This morning I am thinking about what we hold for each other. Specifically I am thinking of a person who is not really in my life, but whom I keep trying to bring back in for some reason. Months of no contact pass by, and then he will pop into my mind and take up residency until I reach out. And when I do it’s as if something deep inside of me that has been climbing the walls immediately settles down. I feel flummoxed by this dynamic, and also a bit powerless over it. A friend asked me, what are you outsourcing to him? For those not familiar with that term, think about it as focusing on an aspect of another person that we haven’t fully owned about ourselves. For example, a dear friend once started calling me Juicy because he thought I was so luscious, and then he realized that his attraction to that in me was his soul’s longing to fully embrace that aspect of himself. Boom. He owned it, and now we have the same nickname.
So I asked myself, what is this guy holding for me?
The answer that came was one word: limitless.
Ahhhhh yes! I see him as being powerful and smart enough to accomplish anything he sets out to do. And when I am in contact with him, I remember that aspect of myself, that limitlessness, and all old voices that say don’t get too big for your britches are instantly silenced. I embrace my inner badass and open to more possibilities and new ways of being in the world.
Wow! I appreciate my friend for embodying limitlessness and I am willing to give myself permission to own and be that too. I am willing to be my own gateway into that experience.
Is that what’s happening here? Do we all hold pieces of each other, for each other, until we are ready to take them and integrate those qualities?
Does it then follow that being your best and brightest and biggest self is literally of service to the world, because someone may see something in you and be inspired to step into that for themselves? And if we are shrinking and hiding, is it a missed opportunity for everyone involved?
Do we all hold pieces of each other, and is allowing ourselves to see and be seen part of the process of waking up to our innate wholeness?
And does the other side of that coin hold true, that if we are scared of owning that aspect of ourselves that we see in another, we may have an aversion response? I’m thinking of times I saw someone doing something I wanted to do but was too scared, and how I’ve thought of that person as egotistical or full of themselves. Whoa.
I love experiencing that we all hold each other’s light. In us are all of the potentials that exist in the universe. The more I can deeply appreciate something in you, the more I open to that same gift in myself. Your lamp lights mine, and mine lights that of another. And in this we are all the same light, same love. Perhaps that’s how the divine in each of us recognizes itself and we come to know we are not separate.
Like Neil Degrasse Tyson said, we are all star stuff. #science
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Last week I co-led my first retreat in Mexico. I am ever so grateful for these ladies, who showed up and jumped into the deep end of the pool and emerged, through their practice, in their own words, transformed.
I feel grateful for my teachers, the world’s most blissful and loving co-facilitator, Patricia, and that internal voice that tells me what to say when I’m teaching.
Today I noticed I felt a ton of appreciation for the man who served our meals, Rojelio. I have likely butchered the spelling of his name, but I hold gratitude for his essence in my heart.
There was plenty to like about this dude. Around my dad’s age, Rojelio was attentive, had a quick smile, and took photos of the sunset every night as if he would never ever tire of its beauty…it was the mark of a man who takes nothing for granted.
When he served our food he would say, in this sing-songy voice, “Enjoy it!”
It was an invitation.
I felt, in his words, the sentiment, yes this place is amazing, yes your practice is creating in you a willingness to experience your wholeness, yes this food is like a party for your mouth, yes this sunset looks like melted ice cream. Enjoy it! Revel in it! Be completely here while this is happening and don’t shut any moment of this beauty out.
I have had the sound of Rojelio saying “Enjoy it!” on repeat in my mind since the moment I left Prana del Mar. Crazy travel delay that involved being stuck on a hot plane for an hour before changing planes? Enjoy it! Revel in the connection with this older couple sitting next to me who treated me like their daughter for our whole time together. Nervous to come home to an empty house, the final stroke of divorce complete now that you live alone? Enjoy it! Go from room to room seeing the emptiness and allowing the tears to flow, feeling deeply sad but also enjoying that I now give myself the space to turn toward my experience fully. First day back at work and luxuriating in sharing ideas, laughs, and only 97 emails to answer? Enjoy it! Notice a hot man watching you walk down the street, smile as you watch him watch you, both of you cracking up because you’ve been staring at each other for much longer than is socially appropriate, and slow down just long enough to tell him he looks like Johnny Depp? ENJOY THAT!
