There’s a Maya Angelou quote that is popping up all over my life right now. You may have heard it in some form or another:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s some capital-T Truth right there. This thought, having been presented to me several times this week, is floating around in the background of the stewpot that is my mind. To me, people are valuable for what messages they deliver from the Universe. Everyone in the world has something to teach me, and that is something I practice being mindful of on a daily basis.
My main goal is to be the best me I can be and I pray for it every day. When I strive for the best behavior I can manage, it’s not necessary to beat myself up. Often I fall short of perfection, but that’s okay. My job as a human is to be imperfect, so I’m doing my job very well!
Before I get into what is clawing its way out of me today, I want to ask you how this quote makes you feel. Who does it remind you of? What do you think is the most valuable feeling some one can give you? Do you have a person in your life that gave/gives you this feeling? Do you try to give others that feeling, the one that you want to get from others?
The most challenging part of life for many of us is relationships. I’ll speak for myself here, but I know many of you will able to identify with what I experience. Love is not a simple emotion. I love everyone in my life, to one extent or another. I love them for their humor, for their beautiful lit-from-within smile, for being difficult and helping me practice patience and tolerance. I love people like I believe Mother Theresa loved people, which is unconditionally: just the way they, wonderfully or distressingly, are.
Just to back up for one moment: There was a time in my life when I had no capacity for love, empathy or compassion. I drowned my feelings, pushed away anyone that tried to help and spent every day just surviving. I was impatient, unsympathetic to others’ suffering because I was in so much emotional pain. It was a horrible way to live, and I think that helps me stay committed to how I’m living now because I never want to feel that way, ever, ever again. My happiness relies on me loving others!
This is how I try to love: by letting people know I see them and appreciate them. I let them know they’re worthy of other people’s time, not by telling them but by hearing what they say and responding in a thoughtful way. I let them know they’re worthy of love, by being kind, praising their accomplishments, giving them hope. That is the gentle, nurturing kind of love that I cultivate (and sometimes achieve) in my day to day life.
But there is another part of love. This is where aparigraha comes in! Yogic wisdom through Yoga Flirt taught me that aparigraha means non-grasping or non-possessive, the exact opposite of co-dependent. The modern term in this context would be detachment. If you can love someone and still practice aparigraha, the love will flourish and grow.
I have a co-dependent streak a mile wide, which I keep a nice big fence around most of the time. That fence allows me to love you, and manage to not possess or control you. Which means that if you do not ask for advice, I will not give it to you. It means that if you ask for advice and then don’t take it, I don’t feel personally affronted. It means that you may not take advantage of me. I will lend you an ear, or my time, but probably not any money.
Aparigraha can also look like tough love, and I will explain what that means to me. It means that if you insist on making the same mistakes over and over, I will not listen to you whine about it. It means if you are digging yourself a hole you aren’t equipped to climb out of on your own, I will let you. And if you are on the floor and aren’t asking for help to get up, I will not kick you, but I will leave you there. To you it may sound cold, callous or cruel… but I’ve been those and it’s very different.
Many people think they are helping a loved one, when they are actually enabling them. Enabling is not about the person being enabled, it’s about the enabler. I have the opportunity to enable on a daily basis and I choose not to as much as possible, even though it’s way less painful for me. It’s very difficult for me to watch my loved ones suffer, but trying to fix their problems so that I can feel better is selfish, not loving at all. I let go with love, allow them to learn the lessons they are meant to learn in this lifetime, let them suffer instead of swooping in to save the day. I check my motives when I am compelled to “help” a loved one. Am I truly being of service to them, or do I lack faith that things are as they should be, am I just looking for an opportunity to play the hero, the martyr, the saint? When you love someone and they are hell bent on self-destruction, if you really want to help them, get out of their way. The sooner they hit bottom, the faster they can start to heal and recover.
This is where we re-visit Ms. Angelou’s quote. When you are practicing aparigraha while a loved one suffers, they may not appreciate what you are doing very much. But in the long run, there’s hope that the miracle of recovery happens, they realize you gave them space to find their way, and they can thank you for putting yourself through some misery so that they got to get rid of theirs. I know how grateful I am to the people who do that for me! They make me feel like I have dignity, that I’m capable of making decisions and problem-solving on my own, that I’m worthy of their love.
I want to know what you think. Remember those questions I asked in the beginning of this post, a long (winded) time ago?
I’ll end with another quote, not from a famous person but from an old recovered drug addict named Sherman. Any time he gave a talk, he’d always end it by saying:
“If nobody told you they love you today, I love you madly.”
Ok so the title of this post is not exactly poetry. But it is true! I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in a month. For a few weeks I felt so spent, I shared so much so quickly that I felt cleansed. There was so much support and a lot of you identified with what I was saying. It was awesome, I felt as though I was walking around with love wrapped around me like a warm blanket. The whole point of this blog is to get the magic that is Yoga Flirt to the masses, to let women of the world (and their men!) that there is a way to owning your femininity, your body, your self.
There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that can’t be overcome. The key to success is hope and willingness to do the work. The problem is usually that we start out with that, but can’t sustain it, and society and our egos tell us that we shouldn’t ask for help. The messages we receive saying that asking for help shows weakness, exposes us as failures, means that we are losers is a big fat lie.
You may be able to tell I feel strongly about this. It is because I have failed many times at things I really, really wanted to succeed at because I was unwilling to ask for help. Some of my faulty reasoning: “I don’t want to ask for help, because when I’m unsuccessful at my goal, everyone will know and they’ll all shame/pity/laugh at me.” “I’m not worth helping. I’ll be putting people out.” “Everyone else can do it without help, so why can’t I? I must be weak/stupid/useless.”
As ridiculous as it sounds when some one else says it, when my brain tells me those awful lies, sometimes I still believe them. If anyone talked to me like my own brain talks to me I would run away from them as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I am forced to co-habitate with my own gray matter and therefore must make peace.
The beauty of Yoga Flirt is that it gives permission to think only non-harming thoughts, to engage in self-study, practice contentment and a whole bunch more. The yogic wisdom shared at the start of every class is revolutionary for some of us!
Recently, the staff had a special photo shoot with our photographer, Debbie. She’s super amazing, if you want to check out her stuff just click here and be amazed at her gift. She has the magic in her for sure! Tell her I sent you. I don’t think it will get you a deal, but at least she’ll know how much I love her.
Debbie sent me an email saying the pictures were ready, I just had to pick my favorite five. Excited, I fled to the website, logged in and immediately deflated when I saw the pictures. I look (am) so much heavier than I’d prefer. I wasn’t really surprised by what I saw, but I was sad how hard it was to pick ones that I like because I don’t know how much I want to be reminded forever on how I look right now.
Funny, the silver lining just occurred to me which is that even though I’m not thin, I still feel sexy. And the pictures can be motivation to stay healthy, that even though they’re beautifully taken, I’m in a fun outfit and even look like I’m enjoying myself… I know I could be doing so much better, healthwise.
I think so many of us believe we’re not worth the time it takes to care for ourselves. We “let ourselves go” because we’re too busy or distracted to love ourselves enough to stay healthy, look and feel our best. I get bogged down by work. I’d rather read my book on the couch than push myself to attend classes or just go hit the treadmill. Scrolling through Facebook is more important than cultivating and maintaining the relationship I’m trying to build with you, the ones that read and support me and this blog. I’d rather watch a mindless tv show than meditate or work on my spirituality.
The irony is that when I’m doing the work on my mental, physical and spiritual state, everything else I do becomes infinitely more enjoyable. I am comfortable with people, because I am not in a state of anxiety. I am comfortable in my clothing, because it actually fits. I am comfortable in the present moment because I am connected to my higher power and I remember that all is how it should be.
Finally, I picked my 5 favorite images and sent them off to Debbie to be edited. The pictures are gorgeous of course, unfortunately I do not like what the pictures exposed about the shape of my body. I will definitely show you one or two when she gets them back to me though. The ones I picked I do truly like! Thankfully, Yoga Flirt has taught me about radical self-acceptance. Right now I’m like this, there’s no use pretending like it’s different.
