The Cactus

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The story I’m about to tell started out as some else’s story, that then became my own. Yet it was always my story, right there in front of me, I just didn’t want to see it. Sometimes, no matter how much we avoid something, it finds a way of revealing itself to us, until eventually we either admit we see it, or go through life half asleep. I woke up a few years ago, once you wake up, there’s no going back, even if you try. But the ego has a way of trying to lull you back to sleep sometimes. Yoga continually opens our eyes to the truth, bringing us into every moment.

My story starts with my friend, who came to watch one of my yoga classes. She comes down every few months from Wisconsin to Arizona to study in the teacher training program we are in. She has beautiful, clear, articulate speech. I’ll admit that I’m slightly envious, with my quick slurred Jersey speech that lingers despite fifteen years of living out west. I see it as one of my imperfections. Yes, I could obviously slow down my speech a speak more clearly if I wanted to; but I don’t, unless I’m teaching a Restorative yoga class. But I’ll get back to that later. Anyway, as we are leaving the class she attended, she sees a beautiful succulent cactus in a bed of smooth river rocks that stands in the doorway. I pass this plant at least ten times a week, as it is in the entrance of where I teach. Being from Wisconsin, a succulent cactus is not something she sees very often. She stops to looks at it, intrigued by the strange shape of its’ tubular leaves. I dismiss it, telling her it’s fake, for it looks quite perfect, and can’t possibly be real standing in a place with virtually no direct sunlight. And then she points out the scar, blemish, imperfection, whatever you want to call the big black mark on the leaf. Suddenly, I’m intrigued , realizing the plant is real. How does it grow with barely any sunlight? I pinch it, squeeze it, it still looks fake. And yet it’s this imperfection that warrants it to deserve my attention. It’s the imperfection that makes it real, astounding that it survives in such an environment, suddenly something that was so quickly dismissed becomes strong and beautiful.

Last week I had purchased a book ,”The Gifts of Imperfection , Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” by Brene Brown. I tried to read it. I couldn’t get past the first few pages. I finally just decided that maybe I wasn’t ready for . Each in his own time, right? Maybe it wasn’t my time. I’ve been carrying the book around for week now. Haven’t made a dent in it. So there I was, to some degree realizing I had to deal with embracing my imperfections, yet somehow at the same time resisting it, looking the other way, trying to close my eyes to slowly lull myself back to sleep, feeding my ego with tiny pats on the back that allow me to feel ok about lying to myself about who I am. I am imperfect. I have ADHD, I talk fast. My words blend into the next coming out faster than my brain can often even make sense of, sometimes making it difficult to listen. And when I’m in doubt or feeling insecure, I talk even faster and even more, waiting for some validation that what I’m saying might give me worth. A guy I was interested in once asked me for a pic of my legs. While this might not seem like a big deal to some women, it was to all 5 foot 1 of me. No matter what angle I took the picture, I was never going to look long and leggy. I am short, and so are my legs. I am imperfect. My hair is graying, and my skin often reflects the hormonal cycles within my month. I have stretch marks from pregnancies, reminders of the most important people in my life who love me, under any condition; an imperfection I wouldn’t trade in a million years. I am imperfect. I have scars, both physical and emotional, left behind from moments of adventure, moments of love, and moments of stupidity. These are a part of who I am. And while we continually grow and change to work towards being that best version of ourselves, working towards perfection is not the answer. It’s like grasping for water as it constantly slips between your fingers. To truly have the water you must take it in, drink it, let it become part of you, every part of your being, until it is no longer recognizable simply as water. It mixes with the good and the bad, and yet it is you, close to ninety-eight percent of you. The answer is in seeing those imperfections within ourselves, seeing the truth in who we are, in loving the dark and the light within ourselves and recognizing that one can not exist without the other. The answer is in loving all of ourselves.

