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Car Parking in 3 acts

1.
Yesterday I was walking home from work and I saw a man sitting in a chair on the street in a large space between between two cars. I started laughing and he smiled. The saving of a parking spot with a solo chair–This is wintertime behavior in South Philly usually done by those who dug out a spot and don’t want anyone else to use it. Yet here he was, dead of summer, saving a spot, with the flourish of sitting in the chair and typing on his laptop. I pulled my ear buds out, still laughing, and started to speak. The man, said, you do what you gotta do. I said, well okay then, and he repeated, you do what you gotta do.
2.
As I walked to dinner with a friend, we saw the man again. Her response–what the?!–and I said, there goes my dinner story, I was going to tell you about this guy. As we neared him, I noticed he had put on a rain jacket. The laptop was gone but he was still sitting in the same chair. Still doing what you’ve got to do? I asked. Yup. My friend asked him if he was waiting for someone and whether he was coming or going. He said he was expecting an arrival. We wished him luck and kept going.
3.
We are eating dinner at Indian Restaurant and a happy group walks in. I hear one person say to the waiter, I’ve been living in the woods for a few months and just got back today. This is where I wanted to have my first meal. I thought, how sweet. Then the group was seated near us and I heard someone say, this is who I was waiting for. It was the man who had been sitting outside for hours in the sun and in the rain. He’d been waiting for his son to come home.

I felt touched by this series of events. His spot saving was a beautiful act of love. I wondered if his son knew what went into that sweet ass parking spot that was waiting for him when he got home.

I was reminded of the value of curiosity and its role in context. Since I was walking down the street, his behavior sparked my curiosity, and the whole thing was funny and interesting, Had I been driving, I might’ve just thought he was an asshole for saving a spot, and driven by him in annoyance. What other opportunities arise for meeting the current situation with curiosity?

I think that we are always being shown things. There are lessons to be observed around every corner. I appreciate having the luxury to notice.

Ultimate badassery

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I keep a running list of people I think are Ultimate Badasses. I call them into my mind when I lose touch with my own badassery and I need of a little bit of a reminder of that fire that is in all of us. Yesterday I met a chick so cool that I walked up to her afterward and told her I thought she was the most badass lady I’ve met in years and I kind of wanted to get a tattoo of her. We started cracking up and had an awesome conversation about her latest adventures in badassness, which was raising her two children.

Martha Curtis is a violinist–an unlikely one because she has epilepsy and had such intense seizures that she would be playing the violin on stage one minute, and come to later behind stage with someone asking her if she was alright. She had them since she was a child, and when her mother realized this condition would affect the rest of her life, she did what my dad would call “put some shit in the game.” Rather than build a protective wall around her Martha and see her condition as something that limited her, she introduced her to music, and the violin became the way she experienced herself as limitless.

Here is some 60 minutes footage that tells Martha’s story, if you are interested. http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/martha-curtis-story/

She came to give a talk at my job yesterday (NBME gets cooler and cooler to work at every day), and she wowed us all. The things I took from her story will inspire me for years.

Badass trait number 1: She played through her fear.

The way she knew a seizure was coming was that she would get a sense of fear that something was coming to kill her. Sometimes this would come and she’d play her violin and the feeling would dissipate. Other times the aura would come and would lead to a seizure. Regardless, she played her violin. The location of the lesion causing her seizures was in her amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain. This just amazed me. We all get scared, for reasons real, and sometimes imagined. This woman had a physiologic event putting her into a deep fear state most of the time, and she still chose to do what she loved, to do what she felt she was here to do, in the face of that fear.

Badass trait number 2: She chose to thrive rather than survive.

Yesterday during her talk Martha said something to the effect of, I wanted to have the life that I desired. Then she played some Bach that she said for her represented the intensity of desire. She wanted that life, she wanted to be able to play her violin uninterrupted, so she had a surgery that removed a huge portion of her brain, with no guarantee that she would be able to play music again after the surgery. Ultimately she went through numerous surgeries that were painful and scary. But rather than live a limited life, she stepped into that fire, even giving her doctors pep talks when they were scared to operate on her. She knew what her purpose was, she knew what made her feel alive, and she did what she needed to do to have it, against many odds. As I listened to her,  I thought about how easy it would’ve been to just exist, to be happy that the meds let her do some of the things that she wanted, and to just get by. But that pulsation of desire was her guiding force and she followed it until the last surgery, which left her in a state where she could be seizure free with medication.

