hold on. Hold on tight.

Channeling Love

I think...

Sometimes, I get stuck thinking about Emily Rapp. I don’t want to do this. Her life has been undoubtedly painful of late. I know this even though I’ve never met her. She lost her son recently. He had Tay Sachs’ disease. He died the day after Valentine’s Day — near the tender age of three. He did something similar to what my mom did. He unwittingly, cruelly and slowly degraded right in front of her. She had no choice but to let him go. It’s one thing to lose your mother this way; I can only imagine that it’s quite another to lose your child. As a mother, I shudder when I think of this. My heart turns heavy and it feels like it’s bleeding lead. It’s painful in every way.

And then, my thoughts turn to one of my friends. Our sons are the same age. I hate to say this but at times her child can be a bit of a nightmare. It is difficult to have him over for play dates and over nights. But this boy worships my son. And as such, he clings to him. He demands his attention. He wants to be my son’s very best friend. So we occasionally have him over. From time to time, he’ll burst out with something highly, shockingly inappropriate. It’s bewildering. Often, I feel very uncomfortable around him. When he leaves, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. It turns out, he has Asperger’s syndrome. His mom, my friend, she just found out. Oh! My heart goes out to her. She was crying as she told me. She said now she could start to readjust her expectations for his life. She could get used to knowing that he was never going to have a “normal” life. I just wanted to hug her. So I did. Again, this just breaks my heart for her and for him.

Abraham-Hicks says we should not think about that which we do not want to occur in our own lives. And so, I don’t want to think about these things. I know, this is a controversial opinion. I think it’s worth noting: I’m not saying we shouldn’t address major world issues. But I am saying, when we address those issues, it’s more effective to focus on solutions than the gruesomeness of the issue itself. For example: I am all for finding a cure to ALS, as my mother died from this wretched disease. That said, I am more focused on teaching people how to love themselves wholly and completely rather than to give way to self loathing as I believe in my bones that self loathing is a huge part of auto immune disease. I am also active in raising funds for research to find a cure, but I am more focused on impacting individuals around me to learn to love self.

All of these experiences of late have illustrated one huge point for me: I am grateful for my life. Sometimes, I get caught up in the “stuff” game. I wish I had better “stuff” (ie house, bathroom, drawers in my bathroom, more storage space, nicer kitchen, fewer cockroaches, no rats, a driveway with concrete pavement, a carport or even a garage, a bigger yard for the dog, a pool, a fence, a bathroom for the kids and one for me and my husband instead of everyone using the same one, a budget to travel by so that we could go back to the beach — I’ve never been away from the beach for this long in my life, it’s making me crazy). But in reality, none of this stuff is as important as the health of my children, my husband and myself. I am so lucky that I can say this. My children are both remarkably healthy. So are my husband and I. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

I do not want to attract atrocities into my life; no one does. I want to attract love, abundance, prosperity, joy, beauty, kindness, happiness, laughter, travel, openness, hope, support, health, vitality, and strength. This is what I want to focus on.

I call it Channeling Love, not only towards the universe, self and spirit for my own life, but also to those I know of who might be suffering or challenged. I truly believe, and yes, again, I know it’s controversial — but I believe every single positive thought we have makes a difference. And so, in my thoughts, I engulf Emily Rapp in a cocoon of love. I swaddle my friend who’s son is beginning a whole new path in life in love from my heart. And I recommit to creating a life around me free of self loathing, focused on uplifting all of those I can help, and resting in the knowledge that this is the best representation of self that I can currently embody. Channeling Love feels right to me. I offer this practice to you humbly.

photo by: Vince Alongi

Death-i-versary

IMG_1131I read a piece today by a man I’ve never met. His name is Robert Wilder.

He’s in Santa Fe. I have a thing for Santa Fe. It’s gorgeous. It’s small. It’s elite. One of my students from my former life, my Baptiste life, my Indigo life, she contacted me not so long ago. She lives there now. She wants me to come teach there. She introduced me to the owner of the studio she most frequents now. She promised me my own casita when I visit. I chatted with the owner. It looked promising. I sent some workshop ideas. A few weeks later the studio owner contacted me. Her grandchild has been afflicted with cancer. Again. And she is buckling down for a hard year. She just can’t imagine having the bandwidth to promote and feature a workshop.

It broke my heart. Not just for me, for my dashed dreams, that was seemingly innocuous compared to this woman’s grief, strife, palpable pain. I assured her I understood. I do. I get it. I understand what it’s like to be waylaid by something tragic, something monumental, something seemingly insurmountable. I’ve been there. I took a twenty year detour dealing with what felt like my mom’s never ending tragedy. Truly, I get it. Actually, it all ended not so long ago… It approaches, you know. The anniversary of my mother’s passing. I feel it in my bones. I feel it in my heart. I feel it hanging over me like an unwelcome umbrella. A fog. A haze. Get. The. Fuck. Off. Me. I want to say, to this cloud of stank. But I can’t shake it.

And then I read Robert’s piece. It blew my mind. It just literally melted my face off. He too lost his mother. He too is no stranger to tragedy. He too has an in-your-face unapologetic lightning fast quip style of writing. Suffice it to say, he sparked me.

Below are some of the threads of my life… Heart wrenching, heart warming, heart melting moments. My work is to keep learning the lessons, move forward with integrity and honor my path and that of those around me. Life is to behold — each raw, radiant, righteous moment. Pain and sorrow, love and joy, without reservation, without hesitation, each one to be fully experienced without judgment. It’s the richness of these moments that make us who we are. What would be without them?

  1. “There has to be a reason, mom. This just doesn’t make sense,” I said. This was my response to my mom slowly, surely, gradually losing more and more mobility even though her brain surgery that had caused her to be paralyzed on the right half of her body had been more than a decade before. She had recovered more than 75% of her mobility through physical therapy and concentrated effort…. Why was she unable to walk now — twelve years later? It just didn’t add up. The doctors said they could find nothing…
  2. My aunt Gayle gasping, lurching from the bed, seizing at nothing-ness, hollowed eyes, hollowed cheeks, cracked, bleeding lips. My mom holding a sponge to wet her mouth. The hospice nurse assuring us she could feel no pain thanks to the morphine. The cancer slowly destroying her from the inside out.
  3. On the phone with Dad, he was screaming into the phone as he learned that I absolutely intended to have this baby, even though I was freshly divorced, even though I had no plans to marry the baby daddy whom I had just began dating: Who do you think you are… Madonna?!!!??!
  4. Mom crying, meeting my gaze with her awe-inspiring hazel eyes and whispering: The enormity of this is overwhelming, as she read the instructions about her Right To Choose whether or not she wanted to be resuscitated if she happened to die of natural causes in the hospital after just learning she had ALS and less than 12 months to live.
  5. Sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room, turning to my left, seeing the pictures of a man’s recently evacuated fetus on his digital camera as he cried over the images. Knowing, if my boyfriend and my family had their way, that could be my child in those images. Standing up and leaving the facility even though my boyfriend followed me at my heels screaming that I was going to ruin his life. Walking, walking, walking… Never looking back.
  6. My sister arriving at my parent’s house. Arguing with her in the kitchen. Meanwhile, my aunt taking her last breaths in the guest room in my mother’s arms as my mother sang her favorite song to her. My sister being furious with me because she’d missed my aunt’s death. Myself being glad as I hadn’t wanted to be present for her departure. Feeling like a coward… A guilty coward…
  7. Arriving at my parent’s house after my mom’s body had been removed. Feeling her presence there as surely as I could feel water on my skin in the shower. She was waiting for me. She felt exuberant, not sad. Happy. Light. Free. I was glad for her. But also mystified. For I had lost my mom. My confidante. My best friend. My most nurturing companion. Gone. And yet certainly still present. And yet, I also felt relief. The final weeks and days had been excruciating. I knew she was happier. But was I? And was that ok?
  8. IMG_1899Dressing Jagger (my son) in a little blue onesie for the hospital picture. It had the tiniest blue VW bug on the center of the chest. They put him on a heather grey tee shirt for a backdrop and snapped his photo. Both his arms were held tight into his chest in tiny fists. He looked like perfection to me. Pure perfection. I felt nothing but the most unadulterated love. No shame. Pure love. Magic. Love.
  9. Standing up to deliver the eulogy at mom’s funeral. Releasing my son’s hand. Stepping over my sister, my aunt, my father. Smoothing my dress. Reaching for my voice, it was buried underneath a mysterious illness that had manifested the night of my mother’s death. Taking with me my page of inspiration. Turning to address the standing room only crowd. Choking back the tears. Oh fuck it, let them fall. Starting the story of my folks, my favorite love story of all…
  10. Turning off the hair dryer and being assaulted with the blaring medic alarm from downstairs, the one my mother wore around her neck — you know, the I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up one. Sprinting down the stairs. She was lying there on the floor on her right side with her head smashed up against the bed-frame at basically a 90 degree angle. She was crying and screaming, I’m going to break my neck. Help me! My neck is going to break! She couldn’t move. Her terror was palpable. I shoved the bed across the room with superhuman strength and held her in my arms. It was a long, long time before I would turn on a hairdryer again for fear of not hearing her in her time of need.
  11. Looking at caskets with my father. Realizing that he was going to buy the most expensive copper casket so that my mother’s corpse would be “preserved”. Recognizing how perverse this was. Offering to my father, “You know, she might like a pretty one.” Pointing to the one with flowers on it even though it wasn’t the most expensive. Him, “You think so? What about this one?” Pointing to one slightly more expensive with beautiful roses carved on the outside. “Yes, that’s perfect. She’d love it,” I said. I meant it. She’s buried in it now.
  12. Looking at the pregnancy test. It said, +. + meant Yes. As in… Yes, your life is about to change as you know it. Yes, you are in for major fucking turmoil. Yes, everyone is going to likely turn on you. Yes, you are pregnant with your ex-husband’s best friend’s baby. Yes, you have to stop partying, shoving shit up your nose, and get serious about life. Yes, the unthinkable is happening — to you. And yes, somewhere deep inside, you are actually happy about this. Even though you know you are going to break some hearts in the process, you are also going to save one. And yes, he is your son. It’s your son you are contemplating keeping. Your son.

