On Grief in a World that Tries to be Insta-Perfect

Saturday, September 25, 2021

 *This post is part of an email sent out over the weekend of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.*


This summer's ending has felt sad to me...more so than usual. I'm not sure if it's because I've not been outside this season as much as my body and soul need to be outside, or if it's the weight of the grief of the past year and a half. I suspect it is a mixture of both! And then on top of all of that, the reminders of 20 years ago when towers and planes fell and heroes were found just as some of them were dying, and all were hurting. 

All of this to say, I've been considering grief. Namely, what to do with it. 

There doesn't seem to be much room for grief in this society we're in. We tend to collectively turn away from tear-washed cheeks, wailing, and rivers of snot pouring from noses. There's an expectation to just be done with it and get back to business. And that's one of the places where the system is broken.

Because we're meant to feel oh, so deeply. Even the grief. The ripping of hearts, the morbid laughter, the anger, the fighting, the letting go, and all the repeating and reiterations...we're meant to feel it all. 

Yes, it's scary, because we can't control it; and yes, it's beautiful, because we can't control it. Grief is a feminine energy, a sacred energy, a spiraling of energy that ebbs and flows, rises and falls, but never fully goes away. It's part of the lovely makeup of humanity, of feeling, of connecting and appreciating what we hold dear. 

I was listening to a podcast recently that wondered if we could ever simply let the painful moments exist in and around us without trying to fix, heal, analyze, process, or rush through. The idea was that being immersed in the painful moments was THE lesson, THE magic, THE healing. 

Society as we have come to know it may not offer us much in the way of being in the messier moments, particularly those of grief, so I challenge you to buck the system and create those moments for yourself when you need them. Scheduling time for grief might feel weird, especially since grief runs on its own schedule, but maybe, just maybe, offering ourselves specific times to feel and BE with whatever comes up for us in that scheduled time would help us navigate the feelings. 

For now, simply sit with what is. Honor this moment. It is enough. You are enough.

How To Take Social Responsibility As a Yogi: A Basic Primer

Monday, August 31, 2020

(This post is an excerpt from an email I sent out several months back, before quarantine from COVID-19 hit.)

This practice: it starts with you, but it doesn’t end with you. We learn that we are connected energetically. We learn to take responsibility for ourselves--healing, finding balance, pausing before reacting, using our tools, being compassionate to ourselves and others--but that responsibility isn’t just to and for us, and it certainly isn’t some kind of holier-than-thou distant passivity. So here are some ways to tune in rather than tune out. 

Set the Stage

Make sure you have started healing from your own traumas and personal mindsets that keep you from self-compassion. If you don’t feel some measure of personal safety (including physical and mental safety), stop. Take care of yourself first. Take however long you need. (But see below re: perfection. Also, since first writing this, it has become clear during quarantine that we are in a sped-up process of clearing our traumas, both individually and collectively. Don't sleep on this!)

Keep up your asana (poses) practice, your breathing exercises, and your meditations, as well as any other rituals that make you feel secure and able to function as best you can. 

Know your triggers, especially if you are prone to depression or anxiety. Be gentle with yourself, and recognize what is too much and what is just enough as you begin this journey. It may take a bit of trial and error. That’s ok. 

Set some boundaries. Limit screen time if that’s what you need. Choose wisely as to what information you let in and with whom you engage. Don’t read comment threads unless you are 100% sure that the folks engaging in dialogue understand what respectful dialogue means and practice it. Include your family, or not, depending on what your situation is. 

Keep this a slow practice. You don’t have to find answers or solve problems, so ditch expectations. You are here first and foremost to learn: about yourself, about the world, and where both meet to get better. 

Yoga Can Guide You

Did you know that there are yogic ethics? The “Ten Commandments” of yoga, in no particular order, are:

  1. Do no harm

  2. Do not steal

  3. Be content with what you have

  4. Keep clean

  5. Use your energy toward yourself and others appropriately

  6. Tell the truth

  7. Don’t be greedy

  8. Cultivate discipline(be consistent) in what you’re passionate about

  9. Study (know) yourself and your guides

  10. Surrender to the Divine

Let these be your guiding principles as you take on social responsibility. Everything you come across, every decision, every vote, everything that you stand up for or against, can be measured against these. 