Badass trait number 3: Once she had what she called “uninterrupted consciousness,” she saw it as just more time for badassery.

To me this was the coolest part, that she once she had “uninterrupted consciousness” she realized people have a lot of time on their hands. It reminded me of Kathlyn Hendricks, who once asked someone in a workshop, after helping her unwind a pattern that had been consuming a lot of her energy, what are you going to do with all your spare time?

Hearing that term “uninterrupted consciousness” made me realize, wow, I take that for granted. The fact that my experience of being conscious is sustained from waking up to going to bed…it never occurred to me that everyone doesn’t have that experience. How am I using my time? I asked Martha, once you had uninterrupted consciousness, how did you use it, and did you ever start to take it for granted like the rest of us? She talked about how she practiced constantly and played as much as she could, and she gave talks, and provided mentoring and feedback to people with epilepsy and their family members, and she mothered her children, and was heavily involved in their education and her own medical care. What a clarion call to use your time wisely.

Badass Trait number 4: Positive relationship with herself

Martha said she would talk to herself in the mirror and let herself know she could do it. She could play in the face of possibly having a seizure, she could play if the aura of fear started, she could get up and play again after the seizure was over. She was her own best friend, her own cheerleading squad, her own motivator. She did have friends, and family, and all were supportive but she also understood that she needed to show up for herself. It was a great reminder that we all stand on the shoulders of giants, that all success is intertwined with the love that we share with friends and family. But without cultivating a positive, supportive, and loving relationship with ourselves, we will be hard pressed to thrive, to create the life we want, to use our time in ways that serve us, and to presence our fear while having the strength to move through it.

I really appreciated Martha’s sharing her story. I’m sure at some point she had a dark night of the soul, as we all do. Her path was not easy. But the level of resiliency she showed was amazing and inspiring. Her violin playing brought tears to my eyes and was a beautiful reminder to practice what you love and then practice it some more.

 