So after my class I asked my friend for some feedback. The comment that really got me thinking was that she said my class was a little too formal, that she would have liked to hear me talk like I was just talking in a casual conversation. I don’t script anything, I just talk. But this was a restore class, it needed to be calming and soothing. My voice is clear, my words slow and precise. I sound like a different person than my regular everyday self. She proceeded to tell me the story about the cactus plant we had looked at together, how it’s flaws were what brought our attention to it, how it’s beauty was reflected only through the revelation of this flaw. And there I was, being confronted with my flaws yet again, with another invitation to embrace them, rather than look the other way, close my eyes, burry them beneath perfect eloquent speech. I thought about my community center classes and my ongoing corporate class where I do restorative workshops once a month. There I am different, they are my people. I see some of them several times a week and have been teaching the same group over a year. I’ve seen their imperfections, and they have seen mine. I’ve seen them struggle to get into a child’s pose and melt into a puddle of in tears in savasana. With them I am vulnerable and real, my true scattered self. My realness is what makes them feel safe and able to express their vulnerabilities. This was my wake call , whether I wanted to hear it or see it or not, yoga brings us into the moment. The beauty of each and every simple moment, even as simple as looking at plant. Gods creations are powerful indeed. And what was dismissed because of perfection, was suddenly beautiful and strong because of its’ imperfection. Our imperfections are our gifts to embrace and share with others. They reveal our true selves, our center, love.

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What’s In a Costume?

Every year as fall approaches many of us get excited about the change of the leaves, the crispness of the air, pulling out our sweaters and most importantly, deciding what we are going to be for Halloween.  Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, although I think I’m a sucker for all holidays; any excuse to celebrate.  But Halloween in particular gives us a chance for one day of the year to be whoever we want to be without judgment.  Some people live their lives like this every day, kudos to them for their bravery.  But most of us tend to fall into the norms and constraints of everyday society trying to fit in to what is socially acceptable wherever we may live.  We hope that it will enable us to be accepted by our peers, get a decent job, and make friends.  Don’t get me wrong, I realize peers is a very relative word depending on where you live , but generally most of us don’t look any different from the next person.  We all buy our clothes in the same department stores, Target, or even the many specialty shops of which there are several in every city in America. We follow style trends and try to look what is in that time and place considered to be stylish.   But on Halloween we do the opposite.  We put on a costume that is typically something we would NEVER wear out in public on an ordinary day. 

This year I was thinking about my costumes from years past.  For the last ten years or so I generally smooth out my hair if I’m going out.  Anyone who knew me in my teens doesn’t really know this look as they just didn’t have the good hair products and tools that they have now.  Anyway, I realized that year after year I always wore my hair curly on Halloween.  Interesting when you look at my hair; it is essentially a perfect personification of who I am; twisted, untamed, wild, and slightly crazy.  It’s funny that on the one day of the year that all rules for being judged by how we look is put by the wayside, I always chose to be on the outside exactly who I am on the inside.  Most other days of the year I would straighten, pull, and put strategic curls for an orderly put together look.  Apart from when I’m with family or very close friends who already know who I am. 

My costumes also seemed to reflect part of me that during the year I would generally keep under wraps.  For many years I was witch.  I obviously could have bought a new costume, but I liked being a witch.  I would add new things, a different hat, etc, but still a witch.  In high school I had a boyfriend whose mother didn’t quite care for me.  She called me the Spanish Witch.  I liked it so much I used it as email address years later. 

Last year I found the perfect costume.  I was a gypsy.  The outfit even came with tarot cards.  I loved it.  I generally am very intrigued with spiritual, mystical, and other worldly things and have been known to make major life decisions based on them.  That would be where the slightly crazy comes in for all you who make decisions based on facts and consequences. 

I find it interesting what a choice of costume can tell about a person.  This is what they would be if they could be anything and no one would judge. 

I have a friend who likes to be a superhero.  I believe it was a group costume with friends a few years back.  But this year he special ordered shiny pleather yellow boots to add to it.  I kind of see it similar to my witch costume.  I think he just likes being a super hero, likes telling the world that he truly is a super person.  I don’t think he needed the costume for that, but maybe that’s just a part of himself that he isn’t comfortable putting out there for the world.  He is very humble about whom he is and maybe being a superhero gives him the chance to express what he really knows about himself.

My sister and brother in law live in a conservative Pennsylvania town where he is a partner in long standing financial firm.  To give you an idea of how conservative it is, coming from the west coast, I stand out like a sore thumb every time I visit.  Well, each year on Halloween they go all out with the most outrageously socially inappropriate costumes, at least for their peer group.  In some areas of America they might blend right in, but in their small Pennsylvania town, it’s clearly a costume.  They have been punk rockers, hip hop gangsters, and bikers.  They always look so authentic.  I love seeing their Halloween picture each year as it is a small reminder of what’s on the inside.  Not that they want to be gangsters or bikers but they live in a very socially conservative area and this is the one day of the year they let their wild side show on the outside.  Don’t get me wrong they will party it up and throw a mean karaoke party, but they do it in their collar shirts and Talbot dress.

So this year as you put on your costume, maybe take a moment to stop and think what it is saying about you.  Does it reflect a part of you that you try to hide from the world in the everyday?  How does it make you feel when you put it on?  Are there small ways that you can incorporate that attribute into your life as to not stifle who you really are?  Because admit it….we all love getting dressed up in costumes.  Wouldn’t it be nice to let some of that excitement into our every day lives?

The Ski Trip- On Fear, Feb 2012

This Christmas I will have officially been divorced for about two months, so I did everything I could to make Christmas a good experience for my children, including having their father there for our Christmas Eve dinner party. All went much better than I had anticipated and the next day we were off to Tahoe to meet my large family for a week of skiing, family and fun. These get-togethers occur every other year at either my or my older sister’s home. This year, my younger sister who lives in California had her first baby in October and didn’t want to travel. She suggested and arranged the vacation for all of us. This at first was met w/ a smirk and laughter as I thought of my older sister who traveled from Pennsylvania to Arizona for my wedding just 4 weeks after having her first child. Anyone who has ever nursed knows the amount of heat one creates let alone being forced to be in Arizona wearing a very uncomfortable and not so easy to maneuver bridesmaid dress. But I was only 25 and hadn’t had children…how was I supposed to know this?

Upon arriving to Tahoe, all the kids were excited to go skiing. My children had never been on skis. I skied once for a day at the age of 12 and one more time for two days my senior year of high school. I never took a lesson, my friends took me to the slopes told me what to do and off I went down the intermediate slopes with the rest of my friends, landing on my butt every so often. I never skied again until my son was about 9 months old. My brother in law took me to a small ski area in Michigan. I barely made it down the bunny slope. I was struck with fear. The day ended on a down note, I had given up before I even started and went home pretty banged up. So here I am in Tahoe….and I’m supposed to ski.  I put both of my kids in ski school and made my way to the beginner slope w/my sister and brother in law. I did ok. Eventually trying an intermediate slope, too early, I might add, as I crashed a few times. We went skiing two more times over the next few days.  I began to feel more comfortable but realized that what I was missing was control. I wanted to mosey down the hill like my sister, but couldn’t figure out how. I was speed daemon with just enough control to keep myself from crashing into people. On my last run of the day it hit me…literally in the face as I ended up head first on a slope…I wasn’t doing very much. I was just coasting along with just enough control not to hurt myself or others. I needed to actually do something, move my legs, take control of what my legs were doing and what I wanted them to do. I wasn’t skiing, I was coasting.  It occurred to me that that was how I had been living for a very long time before my divorce, coasting along, not fully engaged, not using the gifts I was given .

I decided I would spend my last day skiing on the beginner slope practicing moseying with control. Toward the end of the day I did a run with my son who had moved up to the beginner slopes. I was filled with pride as I watched him ski down the hill. He is a bit of a daredevil, just as I was when I was younger. Then he took a fall. His eyes filled with tears and his face with doubt and I could tell that he did not want to continue. I gave him a little instruction and pep talk and we finished together.  We decided to do one last run before they closed. It was on that run that I found exhilaration. In the moment that I was able to help my son overcome his fear, I let go of my own, I flew down that mountain like a. teenager, but with precision and control. I was in control of myself and my run. Don’t get me wrong, if God, the universe or whatever powers that be wanted to send a storm or patch of ice my way, I had no way of preventing it. But in that moment I was in control of me as I took in the greatness and splendor all around me It was truly exhilarating. I felt I could ski for five more days…I was left with just taste of excitement and wanted to feel it again and again. But the mountain was closed. That was my last run of the trip, but I will ski again, and I won’t wait 10 years to do it. I intend to ski, run, dance, sing, do the things that bring me joy, and use the gifts that God has given me that I have sometimes shyed away from because of fear. I will be engaged in life and taste that excitement again.