Rojelio. Dude knew what was up. Enjoy it. All of it. Sad parts, happy parts, annoying parts, sexy parts.
On the last night, he served us ice cream in martini glasses. After he made sure we all had one, he surprised us by throwing the tray to the side with a flourish and taking the last one for himself, flopping down onto the couch next to us to enjoy the amazing pleasure of ice cream, companionship, and the sunset.
As I watched him I thought, he’s up to the same thing as us…fully being with whatever is happening. Pure presence.
This weekend, I began to love my body.
I had always been at odds with it. (IT!) In my teens and twenties I had some body dysmorphic tendencies, so whenever I looked in the mirror I hated what I saw and experienced a huge wave of judgement and confusion. I never really saw my body as a part of me that I loved. I saw it as an enemy that I had to subdue with elliptical machines and weight bearing exercise. And skipping meals. That started to change for me in my mid 20s when I found yoga, but even in those initial stages of my practice I used asana to conquer my body, to feel like I had won and was no longer at the effect of it.
That started to shift for me when I began practicing ParaYoga. Our practice has its roots in Tantra, so the worldview does not support splitting out any aspect of yourself as not being a part of the divine. I learned that everything in the universe is a manifestation of divine consciousness, and that included, to my surprise, my physical self. !!! So theoretically, at least, I stopped fighting with myself and made peace with my body. Sort of. Okay not really. It was more like a truce.
I began studying with Katie Hendricks, and that’s when my experience shifted in a more sustained way. Through her workshops and the experiences I had playing with the bodymind tools that she’d created, I came to understand that my body also had wisdom. It totally tweaked my brain to realize that if I breathed and presenced myself, an inner knowing came forth at a physical level. Rather than confuse my consciousness with my intellect, I learned that wow, that consciousness and inner knowing is everywhere and I can access it at any time. So then we, my body and me, moved from truce to appreciation. And the language gets weird here, because slowly, there was no my body and me kind of split, but just, me.
Studying Ayurveda has led me to a full out love affair. My body! Your body! How beautiful! How perfect! When you start to experience the body as comprised of elements, and that the mixture of these elements creates your constitution and that everything you eat and do and think is elemental and has an impact on how those elements show up in you….whoa! It’s all information, even bodily waste. When you scrape your tongue to remove the undigested food that sticks to the back of it, you can gauge from the color which mixture of elements is most out of balance in you. That’s nuts! This weekend at an Ayurvedic training, we learned a deeper understanding of how your food becomes your tissues, and having a picture of the sheer perfection of how digestion works was so beautiful. We learned about laws of digestion that were so perfect that I had to spend extra time in the shrine room thanking the Source of all things. Basically I should just move in there and meditate 24/7 because wow. A part of me is reading this as I write it and giggling at my childlike exuberance, thinking maybe I should be more mature about it, but thats the beauty of blogging, and I am hoping perhaps this unedited love blast will awaken in others a stirring of love for this amazing life and an interest in the science of life (Ayurveda).
That evening I watched Cosmos and Neil DeGrasse Tyson was breaking down the evolution of the human eye, and dishing on how at a basic level we all share the same DNA, even with trees, and then super casually he was like, science proves that we are all one.
Yup. Just another Sunday night, in which Science and Ayurveda and Tantra and direct experience all came together to reflect the amazing perfection that is human life. #nbd
It’s one of those moments when everything changes and also nothing. You wake up and you do your practice and morning routine and then you go into the world and try to put something good into it and then you come home and create some goodness there and then prepare to do it all again. But the *way* that you do it, when you have a newfound understanding of yourself that then extends to a newfound appreciation for those around you, that’s what makes all the difference.
I’m so happy and grateful that I get to work with people individually and in groups to teach them about how the elements show up in their body and how to care for their whole self in a way that allows them to experience the fullness of being alive.
