I want to love and forgive as I imagine my higher power loves and forgives – in my belief that means everyone deserves both love and forgiveness in equal amounts. My biggest struggle in that goal is loving and forgiving the people in the world that have hateful or naive ideas about the safety, respect and freedom of others. I don’t have a lot of interest in politics or the religious debate. I avoid discussion on those topics, as I don’t believe most (myself included) have enough real information to form a cogent argument. Heartfelt and logical discussion? Possibly. Informed and educated exchange? Most likely no. When these topics come up I usually find something else to do, to avoid being drawn into negativity when I hear hatred or regurgitated dogma.
The point of this topic is that lately I have been finding myself concerned that I will run across hatred on my personal Facebook page. I have close to 500 FB friends, obviously I am not close to all of them and therefore do not necessarily know if their beliefs align in Universal love and forgiveness. I try to be truly open-minded and not dismiss out of hand anything that has a logical or heartfelt basis – I even understand the “my religion is the only right one” stance or the “my lifestyle is the only proper lifestyle” idea. It makes sense that one would choose the ideals that embody goodness in one’s mind. There are a lot of philosophies out there but rarely do I meet people embracing hypocrisy as a way of life.
There is a certain topic in particular that I have been fearful of seeing under fire on my personal FB feed, but I’d like to avoid moral, political or religious specifics here and just talk about my personal struggle with executing my own belief system in the light of other people’s hatred or naively formed opinion.
Let’s say that I have a personal affinity and an affection for men and women that, for vital nutritional reasons, must eat raw onions – we’ll them “Raw’rs”. If they don’t eat raw onions, they can become very ill to the point of hospitalization or perhaps death. I grew up around quite a few Raw’rs, and they weren’t seen as special or different – they were just people. They would eat raw onions right in front of my family without any apology or hesitation! In public they were more hesitant to eat their raw onions, because some people would get upset about it. I was taught that those upset people were special and different in a negative way, but that they weren’t necessarily bad people either.
The people that got upset about public raw onion eating thought that the Raw’rs were different, perhaps a lesser type of human since they had a different nutritional needs than “normal people.” Since “Normals” found the smell and sight of raw onion eating offensive and wrong, they expected Raw’rs to do it in private or utilize nutritional alternatives that science had found. The Normals thought the Raw’rs were making a choice, that they liked eating raw onions all the time and ignored the alternatives because they were morally or mentally ill. Soon there was political involvement regarding the rights of Raw’rs to be able to eat in public. Some states had to actually create a law allowing Raw’rs to eat in public!
When I was younger I hung with a Raw’r crowd. I even tried a raw onion diet for a while, but realized I didn’t have those nutritional needs and went back to Normal eating after a few years. During those few years I saw firsthand the treatment that Raw’rs received, the looks, the stigma – the embarrassment they felt for being themselves in public. Because of the hatred directed at them, most Raw’rs learned to be open-minded. I found that attractive. I also found that the Raw’rs from my childhood were some of the physically and emotionally safest people to be around. Normals in my life hurt me, but a Raw’r never did. Quite the opposite! Even with their differences in behavior, they were role models in how to live love and be family, because they had felt the hatred of strangers their whole lives and realized the vital importance of the acceptance of family and friends.
I think this is a good way to illustrate the weirdness surrounding bigotry and hatred. There’s an argument that the smell of raw onions can be a bit strong outside of a kitchen. The thought of someone biting into a raw onion like an apple literally nauseates me! Ugh! So couldn’t we make a point that Raw’rs should be treated differently in order to not offend the Normals? I think it’s ridiculous to put humans into pigeonholes that limit or expand their freedoms, but I invite you to use this example to explore your own ideas about race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, breastfeeding in public, vegans, hunters… sub yourself in as a Normal and ponder what you’d fill in for the Raw’rs. This has been a good exercise for me in exploring where my close-mindedness and fear manifest in relation to different cultures and lifestyles. I want to be 100% open-minded, even to those that don’t want to be – or can’t be.
I wish I always behaved like everyone is equal, deserving of love and respect in the same amounts as everyone else – in the same amounts I yearn for in my heart. I’m a work in progress, and I hope you are too.
In my experience, we humans tend to think we are extremely unique in our thoughts and feelings: “no one thinks these crazy thoughts like I do” or “no one has this much hurt/shame/guilt/fear in their hearts” or “it’s hard for others to understand me because I am so much more intelligent than almost everyone else ever” etc.
While I’ll agree that everyone has something to offer this world, and every person is a child of (enter deity here), worthy of love and respect… I’m convinced that we are having a collective experience that becomes meaningful only when it’s shared among us. What that has to mean then, is that we have to be having the same experiences or no one would be able to exercise their empathy and emotional understanding. In other words, no one could relate to anyone else.