And here’s the hope: I am already on a mission to get to a healthy weight. I’ve already made some progress. I have asked for help and I’m getting some! I am optimistic and dedicated to achieving a more all around healthy lifestyle. It’s not about being skinny, but being comfortable. I want to eat good food and make good choices for my physical health.
Let me know if you’re on a journey towards radical acceptance, even if it’s just that you are on a journey to get on the journey!! I want to hear what you’re doing to take care of yourself.
Last night was Level One graduation night, I can’t believe 8 weeks goes by so fast! The transformation in such a short amount of time is astonishing, and seeing an entire group of women become confident is absolutely priceless. Their revolutions and revelations bring back memories of my own experience and the remarkable changes I’ve seen in the ladies of the YF community around me over the last 4 years. They remind me why it’s so valuable to start (and then continue!) a yoga practice. The strength and resilience gained by the mind and body support the spiritual health created by a consistent use of breath and focus.
I believe that any woman would benefit from Yoga Flirt. Last night I heard the Level One graduates sharing their stories, amazed by their own boldness and bravery in the outside world after two months of class. There were hugs and promises to stay in touch, as they will have a new instructor for level two. As the last woman left the studio, she had an enormous smile on her face that was lit up from within. I had never seen that look on her face before, but I’ve seen it on many other students faces as they break through their self-consciousness and fears! The feeling I get as their instructor is completely indescribable. For me, being an instructor means I have been given the gift of learning from my students. It is truly humbling.
Come, be my teacher! Spring session Level One starts THIS THURSDAY, May 2nd at 5:45pm-7:15pm. It’s an 8 week session, and you can sign up on the Yoga Flirt website. As a little bit of incentive, I’ll give you $30 off of Level One if you sign up for the session that starts this week. There are only 5 spots left, so please let me know ASAP if you want to take advantage of the offer to ensure you get a spot. All classes max out at 12 women, to ensure enough quality time is spent with each student. If enough ladies want to take Level One when Thursday sells out, Cathy might attempt to create another time slot. I can’t guarantee it, but it’s very possible!
If you’re in the area and want to get started, please go to Facebook, like my page and private message me, or find me on Twitter and send me a private tweet. If you’re an out of town gal, do not fret… I will collaborate with Cathy to help spread the love if we can!
For Ms. Maddy Cooley and her suggestion on my Hope on Heels FB page that I talk about “the transition and evolution of (my) mindset” as I progressed through the program of Yoga Flirt. Ask and you shall receive!
As a preamble to my own experience, it should be understood that every woman has a different experience around YF, depending on where she is in her life when she starts it. I’ve seen women start believing in themselves, begin keeping the power over their lives, their selves, that they had previously chosen to give away instead. The curriculum for YF is carefully constructed to allow a woman to soften into herself, at her pace. It allows her choices, to be made in a safe, mirror free and dimly lit environment where no one is allowed to judge. The program encourages going within and allowing a little inner naughty girl to emerge if it feels good to do so.
My personal transformation and evolution was unexpected! I felt pretty spiritually grown up, with a healthy dose of humility, gratitude and a dedication to service when I moved from LA to the Central Coast in January of 2008. Thinking I would be able to make friends and find ways to stay active in my spiritual life in a reasonable amount of time, I was not prepared for the vast emotional results of a physical change of location. Things like what grocery store to shop at, where to get my hair and nails done, and which restaurants to avoid (stuff I just knew in my hometown) were more disconcerting than they probably should have been. Adding to all the change was my 6 month old marriage, and quitting my job of 13 years… I guess I should’ve known I was going to struggle as much as I did.
It was my husband’s idea to move here, so I didn’t say a whole lot to him about the isolation I felt out of concern that he might feel bad. I didn’t want to talk to my friends in LA about how I felt out of concern they may feel sorry for me (or worse, have already forgotten all about me! Absurd). I certainly did not have any local friends that I could share my feelings of alienation and homesickness. Surely you won’t be surprised that I was unable to keep up pretense for very long! A very sudden and severe panic attack hit me while I was sitting at a red light in my new little town, all turned around trying to find a local shop. Breathing was difficult, big fat tears rolled down and I just gave in to the self-pity that I had been living in for months. That forced me to face the facts… which was that I was choosing to isolate myself and needed to ask for help, and that my spiritual self was atrophying without any nourishment. Nothing was even about to get better otherwise.