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When I got invited to a floatation spa my immediate thought was, I’ll try anything once. Floating naked in a tank of salt water surrounded by darkness for 90 minutes? Sign me up! I imagined it would be relaxing, and perhaps I’d get some meditation in and have a nice dinner afterward.
It was more than that, to say the least.
Before you get into the tank, you shower and wash your hair. At first I thought, yes that makes sense, you wouldn’t want to be lying in a pool of makeup and hair conditioner. But as I showered, the experience was more like a ritual bath, the way that you bathe yourself to prepare for entering sacred space.
I felt a bit anxious. Sometimes my childhood fear of the dark rears its head and the idea of being in a dark metal box was definitely triggering that fear. Luckily, an orb of light is provided, so after I opened the door to the tank, I used the light to get familiar with my surroundings. The tank, which I estimated at about five feet across and eight feet long, appeared to have about a foot of water in it. I shined the light into the water, generally checking for bugs or bogeymen. Neither had taken up residence so I stepped in, sat down, closed the door, and turned off the light.
It was cave dark. Eyes open or eyes shut–it made no difference. I laid down. The front desk person had said to steady myself by putting my hands out to either side of the tank, and then once I felt still, slowly draw my hands by my side so I wouldn’t spin around or keep knocking into the sides of the tank.
Done.
Except, my entire body was contracted, as if I thought the more I squeezed myself in, the safer I would be. This was supposed to be relaxing? My neck and shoulders started to hurt and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able keep trying feel like I was in control by staying tense.
Just like in an asana, when I notice muscle tension, I brought my awareness to that place and sent my breath there. A slight release. Systematically I rotated my mind to different parts of my body, inviting them to relax.
Once I let the water hold me and stopped trying to hold myself up, the first wave of tears came. It is exquisitely sad and somewhat beautiful to cry in a sensory deprivation tank. You have ear plugs in, so the sounds inside of your body are magnified and the sounds outside are muffled. Your attention can go nowhere but your experience of that particular moment. And so when grief arises, stories also arise of all the times you felt you had to hold yourself up, or all the times you didn’t trust or know how to relax into support, or the times you relaxed and were disappointed, your full awareness is on those feelings. There’s no cell phone, no television, no book, no task so take you away from fully riding that wave of sadness. You are in it, you are fully facing it, you are fully feeling it. And because of that full presence, you are there when it ends.
Amazing.
As a life coach, I invite people to presence their feelings and I let them know the pure feeling lasts a few seconds but it’s the story about the feeling that we get stuck in. And I have had that experience and know it to be true.
So as I cried, the stories came up, and I entertained them for a while, and then brought my awareness back to the pure sensation. Chest hurting and moving from crying, lump in my throat, tightness in my belly–all of these were present and there for me to feel, and I felt them until they weren’t there anymore.
Then something else emerged.
A general sense of well being infused my body. I relaxed even more. The stories were gone, the sadness was gone, and I felt peaceful. I felt kind of a light buzzing across my entire body, and then some of my favorite chants started to march across my mind and I enjoyed that for a while.
I relaxed more deeply. Now the water was kind of cupping my face, like a mother’s hands. And I was fully supported, not sinking. This brought another wave of sadness and that flowed through. The water started to feel different, like warm hands were holding me. It was delicious. I felt safe and trustful like there was no part of me that needed protection because I was completely fine. I felt a sense of love, as though I was being loved very much and completely unconditionally. There was a shimmery sense of light at the top of my head. I kept feeling this amazing full body sense of love, and then the thought/message entered my head, “You are always surrounded by this love, you are always floating in a pool of love. This is what you are.”
I was experiencing an internal light show of delicious sensations, fully permeated by the experience of love being everywhere within me and outside of me.
The intensity subsided, but the message stayed with me. At some point drumming started and I thought it was time to get out, so I emerged. Turns out it was just a dude on his drums, so I got a free float that day. Woot!
I have come back to the experience many times in the days since. Are we floating in a pool of love at all times? Are our thoughts and behaviors and habits and stories the things that keep us from feeling that love?
Over the last few days I have seen how I impose a certain belief on situations that are completely empty of that belief, and that by my imposition, it starts to look exactly like that belief.
I’m in the question right now, are you willing to stop seeing yourself, and others, and the world in ways that cause you pain? Are you willing to see something different?
Yesterday I took the picture of above to remind myself of that. There are flowers and there are dead leaves underneath. I really saw, in that experience, that it wasn’t about noticing only the flowers and pretending not to see the dead leaves. My grief in that experience was just as deep as the joy that came after.
To me this photo captures the love underneath all of it…the love of life inherent in those flowers as they push through the cold earth to shine, and the loving way those dead leaves let go of life so the earth can rest up before the new life comes through. And also the constant state of love that sustains the entire cycle.
Floating was essentially meditating in water. All roads lead back to making time to get quiet and turn inward, touching that stillness to be reminded of and to make contact with the source of life.

What can you claim today?

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At some point(s) in my life I was or had been accused of being A Bossy Know-It-All.
Shudder.
And we all know that no one likes a Bossy Know-It-All.
As I write that, I feel a wave of anger at the social constructs that contribute to a woman’s cutting off of her own voice, inner knowing, and power. (And yes, I know that there are social constructs that cut men off from the fullness of their power as well, in different ways.)
No one in my life would call me a shrinking violet, that’s for sure. And yet there is still some measure of holding back, or of sharing things “just so” and expending a lot of energy managing my expression so no one can accuse me of being a bossy know it all.
So here I am now, claiming my bossy know it all. By claiming her, I absorb her qualities back into my essence, rather than limiting them or making myself wrong for having certain characteristics.
Her power comes from full, frank, direct communication sourced in knowledge that has been distilled into wisdom.
She is not ruled by a need to be liked and accepted. Her measuring stick is whether what she expresses is of service to the highest good for all involved while honoring the ancient teachings.
There is strength in gentleness. And she can also kick some ass when she needs to, as fire can nurture, like a hearth, or burn down whatever no longer serves.
To what false idols/beliefs/social and familial constructs have you given some measure of your power?
What is in you that you’ve given away that you can choose to claim today?