Learn First, Act Later

If you’ve been turning your face away from cultural realities, then it’s your job to educate yourself, not to discuss or act. Yes, it will probably be uncomfortable. As always, keep yourself safe, but don’t pretend safety means not dealing with issues as gently as you can. This is your responsibility. This is your world. Your understanding--and later, actions--shape your world. 

I recommend starting with an issue that breaks your heart or makes you angry or ashamed. Don’t look away. Look it full on. Take in the feelings but don’t wallow there. Breathe in the feelings of what’s going on and breathe out the assurance of peace that has your back until the peace soothes the feelings. 

Maybe you journal why this issue causes this reaction in you. Spill out your thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to take in all the news all at once. One thing. One thing is all you need to start. (This is one place where facing your feelings, which I talk about in my IG stories' highlight, is so important in helping you determine who you are and how you choose to show up in the world.)

Once you’ve found enough peace to look deeper, and you know why you respond the way you do, begin to educate yourself about the issue. Read. Listen. Walk in marches; attend rallies just to listen, to show respect for views around you. View as many sides of the issue as possible, especially if there are folks involved who are not like you (race, culture, socio-economic status, sex, gender, belief, etc.). See the issue from as human a perspective as possible, not simply from talking points. And don’t rely on just one source for your education! 

Your job here is to educate yourself, not to voice your opinion. You are supposedly formulating your opinion with the information you take in. Be honest with yourself in this process, and take your time. But don’t keep “taking time” to get ALL the information just so, because life is happening and perfection is a ploy to get you to stay inactive and irresponsible.

Act Wisely and Compassionately

At some point, you will educate yourself to the point of no longer being able to remain inactive and/or silent. (Unless you’re waiting for perfection, which in that case, see above.) 

When this happens, choose your activity and voice carefully and compassionately. Maybe you start with yourself, switching to eco-friendly consumer goods and companies, for example, or voting with your dollar. Maybe you pay attention to elections, local and nationwide, reading policies and listening to debates. Then you vote according to what you’ve learned. Maybe you go further, signing up to canvas for a candidate, or wearing their button or applying their bumper sticker to your vehicle of choice. 

Or maybe you call your representatives and give voice to the issue(s) that matter to you. Maybe you show up to Town Hall meetings and to city planning meetings and speak up, ask questions. Maybe you submit ideas for helping the issue(s) that speak to you. 

Perhaps you become more vocal online, or with friends and family. (*Caution re: online vocalization. You will receive nasty comments and push-back. Be prepared. Be wise. Be compassionate. Set your boundaries.) Remember that because someone disagrees with you does not mean they are persecuting you. Folks are allowed to disagree (respectfully); that’s how we get to work through issues together instead of polarizing. If you get vocal, learn respectful debate skills. Attacking the person (ad hominum) is not a debate tactic. 

Maybe you decide to not only vote and vocalize, but also volunteer somewhere, or start an organization or non-profit that can help in the interim when legislation isn’t yet available to help with your issue(s). Remember, it’s wonderful to work for/vote for legislation for the future, and it’s wonderful to volunteer to relieve the needs now, but we need both: the now and the not yet. 

Find Your People

Find your people. Not the people who necessarily look like you or act like you, or who are even still alive. Find the people who speak to you, who lift you up, who keep you going when the going gets rough and you want to hide again. Show up for your people the way they show up for you, only better. Be the better person. We can all commit to that. That is enough to start with and end on. 

Why I Believe Alcohol Needs to Stay Out of the Yoga/Health/Wellness Industry

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

In April of 2018, I sent out an email that sparked a lot of emailed and in-person conversations. It was all about how I had given up alcohol seven months earlier, and what I had learned about alcohol in that time. It's now over two years later, and I'm offering a last update on where I am with the no-alcohol journey. Read on for my original email and my update one year later, or skip to the bottom of this post if you've been on this journey with me and want to know the last installment.

"I haven't had an alcoholic drink in over seven months. I also live in Wisconsin, the heaviest drinking state in the U.S. I'm not pregnant. So what gives? And will I drink again?

