yoga trainings

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.


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.






Honor the Discomfort

untitled-25.JPG

There is little that can be done to change uncomfortable situations, especially the ones outside of ourselves. Though we try with all of our might to control or avoid them, still they come. To deal with it, some of us fight while others flight. We spend a lot of energy looking externally for something or someone to relieve  the discomfort.

The wisdom of Yoga says something about this… When Discomfort shows up, it is delivering an important message from our intuitive, wise, and true Self. If avoided, ignored, or neglected Discomfort will grow, the suffering will increase, and a medley of other equally uncomfortable or unfortunate events can come together to amplify it. All of this is Discomfort saying,  “Turn towards me, I need you. I have direction for you”

This message is subtle and may seem insignificant compared to the loud repetitive messages of the Ego oriented consumeristic world. Be thin, wear this, youth is God, flexibility is the point, have the right car, be the perfect family, smile, be happy, etc.

I learned how to really endure and listen when I was asked to sit in chair pose, Utkatasana for 5 minutes. Try it yourself real quick. Unclench your jaw, keep your breath flowing and easeful (no power Ujjiyi breathing here), tailbone tucked, chin draw in and spine extended…. Fingertips and crown of your head to the ceiling, tailbone down.. Your breath keeping you erect and supported.  Just relax and witness.

Witnessing the discomfort that I felt in those 5 minutes enraged me. My mind went into a frenzy. I felt victimized because I didn’t deserve that, and I felt angry at the teacher for making me feel  that way how dare her.

Once it was over and I fell  into Savasana. I cried, I felt a huge release of tension and the surrendering of discomfort. I had never gone through discomfort before, all the way to the other side. I had never held my mind accountable to that degree. And when I did, what flowed through me after all the rigid thoughts and judgements about the discomfort, was the support of Prana (energy) that was waiting on the other side.

It felt like relief;  like everything was going to be okay. I had built a bridge. Beyond the guardian we call discomfort is sweet relief. That is what is on the other side of the bridge. Our aversion to move through discomfort, victimization, anger, etc. is what keeps flow, safety, trust, relief out beyond our recall.

Discomfort often creeps in, hits hard (if we oppress it) then demands, “Sit down with me,  breath, and support me. Do not neglect me, don’t turn away or numb yourself into forgetting… Sit with me.”  We often do not hear the message that way. Often that moment looks like all hell has broken loose in our lives, our health, our families and friendships. Like a beautiful disaster has been orchestrated so we can have a minute for ourselves.

Why is it that we can only find these moments from hardship? I hate to say this but that is the design.  Yoga is a practice designed for us to observe the patterns of “imperfection” and “distress” in our lives. The objective or dedication is to continue turning towards discomfort when it crops up rather than away from it.

The more we show up, the more willingness we will find, the easier it will be to hear the message. If you practice this Yoga earnestly and with dedication, you will discover that support will show up naturally.

I am not saying it’s easy or enjoyable or that it happens over night. It’s a lifetime practice. First, decide that you will turn towards discomfort because the  more we turn towards our discomfort, the more we turn towards ourselves. Then resolve yourself to sit with it. You will find that this practice can be your homecoming rather than the source of your suffering.

As we learn to be steady and easeful in our asana the gift we are offered is a trust that relief follows. As we practice enduring discomfort and listening to its message, we will experience relief. We might even learn to Honor the Discomfort and thank it for being our Guide.