“I have made mysterious Nature my religion. I do not believe that a man is any nearer to God for being clad in priestly garments, nor that one place in a town is better adapted to meditation than another. When I gaze at a sunset sky and spend hours contemplating its marvelous ever-changing beauty, an extraordinary emotion overwhelms me. Nature in all its vastness is truthfully reflected in my sincere though feeble soul. Around me are the trees stretching up their branches to the skies, the perfumed flowers gladdening the meadow, the gentle grass-carpeted earth, …and my hands unconsciously assume an attitude of adoration. …To feel the supreme and moving beauty of the spectacle to which Nature invites her ephemeral guests! …that is what I call prayer.”
“The process of finding the truth may not be a process by which we feel increasingly better and better. It may be a process by which we look at things honestly, sincerely, truthfully, and that may or may not be an easy thing to do.” (Adyashanti)
Since my last trip to India I have been suffering from low-grade fatigue. I call it low-grade in that I have managed to be fully functional but maybe not at my best. Still able to teach and practice I often found myself wiped out from activity that before didn't take much effort. Now that I'm coming out of the woods, on some level, I've had a chance to reflect and make slow changes where necessary.
My last Mysore trip the practice went rather deep and unleashed what I now call, toxic residue, that well, needed to be brought to the surface, looked at, reflected upon and burned by the fire of tapas through practice, study and self-reflection. What bubbled up wasn't by choice - It happened on it's own. Having to assess every layer of my being, the physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual bodies, I felt a turning point in existence was being brought to the forefront. Simply put, there was no hiding from it. Not this time.
When I entered back into the dark hours of Sweden's winter after two months in Mysore I was surprised to notice a darkness began to arise within me. The hurts, pains, and unresolved emotions that hadn't been fully processed wanted to make themselves known. To assume we don't have this stuff within us is ridiculous, and I for one had to own up to the fact that certain experiences were not to say, well, "it's all good." Sometimes it is not all good, sometimes we suffer, and over the years I have been adept at putting on a face that, "hey that's alright," when being on the brunt end of bad behavior, not admitting that yeah, it stings. Hence, the reason I was so open over the past few months in light of challenging experiences I have had living in Sweden as well as going back even further into my childhood. They were simply experiences and unresolved emotions I had to grapple with, while expressing the intensity of what was coming up. They needed to be felt, looked at and released.
“The real goal of a spiritual tradition should not be ascent, but openness, vulnerability, and this does not require great experiences but, on the contrary, very ordinary ones. Charisma is easy; presence, self-remembering, is terribly difficult, and where the real work lies.” (Morris Berman)
This is one reason why this practice is so amazing and even after nearly 20 years of yoga practice the layers it touches one cannot expect the when or the how, only that it will. Even though the experience has been tough on some level I know on another it's good medicine. To be free we must feel and yoga is a beautiful platform for that. Especially in Ashtanga yoga where we must be concentrated and attentive in every way, delving ever deeper each visit to our mats through the ritual of daily practice.
On a physical level I was just tired. Exhausted. Also, my digestion wasn't working properly, having little to no appetite. I had to put a few things into check. For one, why not cover my bases and do a parasite cleanse. Check. I also drastically cut back on coffee. Funny though, because one couldn't say I was a coffee addict before. I would simply have a small morning soy latte (post practice), however since cutting out the drug we call coffee it has replenished the diminishing returns. Two, Stockholm is extremely dry and really aggravates my Vata dominate side. So implementing the proper routine to stay in balance has been helpful.
On a mental/emotional level I felt heaviness and often sadness. Like a deep well of grief offering itself in a big oceanic wave. Hard to explain only to say it felt like there was no bottom to it. How deep would this sadness go? I was beginning to wonder if there was no end. My thoughts gravitated to past impressions and memories like a flood coming in on it's own accord as if I was powerless to its push forward into the psyche. Alas, there it was in all it's splendor. I began to wonder, why now all of a sudden, and instead of pushing it away I sat in observation and started to ride it out. Accepting that, yeah, I felt heavy and tired, however on a deeper level I knew I just needed to be in it, fully. No numbing. No acting as if it were, "all good."
On a spiritual level all I can say is something was and is desiring to emerge. It is too painful to sit in the shit of the unprocessed simply because I have learned useful coping mechanisms. When layers are being shed there is work to be done otherwise be stifled by the never ending cycle of conditioning. We live in a culture that almost demands that we numb ourselves at every turn of our existence. Who would have thought how challenging it is to live in authenticity when it comes to our true emotions as we touch the light of our center. However, if you were to look around the juice of life is seeping out of most as we coast never being fully immersed in the truth and beauty of who we are. This light of knowing will continue to call us home no matter how strongly we ignore it. It's a whisper that gently speaks, not the loud meanderings of the mind. As I sit in the silence of this presence, knowing full well that a part of me still clings to being small and what I am coming to realize is nothing needs to be done or fulfilled. It's an expansive release. A huge letting go. An unwinding and undoing of everything we thought we knew. It's an unexpected place that goes beyond anything I could have dreamed up in my limited little mind.