Last year my personal goal at the New Year was to treat myself better: to get into better health; to honor my body, mind and spirit; to act as though I am worthy of the best life has to offer. By mid-summer, I had lost 15-20 pounds, was meditating daily, was living more actively, and was eating cleaner and smaller portions. My energy boosted, my joy increased, my peace was deeper, and more importantly, I believed that I was worthy of love and care. Without this attitude of believing in my worthiness, I would not have made the shift in lifestyle that I did, and I certainly would not have maintained it!

By the time September rolled around, my body had gotten into such an energetic balance that the wine and the whisky I loved so much no longer tasted right. I could feel the vasodilation at the very first sip, and by the second sip, I could feel my energy tip into feeling really off. This had never really bothered me before, so I thought it was my imagination, but every time I tried to sit down to enjoy a drink, the same thing happened, and even my tastebuds weren't having it. Since energy is important to me, I decided to take a little break from alcohol. Little did I realize that seven months later I'd still be on that break!
Serendipitously, I completed my Level 1 Reiki training during this time, and part of the requirement was abstention from alcohol (amongst other energy-changing substances like caffeine and sugar) for a period of time before and after attunement. I took this as confirmation that my energy field needed a break from alcohol, and since I felt amazing, I'd keep on with abstaining.

During these past months, I've educated myself a bit on alcohol. I've always loved wine and love learning about how wine is made, what soils do what to which wines, etc., but that's not the education I'm talking about. This is an education on energy.

I started with the Yoga Sutras and the concepts of ahimsa (non-harm), sauca (purity), and brahmacharya (moderation). I asked myself what these concepts, which I ascribe to as a yoga practitioner and instructor, meant to me personally. How does my energy change with what I feed myself, literally and figuratively? Do I act with pure intention, aligned with my values, if I'm adding alcohol--essentially ethanol , a central nervous system depressant and a legally ingestible drug--to my energy field? Or am I diluting my natural, healthy energy and over time inviting myself into a state of dependence on that depressive state? Brahmacharya has to do with our right use of energy. Why do we do what we do? Is it self-serving? Does it harm us or others? What is our intention, and what are our boundaries? These aren't fun little quizzes to ask oneself! They make us face our best and worst attributes, bringing to light all the hidden nuances we'd rather hoped to just live alongside without dealing with.

I next stumbled upon (don't you just love when life synchronizes like that!?) Ann Dowsett Johnston's book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol . You guys, I read this like a freaking novel! I could not put this down! The author talks about her own journey out of alcoholism, weaving in facts, figures, and other women's stories of alcohol in their lives. She discusses the college generation (1,825 18-24 year olds die from alcohol-related use each year, and about 45% of college students binge drink on the weekends, increasing alcohol-related hospitalizations and rapes. 90% of rapes involve alcohol.), but she doesn't stop there. She lovingly points out that the rest of us are numbing, self-medicating, trying to feel special, working up courage, or soothing ourselves. The one that got me, though (other than trying to feel special--anyone else get Mad Men chic vibes when drinking?) was her note that most of us women turn to drinking to escape from perfectionism. That blew me away with its truth. Paige Cowan, one of the women Johnston interviewed, had this to say.

'I think we're living in a culture that's so demanding: you never feel like you're good enough. It wears people down. People are exhausted at the end of the day. They go home and have a drink as a way to cope with all of this--a lot of people have to self-medicate because it would be hard for them to look in the mirror otherwise. The whole concept of being conscious--that's hard work. A lot of people just don't want to sign up for it.'

Yet that's just it. For me, living not only as a yoga practitioner but also as an instructor, I already signed up to be conscious. To be here, inhabiting the beautiful, the hard, the ebbs and flows of energy boosts and exhaustion. I can look in the mirror when the inner dialogue gets embittered and judgmental and face it head on, challenging it, speaking truth to its lies. I can't do that if I'm self-medicating, even if it's 'just' a drink. So, will I ever drink again? I honestly don't know. I haven't missed it much: only here and there the thought of a nice whisky or wine has challenged me. The other night I was at an event and everyone else had a drink in hand. The air reeked of alcohol. Instead of feeling left out, I rather felt like I do when surrounded by smokers: grateful I'm not partaking. If I do ever partake again, it will be one glass with a meal, to round out an experience and keep from falling back into that 'need' to numb or to feel special. I still even wrestle with that notion, since it involves making alcohol an essential part of a special experience. Why is it alcohol we seek to make events special? Why not a sparkling water or a tea? Something to think about.