Today I went to my friend’s father’s funeral. I felt so deeply sad for her loss, and also utterly inspired by her grace, strength, beauty, and big heart. Watching her, I was thinking, this is how you face the hardest times, full on and yet unarmored.
I didn’t know her father. But as I listened to the people who spoke about him, a picture began to form in my mind. Family members shared joyful stories, and from listening, it really landed on me that people have deeply private lives, the depths of which you have no idea. As someone who writes about my life (okay sometimes overshares), this something I forget. But as I listened to the stories, it seemed that different people held different parts of his heart. They all knew the same person, and yet they didn’t. It was such a beautiful reminder to remember that when you’re connecting with someone you’re seeing only a section of a very intricate, unique, exquisite tapestry that is the totality of their being.
Most of all, what I took from bearing witness to those stories was this:
Your legacy is the love you put into the world. The laughter you share. The intimate conversations and moments that happen between you and another. Your legacy is how you love. That’s what matters and that’s what lives on. That love is completely indestructible. That love can invite people who didn’t even know you into into its amazing goodness. Your legacy is your love. So love easily, love often, and love deeply. Be love.
Joyful death. That sounds like an oxymoron, but not really. I experience joy as the absence of resistance. If something in me is dying and ready to be released, my experience is that when I go with it, feeling all the way through the initial emotions of fear and sadness, joy arises.
On Monday, I gave myself a funeral. I gave an aspect of my personality a joyful death.
The previous day I’d received an email from a funeral home (inner skeptic looked it up and it’s a real place). The text was “We would like to express our deepest sorrow for the untimely death of your beloved friend and inform you about the life service celebration that will take place at
(Funeral home name) on February 24, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.”
Huh? When I clicked on the link that provided, it said page not found. As far as I knew, none of my friends had died. Weird.
That night I couldn’t sleep. When I finally drifted off at 3 in the morning, I had a dream that my teacher had died. Everyone was freaking out, and I felt so sad. In the dream I fell asleep, and dreamt I saw him dancing and clapping in front of a fire while drum music throbbed in the background.
When I woke up that morning, as soon as my eyes opened I was crying. Waves and waves of grief rolled through me and I felt a palpable sense of loss. I wondered if it had to do with my divorce, but the grief felt really old, like I’d been carrying it around with me for decades. The waves just kept coming and I was glad I took the time to let them.
I consider everything that happens to be a nod from the universe, so between the funeral invitation and the dream, I felt clear that something in me was dying and needed to be mourned. And also, as written in the invitation, there was the call to celebrate life.
So I did. I thought, I can free write the memorial talk for whatever is dying. I don’t even have to know what it is, I can just start writing about it. I wrote, I honor the memory of…and all of these words came pouring out. What I was dying to was a way of being that no longer served me. I died to a way of moving through the world that I had adopted long ago in order to feel safe and to receive love. And she was a beloved friend, created in my teens and a part of my personality for 20 years. Now, that way of being was no longer functional and it was time to let it go. I felt these waves of deep grief because my identity was tied up in that way of being, so letting it go felt like death. It was so ingrained in me that I felt that’s how life was. When this way of being was unconscious, that felt true. But as I’ve become more and more conscious of it, I started to see that I have a choice.
Of course I felt fear. Who will I be if I release that context and stop relating to myself and others in that habitual way? How will I be in the world if I release this way of creating separation?
The answer that came was, you won’t know until the death is complete.
I kept writing. I appreciated how this way of being had once helped me to feel safe, the lessons I’d learned, the gifts I’d received, and how the energy of those gifts could live on in ways that served.
After I finished writing, I savored the stillness. I felt like the gauze over my eyes had been cut away. I shared the experience with my amazing community of loved ones with whom I knew I could be completely raw. I appreciate their presencing and bearing witness.
It was time to call in the Tantric practices that I’ve learned from my teacher. I did an asana and mudra practice to stoke the inner fire so I could offer the entire experience to the great fire within me. Swaha! Then I did a meditation practice that dissolves the impurities in the chakras.
