Big Myth.

In my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach (where we combine writing with mediation and yoga) we’ve been working through “Warrior Goddess Training” by Heatherash Amara. We finished it this past week with a writing exercise devoted to what she calls the big myth.

“Your big myth is the big picture for how and why your unique,precious Warrior Goddess light arrived own the planet…Pick a big myth that makes you glow. Forget sensible or practical or real. Make it big, magic medicine that you incarnated with.”

I loved this and wanted to share my big myth:

Big Myth

I come from the ancient stardust of comets taking flight across the universe. My tribe stand barefoot in a circle around a fire and watch the comet that is me meet the fire that is my life here on earth.

The stardust mingles with the flames and the earth and the voices of them chanting me into existence. Smoke swirls and rises as the women sway and dance around the fire until I stand fully formed in the sacred center of their circle, their skin glowing, hands clasped, eyes lighting up at my birth among them.

They each take a turn welcoming me into their sisterhood, their words like breadcrumbs on the path to rediscover my true self for once the circle is broken the knowledge of who I truly am and where I came from vanishes becoming a test for me to go out into the world and deep within myself to unearth that gift once again. Each barrier I encounter acting as a Guardian at the Gate, demanding to know how badly I want it.

I let their words seep into my skin, my breath, my bones, my heart…

Do not shrink to make others feel comfortable.

Take time for silence, time to be.

Listen more than you wait for your turn to speak.

Sing and dance and laugh and play. Never be afraid of looking foolish or silly. Embrace joy.

Guard your heart fiercely but hold it lightly.

Speak your truth to others and to yourself.

Keep the door open.

Tread lightly yet with purpose.

Stay curious

I cherish their words, knowing they are my compass home.

The Practice of Tapas.

17022416_10209842569075667_2501385995637702065_n

“Life without tapas is like a heart without love.” ~ BKS Iyengar

One of the stories I’ve told myself over the years is that I am lazy. I’ve lugged that word around throughout high school, college all the way up to the present. Nothing I did was enough (according to me).

Then I discovered tapas. Not the delicious appetizers but the third niyama that calls on me to stoke my inner fire. Literally it comes from the root sanskrit word “tap” which means “to burn.” I take it to mean to burn away everything that holds me back from achieving what I want and being who I want to be. That means burning away the story that I am lazy.

As a writer, I’ve struggled with procrastination on an almost daily basis. My shelves are lined with books promising the secret to being a productive writer. I’ve tried many different tips from waking up early to writing late at night, from focusing on word counts to time spent writing, writing at home to writing in coffee shops.They all worked, for a while. Then I’d drift back into this wishy-washy limbo of wanting to write but never quite committing to it.

Last year I embarked on a year-long writing challenge based on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break The Chain” advice. The theory is that you set up a system of marking an x for each day you  show up to write, the goal being to not break the chain. I sat up a dry erase board with 365 boxes for each day of the year. Dutifully, I showed up each day to write something, anything, no word count, no minimum time required and once I did that I could make my x. I did it. Every single day .

This year I decided to require a little more from myself. I still must write every single day but Monday -Friday I need to write at least 500 words on my current WIP. Saturday and Sunday can be for the WIP or Morning Pages or blog posts. I am using the same dry erase board as last year only I am coloring in the top triangle blue for the days I write at least 500 words, red for the weekends.

It’s working. I am up to almost 50,00 words on my novel. I wrote on days when I was crazy busy, when I wasn’t feeling well, even when we had a 72-hour power outage.The story is finding its way, the characters are finding their way and I am finding mine.

What I’m discovering is that practicing tapas in one area of my life is spilling into other areas. I’ve meditated every day since November 9. Some days it’s just been two minutes. Others it’s been thirty. I find myself with more confidence as I continually meet these goals I set for myself that nobody but me cares if I meet. If I can do this, what else can I do?

With this fire ignited, anything is possible.

The Practice of Contentment.

I saw the documentary “Embrace” recently. To say that it changed my life is not an exaggeration.

It’s about female body image.

