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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.