PS. Today I’m appreciating my friend Danielle, who asked me to take a look at her new website. It had the word “claim” in the title, and when I woke up this morning it appeared I had claimed a formerly disinherited aspect of myself in my sleep!

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Last night I cooked a gourmet meal.
Huh?
If you know me I am usually not one for cooking. I have done it out of necessity but it has never been fun for me. And with a mind full of self judgement and criticism about my abilities in the kitchen, it makes sense that it would be the last place I want to be.
Writing that just now, I felt a wave of compassion for myself. Between constantly evaluating myself and looking to see if others are judging my cooking or don’t like it, of course it has felt like a landmine.
This year I decided to rewrite that story. The reasons were many. It’s hard to eat in a way that feels healthy and enlivening when I eat out a lot. Feeding yourself is nourishing, it’s a form of self love, and outsourcing that to any number of amazing restaurants, while fun, is skipping over an opportunity for nurturing–for me, in this stage of my life. (No judgement if you never step foot in your kitchen. This is just my journey.)
Most importantly, it felt like an area of my life where I wasn’t choosing. It was an area where avoidance of past pain or failure was the reason for not going there. And I am on a mission to turn toward those areas of avoidance when I see them, to love the part of me that’s avoiding pain, and to choose differently, marking the shift with a new behavior or action that sets me out into the new direction.
Part of how I justified not cooking was that I’m quite a foodie and the things I can make are simple but leave my inner gourmand totally unsatisfied. I’d see recipes that sounded good, but I’d tell myself I wasn’t equipped to make that.
Enter Blue Apron. On social media, I started seeing friends post photos of restaurant quality meals and saying they were from their Blue Apron box. Hmmmm.
Once I stopped procrastinating, I signed up for it. The photo above was my second attempt. It was time to release that old story and write a new one.
What I realized about rewriting a story is, you get to make every aspect of it your own. You can choose to do it the way you want to rather than how you were taught or what you’ve done in the past. I asked myself, how could cooking be different this time?
When the box of food was delivered, I chanted Annapurna Sukta over it. This Vedic chant is to the Divine Mother in the form of food. I have never chanted it without some tears forming in my eyes because the energy of the mantra is so sweet and loving. I love waking up to the sacred in all of life, so chanting over the food was one way of making it my own.
I put some jazz on while I started preparing the meal. And while I thought Trane could be my cooking co-pilot, I realized the only way this was going to be fun was if I added some movement. Hello Sia! I highly recommend hip shaking while chopping vegetables.
Permission is important too. Each time my perfectionist came up, I took a deep breath and remembered my vow to stay by my own side no matter what, and I gave myself permission to be whatever I was rather than some idea of what a good cook looks like. Just that breath and awareness helped me to soften.
Yes I was still nervous, and wanting it to be good, and noticing moments of self judgment or times when I wasn’t breathing. But I was also shaking my ass and having fun touching my inner Julia Child.
The last part was the sharing of the food. I was cooking delicious food for my delicious man and to receive such appreciation was the cherry on top of the experience.
My experience of dinner was that I could taste the love and mantras and giggles that I put into it.
By now I’m sure you get that this has nothing to do with food. It’s about finding those places where you withhold love from yourself, and going there. Where are the life areas where you find it hard to treat yourself with kindness? Bring those places to the light. It is a process. I have tried to kick this cooking demon before, but the difference this time for me was that the sankalpa, or vow, that I took at the beginning of the year was to stay by my own side no matter what.
If the dinner had been horrible, I still, in my heart of hearts, would’ve been standing there holding my own hand. Each day brings more proof that when I stay with me, I can get through anything.
Cooking may not be your big avoidance. We all have those places where we check out on ourselves. How can you bring love and internal support there? What living ways can you occupy your life more fully? And are you willing to have fun while you’re at it?

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Join me in the Pyrenees region in the South of France, June 6-14, 2015, for a mystical experience of beauty and ease.