There is a phrase I have heard tossed around called “terminal uniqueness” which refers to people that are in a place where they’d rather literally die than be willing to accept help or guidance. Having once suffered from this condition myself, I can definitively say two things: 1. it is absolutely the most awful feeling when you believe you’re experiencing stuff no one else has ever felt or done – anywhere you go, anything you do, no one can help you, understand you or even forgive you for your thoughts, feelings, actions. 2. THERE IS A CURE.
Because the illness exists solely in your head, as soon as you are ready to be cured – poof! – you are miraculously able to begin the healing, grow, and most importantly help other people do the same. My experience with overcoming terminal uniqueness is the same as everyone else’s experience. (See what I did there?!) I needed loving guidance toward the new idea that I while I may be very special in my own way like my momma told me I am – I am not, in fact, experiencing my life differently than any human that has ever existed on the planet. I’m not a new breed of human and therefore my limitations are within the realm of human experience. In other words I was basically told, “Sweetie, get over yourself” and then comforted as the shock of realization hit me. They were indeed correct in what only moments ago I had thought obnoxious, presumptuous and downright rude.
The most painful part in this epiphany for me was the torrential rush of hope I felt as this new reality sank in. If I am understandable, if I am one among many, if my thoughts, feelings and actions aren’t despicably inhuman or inexplicably disgusting then some one, somewhere can help me. If I can be helped, then life might not be so isolated and painful. If life isn’t so isolated, so painful – then, just maybe, I can be free. I didn’t dare hope too hard right away. I had had hope before, only to have it be crushed by people in just as much pain and ill circumstance… so I was still afraid that this relief was fleeting. Freedom seems impossible when our captor appears invincible. Realizing that what is holding you back are your old ideas and thoughts (either fed to you or made up by you to survive your environment) and not any outside force, can give you courage to fight for that freedom, for inner peace, for a chance for true happiness.
Since discovering I am just like everyone else, I have found other people walking around with that same horrible mix of grandiosity and utter shame of terminal uniqueness. I’ve seen people die from it. It’s a terrible tragedy to see life end for no other reason than we couldn’t help them see how ordinary their problems are. Sometimes people have had their hope crushed so many times they simply can’t allow themselves any hope at all.
I hope this post encourages you to either ask for help, or offer it, depending where you are on your journey. Here are some of the phrases that helped me to become one among many, though they may seem harsh they were all delivered in pure love:
“Get over yourself sweetie”
“You can’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before, but I encourage you to try.”
“You haven’t done anything we didn’t already do… Twice. While naked.”
“Sorry, you’re just not that special.”
“Of course you punched her/pooped your pants/cried for three days/etc. I would have done the same thing in your shoes.”
“We will love you til you can love yourself. Go ahead and act a fool. We’ll still be here when you wear yourself out.”
“Don’t leave before the miracle happens.”
What they didn’t tell me is that the miracle was me feeling like I belonged somewhere – right here, on Earth, with you. My spot was reserved at birth, and no actions I took or thoughts I had could remove it. The same is true for every single person. Sorry, you’re just not that special…
I had no intention of abandoning Hope on Heels for so long, as all of the positive feedback (both internal and external) let me know I was doing something right. Something good for my soul, that connected me to the souls of others.
So what happened? I always found myself too busy, too tired, too pained, too hyper, too distracted to blog. Introspection is scary, especially when there’s a lot of “stuff” going on. When I have “stuff” going on, I tend to get very busy. It’s not all bad activity – quite the contrary! I work out and help people and chop veggies and read books and do puzzles and visit friends and get organized and… well, you get it. I’ll sleep, breathe and think about what’s really going on later. As in, not now… or now… or even now!
Taking time for a long, deep soul searching is not on the agenda for most folks, but I don’t have the luxury of not examining my resentments, fears, and faults. Svadhyaya, meaning self-study in Sanskrit, is my ticket to mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom. Without this self-study, I become obsessed with the idea that something external will fix my problem. Perhaps a pair of shoes or a phone upgrade will relieve me of my suffering? Nothing on the TV or interwebs remind me to practice prayer and meditation, for those particular solutions are kept in a dark, dusty corner of our societal tool shed – if they are in there at all!
So with no introspection, no blog. This isn’t an awesome recipe or crafting blog – it’s about my truth and connecting with others. No one wants to read my to-do lists, not even ME.
Also involved with not blogging is an element of punishment. I enjoy writing so denying myself the pleasure is a form of self-flagellation: “Bad girl, you’re suffering! That must mean you’re imperfect, a condition that needs immediate correction. No writing or true enjoyment for you until you return to an unattainably, unsustainably perfect way of being.” You can probably see where this line of thinking gets me. I’m not claiming to be rational – quite the opposite – but this is where I go when I am afraid.