It started when Taryn Brumfitt posted before and after pix on Facebook and they went viral, not because of how stunning her transformation was (though it was) but because of how real it was.

taryn-brumfitt-before-and-after

Image found via Pinterest.

It went viral because she went against the norm. The before pic “should’ve” been the after and the after the before. She received thousands of responses. Some hateful and nasty because some people are just hateful and nasty. But most were beautiful and vulnerable and most were grateful to see somebody embracing their real body rather than shunning it and they wanted to know how they could do the same.

So, Taryn embarked on a journey and documented it to see how women around the world view their bodies. It was illuminating and heartbreaking. A word often uttered when asked to describe their body was “disgusting.” Not one woman liked one thing about her body.

Not one thing.

I don’t remember the first time I realized my body wasn’t good enough. I do remember a friend telling me to stop doing the locomotion in her basement because each time I hopped it felt like an elephant shaking the floor. I was twelve.

I remember a boy in the stands at a high school basketball game where I was a cheerleader calling me “thunder thighs.”

I remember pouring over issues of “Seventeen” yearning for the long, straight blonde hair that I saw. The thin thighs, slender calves and ankles.

I remember never feeling quite comfortable in my skin. Not only because of being bombarded constantly by media telling me that I needed to change my body but also because I think a part of me believed that it would be “conceited” to think I was enough just as I am. That I would be full of myself.

Since I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown to accept the way my body and energy fluctuate day to day, month to month, year to year. Because I try to practice yoga as a way of life, I’ve learned to practice santosha or contentment. It’s not about being happy all the time but being content in each moment as it arises, not needing to change it or fix it or resist it.

When it comes to my 51-year-old body, santosha is a blessing. It helps me to not merely accept my body (which I think implies that it is less than and I am just settling) but to embrace my body exactly as it is day to day, moment to moment.

Some days I feel strong and confident and head off my mat after a sweaty vinyasa ready to kick ass. Other days I curl up on the couch  and that’s it. Santosha allows me to ride the waves of hormones as my body shifts, my mood meanders and my ability to sleep suddenly falls off a cliff.

Santosha allows me to feel content no matter what is happening in my body, to my body and around my body. It allows me to recognize that, contrary to decades of false beliefs and advertising saturation, I am not essentially lacking. It allows me to embrace and rejoice in all that I do, all that I am.

lao-tzu-contentment

 

Moving Through Fear on my Mat.

12063317_10205969632014661_5682686114132408638_n

I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting my back.

See, I hurt it almost two years ago. Two. Years.

I hurt it so bad that I ended up on my bedroom floor in child’s pose, unable to move and my daughters had to call an ambulance.

It was humiliating.

It was frightening.

I lost faith in my body.

Ever since then, I have been afraid of hurting my back again. I’ve babied it. I’ve taken it easy, doing gentle yoga, and soft, somatic stretches.

But I haven’t really pushed myself.

Once in a while I do, but the moment I feel the least little twinge I back off again.

I haven’t hurt it that bad since then, but I have “tweaked” it and the fear of hurting it like I did the first time lingers.

Then I read an essay by Elizabeth Gilbert in the February issue of “O” magazine where she reflects on a knee injury. How it plagued her for over 13 years ever since her marriage had ended. When she finally got tired of being held back by that pain she asked what it needed She really wanted know. She heard it say it wants to run fast. To move. For her to stop using it as an excuse to hold herself back.

Oh.

Wow.

That’s exactly what I do.

I hold myself back for fear of hurting my back again.

I don’t take  challenging yoga classes.

I’m afraid of saying yes to fun excursions for fear that walking too much or moving in an unexpected way will tweak my back.

But then I realized that the more I baby my back, the weaker it is getting.

The weaker it is getting, the more chance I have of hurting it again.

So, I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting it.

I’ve decided to move it. Use it. Strengthen it.

I’ve started taking yoga classes again. Ones that challenge me. That force me to use muscles I’ve ignored for two years.