On Resolutions- Jan 2012

This year I decided not to write any New Years resolutions…u may ask why? Resolutions are a good thing, right?  They give us hope, put us on track, help us focus on what we want to accomplish for the year to come. But over the years I’ve noticed that although my life changes from year to year, sometimes drastically…my resolutions never seem to change very much. As I’ve matured the wording has altered a bit, but since my teen years my list looks pretty similar …. Eat better, exercise more, take time to take care of me, read more, and be a better mother/daughter/friend/wife etc. In more recent years I’ve recognized the importance of attending not only to my mind and body, but also to my soul. This is the only new edition in the past 20 years of any significance. But these resolutions that I felt so impelled to write down every year weren’t really serving me much purpose. This year I simply just didn’t feel like writing a list  Upon more thought the reason why became evident.  I had read one of my friends resolutions on fb…it gave me a sense of hope followed by a sense failure and despair. Her resolutions were very specific and pretty high on the board, as she is quite a spectacular person.  My sense of failure and despair was a whirlwind of thoughts that I couldn’t possibly achieve such things, even if I could put down things specific to me, what if I didn’t do them? What if I changed my mind? Last year I wanted to attend to my mind, body and soul…well, I became ill with valley fever, hurt my back, got way too thin and went through a divorce. By anyone’s standards I certainly failed in keeping to my resolutions. I did however; spend a lot of time attending to my soul. It was that time that brought me to the moment that kept me from writing my resolutions. My Resolutions were both expectations and limitations. In that time attending to my soul I learned to live in the moment. I want the flexibility to decide what I want to do at any given moment and to change my mind as I see fit. I will not be limited by what I believe I am capable of doing, for I believe we are all capable of so much more than we can ever possibly imagine. I will not set myself up with expectations of accomplishing things that may seem important in one moment yet insignificant in the next as circumstances and situations change.

One may say that living in the moment is in of itself a resolution. Define it as u may, there are no expectations or limitations in that the present is anything we make it. I’m sure many of you have written your lists, and I do hope that they serve you well. As for me, this year I am living and loving in the moment, open to the possibilities and experiences that life has to offer.

Let Yourself Go

As many of you know, I started a Facebook group called WEW – Women Empowering Women. The group is made up of women ages sixteen to sixty plus.  They are from all different social, ethnic, political, religious, and non-religious backgrounds.  They are widowed, married, divorced, single, gay, and straight.  The purpose is to be able to inspire and empower each other as women while respecting our differences and recognizing the strength that comes in them.

Every so often when I see an inspiring or empowering picture, quote or article I will post it. This week I made a big blunder in my attempt to share an inspiring photograph. The picture was of a FB friend’s sister jumping off a waterfall cliff. The first thing that came to my mind was” Wow, that’s kick ass.”  I decided I would add a caption to it, and quickly came up with one that I thought was perfectly fitting,” Take a leap of faith.” …Boy was I wrong! Not only was it not fitting but it was anything but perfect in describing the photo.  Turns out the young lady in the photo is an atheist.  This was clearly not a leap of faith.  I realized this just as I completed the wording, which also had another quote below, and sent it off for her approval anyway.  Maybe she wouldn’t care??? What was I thinking!!?? To me this was clearly a fearless young woman. Why would she compromise herself for a complete stranger?  And what happened to respecting each other’s differences?  It was already sent off but I knew this wasn’t a winning situation.

Trying to come up with more appropriate alternatives, I got to thinking about the photo itself and what message it gave to me.  I had seen it as an act of fearlessness.  We all deal with our fears in many different ways.  People turn to psychology, faith, philosophy, metaphysics, meditation, and the like as means of overcoming them.  I associated the picture with my own experiences of dealing with my fears when I attributed a religious connotation to it.  While at first I questioned whether I should put something of religious connotation on the page, as I make it a point to stay away from religion and politics on there; I decided it wasn’t so bad because it fit the photo so well and couldn’t it be referring to faith in herself as she jumped?  Turns out that was just my opinion and not a very good one at that.  She denied the approval and I was back to the drawing board as I certainly wanted to respect her views if she was willing to share her photo.

I still really wanted to share the photo in the group and I struggled to think of a caption that would make people think about facing their fears?  This brought me to the question of fearlessness itself and overcoming our fears. This was what I drew from the photo.  A photo can tell as many stories as the number of people who see it.  She may have done jumps like this a hundred times and may not have been feeling any fear at all.  She may have been feeling excited, adventurous, peaceful, or even relaxed.  It occurred to me that there is no way I could have any idea of what she was feeling in that moment.  Our experiences mold our perceptions.  It can sometimes be difficult not to attribute our own perceptions to others.  I had simply made the assumption of fearlessness based on where I was coming from.  As admirable as my intentions were, I really missed the mark on this one.  It is through our interactions with others that we are able to learn who we are.  Every interaction is a new opportunity to be the person we want to be.  Hopefully next time I’ll do better. 