According to yogic wisdom, cultivation of the vital essences is an integral part of creating a vibrant, fulfilled life. These essences are ojas–our deep vigor, prana–our primal life force, and tejas–our illuminative radiance. Join Meg Townsend and Nicole Taylor, both 500-hour trained yoga teachers and Ayurvedic Yoga Specialists, on an empowering retreat designed to help you source your inner wisdom.
Meg and Nicole will lead you through daily yoga and guided meditation practices designed to help you achieve your brightest shining. After experiencing the gifts of the inner journey, afternoons explore the outer journey, as we visit the magical landscapes of the mystical Cathar region. You’ll drink in the beauty of South of France, from the Natural Green Labyrinth and the peaks of the Pyrenees, to rejuvenating natural springs and a mystic grotto in the Galamus Gorges. You’ll be nourished by vegetarian home cooking, and enjoy a few meals at local restaurants to sample authentic French fare. Dormitory style rooms allow for a mixture of community and the sprawling outdoors and mini-trails foster space for individual contemplation. Experience your innate wholeness. Be nourished by your practice and the healing force of nature. Find joy in the journey home to yourself. Join us!

Your Trip Includes:
*7 nights at Santosha Retreat House, spacious community-style rooms
*Daily breakfast, most lunches/dinners (vegetarian)
*Sunset picnic dinner with 360 view of the breathtaking Pyrenees
*Daily yoga classes and Vitality workshops
*Transportation to Adventures: Pyrenees Hiking, Castles, Esperanza Market, & more!
Not Included:
*Airfare to/from Toulouse, France **night flight leaving Friday, June 5th and arriving Saturday, June 6th….we depart Toulouse on Sunday, June 14th and arrive home later that evening**
*Train transport to/from Santosha Retreat House (approx $64 r/t)
*Hotel & Dinner in Toulouse, France
*One dinner out
*Three lunches out
Upon registration, you will receive detailed information about where/when/how to meet us in Limoux for transport to Santosha!
Total Cost: $1295
$395 non-refundable deposit to hold your space! Balance of $900 due by May 1st
Only 10 spaces are available on this journey!

Register here: http://www.reallivingyoga.com/cultivate-your-vital-essence-in-the-south-of-france.html

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Yesterday I celebrated MLK day by doing exactly what I wanted and being keenly aware that the freedom to do exactly what I want, how I want, when I want is in large part because of the man whose day it was.
I woke up, turned on my phone, and did Yoga Nidra for 30 minutes from a recording by my spiritual teacher Rod Stryker. Afterward, feeling energized and happy, I marveled at the fact that I have been able to fly all over the country to study with Yogarupa, that I have the luxury of a life comfortable enough, with my needs met so completely, that I can spend my free time studying Tantra yoga and pondering the deeper questions of life.
I played “Remember this song?” with the man I’m dating and while we were cracking up and reminiscing, there was a moment when he mentioned Living Colour and what it felt like to rock out so hard to these guys and the how great it felt to hear them and think, yeah, we make this kind of music too. I remembered that feeling also, the feeling of pride that came from there being someone who looked like me in the genre of music that I liked the most. Inside I appreciated their trailblazing spirits, and also how, if not for Dr. King, who knows if they would’ve had that opportunity.
We went to breakfast, and it was perfect and delicious and the restaurant was full of people from every race and ethnicity, and there were tables with, same sex couples, and tables where people were the same race, and tables where four different ethnicities were represented. I took a moment to feel gratitude that this was possible, as it would’ve been an entirely different scene if it had been 1955 instead of 2015.
Next up was the Philadelphia orchestra’s annual MLK concert. It was held at Girard College’s breathtakingly beautiful chapel. I saw an older black man with an MLK day of service TShirt on. He had an energy that made me notice him, and I smiled when he saw his friends and hugged them all and did a little dance of joy. He seemed completely unselfconscious and happy, in a way that most people aren’t, like he had given himself the freedom to be who he was under any and all circumstances. Everyone else had their orchestra face on, sitting still and speaking quietly, and here was this dude dancing in the aisles. Love it! I took a moment to appreciate inner freedom, the choices we make moment by moment to be who we are or who we think we are supposed to be. It made me feel even more grateful for those who paved the way for external freedom.
It was a beautiful, unforgettable moment when the orchestra’s conductor, Yannick, invited the composer of the next piece up to the stage, and that same energetic, joyful man I’d noticed earlier popped up out of his seat and ran up to the stage. Boom! Live your purpose and the resulting joy is evident!
His name was Hannibal and he said he’d gone to forest to write the piece and asked the ancestors to give him the music the people needed to hear. He said they told him to remind people of their inner divinity and to create something that would be a balm for their soul.
My eyes welled up with tears at the beauty of the intent behind his offering, the humble way that he spoke, and the recognition of a kindred spirit, with whom I shared the same mission in life, just expressed differently.
We were lucky because this was the premier of “Veil One: One Land,” which was part of a larger piece called “One Land, One River, One People.”
There was a violinist who made her instrument sing in a way that I have never heard before and likely won’t again. She inspired awe in all of us, and received a standing ovation in the middle of the piece. There was a soprano and a tenor that sang from a place so deep within that it shattered any last remnants of armor between my heart and the music, so that each note felt like it blasted through my entire being. My experience of the music was that it gave voice to the totality of human experience, and fully captured the ecstasy of living.
Wow. A balm for the soul indeed, to be reminded of that ecstasy that resides at the core of our existence.
I ended the day teaching yoga and pranayama to some amazing souls, with the theme of freedom, and spoke of how the path of yoga helps us to disidentify with the changeable and experience and rest in the part of us that is changeless.
It was a beautiful day and a reminder that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Nothing that we do today would be possible if not for those who came before us, and the blood, sweat and tears they shed to create the conditions that gave rise to the world we live in now. Whether it’s Dr. King, or your trailblazing ancestors, or the sages of your spiritual lineage, or your most transformative teachers, or the loved one right next to you, or the divine Herself, somebody somewhere has supported you in being where you are today.
Acknowledging that, feeling gratitude, and finding ways to pay it forward is part of our birthright as humans.
You are in this body with a unique set of skills that all of the obstacles and joys of your life have prepared you to live into. Find out what that is, and do it, do the hell out of it, do it as boldly and brightly and deeply as you can because it is your shoulders that the next generation stands on. It is your strength that the person near you draws on, and it’s your acceptance of yourself even when you feel weak that teaches those who are watching that they can love all of their aspects too. Your deep, full out living of your best life is of service to you and everyone around you.