I’ve decided to say yes to things instead of no for fear it might be uncomfortable.  I ‘m 51, not 91. And even at 91 I want to be saying yes more than no. I want to be like Tao Porchon-Lynch when I’m in my nineties. Hell, I want to have her sprit and vitality now!

Each vinyasa, each lunge, each time I step my foot through between my hands I am moving through that fear. With each breath I am releasing it, making room room for trust, making room for what is happening in my body in this moment not some imaginary moment in my head.

Fear is just a thought.

Fear comes from not being present to this moment where I am fine, where my back is fine.

So, I’m saying yes again to each moment. I’m meditating daily. (104 days in a row so far.) I’m moving, playing, bending, stretching, strengthening and learning to trust my body again.

I’m learning to go toward my fear, befriending it, embracing it.

I’m literally moving through it.

And I’m finding tremendous strength and freedom on the other side.

0bf9e1404bf12278210a6db36f6606d3

Today.

img_3963

Today, I changed my profile picture on social media to a black square, symbolizing my grief.

Today, I went to yoga, allowing myself to be both grounded and lifted up by my practice and yoga community.

Today, I chose to not watch the inauguration.

Today, I wrote over 700 more words on my novel. Each day, I show up and add more words and they begin to add up to something substantial. They add up to scenes, to pages, to characters, to stories, eventually to a full novel.

In the days and years ahead of us, showing up each day to what is happening in our communities, states and country will be critical. Each action, no matter how small, adds up to something substantial.

Make that call to your representative voicing your concern about healthcare or education or the environment or whatever cause is dear to your heart.

Join a local political action group.

Write an Op-Ed.

Reach out to somebody in your community who feels afraid, disenfranchised.

Take radical care of yourself.

Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Today, as I grieve at what we’ve lost and are afraid of losing I am also looking at what we have gained.

We have gained an awakening.

People are waking up from complacency.

Waking up to the sobering responsibilities of being a citizen of the great country.

I see people waking up to support each other.

To lift each other up.

To standing up to bullies, misogyny, racism, xenophobia.

Standing up for progress.

Tomorrow I will join many of you as I attend a local progressive rally in my very conservative town before heading to our state capitol for the Sister March.

There will be excitement.

There will be passion.

There will be pussyhats and signs and lots and lots of energy.

But that is only the very first step in a very long journey.

So, yes, today a black square is representing my mourning.

Tomorrow, it will be replaced by my original picture with the words, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”

img_3517

Today, I mourn. Tomorrow I take the first of many, many steps to move mountains.

I hope you’ll join me.

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Best Changes We Made This Year

To your Day / Life / Routines / Blog / Habits

writing-chart

I’ve made two big changes this year, both incredibly beneficial (so hopefully that is motivation to keep them going!).

The first is my “Don’t Break the Chain” challenge. I created 365 boxes on a dry erase board and put an “X” on each day that I wrote. I’ve managed to write every day this year. Now, some days it was just morning pages. Other days it was merely one sentence in my WIP. But, the point is, that I wrote something every single day of 2016… so far. Next year, my plan is to make it a little more challenging. Maybe I need to write 500 words on my WIP at least 5 days a week to earn that “X.”

meditation

The second thing I did (and it’s only been since November 9) is meditate every day. Most days it is for at least 15 minutes. 2 days it has been for 5 because the day was so crazy and I just needed to fit it in. I have resisted meditation for years. Even when one of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg,  promised that meditation was the secret to writing, I still resisted. But now I am kind of in a groove. I feel like meditation creates space for all of my thoughts, all of my feelings. Nothing is being squashed or pushed aside. Meditation is holding sacred space for all for me. I find myself calmer, less reactive, more mindful, more focused…all great benefits for a writer.

What are some changes you’ve made this years or plan to make next year? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out the challenge here. 

The Masks We Wear.

 

bda8719cbbccdb7f48aefca461e9c803

Image found via Pinterest.

I don’t remember the first time it happened.

But I’m sure I was young when I first donned that mask that would allow me to be accepted, liked, loved.

Maybe when I pretended not to be upset.

Or laughed at a joke that I actually found offensive.