And I’m only afraid like that when I forget that I am a woman of faith today, that I have tools to bring me back to center. Like practicing yoga through the “other” non- physical limbs of yoga, mostly the yamas and niyamas, with my primary focus on ahimsa (non-violence AKA not beating myself up) and santosha (contentment AKA accepting my self in my current, divine state). For a few reasons I am not engaging in asana (yoga “poses”) right now… but doing yoga off the mat is an entirely different post. A post that I hope you will see fairly soon.
Unlike many people I have a whole tool shed full of spiritual solutions that I have received through friends, mentors, students, therapists and good books. My gratitude for that can’t go unstated. No matter how far I’m willing to wade out into my pool of misery, I know that there’s always a warm and fuzzy answer waiting back on the shore. So here I am, all wrapped up and finally, finally back to connecting with you.
I want to say that I thank you for your support during this period of radio silence. I still felt you all there even while I was away and it gave me strength to do what needed to get done to find my way back here with truth and authenticity. And if I wasn’t going to be real, there was NO WAY I would be able to blog. I have no interest in transmitting my suffering to y’all, only to offer my personal experiences and the solutions to my challenges that I may help you with yours or simply assure you you’re not fumbling alone in the dark through this big Universe.
Over the last decade I have come to understand that I am not defined by what I do to pay bills. It was a difficult lesson! Both pride in my work ethic and having been with the same company my entire adult life made it hard to grasp the concept that I am not my job! What I know now is that ego about my work ethic says a lot more about me than what I am actually employed to do. Not working is usually fairly difficult for me, and I know because I have been through disability before and struggled with feelings of guilt and uselessness for not being at work.
The moment I made the decision that I was unable to work, as described in my last post, I was certain that I was doing the wrong thing. Right before I made the decision I was sure… but then my old buddy Self-Doubt showed up to create fear. I filed my disability claim and immediately decided I wasn’t that bad and should just cancel it, suck it up. Just go back to work.
The great news is that always happens when I need to take disability time off, or even when I just call in sick for a day, yet I can’t recall a time where I’ve EVER looked back and regretted calling out of work. So I just waited that BS out and went to the doctor to get the paperwork done.
I am feeling a lot of fear lately about work. Honestly, and this is the first time in my life I’ve even considered this as a possibility, I am unsure that I will ever again be able to work at my current job. So I looked at the five kleshas in yoga, to see if I could pinpoint the particular one I’m most affected by on this issue. I thought it might help if could concentrate on the particular branch of fear I was hanging out on. Unfortunately I think it’s the trunk of the affliction tree… avidya or ignorance. I like the Wikipedia definition:
avidya: ignorance in the form of a misapprehension about reality
When I express my fear out loud I am quickly assured by all that I am wrong, that I will go back and be just as kick ass as before. That fear is just a feeling I’m having, and feelings aren’t facts. Feelings can change any time, are often wrong, and can cause indulgent or poor decisions to be made. This fear feels very real though I’m fairly sure it’s a lie, and the solution is waiting to see what actually happens, as opposed to creating that reality or worrying myself to death about it.
For now, I’m doing the work to take care of my physical body, my emotional state and my spiritual connection. I’m focusing on the present and what I can do to be the best Angela today. Which means the more frightened I get, the more I focus on the immediate. I do what I can in the moment to be present for what I am being offered in that moment. It’s making for a very small world lately, but that practice has allowed me to mostly stay focused on joy despite my constant discomfort.
What a gift!
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.
This blog was given permission to be born by my Social Media Marketing class. The thought of blogging again had started up recently, but I was afraid that people might think I was some kind of hotshot for doing so. It doesn’t make sense when it gets written down, but it felt real enough in my brain. I am highly susceptible to my own nonsense. You might know what I mean.
At any rate, the assignment in class was to create two business/blog ideas and I immediately came up with both. In fact, it was a bit surprising what came out! The first thing I thought was that I would like to promote my good friend’s business (Yoga Flirt) on as wide a platform as possible. The second, surprising idea was that I would like to be a life coach. The former idea is happening right now!! The latter, however, may or may not ever come to fruition, which is totally fine.
Just putting my desire to life coach into the universe is good enough for me, for now. I love helping people, love seeing people recover from a hopeless state of mind and/or body and become a shining example of the Grace in our Universe. If I could earn a living doing something that I love that much, it would be another dream come true for me. How exciting to think of! I hope you visualize your dreams, knowing that it’s completely possible for them to come true if you allow them to!
The first paragraph of this post brought up one of my many fears, fear of rejection. So many people I know (and more that I don’t!) live in this frightened space. The worst part is that usually we end up rejecting ourselves, our dreams, our wants, first so that no one else can do it. That’s enough out of me. I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom, which we all would do well to say to ourselves first thing every morning!
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky, hockey great