4 Things I Learned From a Man Who Was Likely Trying to Rob Me

Last week, we had an interesting experience at our studio. It impacted both myself and my fellow teacher who teaches the class before mine. We both wrote about it. The parallels are fascinating.

“This isn’t my first time to do yoga,” he assured me. I hadn’t asked, but he had told me regardless. I smiled and took him in. He was young. Maybe 20. Shoulder length, thick hair worn in dread locks. An attractive African American male with an unfortunate cross tattoo underneath his right eye. The size and nature of the tattoo indicated a possible background in prison. I became very aware of him as these dots connected in my mind. His smile was wide but it didn’t reach his eyes. Still, he felt innocent to me. I was curious about him. He began to set his stuff up in the front right hand corner of the studio by the cubbies.

I teach in a donation based studio. Our model is bare bones. We keep the overhead low so we, the teachers, have a chance to make some money doing what we’re doing. If we can pack the class, and it’s not easy, it takes lots of shameless work and marketing and social media time out the ying yang and more, but if we can pack the class, we can walk away with decent money. Meaning yes, we can make a living doing what we love. It’s brilliant. But it takes work.

Our bare bones model does not allow for a lobby. Our studio is quite simply one long, wide hallway with bamboo floors and cubbies at the front. There is a three quarter wall at the back. On the other side of the wall is a dressing room and a bathroom. There is also a stereo and a water cooler back there. That’s it. Simple. There is no software system, no computer, no cash register. When class is over, we ask that students donate $15 and place it in a box on their way out the door. It can be cash, check or credit card. We have a portable credit card machine for folks using credit. We stand guard by the box. Over time, we’ve learned that this is the best way to ensure that people are accountable and behave with the utmost integrity.

This class had 18 people. Our studio is comfortable with 20 people in it; the most it can hold is 50 and that’s extremely uncomfortable. My class plan was an intense one. It was heavy on the hip opening and heavy on the arm balances. I love both of these things and was allowing myself a little Friday fun.

Before class, I always get new people’s names. I jot them down in my notebook alongside my class plan. It’s my way of creating community. Usually after a few times, I memorize their names and I don’t have to ask anymore. Since I didn’t know my new dreadlocked friend, I asked his name. It was Wayne. He wasn’t the only new person. This time of year, there are always a few. I jotted down the other new names as well.

I taught the class. I was feeling a little under the weather (all my kids have been sick and passing around viruses at home), so teaching wasn’t easy. I was really pouring my love into it to keep my energy up. Wayne wasn’t exactly into it. I would describe his level of effort as half ass but he did keep up with the class and did not totally quit. I didn’t harass him. I’ve learned with newbies at donation based studios that sometimes the best thing to do is give them space and allow them to come to the table hungry as they are ready. I kept him in the loop, but I focused on the students who were confidently flirting with their edge.