With all this being said, does alcohol and yoga mix? For me, it doesn't. Knowing the facts of what alcohol can and is doing to women (some are likening it to a modern marketing version of tobacco), I can't promote a yoga culture that includes alcohol. What does this look like for me? I will not be participating in or promoting events where yoga and alcohol are combined. I will not glibly post a glass of wine on social media in the name of 'balance' (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). I will not claim that it's ok to workout so I can have that drink (or cupcake, or muffin, or pizza, but that's another email). For me, there's no justification of a healthy lifestyle AND alcohol, simply because the intent of alcohol can be so detrimental to personal core values. Is this always the case? No, I don't believe so, but I don't want to lead people into thinking that something that can be so detrimental is ok IF it's balanced with working out harder, meditating more, striving more. See how easy it is for that perfectionism to creep in and take charge?

This doesn't mean that I look down on those who drink, or on those who mix yoga and alcohol. I am well aware that a lot of this has more to do with personal intent than on alcohol. Everyone has to come to their own conviction and live from it. Everyone has to be true to who they are and what their values are. All I ask is that you be aware that what you partake of 1. impacts your energy and consciousness, and 2. is being watched by other women who struggle and may feel isolated, by children who learn what is and is not expected or ok. For me, yoga is about liberation. For far too many, alcohol is the antithesis of liberation when they are being completely honest, and being completely honest about alcohol use/abuse is unfortunately under stigma. I want to help erase that stigma.

If you are intrigued but not so sure about this dry life, I highly recommend getting on Instagram and following @tellbetterstories2018,@thesoberglow, @drybeclub, and @hipsobriety for an eye-opening look at the other side of something many of us, myself included, take lightly. And if you have personal questions for me, whether about your own choices or mine, I'm here."

So, where am I one year away from my last drink? Will I take another drink? If so, when? 
The title to this post gives you a big clue as to where I am now. In fact, the more aware I am of alcohol's impact, the more I see it everywhere, and in the weirdest places. Just recently, Yoga Journal ran an ad for an organic wine, which had me and many others scratching our heads. A lot of people come to yoga and/or health and wellness businesses to help heal from addiction. It makes no sense to tempt them or tell them that even in a place they thought they were safe they can't have a complete life without a drink. The health industry is getting in bed with the alcohol industry. Marathons have been pairing up with beer companies for years now, offering a beer at the end of the race as a "reward." Drunk yoga is now a thing. I watched a Facebook Live video of a health and wellness coach joking about how if her cup contained an alcoholic beverage, which she also seemed to imply would be wonderful, she would be face down on her desk within minutes. Fitness and wellness has turned into a drinking game, and I'm tired of it. I'm not the only one, either.
I understand. It seems real and authentic for a fitness/wellness leader to show herself drinking, or to talk about drinking if that's part of her life. I get it and respect it if it's done to truly show her being real and authentic, but I question it when it shows up constantly, or as a joke, or as a reward, or as a gimmick to lure people in: "See, I'm a real person, because I drink to unwind, too!" What message are you sending? If health and wellness is what you are promoting, how does alcohol fit in? All I ask is that fitness and wellness leaders consider carefully where and how they are leading people, and if they are fine with leaving a sincerely health-dedicated portion of the population who are willing to pay for support out of their target audience. As more of the younger generation (see articles here, here, and here) are choosing to avoid alcohol, this may be a big mistake.
Will I drink again? I still don't know; I'm taking it one day at a time. So far, each day has been a resounding, "No!" Since I'm interested in working with energy and promoting health and wellness from the inside out, it really doesn't fit for me. Do I sometimes think about enjoying my favorite whisky, or a glass of wine? Sure. And maybe there will be once or twice a year I do enjoy those. But one thing I've learned in a year without alcohol, and I think it carries over to any bad habit if you're actively replacing it with a good one--if you don't act on the craving, eventually its power lessens. This has at least held true on the energetic sense. As I learn to listen to what my body truly needs and craves, the urge toward alcohol (and sugar, and salt, etc.) is minimized. The body naturally craves what sets it free and nourishes it. 
Like I said earlier, this doesn't mean that I look down on those who drink, or on those who mix yoga and alcohol. Everyone has to come to their own conviction and live from it. Everyone has to be true to who they are and what their values are. As I personally encourage people to live free and healthy lives, I just don't see alcohol creating freedom and health, so I will continue questioning the intention behind it. And if you're wondering--no, I never thought I'd be here with these particular questions, with this particular lifestyle, but here it is. Each journey is unique. If you are curious about the dry life, or wellness, or intentional living in general, reach out. I'm still here, curious myself about the "why" behind choices. Let's dialogue about it, build each other up no matter our choices. 