When I said, “Nothing” to the question, “What’s wrong?”

Or when I somebody asked how I was and I said, “Fine” when really I was trembling with sadness, shame or rage on the inside.

We learn at a young age to mold our outsides to be acceptable to those we love most, to those who don’t even know us at all.

I did it just the other day when my best friend of 37 years came over so we could go to dinner and a movie. I’d just gotten home from teaching, the house was a mess because I just didn’t feel like cleaning. But I did this brisk 30-minute clean before she arrived.Why? She is the last person who would judge me for anything much less having a messy house. I was judging me.

And there it is.

I judge myself harshly and then feel compelled to pretend I am other than who I am.

Yoga has helped with this. Not just the poses. We all know that the poses are the very tip of the yoga iceberg. The more I practice, the more I show up to my mat just as I am on any given day and do what I can do on any given day, the more I am peeling away those layers of masks.

Some days I just need Child’s Pose and Savasana. That’s it. I’m done.

Other days I need to sweat and move and build strength.

The biggest revelation is that one day is not better than the other. They are just days. Days when I show up to my mat. And when I show up to my mat, I show up to myself.

No matter what I do when I show up to my practice, whether it’s Child’s Pose or Warrior or Crow, I am shifting energy. Energy that has gotten stagnant and stuck in my body. When I come out of a pose that has gotten to be too much, I am honoring who I am, not trying to prove I am something I’m not. Same when I pass on going deeper into a pose just because the teacher suggests it.

Yoga has been about learning to trust myself. Trust my body. Trust what I feel. Trust what I need. Trust what I believe. Trust in the Universe.

And when I deeply trust who I am, there’s no need to wear a mask.

mask-truth-self-quotes12

The Beauty of Seasons.

7dcbcd3bfdf62d70c6934b252aff366c

Found via Pinterest.

It’s September 1. Windows are open, A/C is off (for now). I hear the rustle of leaves as some begin making their descent back into the earth. Facebook is filled with photos of kids going back to school. The wide open space of summer is winding down as we get ready to begin the turning inward that fall and winter bring.

Fall is my favorite. I like it more than January 1 for clean slates and hunkering down to create and accomplish the life I dream of having. No matter how old I get, I will always ride this back-to-school energy. I stock up on notebooks and pens. This year, I bought an awesome new planner (undated) that I am starting to use today. If I was going to create my own planner this would be it. It’s the perfect balance of goal setting and dreaming, of intentions and accountability.

After getting our girls back up to school, I went through and cleared out the house. Threw away over-stuffed files, old clothes. Went through the junk drawers, the fridge and freezer. Everything has a home in my home now and my life is so much easier.

As part of stepping lightly into a more structured routine, I signed up for an on-line writing course that starts on Monday. I am finishing up revisions to my novel-in-stories and revising my agent query letter (which seems to be harder to write than the novel!) My other WIP is waiting patiently in the wings, ready for me to dive back into that world.

I have my yoga and meditation practice to both ground and uplift me—two things I desperately need in this heated political climate.

When I lived in Arizona, I loved the weather, the blue skies, the palm trees, having a beautiful in-ground pool in our backyard oasis. But. Once I moved back to the midwest, I realized how much I missed the change off seasons. I missed it on every level—physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. The changing of the seasons stirs something within me, something primal and deeply rooted. They mimic the ebb and flow of my energy, my creativity. There’s the whole cycle-of-life that mirrors our physical selves as well as our emotional selves. I naturally tend to look outward at spring and revel in the warmth and wide open days of summer, then I naturally yearn to start retreating in the fall, stoking the home fires of my creativity, of my soul as we head into winter where the cycle begins all over again.

I’ve already seen a few leaves tinged red at the edges. The sun is setting earlier. And I am ready for the change of seasons. The change of energy and focus. How about you?

 

The More I Befriend my Writing…

IMG_1978

Today is the 130th day of 2016.

I have written every one of those days.

Some days I have half-assed it, just barely showing up enough to call it writing.

But most days I. Show. Up.

