yoga retreats

Darkness & Light

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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.



Give Your Power a Voice

I knew as a child I had a great power inside of me.  When I became brave enough to glimpse its marvelous magic I felt as if it’s magnitude could swallow me whole. I knew that my voice and my power were uniquely mine. A synonym for power is magic and this power is inside all of us.  For most of my life I have been in the process of discovering and hiding my magic power all at the same time.

My teacher says if it isn’t a paradox it isn’t divine. From a young age we’re taught to keep our  “power” in a small box to fit the mold and expectations of others. When we are young, it seems as though we can’t hide our power. Over time we adapt to our circumstances, learning how to let just enough of our magic show to keep us interesting but certainly not enough to make us different, unique, or stand out.

When I started my 200 Hour Vira Bhava Yoga Teacher Training I knew walking into our first practice that I was about to take the top off my perfect small box. I was terrified, trembling with anticipation, fear and excitement. Through my yoga practice I could feel the layers peeling away to show the innate, golden authentic-self that had been patiently waiting to emerge. This was a profound embodied experience that cultivated yoga in the core of my heart.  Through this practice with Vira Bhava Yoga. trust and respect were formed; I restored my power in its most lustrous, immense grandeur.

We all have a unique power inside, we have just forgotten.  In these times it is our job to remember. It is our job to ask questions. Our world in its current state of discomfort, fatigue and grief needs NOW more than EVER our unique power. That is why its time for each of us to give our power a voice.

It is our job as yogis to cultivate trust in purpose. When we come to the mat, we work to create and build energy as purpose. To notice each moment when we show up for ourselves on or off our mat has powerful purpose.

This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and quit your job because your purpose doesn’t match up with your profession… I mean maybe it does.  For most of us this isn’t the case. What we learn in the Vira Bhava Yoga 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training is how our purpose and power can express itself in many different areas of life.  We bring our power to every moment. We learn to use the strength of our power to continually guide us on our path.

One definition of power is to move or travel with great speed or force; this is a power of a Vira Bhava Yogi.  We are warriors. We are courageous. We are unapologetic in our greatness and we walk together in community. We know that by boldly expressing our power we are inviting others to do the same. Seeing ourselves in others, knowing that by first healing ourselves we can then heal as a whole.

I want to live in a world where every person has the opportunity to live more authentically while empowering others to find and share their unique voice. If this sounds like something you too seek… Join us! Vira Bhava Yoga is coming to a town and studio near you. We are excited, whole hearted individuals striving to support each other in being great! Learn more and Register for our programs here!

 

Shifting Your Perspective

Photo by Juan Diego Reyes

Photo by Juan Diego Reyes

Years ago I picked up a book on impulse at a bookstore.  Something about managing your time to grow your business.  I was in the fledgling stages of creating Vira Bhava Yoga, and was feeling mostly discouraged, frustrated by my slow movement toward my desires, and yet propelled by a deep knowing that this was exactly what I needed to be doing. So, I did what I always do when I feel stuck, I bought a book about it.  My background is not in business, but I am the definition of an entrepreneur (unemployable).  So I decided to educate myself about ways I could turn my dream into reality.  

The best advice I received from this book of essays specifically targeted to tech start up businesses (wtf) was this:  at the end of the day reflect on your successes.  Instead of going down your to-do list and focusing on what you didn’t get done, which most of us do.  Instead of dwelling on the typical obstacles of “not enough” time, capital, energy, support; you fill in the blank, turn your focus to your accomplishments.  If you are working to manifest your purpose in the world, it’s an admirable feat, and it takes time. Committing a little bit of everyday toward that intention goes a long way.  Yet our tendency to focus on our failures instead of our successes veils the recognition of our own brilliance.

It’s not so different than watching my kids grow.  They are constantly changing, shifting, expanding, in body, mind and heart, but the day-to-day demands often keep me from noticing.  Until something huge happens (like my oldest is taller than me all of a sudden) or someone else points out the shifts, they often stay just outside of my awareness.  Not completely unknown, but not really acknowledged or celebrated.  Then in a moment, I realize how time has passed us by, and my little babes are full fledged people.  

So many of us get caught in the spin of overlooking how much impact we are making. Until one day, we wake up, haggared and hardened, and our dreams have come true, but we’ve missed it! We’ve lost ourselves in the never ending race to 'get things done’ and forgotten to reflect on the ways we are creating the life we desire RIGHT NOW!  

So, I started making a new list.  Every night before I would fall asleep I would write the list of things I had accomplished that day.  From “did the dishes” to “opened a business bank account,” from “wrote new content” to “taught two yoga classes,” I started to honor myself for my hard work and commitment. This simple thing shifting the most important aspect of my journey, my perspective.  I started believing in myself and what I was capable of.  I celebrated my successes instead of overlooking in an effort to move on to the next thing.  And, slowly but surely, the evidence of my hard work started to show itself.

There is a teaching in Tantra that states if you want to worship the Goddess, you must become her.  More than anything I wanted to be in the easeful flow of living my dharma, I wanted to receive the abundance that I felt certain was the outcome of working with such unwavering determination to manifest that truth that whispered inside me every day, but it didn’t feel like it was coming.  I spent most of my time lamenting the discrepancy between how much I wanted it, and how little it seemed to be manifesting. The yearning that was the evidence that I was on the right path would become the pain of defeat.  They key is to see the yearning as the force propelling you in the right direction, and not get stuck in the pain of not receiving. For most of us, when we are in that pain, we throw up our hands and change directions instead of seeing the yearning as something to turn towards, not away from. The yearning is the call, and when we attach only to the outcome of success and not to the reality of our own efforts, that’s when we get stuck.  When we feel stuck, we think about whether or not we are doing the right thing, when we could be reflecting on our challenges as the lessons we need to be learning to grow in balance.  The barrier to our success is simply the gap between the yearning and the achieving. One which can easily be remedied by self reflection and trust in our purpose. When we change where we place our focus, we are freed from defeat, and reenergized toward what we are so ready to do.

So when I was stuck, I decided to change my perspective.  I turned to the sweet and absolute abundance of Shakti in the form of Lakshmi, and I began the process of recognizing the parts of my life that were already abundant.  I gave thanks for my family, my friends, my practice.  I honored my growth as a teacher, I cultivated enthusiasm about educating myself in new systems. And it all worked. Here we are. Vira Bhava Yoga has grown and continues to grow.  We share and celebrate the path of Tantric Hatha Yoga in 7 different states, with more planned for the coming years. We have outstanding teachers, mentors, change-makers, and students all over the world.  

I still move in and out of remembering, just as the teachings say we will.  But when I can see the ways that Lakshmi shows up everyday in my life, not just in material wealth, but in love, connection, spiritual growth, joy, generosity, receptivity, openness, and ease, then I feel that energy enhanced.  The abundance that Lakshmi brings only grows when we acknowledge it, and from that place, open ourselves to receive more than we thought possible.  Because that’s the way it works, surrender isn’t giving up, it’s leaning into the whole truth, not just the one to which we have become accustom.

Recommended Readings:

The Soul Money, By Lynne Twist

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind: Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei