A Case for Space

It wasn’t too long ago that we honored the importance of space in our lives.  We planned family vacations focused on lolling around rather than experiencing every adventure money could buy.  We knew how to sit quietly together and enjoy the silence, lost in our own thoughts as they say. We knew how to be present in the space, because it was our only option.


Now, we have an abundance of choices.  We NEVER have to be “trapped” in silence, or alone with our thoughts.  We have a plethora of options on which to focus which can allow us to be either productive or numb, and we never have to feel lost in our thoughts and feelings ever again. So do we feel any less lost?  My hypothesis is “No.” Instead, we are driven to fill every gap with action or distraction. We are desperate for more knowledge, but run like hell from wisdom. Why??? I think we have forgotten where our true wisdom and understanding are sourced.  We now seek continuously and constantly outside of ourselves for all of the answers, the support, the strategies, and even for proof of what is “right & wrong.” We have lost our connection to our inner compass, our guiding wisdom that is ours and ours alone.


When anything arises from within us, be it inspiration or question, we immediately doubt it, analyze it, and ultimately override it with our well-honed tools of categorization, logic, and analyzation.  The case for following your heart is closed, being judged as frivolous, too risky, or naive. And we wonder why we need to be taught how to take care of ourselves (a knowing that is so unique to each individual that truly only YOU can know). We are bombarded with “opportunities” to be better in 15 steps, to be more efficient, more successful.  We even have lists for self care, boundaries, communication, and rest. Our wisdom has gone underground, and we refuse to create the space to find it. Stepping into the possibilities of feeling, trusting our gut rather than the “how to lists,” is lost. We feel shaky and afraid to move in the direction of our desires all the time. But, in truth, ALL that you need to know is already present, all you have to do is make the space to hear it.

I want to make a case for front porch swings and fireflies, for staring off into space, for lingering in bed on a Sunday morning listening to the rain. I want to allow the time to get lost in our thoughts, even if they don’t feel good. I want to fight for the spaces on our list that live between the check boxes, for the cracks in the plan, for the gaps in the strategy.  What if, and I know this flies in the face of all things “right and sane,” but what if we just stopped and did nothing. What if we took a walk in the middle of the day, didn’t check a damn thing off our list, or allowed ourselves to watch the clouds or the stars passing across the sky? Would our worlds fall apart? Really?


Now, to be clear, I’m not saying we should stop acting.  What I am saying is we should try acting on the impulse and inspiration that arises from the gap (regardless of circumstance or evidence), instead of requiring a plan, a strategy, or an external affirmation.  What if we turned inside to the rarely recognized whisper of knowing and trusted that no matter what it tells us to do, it knows best. That no matter how crazy it sounds, or how impossible it appears right now, it is the right thing, and doors will open to make it possible. Is it conceivable that the voice within us knows better than our parents, our bosses, our colleagues, our partners? What if we trusted that “best” doesn’t have to be synonymous with easiest, most efficient, most productive, or most profitable? What if we started trusting ourselves again?


I know this idea is revolutionary, and disregards EVERYTHING we are taught and told. I know we hang our hats on accomplishment and our heads at the thought that we cannot do it all. I know there is a desperation driving the need to be doing all of the time, but isn’t our achievement only making the desperation stronger? Isn’t our doing leading us deeper into distraction, and farther away from the possibilities that arise from knowing ourselves?  


I’ve been teaching Yoga a LONG time, and resoundingly people say that they cannot sit still, they cannot move slowly, their mind’s are NEVER quiet.  They need to move fast, to work hard and distract the mind in order to rest. And this perpetuation of the push, the perpetual doing, the harder, faster, louder approach is taking us farther and farther away from our innate wisdom. This absence of stillness and quiet is simply a call to conversation.  A conversation that needs no outside input, no additional opinion or critique.  This conversation is not meant to be shared with others. This conversation happens when we move away from action and distraction, and make the space and time to be with ourselves. If we continually fill the space in our actions (or our inactions), the gap from which our wisdom arises grows into a chasm.  To peer over the edge of that abyss initially feels like terror. Not because it is dangerous, but because of what might effervesce up from it’s depths. 


We are innately wise.  We contain the entire universe within the boundaries of our skin.  The intelligence of the whole is encoded in every individual part. We cannot learn the wisdom we seek, we can only listen and be guided into action.  This is the ONLY path that will lead to “peace,” a dynamically shifting state of change in which you infinitely trust the process. 


For those of you who say, “How do you know what is your inner guidance and what is your mind?” I say, MIND THE GAP.  Put your mind in the gap between strategy and plan.  LAND in the space between action and distraction and LISTEN. All you need to know is right there. And it will guide you, if you let it.