I write. I edit. I revise. I re-imagine scenes to make them deeper, more real. I haul out the words and stories buried in my body, in my psyche, ones that are weighing me down, holding me back.

Today, as I rolled out of a 30-minute meditation, trying to stay in that soft space, I picked up my notebook and pen, watching the pink ink spill across the page and I realized that writing is no longer just something I show up for. It’s not longer just a red “x” I make on my board.

Writing has become my soft place to land everyday—even when what I am writing is hard and jagged.

Writing is no longer (well, more often) this “other” that I battle, compare, belittle and judge.

I have finally befriended my writing and it has befriended me.

It reminds of this:

befriending

And here is the fascinating thing:

The more I befriend my writing, the more I am befriending my body—the more I befriend my whole self.

The more real I am on the page, the more I let it all out, the more compassion I seem to generate for myself and all the parts I used to deem as broken or unacceptable or unlovable.

My youngest daughter (19 years old) recently attended my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class which combines some writing with yoga. The topic of that “inner mean girl” voice came up. Later at dinner, I asked E.if she experienced that voice.

She shrugged and said, “Nah…my voice petty much says ‘You do you, Girl!'”

As her mom, I loved hearing that.

,As a woman I loved hearing that.

As a writer, I realize that is exactly what my writing says to me:

“You do you, Girl. I got your back.”

 

 

 

Choosing to Embrace Silence.

16bb6f832254cb96df83a522b061a57a

Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve never been good at being alone.

Never been comfortable with silence. Which explains why I resisted meditation for so long. Even when one of my favorite writers/teachers highly recommended it for writers, coming just shy of touting it as the magic key, I still refused to sit with myself in silence.

When I first went away to art school, I arrived before my roommate. I had the apartment to myself for almost a week and I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t have a TV. This was well before personal computers, much less iPhones. I didn’t have a stereo. I think I did have a cassette player with earphones. And books. And myself.

Those few days were excruciating. I remember sitting on the couch in view of the apartment across from me where I saw other students, hoping, praying they would notice me, take pity on me and invite me over.

They didn’t.

When I was a young mother, I craved time alone, even if just in the bathroom. When I was lucky enough to get any time to myself, I almost always squandered much of it in front of the TV. Or I’d call family or friends and talk to them. Anything to fill up the silence. Anything to avoid being alone with myself.

Now, my daughters are both away at college. This week my husband is out of town so it just me and the dog and cat. And the silence.

As I sit in my cozy reading/writing nook in the living room I hear the tapping of these keys, the gurgling hum of the washing, the clock ticking over the mantel and the muted thrum of highway traffic. That’s it. No TV or radio or music to fill the silence.

No barriers between me and myself.

I no longer resist silence or being alone. I embrace it.

What changed? Me. I don’t know when exactly it happened but it’s been since I started practicing yoga, since I finished my YTT. Yoga has allowed me to dive deep and figure out who I am, how I feel and to, you know, actually feel those feelings.

I think I was afraid of feeling too much so I avoided being alone, avoided creating space where feelings could surface.

I am no longer uncomfortable being alone. It no longer feels lonely. It wasn’t because I didn’t like myself. I didn’t know myself. And I am not always comfortable with being alone or with silence. Sometimes I still get that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. Of wanting to fill in the gaps of silence that press on me.

The difference now is that I allow myself to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And that is something that has definitely emerged from my yoga practice. I find my edge in poses that aren’t comfortable but I stay there, I breathe, I feel my body, I note my resistance and choose to stay.

Staying there when I want to flee is where the growth happens. It’s like a muscle that I push to its limit and it grows stronger. That space of hanging in past resistance helps in my writing as well.

So, as I find myself sitting in the utter quiet of my home, I note the butterflies in my belly, I note my shallow breath and the urge to turn the TV on. But I don’t.

I choose to embrace the silence.

And in embracing the silence I am embracing myself , exactly who I am in this moment. I wish eighteen-year-old me had known this. But she was young. She didn’t know or appreciate the beauty of all of who she was.

That’s okay. We know now.