Once upon a time, I tried a radical experiment. It was inspired by a conversation I had with some one I don’t think I knew particularly well. I have no idea what I was saying but they cut me off mid-sentence to observe, in a very gentle way, that all I ever seemed to do was complain. Because I didn’t speak to this person very often, I had a moment of “you don’t know me!” but it quickly passed when I mentally ran our conversation back in my head. Yep. I had whined my way through the whole thing. I conceded their point and later solemnly vowed to myself to cease the negativity for a period of time. It wasn’t long, maybe a week or a month. You wouldn’t think that would be that big of a deal: just find positive, happy things to talk about… since I am an upbeat, optimistic type that should be a snap – right?
WRONG! Very quickly I found that I literally had nothing to say that wasn’t a grouse, lament or gripe. Entire conversations would happen in my presence without me uttering a peep. If you have ever met me, even for 5 minutes, you know that it’s impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. I can’t help it, I have a comment – witty or otherwise – for everything! But at that point I was totally stumped for what to say.
A few days in to my unexpected silence, I realized that I had been unintentionally putting a lot of negativity out in the world. This was a rude awakening as I’d started thinking of myself as a Pollyanna, with a tendency to look on the bright side and inject a can-do spirit into situations. Yet there was the evidence before me, as I could not even come up with neutral topics. A change was definitely in order. I took a solid month off from complaints, and took a good look at my conversational style.
Turns out, I was always looking to make people laugh. The easiest way to do that is to complain about a universal topic in a unique or witty way. (It’s true! Listen to your favorite comedian and you’ll see what I mean.) Making people laugh is an admirable pastime – but for me, the amount of gloom and doom I spread was not worth the chuckles I got for my running commentary of depressive thoughts. The subject of conversation didn’t have to change as much as the angle from which I approached it. I set an intention to be more positive in my speech patterns, to talk of things from a place of encouraged expectation as opposed to voicing doubt that anything could possibly go my way. More Tigger, less Eeyore.
Over the years I can tell I’ve picked up the bad habit of complaining again. I am going to set another intention to be mindful of my words. It’s not that I can’t speak of problems in my life, fears, insecurities or even worries I am having. I just have to come from a place of hope that it’s nowhere but up from here. I’m doing this for a few reasons:
1. I am dedicated to be a person that is a positive influence on the planet.
2. Words are powerful. What we say out loud is more powerful than even our thoughts, because they have an effect on other people as well as ourselves. Our words shape our reality, and I want my reality to be full of joy. And if we meet and I speak of hope and happiness, maybe it will give your reality some joy too, which increase my joy even more. Everybody wins!
3. Honestly, I care how I am perceived by others. I don’t want to be seen as a Debbie Downer! I have had such a blessed life, with far more peace than I ever thought possible. I want other people to see what miracles can occur in their lives if they put their faith in the (capital U) Universe and approach their fellows with love and compassion.
4. I am hoping you’ll join me! Let’s start a movement… What should we call it? Bliss Bunch? Serenity Society? Team Gratitude? I can’t wait to hear your name nominations! Go out and recruit others. Let’s make April a complaint free zone. Who’s with me?
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…
In my post Eternal Student, or My Story Continued I spoke more on about my spiritual journey, and said I’d elaborate in a later post. Thankfully I didn’t say when, since that was positively ages ago, dahling. The good news is I’m ready to keep going!
The introduction of the eight limbs of yoga into my life is quite a blessing. It gave me a new approach to what was a stale, patchwork way of connecting to the “capital U” Universe that I had developed in the beginning of my spiritual journey. The yamas and niyamas (two of the eight limbs of yoga, concerned with ethical practice) were juicy spiritual bits of delicious goodness! Quickly, they are as follows:
Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence
Satya ~ Truthfulness
Asteya ~ Nonstealing
Brahmacharya ~ Nonexcess
Aparigraha ~ Nonpossessiveness
Saucha ~ Purity
Santosha ~ Contentment
Tapas ~ Self-discipline
Svadhyaya ~ Self-study
Ishvara Pranidhana ~ Surrender
Now, besides the sanskrit, none of this was new to me. I know those things make everybody better humans. But I hadn’t given all of them quite the amount of attention they deserved. No, I didn’t do violence, lying or stealing – in the common sense. Yet what of my words, towards myself? Towards others? Wasn’t my smack talk, even the playful, seemingly harmless joking type, a form of violence? Didn’t I lie to myself about what I really wanted so that I could content myself with procrastination and laziness? And don’t even get me started on stealing time or emotional balance!