Stay in the erratic movements of the mind until they allow a passage through.  Move inward to feel what lies beneath the vacillation and doubt. It might not come in the way that you would like to hear it, but please, listen anyway. YOU know what you need more than anyone, more than any outside evidence. Move with care and attention in your actions.  Take an hour to do one sun salute, experience the feeling of your own breath for an indeterminate amount of time, stare off into space and meet yourself in the cracks between your thoughts and actions. Pay attention to the discomfort that arises. Whatever you choses, please, don’t push yourself away again. Chose to be present. Allow the guidance to arise from within you, and act based on what you receive instead for what you hope to gain.  Watch how your relationship with the world changes. There is a place in you that knows, that has always known, and will always know, all it needs is some space to grow.


Darkness & Light

VBY_2019-5191.jpg

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

~Mother Theresa

I don’t know what to say.  For all of the writing, contemplating, feeling and thinking I do, I don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to the conversation right now.  Usually writing for me is like starting a lawnmower. It takes a couple of cranks, but once it’s started it is a strong engine with a message as a propellent.  What do you do when your job is to have an opinion and you can’t seem to lift yourself out of the struggle between darkness and trying to feel the light, call the light, be a light yourself.  The simple things seem insurmountably challenging right now. The only things coming easily and with desire are meditating and longing. I am walking around a fog, probably because of my allergies and all of the medication that I am taking to manage them.  I have a full calendar, money is tight, but little blessings come through all the time, as they always do. I feel like I am on the precipice of shift, and I doubt that feeling as I have felt it for so long. Perhaps I am unable to see the shifts in myself.  Like watching your kids grow day after day, it’s hard to see the immensity of the progress until someone who hasn’t seen them in a while remarks on the change. Maybe I’m not really on the threshold of anything, and that is a story I tell myself as a comfort to the continued challenge.

The state of the world is degrading at such a rapid pace, it’s difficult to keep up.  The huge steps backward are rattling the cage of rage and self reflection inside of me, yet in so many ways I feel helpless to change or fight.

This morning I was thinking about Brene Brown’s work, and her new Netflix series that’s getting lots of comment.  She teaches vulnerability, connection, love and belonging. And God, isn’t that what we all want, even the hardened and fearful.  The hatred is simply fueled by disconnection and the frustration about our inability to remedy it, until hatred becomes the common ground that creates a connection and sense of belonging.  Why she doesn’t ever seem to talk about is how to show up open, vulnerable, honest and deeply courageous and NOT be received. That is the state of the world right now. We can do all that we possibly can to show up in our vulnerability, but we cannot at any level, expect to be received with open arms.  Not in our intimate relationships, not in our families, not in our workplaces, or in political venues, not in a restaurant or at the gas station. We, the courageous and willing, who are trying everyday to keep our hearts open and our words honest, we who are doing the work of self reflection, accountability, ownership, we who are “daring greatly” are still standing alone.  Outside of belonging, outside of understanding. In this time when the world is organizing around our divisions, the ones who work with honest vulnerability and work to cultivate understanding are the ones on the OUTSIDE. But, Krishna never promised that doing your duty would feel good. He simply said to stand up and fight.

I wake everyday with a sadness in my heart.  An understanding that to move through the world right now, I have to close myself off to loving. I have to turn away from the overwhelming desire for connection and understanding, keep my head down and my mouth closed.  That my longing to connect, hear, love and understand is the very yearning that will keep me isolated. That my desire to reveal the places of connection rather than anchor in to division IS the very thing that will exile me from any group, relationship, or alliance.  Right now, we are in a time of Ayoga (def.: unconnected with, separation, disjunction, impropriety, incongruity, non-application or mis-application of remedy). We are finding our common ground through our divisions and definitions. We are choosing to turn away from opportunities to bridge the gap of our differences in favor of defining ourselves by them.

I know in my heart that this turning is necessary, but it feels impossible to bear at times.  I am even witnessing this in “YOGA.” We are defining and aligning our allegiances to this style or that studio, we are dividing our opinions, our loyalties.  In yoga, we are no longer seeking Union, and instead we are another expression of the power of devisiveness. Our “yoga teachers” are graduating with low self confidence, desire to be the perfect, terror of making mistakes, and demand for validation and approval.  Even those who are “studying Yoga” seem lost in the mire of delusion. The real practice of Yoga is meant to return us to ourselves.  The real practice of Yoga is not simply to unite the Mind, Body, and Spirit.  They have never been divided, really. The real practice of Yoga is to reunite who you think you are with who you REALLY are. But try telling that to a recent YTT grad who is nervous and unsure about teaching, try telling that to the Yoga teacher who can’t pay their rent, or the student who just wants to move fast enough to make their mind stop for a few minutes. Try finding your Self in the tornado of calamity that defines our lives in these times.  It’s next to impossible to tease out the self created identity from the one that is pure and unchanging. It’s gut wrenching and conflictual to try and understand the current state of things as anything other than disaster and apocalyptic.