It was 2 pm. Time for the celebration. An old construct had died, but I was alive. I felt so light in my body, breath, and mind. What freedom! What a gift to be able to choose to die to an old way of being, and to choose to live! We are always in the cycle of creating, sustaining, dying, and to participate with it actively–what joy. To be with the not knowing what comes next and to go willingly I to that unknown. Such a Beautiful aspect of being human.
Part of the celebration was sharing with my close friends. The next was to dance to the song Angel, (which I always thought would be played at my funeral, I just didn’t think I’d be there). I adorned my toes with Ruby Red for the occasion. A death dance is a beautiful thing. It has its own natural arc from mourning to celebration.
The final stage was to treat myself to bodywork. I met an amazing practitioner who facilitated an even deeper release. There was a sweet wink from the universe at the end of that experience, when we ended up in a conversations about Tantra and the Himalayan Institute. The day had come full circle.
What are you dying to in your life right now? What way of being, what context have you been operating in that is ready to be released? What can you turn toward with love so you can experience your wholeness? What keeps you feeling fragmented and apart, that, if you faced it and acknowledged it, would be a gateway to experiencing that you are *never really* separate and apart, you just have convinced yourself otherwise? What can you die to so that you can celebrate life? How can a friendship with death serve your aliveness?
Things can be broken, and you are still whole.
Marriages. Friendships. Structures that you thought would exist for ever. The scaffolding of your life. The foundation of your self-identity. All of these things can be broken, “irrevocably” as was written on my (latest round of) divorce papers.
Aside: Who was the sadist who came up with this process by which every few months, when you think you’re at peace with it, another round of papers need to be signed and a fresh flow of grief opens up and courses through? Why keep asking, are you’re sure? Who the hell says they’re ending a marriage and then goes, nah, just kidding?
Anyhoo. Broken and whole. A marriage is broken and it is an opportunity for both people to own their wholeness. It’s the hidden gift inside the split. The chance to love and heal the parts of you that were pushed into the darkness and started clamoring for your attention with more and more insistence. A chance to say these are aspects of me but they are not me. An opportunity to see these parts without identifying with them.
When the light shines on hidden places, Healthy ways of being with yourself mix with old ways of going unconscious. Another step toward experiencing wholeness occurs as those old ways show themselves to be useless and not of service. And you forgive yourself for doing what no longer works and open a space to choose differently when the next wave comes. This thing is so messy that your perfectionist has said fuck it and in that there is a sweet release.
Permission to be has been received! You cry when you want to, laugh when you want to, meditate, take walks, dance, and also watch Netflix for an insane amount of hours and develop a symbiotic relationship with your bed and an unholy love of Skittles, and not in the fun Beyoncé and Jay-Z getting it on kind of way.
And through it all self-acceptance! You learn you are still a child of God, here for love and connection with the Source that is within you and that is you, and that is and in others, whether you are married or divorced, a mother or childless, teaching yoga or binge watching TV. Some things are broken and you are still whole.
This new life you’re building looks different when you’re creating from an experience of your wholeness and everyone else’s. There is nothing to fix. You can build what you want. ‘Cause you know it isn’t about the building. It’s about knowing who is the one who is building. And resting in Her as she builds. And now you know that the one who is building shows up as a wife and friend and lover and teacher and daughter, but she is not these roles. And your one job here is to hold Her hand and remember Her as you perform these roles, never forgetting that these things may break, but you will always be complete.
I recently found a gift. I didn’t realize I had started a second journal for the last two days in India last year. Reading one of the entries was like reading a road map for what was to come in the aftermath of that pilgrimage. I feel grateful for my teachers and my practice, which introduced me to aspects of myself I’d long forgotten.
“In the same sky, the sun is rising and the moon is setting. The crescent moon’s sliver glows–the dark side of the moon allows itself to be seen only as a silhouette. As the sun rises, red gives way to blood orange, to a sherbet mixture of orange and yellow, touch of green and the most cloudless blue.
Paradox is all around us. Sun and moon in the same sky. The mid point of the journey home.
I feel completely solid in mySelf and also completely uncertain. The context is space. The content is fixed while constantly shifting.