In the context of Yoga Flirt, where all of this was introduced to me, there was an especially large amount of work to be done on these concepts. My sensuality and sexuality were repressed and depressing. Engaging my thoughts toward a more enlightened way of viewing my body and my desires (not just in sensual/sexual ways, but life in general) brought on a sense of power beyond anything I had perceived possible.
Always a fairly non-judgmental free thinker towards others, it was quite the surprise to realize how little I applied my “live and let live” philosophy to my own wants and ideas. Lack of self-esteem restricted my ability to accept my own “stuff” as okay. I believed I was weird, and kind of sick, I “should” be better, less needy, have a firmer physique – then I would achieve worthiness. I “should” all over myself. Should is a dirty, awful, demeaning, and violent word. It implies that one’s state is imperfect, which cannot be true if everything is exactly as it should be at all times, which I truly believe is the case. If you would allow me – ahem – some unsolicited advice, I would advise you to drop that word from your vocabulary completely when speaking of yourself or others. Yes, a clock “should” tell the time. No, I should NOT have to fit into what you have decided I “should” be like in any positive or negative way.
What all this did was bring me closer to the fundamental idea that there is a greater power out in that “capital U” and it’s got everything covered. My focus became doing behaviors that felt divinely right within my soul. It’s not easy, it takes practice and looking like a total idiot from time to time in the beginning. It’s worth it though, when other people’s opinions (yes, even your mother’s!) start mattering less than the internal gauge that we all have buried somewhere in our hearts and minds. Taking some time to study yoga aids in uncovering that gauge, the one that we all cover up with old ideas, fear, and the big noisy distracting world around us.
I admit, it’s easier to just float along on the surface of life or create an inflexible goal to fixate on. But if you want to be truly happy, joyous and free – it requires a whole other set of rules. I invite you to grab a spiritual mentor that you trust, that exhibits the kinds of behavior that you wish you could – and ask them how they found all that good stuff. Who do you know that is almost always smiling or putting a positive spin on a possible problem? Who would you let hold your briefcase with $1000 in it for a month? Who would you trust to tell your secret dreams to, that wouldn’t judge or laugh but encourage you to pursue them?
If you don’t know people like this, that might be step one. Just an idea.
As always, I love your feedback. Commentary or sharing your own experience is always welcome!
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
With this blog, I am endeavoring to follow the guidance of the (capital U) Universe, and now appears to be the time where I back things up a bit. Before I start I want to say that I have been through years of therapy and spiritual recovery, and the way I feel about my circumstances in life is decidedly not how I have always felt. In fact, if you told me ten or fifteen years ago that I would feel the way I do… I would have been highly skeptical of your sanity. I wouldn’t have believed that the peace of true forgiveness would ever, ever, ever be available to me. So I know how I sound to you, if perhaps you had a similiar (read: not so great) start to life.
The details are not particularly important, I know there’s all types of suffering that children go through on a daily basis. What I will say is that bits of my story are hard for me to believe sometimes when I relate them to others, even now. Or especially now, I’m not sure which. A not-so-surprising fact is that much of my childhood memories are gone. I remember enough to relate my story to women (and an occasional man, when I speak at a public level) that have suffered from the same loneliness and isolation that seems to go hand in hand with abuse of any kind, at any age, any stage of life.
I also must be sure to say my youth was not a crapfest 100% of the time. I particularly treasure the time I spent with my cousins. (Kristina, Danah, Kim and Pete – thank you for your wildly different personalities and all the love and fun of those summers we spent by various pools, sans parents. Ironically, I think we all were safest when we were together in our world, isolated from our ill- equipped guardians for long, sunny, heavily chlorinated periods of time.) Just like me, they were forced out of true childhood – extremely quickly! – and true to our diverse characters, we all managed in our own ways…
Reading this post back, I realize now is the time where I give you a disclaimer: Because my faith tells me that I’m meant to tell my story in order to help others be free of theirs, I am about to lay some heavy stuff on you. Feel free to stop here if you’re not in the mood to follow me down the rabbit hole.
I’ve been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from my early years. You may (but hopefully not) be able to relate to the feeling that danger could appear at any moment, from any direction, and that letting your guard down was just a guarantee that it was only going to be that much worse when you remembered why you had it up in the first place.