How do we find “peace” and “balance” in a divided world? Well, maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe we are looking for the wrong solutions to what we are experiencing. Instead, what if the re-Union of ourselves with our Self actually requires us to feel, first hand, the pain of division. The time for ignoring and numbing, dividing and judging is quickly coming to an end for better or for worse, so like a snowball rolling downhill, it is picking up all of our illusions and slamming them into our faces with break-neck force.  

The real Yoga will begin when we stop trying to make everything “good, peaceful, and balanced” again, and start FEELING the state of chaos and terror that we find ourselves in.  When we stop trying to ignore our heartache, our loneliness, our pain, and truly start feeling it. Then, we can build a bridge to others who are suffering, regardless of the cause of their suffering.  If you truly know your own pain, then and only then, can you hold the pain of others in a space of compassion and love. Our dysfunction is the result of trying to function in a system that no longer works. We are plummeting headlong into our own destruction ONLY because we are so vehemently committed to turning away from it or fixing it.

And maybe I’m totally wrong.  Perhaps I know nothing. Like I said, I don’t feel equipped to contribute to the conversation right now, because I too am struggling. I feel afraid that my struggle will reduce my authority as a teacher, as a business owner, as a lover, a parent and friend. My inability to “turn it all around” with some asana or pranayama might be viewed as a failure of this system.  But maybe that is exactly the point, maybe all I am supposed to do is share that I too feel afraid, feel alone, feel overwhelmed. I too feel deep sadness and despair. That I also long to be understood, and feel like screaming at the top of my lungs in rage and frustration. I too am working hard to meet the demands of life, and find it an impossible race to win at the moment. For me, it seems that there are no answers that will lead us to healing, and we are left only with the opportunity to question our di-ease.  So I will go now and sit, as I do everyday. I will spend time in silence, for as long as my hectic day will allow. I will turn my attention inward, to my breath, to the ache in my chest, to the constriction in my throat and the tears welling up behind my eyelids. I will request of myself surrender. I will allow myself to feel into these sensations, to be guided into deeper understanding of my own suffering, and I will mutter a prayer, “may I understand my own pain so that I can more fully accept and understand the pain of others.”

I will not pray to be liberated from this suffering, as I truly believe that what we are supposed to be learning is encased within it. I will not pray for the liberation of others, as the lessons we are being shown right now are universal and essential for us to grow beyond them.  But I will call in the vibrancy of the light, and request that it fill me, revitalize me, help me to keep moving forward into this dark night.



Risk Zone

Asana_LowRes-16.jpg

Discomfort is a part of our human condition, and it expresses itself uniquely to each of us. Looking from the inside out, it can often seem that others are successfully avoiding the pain of life based on our personal standards, when in truth, all of us, every single one of us, is swimming in the current of difficulty.  Perhaps we don’t always recognize it for what it is, and instead swim hard against the current, trying to avoid the inevitable displeasure that living in human form offers us. When we can land in and with our discomforts though, something quite amazing can happen.  Life can unfold for us possibility, choice, and awareness. When this happens, we begin to see our discomforts as gateways into our growth and refinement.  Then, in a new way, we welcome them. This doesn’t mean that we relish the muck, but we no longer waste our energy swimming upstream.

We are sensitizing ourselves out of the opportunity to experience discomfort.  We are so worried about causing pain and experiencing pain, that we are stunting our ability to grow and learn.  The nature of pain is not inherently bad, it’s communicative. And the suffering that comes from pain and discomfort can serve to propel us to a new understanding or level of awareness.  Especially in Yoga, we are becoming so attached to the avoidance of discomfort that we are taking the Yoga out of our Yoga. The way that our culture approaches Yoga right now is not as a transformational practice, but as a salve to our pain and discomfort, and friends, that is NOT what yoga is designed to do. Side stepping discomfort is a sure fire way to get stuck at your current level of evolution and create a cage of safety that demands a lot of you and subsequently of your environment.