At the end of class, I did what I always do. I spoke from my heart. I spoke of how difficult this time of year is for me as I approach the anniversary of my mother’s death. I spoke of how I fervently believe that Love is the greatest and most important thing in our lives. I noticed that Wayne was watching me, in fact, he was staring directly into my eyes. I spoke of the need to live passionately, with joy in each breath and with awareness of the beauty and love all around us at each moment. And then I wrapped up the class by bringing everyone out of savasana and wishing them well into their day.

After Namaste and a round of applause, I explained the donation based process. We always give a brief speech about it at the end of class namely because most students are usually yoga stoned and sometimes forget to pay because of that. Everyone stood to gather their belongings. Folks approached me as they often do after class. There was discussion of this accomplishment and that injury and this heart warming moment and so forth. There were hugs. I stood by the box as always.

Wayne looked at me and said, “You take credit, right?”

I said, “Yes.” (But I already knew he wasn’t going to pay. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. You learn to detect when someone isn’t going to pay — body language, forced smile, tension in the air…)

He said, “I have to run to my truck to get my card.”

I said,” Ok.”

I wanted to say, “Have a nice day. You’re not going to come back and we both know it. It’s ok that you’re not going to come back. We offer yoga here from our hearts. We ask for $15/class but we know that not everyone can pay that. It’s ok if you can’t. I’m just glad you have a little yoga in your life. We all need it. I hope it’s helped you.” But I didn’t. There were lots of people around and I knew he’d be embarrassed. I just silently wished him love as he left. Sure enough, he did not return.

urlThis weekend, I received an email from one of the local studio owners. It was titled: African American man, Cross tattoo, short dreads, named Wayne or Dwayne. The body of the email explained that this man has been frequenting local studios and stealing phones and wallets out of the lobbies. He apparently arrives late and leaves early. The email was sent to all of the local studio heads. Many of us piped in with stories about him coming to our establishment. It turned out that we were one of the only places where he had not committed a crime.

When I shared this email with my fellow teachers at our studio, I was then informed that this individual had tried to attend the class prior to my own on the same day. He arrived too late. The teacher refused to let him in and he was very aggressive — refusing to leave until a male student attending the class sent him away. I was unaware of this transaction when I taught my own class. Had I known, I might not have been so loving towards him. I’m glad I didn’t know.

This teacher contacted me after she saw the email. She told me she felt horribly about sending him away. She’d been second guessing her own intuition and even her own motivation about not allowing him in. She was worried that somewhere inside she was racist. I know this woman pretty well. I’ve never detected anything like that within her. Yes, she’s young. But she is full of fire and love.

There are four major lessons I took away from this transaction with this young man:

 

1. Don’t be hard on yourself. The interesting thing about both the early morning teacher at my studio and myself is that we both went to a place of feeling guilty and bad about our behavior. I was convinced that my strenuous upholding of the usual rate had made this man feel poorly about his inability to pay. My fellow teacher was worried that perhaps she had made a bad call and was wondering if she was displaying shadow-side behavior in her unwillingness to allow this man to enter her class late. Little did we know, he was actually trying to rob us. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so quick to be hard on ourselves. (A lesson I often preach and obviously am working on as well…)

2. Trust your intuition.

My intuition told me to be aware of this young man, and so I was. The early morning teacher’s intuition told her to be cautious, and so she was. Luckily, we both trusted our intuition. All too often in life, I see people who do not listen to their own intuition and rather do what is socially acceptable or what is expected of them. Sometimes this can lead to unfortunate circumstances. It is critical that we listen to that little voice within. Yoga is a great tool at helping us connect to that inner voice.

3. Set your intent.

One of the principles I am studying right now is the Power of Intent. I had set my intent that morning to be safe. And I am so glad that I did. Abraham-Hicks teach us that it is critical to set our intent at every segment of our day. They even break down our segments into bits like driving to work, preparing for work, working, driving home, preparing for dinner, feasting, preparing for bed, sleeping… They recommend setting your intent as you move into each segment. For example, before you drive to work, you would set your intent for moving efficiently with safety and ease and being joyous in the journey. And then off you go. One of the things I like about this practice is how present it keeps you. Yes, at first, it seems a bit cumbersome. But like anything, over time and with practice, it is natural. I encourage you to try this if you are not currently in the practice. It’s a bit shocking in how effective it is.