Lacking friends nearby, I struck out to at least practice meditation in a group setting at a nearby yoga studio. How that turned into pole dancing has been explained in one of my first posts! Much to my surprise, the Yoga Flirt intro class I took was revolutionary for me, I knew I’d found something to love. I didn’t leave with new friends or anything but I did feel a sisterhood with the other attendees, and was so energized that I knew I dared hope I had found a little piece of salvation.
When regular class started, my particular brand of female perfectionism involves being a teacher’s pet, so if I had to let my hair down both literally and figuratively, I was gonna be the floppiest noodle in the studio. No one was going to be better than me at letting go. If that’s sounds silly, it’s because it IS. It’s hard to have an internal experience when one eye is open, making sure no one in the room looks as relaxed as you are! I was also determined to nail the warm up movements and execute them perfectly, which had a positive result of giving me a lot of strength in a relatively short period of time.
Being strong meant that I could usually execute the new moves we learned on the first or second try. When I realized that I was developing a reputation as “the strong one” I felt humbled and grateful… and also like I belonged somewhere which I wanted very much. I was a pole dancer! The loneliness I felt started to fade as I showed up in class week after week, level after level, with the same ladies. (We were a very enthusiastic class, four of us were instructors at one point or another and two of us still are, four years later!) The result of that was I came home exhausted but invigorated, ready to face the world. Yoga Flirt gave me my swag back.
The yoga wisdom lit me up spiritually, the physical activity gave me something in which to channel my restless, free-floating anxiety, and the complexity of some of the moves even fired up a neuron or two. One of my best girlfriends in LA had always talked to me about checking on the PMS list: Physical, Mental, Spiritual. As in, what did you do for your PMS today? The answer for me was that I hadn’t in a little over a year. Now that I was back to tending the proverbial garden of my existence, other life-stuff got easier to deal with and my re-awakened mind was open to possibilities outside of class.
I attended every 90 minute weekly class, I went to every extra practice I could. I got even stronger, I started developing in-studio friendships that eventually led to being invited into the lives of some of my classmates. I participated in my practice with a dedication that I can still be surprised by… but pole dancing is so freaking fun it’s addictive. I know very few women that understand the power they can, if they allow themselves, harness over their lives simply by inhabiting and owning and loving the body that they are in. My body became a symbol of my strength when I started loving it in it’s present shape and size.
I will end by sharing the biggest epiphany about my body (and your body too) that I have ever, ever had in 37 years: One night in class, a lady that our society would typically consider unattractive due to her size, got up and danced for us. She owned every single ounce of her curvy body, gyrated and crawled and spun in various states of undress without any noticeable hesitation. I saw she had a roll around her middle, and that her thighs were bigger than the girls I saw in the magazines and I didn’t even care because she looked so unbearably hot and sexy that I just knew, in that moment, I was seeing what men see every single time they look at us in an intimate setting.
As an experiment, I used my husband as an unsuspecting guinea pig. I replaced my normal sex mantra: “Thank you for being willing to overlook my hideous flaws and tolerate my naked body. I’m sorry about my (insert your main insecurity here) and am grateful you are still able to do me the favor of having sex with my obviously flawed person,” with a new one that went something like “yes I know it is hard to believe that I’m letting you touch my fiercely sexy curves, but if you worship me as I deserve I will reward you with even more of my deliciousness. You are welcome.” The results were… beyond what I had expected. And I mean that in the sexiest way possible.
Practice. Practice. A spiritual practice, a yoga practice. Same thing, when it comes down to it. Practice being imperfect, and having a sense of humor when you perceive failure. If you really want to be a better person than you are, learn to laugh at yourself more. Become an expert at it!
Recently in class I fell for the first time, I mean hit the deck hard, right on my thankfully extra squishy backside. It didn’t hurt, I was super close to the floor, plus I’m blessed with a big ole booty. As I was getting up, a gal in class said “You were laughing even as you fell,” as if she thought that was really cool. I thought back and realized she was right. On the pole, realizing a fall was imminent, I started laughing because I had managed to tangle myself up so badly! It was pretty funny, maybe you had to be there (maybe you have been there!).