That human

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The other day I was with a friend and we saw her ex-husband. No one but the two people involved ever knows what truly happens in a marriage, but just by facts alone suffice to it say that some of his actions were quite horrible.
As soon as I saw him I felt the dense cloud of judgement forming around me, pulling my face into a mask of distaste, my body recoiling from his very presence.
And then she got his attention and they spoke cordially; he acknowledged me, and I coldly responded and then blessedly it was over.
My friend and I went back to our conversation, but the wave that was both of our feelings about seeing him continued to ripple under the surface. I noticed she seemed to be more at peace about what had occurred than I was so I tried to make myself snap out of it. Why would I keep holding on to disgust if the person actually involved had moved past it? Who was that helping?
The next morning I woke up and had a hangover of ick. Would’ve been easier if the hangover had been from wine, ’cause there are plenty tangible things one can do to help that pass.
What does one do for a hangover of ick?
I drank some lime water with honey. Wasted time on social media. Drank coffee. I read my morning spiritual texts, but with the reminder of how much I’d judged that dude, I immediately felt like an asshole. I drank some tea. Thought about writing. Sighed.
Turned toward the ick.
It was dense. Foggy. Gross. Heavy. What was it?
It was the residue of not seeing another human as human.
It was the darkness left behind by choosing to see only darkness in another.
It was the sludge of seeing him only as his actions rather than as a human being who had made some choices that, by the look of him, he didn’t feel great about.
It was the pain that comes from seeing someone as other, because as soon as you set them apart, on some level you set yourself apart too.
I remembered a passage from one of my recent studies….it was talking about how we are all reflections of the divine. Some of us may reflect that light as vastly as all the oceans, and some of us might reflect that light as much as a pinprick. But how much or little we reflect it doesn’t change what and who we are by virtue of being human, which is a reflection of that light.
There is pain that comes from forgetting that. In the instance with my friend’s ex, I felt that pain deeply, and when I forgave him and forgave myself for judging him and for whatever hidden darkness in me I was rejecting by rejecting him, the ick passed through.
Relief.
There is a lot of ick lately…reading the news is basically a game of who is the bad guy…this religious group or that group of extremists or these cops or that race of people…the list goes on.
When does it stop?
How do we stop it?
Does it start with each person taking responsibility for how they see the people and the world around them?
What happens when each of us faces and accepts the ways we dehumanize other people, no matter how justified it feels? Can we use that energy to then choose differently? Can the actions based in choosing to see everyone as whole and human help this current wave of anger, fear, and disgust (aka ick) to move through?
I don’t know. But I do know that reading and meditating and going to rallies and all the blah blah blah in the world means nothing if I let myself view or treat someone right in front of me as anything less than human.