4. Be of love, for love, about love.

For there is really nothing else that matters. And yes, although this man may have tried to rob us, I still send him love. Nothing but pure love. Did my speech during savasana have an impact on him? Perhaps. I’d like to think so. Regardless, I will still now and always channel nothing but love towards him. I hope he finds his way and I hope that he is no longer stealing from others. It’s sad to me that he has resorted to this as a way of life. I wish him healing and learning and growth and expansion. I wish him prosperity and I wish him love.

Can Friendships Withstand Different Belief Systems?

Heart in Leaf 021I had dinner recently with two of my favorite people on the planet. I have known these girls since I was 13. I love them both dearly, and yet, as sometimes happens, we have drifted apart. They are the type of friends that you can pick up with right where you left off, however long ago, and it’s like it was yesterday. At least, they used to be. This night was different; our husbands were with us. And these girls — with whom, once I could bare my soul — have, over time, as is the custom in our part of the world (the Bible Belt) become devout Christians. The four of them, husbands included, are in a bible study together. My husband and I rarely attend church. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Christianity. I think it is beautiful. I adore the energy of faith — any kind. But I also believe that there are many paths to God. (This is not a popular opinion in the region where I reside.)

After I voiced this opinion, one of the husbands, an extremely intelligent, fit creature who has created his own successes, scoffed and said, “Oh, that’s Pantheism; you’re a Pantheist.” I blinked. I am? I had no idea. I’m not into labeling myself. This led to a heated debate, which was in no way my intention.

“What is grace, Rebecca?” the leader queried, smirking.

I paused. No one had asked me this before. I could feel my face flush.

“Love. Kindness. Joy. Peace,” I replied.

“Undeserved favor,” he said, smugly. “And who bestows undeserved favor upon us, Rebecca?”

I could hear my husband behind me, giggling. He whispered, “Chase, I wish you would come hang out at my house.” Laughter erupted around the table.

My husband was responding to my being stumped. He was undoubtedly thrilled at the scene, something he rarely sees.

I looked Chase in the eyes and said, “Chase, I do not believe that we have to earn someone’s undeserved favor. I believe with all of my heart and soul that we are each deserving of love, pure love, unconditional love simply because we exist.”

“And from where did you derive this opinion, Rebecca?” Chase asked, softer now, smiling even.

“From holding my mother’s hand at her bedside as she gradually drowned in her own fluids. I came to understand things differently through that process as I saw her face death head on, with grace,” I replied. I then went on to discuss Anita Moorjani and Eben Alexander and their impact on me. He listened. To his credit, he even jotted a couple of names down in his iPhone notes.

“Where does suffering come from, Rebecca?” he asked, pointedly.

“I believe we create our own suffering,” I replied.

“Where did you come up with that?” he asked.

“I believe my mother, unconsciously, unknowingly, created her own illness. I believe she never forgave herself for three things:1. An early abortion; 2. My sister’s mental illnesses and lack of joy; 3. My father’s transgressions. I believe she loathed herself so greatly that she ultimately manifested her own terminal illness where her body decided to help her out and took over the job of slowly eliminating her,” I finished. The table fell silent.

One of my friends finally piped in and said, “None of us have been through what you went through, Rebecca. Obviously, you have a unique perspective.”

Chase had the final word, he said, “Well, you’re a seeker. I’ll give you that. I like it.”

And the conversation concluded on a slightly lighter note. I think the entire restaurant was relieved.

Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that if someone has a different faith than my own, which is almost guaranteed because my faith is of a rare breed, I do not believe that they are wrong or that they will be punished in some way. These people, who were once my close friends, who knew me better than any other, their beliefs are so far from my own that it is a bit mind blowing. But the thing is, I love them still. I love them wholly and completely. I do not judge them. I am not interested in doing so. I do not believe that judgment is my job, nor do I believe it is a worthwhile expense of energy. I am here to embody love and gratitude. I am on this planet to spread joy, to remind any and every single person that I can that their life is beautiful, that there is love all around them that they might not be seeing, and that we are so blessed to have the opportunity to soak it in. Everyday. Soak. It. In.

I passed this article through my friends before publishing. Their response, true to form of the ladies who know and love me best in the world, was pure grace. They said it was an accurate account. One of them even drove straight to my house to tell me she wanted to be better friends this year. I was relieved and inspired. For love, true love, friendship love is bountiful and awe-inspiring. And it feels so good.

I believe true friendships can withstand separate believe systems. I am grateful that this is so.

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photo by: cygnus921