Many of the people I do spiritual work with seem to think that being a grown up means that one has to take “self” very seriously. Maybe it does, and that’s why I don’t feel very “grown up.” This happens every year around my birthday: I start wondering just when I am going to stop feeling like I’m a teenager, even though I’m not sure that I even want to feel older. To me, it’s quite enough to settle for being responsible and dependable, and leave the rest of adulthood to the stodgy types.
It is said that age is a state of mind. To be honest, I don’t try that hard to be an adult about things. To me, that seems really, really boring.
Yoga Flirt helps me keep a youthful mindset. It doesn’t hurt that practicing Yoga Flirt involves swinging myself around on a vertical monkey bar!! When I first started YF, I did take it seriously. I wanted the teacher to see how wonderful my form was, how well I performed the moves. I was up in my head the whole time, paying no attention to what my body was feeling or the transformation available to me in that magical studio. While it is still tempting once in a while to compare myself to the other ladies in class, tempting to become discouraged enough to stop practicing and go find something that I can be the absolute best at immediately (HA!), I remember the yoga philosophy that I’ve learned in every level.
Thankfully the lessons in the beginning of class usually dispel that drive for perfection, shifting the focus to the practice instead. Practice doesn’t often mean perfect, but focusing on the end result takes away from the journey anyway. Another thing that seems “adult” is being results driven, disregarding the opportunities to experience what happens between setting and achieving a goal. There’s so much life that happens, while we’re waiting for results… and remembering to be present in the moment takes practice.
Practice being imperfect. Practice being quick to laugh (especially at yourself). Practice being quick to cry tears of joy or pain. Practice asking for help, admitting you don’t know everything. Practice being afraid and doing it anyway. Practice having a light heart and an open mind. Practice trusting that there is enough love, money, time in the Universe for you to get exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. Practice breathing, pausing, detaching with love. Practice yoga. Or even better, practice Yoga Flirt!
I recently visited the Yoga Flirt website to find my testimonial, written back in 2009. I had been in class with the same set of ladies through level 4, but most of the ladies I joined up with in level 5 had been in that level for a few sessions. We did the normal structure of class, with dancing at the end. It was all challenging and interesting and fun, but when the dancing started it just turned… POW!
Here’s a piece of my testimonial:
“…I attended my first level 5 class last Monday, and I could barely keep my jaw off the floor. I was so amazed and moved by the power those women had over their bodies, and it made me realize the power I had developed over mine. Not just in physical strength, but the power to own my physical beauty, my sensuality and sexuality! … I can’t describe the feeling of freedom that comes from completely letting go and finding out what happens when you don’t hold back! It can be scary, but it’s SO worth it.”
That first level 5 class has left an impression in my mind, even after all this time. Reading this testimonial back, I realize that somewhere along the line I relinquished the power I felt over my physical body. I started having severe, constant neck pain and it was so physically and emotionally exhausting that I barely had any energy for living. I became hopeless. Exercising was out of the question, but eating for comfort was easy enough. The result of that is something I’ve already shared: I’m heavier than I’ve ever been.
The good news is that I’m taking the power back. I am committed to becoming physically fit! More exercise (every time I get a chance!) and listening to my body about when it’s time to eat are the two most important actions. Slow and steady wins the race, so I’m staying off the scale for now and just doing the footwork.
Revisiting that testimonial also renewed my love of Yoga Flirt. It’s easy to forget how much my life changed that first year of pole dancing/yoga philosophy lessons, but it changed quite a bit. YF helped me deepen my spiritual life, I feel closer to the higher power that I believe in. This tells me that the divine powers that be can deliver spirituality in the most unexpected ways. It pays to have an open mind.
There are a lot of great yoga blogs, I follow some of them (see right sidebar). They know infinitely more than I do about yoga! What I do know about yoga is this: It’s not just about holding poses and all the physical benefits that one gets from consistent practice. If you dive in just a little deeper you will find that there are great suggestions on how to live a more peaceful, contented life. Who doesn’t want that?