And now we're over two years out from that first email. Here's my last update on this.
I turned 40 this year in the midst of a pandemic. Out of curiosity, I consciously chose a bottle of wine with which to celebrate. One glass with my birthday meal. I wanted to know how my body would respond, if having one glass would be worth it. And like I mentioned above, I wanted to feel special on a big day spent all alone and thought this might be a way to feel that. 
How did it go? And what did I decide about drinking for myself? 
The wine itself tasted fine. More sour than I recalled, but fine. But you know what? I realized that I value my energy field far more than my need to feel special via substances--in this case, alcohol. And I recommitted to living alcohol-free. It's no longer open for debate within myself. This is it. No question. I've never questioned taking up smoking, or drugs, and so now alcohol is on that no-question list. It's not even on my radar. And that feels freakin' fantastic! 
Two weeks ago I finished reading Holly Whitaker's book Quit Like a Woman; The Radical Choice not to Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol. I cannot recommend this book enough! Whitaker turns her readers' perception of alcohol consumption on its head with common sense (e.g. of course our bodies aren't created to handle poison, so the fact that some folks have difficulty with metabolizing alcohol isn't something odd or meant to be a "disease;" it's quite right and natural that the body rejects the poison) and revolution (alcohol marketing, especially towards women, is meant to keep the patriarchy and capitalism alive and well at the expense of our happiness and health), but more importantly, she offers her story--and hope--through the lens of self-love. She shares tangible tools and rituals to aid in the quest to stop poisoning the body and the mind, and this is where the gem of the book lies. Go read it! 
Her tips and tools, interestingly, often mimicked my own from two years ago when I was learning to love myself. Some of those tools I still use, others have evolved. Wherever you are on your own journey, please feel free to connect (to me or to Holly's organization, Tempest). This is about self-love--which is a GOOD thing!--and we can use all the help we can get. Raise each other up, yeah? 
So here we are. Here I am. Loving myself. Happy with my unquestioning choice to never drink alcohol again. I lift my sparkling water to you. Here's to happiness! To health! May both be yours, now and always.

The Discipline of Kindness

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

As we wind down our summer activities and prepare to settle down into fall routines, there can be a kind of "summertime sadness" to it all: the earlier sunsets, the later sunrises, the tinge of coolness on our shoulders. However, the sharper coolness to the air can also be invigorating, giving us just the swooping lift from hot lethargy that we need to get school lists, schedules, meal plans, and fitness routines all put together. And while there's a bit of excitement in the beginnings of something new, inevitably the excitement gives way to familiarity and lack of motivation. 

What do you do when the motivation runs out? When the journey isn't fun anymore? When the new becomes old? 

There are so many wonderful things about such moments. First, they show you who you truly are, and what your priorities are. They are perfect opportunities to pause and remember why you chose to start what you did. Along this exploration, you may realize that what you thought was important to you really isn't, after all, or that your priorities have shifted. You get to realign with your values and priorities! How wonderful is that?! 