Paint it your way

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Last night I painted with acrylics for the first time. As with any unchartered territory, I felt the full range of emotions. It began with anxiety about whether not it would be any good, which gave way to excitement about trying something new, which led to a sense of curiosity about how I wanted to use the brushes to create shapes, which led to the exhilaration of seeing the painting come into form on the canvas, which led to some self criticism and anxiety about whether it was any good, which led to some sweet suggestions from the teacher, which brought on an attempt to “fix” something I thought I’d done wrong, which led to a realization that I wanted to do it differently than the model I was being given, which led to touching that wild woman in me and asking how she wanted to be expressed, which culminated in the expansive joy that comes with expressing myself full out, which led to a sense of peace and accomplishment and the painting above.
Deep exhale.
This occurred while I was sitting next to an amazing man and appreciating his presence and artistry in this medium, while getting in touch with my own.
Whew!
My favorite moment was when I was drawing the leaves, and I was trying to be neat. I wanted it to look like what the teacher had drawn. And it wasn’t looking like that at all. I thought, ugh, I should have a lighter hand, these should be more delicate. And I felt this kind of roar inside, and that roar was like, eff that, let’s paint our wildness. So I went off the map, so to speak, and just let that inner roar paint the leaves. The result wasn’t neat, wasn’t controlled, wasn’t perfect. To me it looked like a big gust of wind was blowing through and the leaves were responding. There was an abundance of leaves, dancing in the wind, exercising a type of controlled chaos.
What joy, to have let my full expression come through, and to bear witness to the expression of others. How beautiful to look around the room and to see all the different expressions of one image! We were all working from the same template, but we made different choices and let our unique ray of light shine through the canvas.
What is your ray? Have you created space in your life, in your heart, to hear that roar of your individual expression?
Tomorrow, 2015 begins.
How will you paint it your way?

Saying yes

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As the year winds down, I notice I’m thinking of intentions differently. Usually I have a sense of what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year, but this winter I’m more curious about what energies I’d like to cultivate to seed the ground for more joy–objectless joy, that natural state of joy that isn’t attached to having anything or achieving anything. This is the joy that comes from presence. From pure being. From the ecstasy of letting life flow through you rather than trying to control it.
I keep picturing a moment last month in Ojai, dancing around with my friend Carey, chanting yes over and over, laughing and yes-ing, and feeling expanded and filled with joy. That experience was so liberating, so freeing, and I felt open to making that energy more manifest in my life.
A wholehearted, full out yes to what arises can be a delicious experience. For me, 2014 was a series of very necessary nos, goodbyes, and endings. And while I’ve grown wary of putting too fine a point on things, I do feel curious about the experiences or energies to which I’d like to voice a resounding “yes!”
This morning I was drawn to one of my Ayurvedic textbooks, and I found that Dr. Vasant Lad expressed the power of yes in a way that really resonated with me.
“To say “yes” means to allow a thought or circumstance to flower, to let go and expand….there is a “yes” beyond “yes” and that “yes” is existence. The trees say “yes” to every season. When spring comes they say “yes” and they flower. When summer comes they say “yes” and become dry and thirsty. When fall comes they say “yes” and and change color and are ready to drop their leaves. To say “yes” means to surrender–to every thought, feeling, and emotion. It means letting go, and letting go is a journey toward the heart…to say “yes” to pain means to be with it and to be with something is to love it. To love some person means to be with that person. So to say “yes” means to be with it.”
Ahhh, yes!
What are you saying yes to right now?

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