"Sit quietly and close your eyes. The light within is sufficient." (Marianne Williamson)
My week in photos. Well, to be honest these photographs were taken over the course of several weeks, but whose counting?! I'd like to make this a weekly feature on my blog. Next time a more accurate feature, haha. When spring finally makes an appearance in Stockholm, it explodes. Believe me, it is the most welcome sight for those who live here. I especially had a harder time this past winter and believe it or not, the Spring has been one of the coldest on record. Wonder what the Summer has in store for us? I only have a few little jaunts to take but will be spending most my time in Sweden. Summer can alway be mixed bag and never a sure thing. I'll cross my fingers!
"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something." (Kurt Vonnegut)
“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. - Iyanla Vanzant
Truth. I haven't had a relationship with my mother in almost 15 years. Why? Sometimes I don't even know why. In an act of transparency I am coming out with it. It's not always easy to talk about challenging situations, especially when it comes to family. Life is messy, and doesn't always come in pretty little boxes like we may want to portray. For as long as I can remember my relationship with my mother has been strained. I never understood her even as a young child. No deep closeness. It's one of those things where karmically there wasn't a deep bond. I can't explain exactly why it was like this only that it was.
I think in many ways I came into this life strong willed. I seemed to have clear idea of things. I was creative and boisterous, definitely curious. Especially curious in regards to God, religion and philosophy. Strange, I know. At the same time I could be lost in my imagination. My dreams were relentless. I also struggled with thoughts on death. Contemplating what would happen to me when I died. Blackness was all I could feel. Nothingness. I could scare myself just thinking about. These things I never talked to my parents about. At the same time I felt a strong presence around me at times. Because of a certain amount of sensitivity I held, I could take on the heaviness of others. I could easily absorb it. Especially from my parents. Somehow I felt responsible for everything.
I never had a teenage rebellion. Maybe I should have. There was no room for it, truthfully. I was a good kid (yawn). Years of perfect attendance, a cheerleader, an honor student on and off. I was funny about school. Often I didn't have the drive to make the grades and then I would easily turn it around and make it, even when taking A.P. courses. It didn't seem to matter. For the most part learning in the traditional sense was boring. I didn't like playing the game. Soon, I learned I had to, and at the same time I learned the difference between book smarts and intuitive common sense. They didn't always go hand in hand. I always thought it interesting that book smarts seemed to take precedence in the eyes of many, especially my mother who didn't approve of my lack of motivation at times. When I was inspired I excelled often to the adulation of my teachers. I new how to work it, garnering my teachers' praises on numerous occasions. Then I'd ask myself is this all there is?
You see, even though I never made waves somehow I was often met with my Mother's disapproval for whatever reason. I still to this day don't fully understand it. One of life's great mysteries. I managed to graduate highschool never drinking a drop of alcohol, never smoking cigarettes, never experimenting with illegal drugs and/or having sex. Yes, bor-ring. I never started arguments because most discussions were established on a one way street and often an interrogation would ensue on the most intense level. She talked, I listened, and often for many hours. It was drilled into me that I must at all costs respect because she was an elder and of course my mother. There was never room for discussion beyond that and I wasn't allowed to question it.
I was groomed to live in fear of her ramifications, punishments, and mood swings. Even to the point where teachers reported signs of those ramifications to authorities. A part of me died then and through the years I have done my best to bring the young girl who has laid dormant since then back to life. But would I change the experience looking back on it? I really can't say that I would. Through the challenges it only quickened me to find an authenticity and truth that maybe if my life would have been more comfortable I might not have so hungrily searched for. I can't deny or judge the complexity that is called my life, or better yet, my story, because it is simply that. I can stand at a point where somehow it was what needed to take place.
However, there came a point where I had to finally admit the nature of my relationship with my mother was simply toxic, with most phone conversations leaving me in a puddle of tears, filled with self doubt. I seemed to be the object of her provocation that I never understood at the time. I felt as if it wasn't enough that I hurt; I needed to be crushed and shattered before any form of satisfaction took place. When my mother gave me back a pile of childhood photos that used to hang on the wall in the home of my upbringing as a sign of her distaste I gave up. I needed to pick up the pieces one by one and build myself anew. So I did, as I allowed the healing to take place.
Through the years many have asked why at certain times am I withdrawn or quiet, and I can honestly say my default can easily slide into that young girl who wanted to fall apart and let go, and couldn't, because keeping some type of stability in tact was the only thing she could rely on. Through it all, even the times I have felt completely lost, with no chance of certainty, God's grace would prevail somehow, someway. This is how I came to believe on a experiential level. To know that everything is grace, even pain and confusion.