My inner space vastly expanded as the result of my sadhana and the relationships I cultivated on this trip. How will this increase in space support me in more fully following my dharma?”
Last night I was dancing to this Alice Coltrane song, and the dance turned into yoga postures, and the postures turned into simply observing my breath and feeling waves of ecstasy.
And I thought, I want this for everyone, this inner joy and connection to a pool of love and energy that is all of our birthright. I love teaching people how to access this state of being.
Maybe dancing to Alice doesn’t turn everyone on, but my deepest wish is that we all find what does turn us on and that we DO IT. DAILY. AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE.
A deeply connected conversation can take you there. Full on magnificent presence during a wave of emotion can take you there. A moment of awareness of that pool of love in your heart can take you there. Gazing at your beloved. Make love with, to, and in every moment.
On Friday it was 25 degrees out, and as I was getting ready to go to work I felt the strong impulse to walk. I argued with myself for a bit, too cold, too windy, 35 minutes in this weather, blah blah, blah, but the one who wanted to walk won out.
As I was crossing the bridge, my younger brother kept coming into my consciousness. Some hidden pocket of grief was rising up to be released, and waves of sadness rolled over me. Thank goodness for Eskimo hoods and freezing temperatures keeping (sane) people off the streets, which allowed my tears to flow privately.
Uncoiling within me was years and years of guilt, that he was developmentally delayed and I wasn’t. Many years of shame were coming up, shame at the difference in genetic strands that had resulted in him receiving the label “developmentally delayed” and being in special education classes, and me receiving the label “gifted” and being in weird unstructured experimental classes. I saw myself as a child, seeing his label as meaning less than, and my label as greater than. From that equation stemmed the many ways I tried to shrink myself so that we would feel equal. I saw how although as a teenager I had pushed that whole dynamic out of my consciousness, I had actually taken it into my relationships as an adult, evaluating myself and the people close to me and dimming when necessary to avoid outshining.
Each time my foot hit the pavement, it dealt a blow to that giant monument of long-held shame that was built on a fallacy. The fallacy that my brother was not whole, and neither was I. The fallacy that all brains must be made the same in order for everyone to have a fulfilled life. The fallacy that we did not each have gifts that made us unique and perfect exactly as we were. The fallacy that the label a school or society or doctor places on someone defines them. The fallacy of light and love being so scarce that one person can take more than their share.
My whole body was hot as I felt myself deepen the process of releasing these long-held beliefs.
Cat Power’s song “Graveyard” came on and I had a little giggle…perhaps this was the final death, the last gasp of those ways of thinking that hold me back.
I slowed down for last three blocks. Having left a ton of baggage behind me on Market street, I wanted to savor the lightness in my steps. I took a deep breath and forgave myself for ever seeing him as anything less than whole.
Without the haze of that shame I could feel wholeness–my brother’s and my own. It was from him that I’d learned how to give my whole being over to dancing. He is the best dancer I know, and expresses himself so completely with the way that he moves. His life is full and he is happy, with himself and with the relationships that he has created.
Without the haze of shame I could feel that inherent state of fullness that pulses through the universe and all of us. Since our natural state is full and whole, no one’s brightness can ever take away from someone else’s. There is infinite light to go around, and in fact that innate individual spark serves the universal whole.
We are all That.
In my experience, after I learn something, the universe gives me a mini test to make sure I got it. So last night I was at a party, and one person complimented my outfit and a second later my hair and I felt myself stop breathing and get that deer in headlights look I get when I’ve been noticed. At that moment, my friend said in her best high school teenager voice, Wow Nicole, you’re so pretty and popular. I said, great, now everyone hates me, and we all started cracking up and then everyone was complimenting each other and talking about how all you have to do is just say thank you. There was no greater or less than, and it turned into a great conversation, and I saw how that old story had moved from heavy to light.
Maybe you have your own story that is the giant hand holding your suspenders as you try to run forward. What’s the belief that has you jogging in place even though you are ready to move?
Take a walk on a deserted street so you can get quiet enough to look at it, feel what you feel about it, and take a step toward letting it go.