I encourage you to check out a book about yoga at the library, ask your yoga teacher what they know, or just google yoga and get the low-down on what yoga is really about. Maybe there’s something for you, a tidbit of deep wisdom that will touch your heart, mind or soul and give you that glow that so many a yogi display. Let me know what you find!
So, where were we? Oh, yes that’s right… Possibilities, and the foundation it was built upon. Learning a new lesson each week in YF class was a great start. The information was seeping in around the edges of my life, it was effortlessly happening. It was like I had just been waiting for some one to tell me how to do what I’d wanted to do all along.
But now we’re getting back to not knowing what you don’t know that you don’t know. For instance: I had no idea that I had such a hang-up about letting myself try to look good (or even hot!). Before YF, applying make up was something I did for work or a special occasion, and I definitely didn’t go in for revealing clothes. If I did do myself up or wear something a little clingy, I was sure that people were thinking, “Why is she trying to look good? She’s obviously vain, and she’s a fraud too. She looks like a fool in that dress/skirt/eyeliner.”
WHAT? Why would a grown woman be afraid to be feminine? It has to do with my childhood, of course! I felt that drawing any attention to myself was a bad idea, because it surely was when I was a kid. My peers would make fun of me if I didn’t wear the “right” outfit, or changed my hair in an uncool way. If I wore something that showed off my body they’d say I was conceited, and that I was just trying to stick my boobs out so the boys would look. (Like that’s a bad thing?) That right there helped me develop some rotten self-esteem, believing I didn’t deserve to feel good by looking good. Baggy jeans and an extra large t-shirt were my uniform for several years.
I was at the point in my life where I would try to wear make up more often, but I avoided having any personal “style” at all costs. Then we moved away from a set dance routine in YF. I don’t want to give everything away, but we learned to freely express ourselves through movement in level four. Cathy encouraged us to wear and remove layers, stop thinking about moving and just move. She encouraged us to be our true selves, and not mimic others. Otherwise known as: having your own “style.” Since I fancy myself such a great student, I felt I should not let Cathy down. Letting my mind be led by my body was a difficult but wonderful process. I began to develop a trance-like state when I danced. Everyone in the class, teacher and students, were super complimentary and supportive when I truly let go. They could tell I was really being authentic with my dance.
And so, a personal style was born! I was once afraid, but not any more. Sure, I still have confidence issues from time to time… but for the most part, I wear what I like and if people don’t like it, well every one is entitled to their opinion.
There’s also the idea of self-expression, and being bravely authentic during the times when a woman is expected to just, well, take it like a man. Cowgirl up, you might say. I don’t fake feeling fine anymore with my true friends. On the whole, I am pretty optimistic and positive, but everyone gets her panties in a bunch from time to time! So when I do, I let people know. I will usually dance it out in class anyway.
When my precious doggie died, I danced to “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin. As the song came to an end, I just crumpled down on the floor and cried. Cathy brought me a tissue and a hug. It felt good to be so raw in such a safe place that I do it as much as I can! I find a song to match my mood and hash it out in stilettos. If you’re angry, stomping around in 6-inch heels, then taking them off and chucking them at the floor is very therapeutic. And the gals in the crowd will just hoot and holler and love you for your emotional honesty.
Emotional honesty, once experienced, can be like a drug. It feels so good to name your pain or joy when it’s safe to do so. The yoga principle for truthfulness is satya. Practicing satya in class has helped me be more honest outside of class. Come to find out, having a real feeling about something isn’t frowned upon if you’re with the right people.
Yoga Flirt has taught me that I am safe, even when I’m sexy, passionate, or even just sad. It has taught me more about finding the right people to be authentic with, and they have taught me more about finding my truth. My truth changes, and so it’s important to stay on top of it. Check my emotional temperature, if you will. A weekly class where I am asked to examine my truth gives me an opportunity to see when it changes, ask why it changed and – yes! – remember that it’s probably going to be different next week any way.
I hope you find your truth today, and that you say it out loud to some one you trust. And maybe you could share a little truth here, if you don’t mind? I’d love to hear what’s really going on.