Look at almost anything Yoga on Social Media, and you will see how desperately we cling to ideals of peace and balance. But is Yoga growing us into a better culture or better individual humans?  The philosophy of Tantra helps us understand that existence is a constantly shifting experience of expansion and contraction, called Spanda in Sanskrit.  There is a trustworthy pattern of energetic movement ensuring that we will never be stuck or stagnate in a single place.  However, our current culture has created an adhesive attachment to the ideals of safety and security, creating a powerful resistance to the natural flow of things.  Our society is so deeply attached to these ideals that we avoid the absence of them at all costs, and more often than not, at the cost of others. Attachment to balance and control reign supreme in modern Yoga.  Yet, balance without allowance keeps us firmly protected from the risk of letting go into the mystery. The problem with this is simple.  Life is an ever evolving, fluid, growing creation with increasing levels of sophistication.  When we refuse fluidity and growth, we limit our capacity to evolve. We find ourselves in outdated, outmoded models that don’t fit, and we feel a great deal of discomfort. For some this discomfort may not look like much, a quiet yearning, a feeling of displacement, a fear of the unknown, but still it’s there. A gnawing inside behind the job, the marriage, the friendships, the home, the balance and harmony.

The missing piece of our understanding is that growth and evolution happen outside of comfort.  That the risk that it takes to turn away from safety and comfort IS the gateway to our liberation.  But, our opposition to crossing the chasm is deemed too risky, so we stay put, and the silent longing goes on while we work desperately to make it disappear.  Don’t worry though, the intelligence of this mysterious universe is unparalleled, so it creates the ideal situations to propel us out of our comfort zones. Though we may not recognize them as such, we are given opportunities of varying levels of discomfort to launch us into our next phase of growth. The RISK ZONE, or learning zone as Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron calls it, is the place that seems most dangerous, most unsafe, most insecure.  Yet it’s the place that holds the most possibility. In our lives, we have invested most of our energy and time developing fortresses of safety, so it seems absurd to abandon them. Why would you ever take a risk, when the castle of safety has been so fully fortified? Even if the gnawing continues. Our desires to avoid the discomforts of growth, and maintain a certain level of safety, to “protect” ourselves at all costs, are called Vikalpa.  A vikalpa is a contrary intention, something that tries to steer us away from pain and discomfort at the expense of what is possible.  Psychology would call these self defeating thoughts. Things like, you aren’t good enough, you will just fail, you will never get what you want. Though they are painful and self defeating, they keep us protected and anchored into place.  They keep us in the stagnant, but familiar, places that we know, and we always feel safer in what we know that in the unknown. The unknown is the RISK ZONE, the place of uncertainty which cannot be controlled. The place where we might not be who we’ve worked so hard to become, the place where we might lose it all, or….

The place where we might find ourselves more fully.  The place where we might truly come alive, the place where we will achieve more than we ever expected. That place feels at once terrifying and liberating.  And everything in us says to avoid it at all costs. But that gnawing continues, and maybe we start to listen. When we move toward that longing that bubbles up from inside, we are moving in the direction of Sankalpa, our true intention, and the biggest risk. It is from this place that we begin to consider what is possible.  It is in Sankalpa that we emerge into the full scope of our human capacity. The space beyond safety and security, beyond achievement and success, the space of aliveness. When we feel the pull towards the risk, our minds question our logic, our friends and family question our sanity, and we find ourselves overwhelmed with doubt about our actions. There is a part of us that knows and a part of us that doubts.  Every Sankalpa comes fully equipped with a Vikalpa dance partner.

So it takes a large dose of Sraddha, trust in those who have walked the path before you in Sanskrit, a.k.a. faith, to make the leap. In making the choice to act, despite contrary opinions, we encounter a particular kind of tension that manifests as fear, worry, doubt, and discomfort.  Tantra teaches us that THIS IS SHAKTI herself.  This energy can be harnessed and deposited into your Sankalpa.  All of the resistance has been working for you all along! It is only through the resistance and discomfort that we can generate the energy of change.  All evolution and creation requires a catalyst, a friction, a spark. This tension is the power needed to move forward, to get unstuck, to grow!

But of course, it’s always a choice.  You can choose to avoid the tension by turning away from the possibilities of change and evolution.  You can choose to stay right where you are, and numb the longing, distract yourself from the gnawing, deny desire.  You can choose to stay right where you are. Just remember, your Vikalpa IS the primary dialogue of self protection, the thing that is trying stop you from taking risk.  And your future, is the risk itself. It is always waiting for you on the other side of your discomfort, but never in the absence of it. So the next time your discomfort calls you to doubt the risk, pause and ask yourself… what is waiting for you on the other side?  What opportunity is calling out for you to take a chance? This moment of turning towards rather than away… that is the essence of a warrior.


If you feel called to deepen your study, take the risk and join us. Online or in Person.