Disheartened, I continued on my treadmill, literally, and looked up at NFL recaps in closed captioning on the TV.  The line” Let yourself go,” was said by a random player a few times, I assume in regards to a play.  I thought,” That might work!”  Let yourself go …into whatever the moment brings you.  Whether I get approval to put her picture on the page with captions or without has yet to be determined.  For those who are intent on seeing the jump, be patient, it’s on my bucket list.  As for whether it will be a leap of faith for me?  Well, I’ll probably check for rocks and wait until someone else jumps safely first, so by definition, the answer is no.  Will I pray that I don’t smash into a rock?  Yes.  As for now, the best I can do is invite you to close your eyes, picture yourself standing at the top of an amazing waterfall surrounded by beautiful redrocks, jump, and let yourself go …. into the adventure, into the fearlessness, into the peacefulness, into whatever the moment brings you.

Why Blog?

Why blog?

So yesterday, I decided to start blogging…I was inspired by a few of my fb friends who were doing so. In the past I had often thought of bloggers as people who just needed another way to get attention. Honestly I had not really read many blogs. Of those I was most familiar with were the ones that became big hits and were made into books or movies, like “The $**t My Dad Says and Julia and Julia. In my mind these were writers…and I was not a writer. But in the recent past I have begun to notice some of my friends posting their blogs on their fb pages. The first was a food blog, then a family blog, then a yoga blog…it was wonderful to get a glimpse into the hearts and minds of these few people, some who I hadn’t know very long and others who were long lost classmates I hadn’t seen in years.  Was what was going on in my heart and mind any less important? But I’m not a writer…and never have been…I struggled to force out the words on paper for every single assignment in both high school and college and was at my best only a B writer and at my worst so disorganized in my thoughts it was often difficult to follow what my ADD brain was trying to say. But I was a talker, and maybe, just maybe I could put that on paper, so I made the decision to blog and I would do it. I wrote my first piece about my family ski trip and posted on fb that I would post my first blog as soon as I figure out the blog page site, I had some technical difficulties with Google. Anyway, an old classmate then posted that I was about 8 years late. Honestly, I was quite offended. And responded “that was like saying your slow to take up dancing, drawing, or anything else in life for that matter..writing takes time, thought, creativity and courage..Do you happen to have all four of those at this very moment..I didn’t in the past, but I’m ready to try now…so, no I don’t believe I’m 8 years late..I’m working on my own time..As I’m sure you are,” My response was admittedly slightly obnoxious, but who was he to tell me I was slow to share myself with the world? This got me thinking.. maybe he was right..Maybe I was slow in sharing myself with the world? We go through life having encounters with new people all the time. If we like how they respond, we share more, if not we end it there. This is essentially how we choose who will be our friends, acquaintances and strangers. Was I being a coward by just sharing myself with the few people I believed would accept me? Playing it safe?  This hit me like a ton of bricks…Great people, as we seem to define it in todays’ society, are those that live fearlessly…MLK, Gandi, Oprah, …in limiting who I was sharing myself with was I living in fear? Fear that I wouldn’t be loved or accepted for the person I am.

So I go back to my original question…why blog? A blog is simply chronicles of thoughts, ideas or experiences. But in reading them it becomes evident that they become so much more. My friend who posts her food diary puts up every yummy dish she eats. Don’t get me wrong, I love food, and I ‘m a bit of a foodie myself, but u won’t see food on my page every day. Her page not only consists of things she eats, but dishes she makes and is proud to share.  Food is her passion, it is who she is. And that is what a blog really is, a reflection of who you really are, your passions, truth and true self. My friend who writes a yoga blog doesn’t write only about yoga but brings hope and inspiration in all areas of life. My friend that blogs about her family provides comic relief in the form of antidotes of her children sharing the things that happen in the life of a stay at home mom.  They are sharing who they are for all to see, they are fearless.

So I will write in the belief that my words will mean something to somebody. My blog may not be as interesting, funny, enticing, well written, and may even been seen as ordinary. But as author Dan Millman said,” There are no ordinary moments.” It is in finding the extraordinary within the ordinary everyday moments of our lives that we find our true selves and the greatness within us. My blog will be my truth, my passions, and my true self. I put it out there to share with all who care to read it, as I move forward fearlessly knowing that I too am Great with the hope that it encourages others find the greatness within themselves and be brave enough to share it with the world.