Grace is everywhere. There is learning in everything. I think when brought face to face with the challenges of life or feeling like your experience is so different from those around you can bring one to live in grace and/or to become graceful. It's a practice of sorts. Why share this now? In the end this is simply a story I have experienced and doesn't have to cause me to live in bitterness or doubt. People do the best they can with what they know or with the awareness they hold at any given time. My life has been far from perfect and in that I can then lean on the perfection that connects us all.
The psoas. I'm beginning to think with all the adjustments I do on a daily basis it has taken a beating. I especially notice in practice where most imbalances come to the surface. After reading the following blog post, Psoas Magic, it opened me up to observing where I hold inefficiently in the body when I stand for close to four hours straight. Above is a video demonstrating 'constructive' rest' which is said to be the best way to release the psoas. It's recommend that one holds for no less than 15 minutes, which for some may feel like torture. As for me, I could probably stay in this postion for double, haha. No problems here. I'm gonna try it out this week and see how it goes.
In remembrance of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, on the 4th anniversary of his passing, I am filled with gratitude for his legacy and passion for yoga. It is hard to express the depth of respect and inspiration I feel in his remembrance. Still moved by his living spirit, he continues to remind me what this journey is about. Thank you, Guruji. Thank you.
"We pride ourselves on having become less restrained and inhibited than our ancestors, but progress has only been skin deep, at best. While we have learned to expose our bodies, our hearts remain buried, and while discourse of rough sex is permitted, talk of tender love is taboo. New York streets may sizzle with bare flesh in summer, but we bare our souls only in the privacy of the therapist's office. We have become -or, perhaps, have remained- emotional prudes. (Tal Ben-Shahar)
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes a sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."Stepping back and accessing my life give opportunity to relive a few cringe moments. How harsh we judge ourselves. I'm the first to admit. My life in Sweden has definitely had it's share of ups and downs. When I first moved here it was a place that could do no wrong and in many ways this still holds true. Efficient, clean, safe, beautiful . . . and well, sometimes . . . gasp . . . dare I say, well, boring. I know, I can't believe I'm saying it! Hence, I think this is the natural course of events when settling down to a place. There's gotta be something to complain about. This past winter was more of a challenge to pick myself up. The newness of my environment had obviously worn off. I felt resistance rise up inside me and the battle with the status quo that is so evident in this part of the world. Yes, the battle. To soften the resistance I made an effort to consciously practice gratitude. Count my blessings no matter how small to keep the mind straight. So, now that I've stayed in one place, no running around, I actually have some semblance of a home, a steadiness of mind becomes even more essential without the stimuli of new. Bordem is a block. Isn't it interesting how the mind likes to focus on the lowest common denominator? Always. Turning the ordinary into extraordinary is possible. At the very least, I'd like to try.
- Melody Beattie
I'm in a country that is more pulled back and I keep getting a sense I want to step out. Dealing with the contrast can be a challenge. Well, I really have no choice at this point. I just hope the curious, enthusiastic part of myself never burns up in smoke. I like this American aspect and find it refreshing. I like that I wanna step outside the norm from time to time and not have to feel bad for it. So, I have accepted that some around me may not approve, may even be fearful and I no longer need to bear the responsibility of others reactions. I have always appreciated people's differences especially when it comes from a place of passionate focus for leading the life those are determined to live. It opens me up even if it is strikingly different from my own. I'll never get bored of that, and I am not necessarily saying that one needs to be different for the sake of it, but what I am saying is when striking a cord within, it feels too stifling not to share it or at least express it. I've learned no matter where you are these kindred spirits come out of the woodwork come what may, and I love that.
I see how the cultural mores of our times carry much less significance. It's a smaller more connected world. We can communicate and inspire each other in ways that were not possible even twenty years ago. It's amazing, and that's what I have to keep remembering. It's a small world, and yet so vast, filled with infinite possibilities, and somehow over the past few months I had forgotten that. It's really something, finding myself in a web of disillusionment, and I'll be the first to admit that I have, and that's okay. I've never been one to hide behind the fact that I go through stuff. Often. If we don't rub against the resistance, then how will we ever know? If we numb our pains how will we ever grow? No numbing, I can't, and it's been hard, I tell you, but there is still something inside me that whispers in my ear ... Go forth.
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.” - Eckhart Tolle
"Usually there's about a three-month love affair with yoga. "I feel so good." After about two months of practice, people think they are practically enlightened. Then usually around the third month, something happens and the yoga actually starts to work. And the first thing the ego structure does is to look for an escape route. People start heading for the door just at the moment they should stay."
- Richard Freeman
- Richard Freeman
A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.
I am nothing. I am everything. I dance between the two living in a confusing world of contrast. Stepping into the fullness of my being and feeling a sense of awe at the emptiness I feel at times leaves me spinning. I live in this pulsation. Unknowing as to why, alas I keep moving forward. I wish it were easy and then I remember that is not what I signed up for.
I wanna be ALIVE.