Regardless of what was happening to my physical body or my young spirit, I was dealing with a third antagonist in the form of my own mind. I felt shame and disgust toward myself. I had no trouble making friends with kids my own age, but I lived in fear that they would find out the “truth about me” which would obviously repel them. And then they would tell everyone else and the whole world would know how awful I was, and I would be abandoned and no one would ever love me. As melodramatic as it is, I know a lot of people that have dealt with this fear.
So that is how I used to live, nay, survive. I was pretty sure everybody knew stuff I didn’t about life and how to live it. Confused and unable to ask for help, I fumbled along the best I could. I had always learned to take what life gave, grin and bear it… yet deep inside I held a seed of hope. A secular upbringing didn’t prevent me from believing that there was “something out there.” It never occurred to me that I could make a conscious contact with that higher power, or that I could put my faith in it. Still, I never gave up that seed of hope for a true life, one where I felt okay.
Whenever I think back to my younger self, I take a moment to send her love and a message of hope, reassurance that she is going to find a solution to the problem that is her life. I promise her that if she just holds on, great things are coming her way in the form of unconditional acceptance, peace and safety. Who knows? Maybe that’s why I was willing to continue to struggle through. I like to think so, and the fact that I’m able to honestly assure my past self of her happy and secure future makes my heart swell with gratitude.
I’m so proud of that scared and strange girl that I used to be. She was tougher than she thought, she worked harder than she believed she could and she got better, in spite of her fears and doubts to the contrary.
Today, I truly believe that my experience was given to me by divine intention, so that I could bear witness to what can happen through faith and perseverance. Admitting that I needed help (and gathering the courage to ask for it!) was the beginning of a lifetime process of attempting to become the best human I possibly can. If just one person that reads this post starts to trust in their own ability to truly be free, then it was all worth it.
I do not remember how many other women were in the Yoga Flirt intro class in April 2009. I think it was held during the day but I’m not certain. I don’t recall much about what happened or how I felt during the warm up. It was such an internal experience that none of the outside happenings mattered! I don’t even know when my skepticism turned into certainty that, regardless of how others might perceive it, I was going to pole dance at any and every opportunity I got. I had no idea at the time that my passion to fly was going to be so insatiable.
I took a Saturday morning 6-week long level one session with Cathy, and met some gals in that class to bond with. There are three other gals I remember because they were at the same level of obsession that I was. Class was held late mornings on Saturday in the springtime, but the room being flooded with daylight didn’t stop us from diving in and giving it our all!
I had no doubt I’d be continuing on, but the prospect of the short shorts suggested for level two gave me serious anxiety because, since adolescence, I had issues with exposing my thighs and rump in public. I was that girl with the surfer trunks at the pool. Suddenly, I was confronted with the fear that had prevented me from wearing women’s bikini bottoms in public in my adult life. Not only was I going to be wearing short shorts, in full daylight, in front of women that I had grown to like, I was going to have to move around in them. There was going to be jiggling and cellulite, and as the ladies in class saw it they were going to reject me for being imperfect. I just knew that was the truth.
Thankfully, Cathy dispelled the fear with a small anatomy lesson and a large dose of empathy. She shared her own story and assured us that all of us were worried about our own tushes too much to think about anyone else’s. It was like magic. And you’ll never catch me in men’s swimming trunks again. I have bought bikini bottoms every summer since then!
Wouldn’t you know it, the first day of wearing those short shorts, we cheered each other even louder. We all knew how much courage it had taken us to step into vulnerability like that… it was a celebration of being loved despite perceived imperfection and (maybe just a little) thumbing our nose at the society that had told us we weren’t flawless enough to wear those short shorts.
Today those shorts represent a lot of things. (I am suddenly, unexpectedly tearing up right now… a mixture of relief and gratitude) They are faded from black to a dark gray now, from so much use and washing. It just occured to me that I’ll never get rid of them, just as I typed the first sentence of this paragraph. Because they mean faith. They mean hope. They mean I pole dance. They mean acceptance. They mean female solidarity, breaking “the rules” and being fiercely, rebelliously okay with ourselves exactly how we are right now. They mean yoga, in the true sense of the word. My spirit, your spirit and The Spirit.
I think that’s enough for today… Namaste for now.