These moments of ennui also remind you that you are still on your personal journey. You're not "there" yet. (Hint: you never will be; there is always something to learn and grow into.) You are still expanding, and that is something to celebrate! If your routine does not bring you what you are looking for, and you've made sure it aligns with your values and priorities, perhaps it is offering you a chance to stick with it, to dig down and discipline yourself to hold fast. Discipline is a yogic concept which shows up in the term "tapas." No, not the yummy small plates! "Tapas" means fire, or purification, and is the discipline of sticking with something that's good for us so we can burn away the resistance we have to that goodness. It's part of our transformative journey as a human and as a soul. This tapas, or discipline that purifies, is related to the solar plexus chakra, the Manipura, which means city of shining jewels. You are polishing yourself into a shiny jewel every time you forge ahead. 

Times like this invite you to discover your power. Your power isn't just in concentration, or in motivation, or in how much you get done. Your power is in your ability to show up, day after day--even when it's boring as hell, even when you're sick and tired of it--just to be purified, to be shined and refined. It's not a pretty or an elegant process. It involves sweat and tears and plenty of shunting the mind monkeys aside to show up in spite of. 

Now, I do want to take a moment to note that you are ALREADY a jewel. You can't polish and refine what you don't already have. You are already worthy. You get to decide how you present that worthiness. A rough, uncut jewel is lovely in and of itself. A cut and polished gem is also beautiful. And there are lots of ways to present the jewel between rough and smoothly designed. So no matter how you decide to discipline yourself and show up, you are beautiful and worthy. You don't have to break your back striving to be what you already are. You choose the extent of your reach and sparkle through showing up. Your efforts and choices are not to be compared to that Instagram influencer's. Ok? She is her own gem; you are your own. A turquoise is never going to morph into a diamond. It can't handle that pressure, for starters. Everyone's discipline is going to look and feel a bit different based on their personal jewel and level of purification tolerance. Please remember that. 

Having said that, it's up to you to choose the level of purification--the level of discipline--you can handle at any given season. That's also important. Each season of life, of the year, can offer you different opportunities for you to respond to. Spring might be a true disciplined slog through the mud just to get through the school year's end, with not much left over for other pursuits. Fall might start with a burst of energy that has you doing all the things with not much effort at all. Ebb and flow. But you show up. 

"Together we write the Book of Life, our every encounter determined by fate and our hands joined in the belief that we can make a difference in this world. Everyone contributes a word, a sentence, an image, but in the end it all makes sense: the happiness of one becomes the joy of all."

Paulo Coelho

One thing I invite everyone to consider as a purification of self is the Discipline of Kindness. What is that, you ask? 

The Discipline of Kindness is my take on the Loving Kindness meditation Sharon Salzberg has developed from the Buddhist tradition of Metta Meditation. It essentially slows you down to offer yourself and others love and compassion. Recent studies by the Center for Healthy Minds here at the University of Wisconsin have discovered that practicing this meditation can literally rewire your brain, making you a truly more loving, compassionate, and kind individual. (I recommend the book Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson for the science behind it.)

You have woken up to newscasts over the past weeks, months, years...you understand the need for kindness in the world. I love Coelho's quote above: "the happiness of one becomes the joy of all." It's true. If we are joyful and loving and compassionate, that will rub off onto others. We can change our world one person at a time. Yes, we need a political system re-haul, we need common-sense legislation, we need to address the darkest parts of our history and psyche. But we have to acknowledge that this work, and this kindness, must start within US! We've got to reset our own knee-jerk reactions and biases; to retrain our brains to choose compassion rather than hate; to choose the Middle Way. That's the only way we get traction: if we buckle down with discipline and do the work on ourselves, for ourselves, for our children, for our world.

I challenge you to schedule two 30-minute sessions each week from August 21 to September 21 (at least!) to meditate with this Discipline of Kindness. Allow it to be your centering force, changing your mind about how you respond to yourself and to others. Just observe what happens in a month's time. See where it leads you.

Together, we write the Book of Life. Let's make it a kind, loving, triumphant one! 

About that Gillette Commercial...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

If you respond to the new Gillette commercial with anger, or react with disgust over the so-called "war on men" and try to replace the commercial with "what it should have been," I gently invite you to pause and consider why.

For those of you who may not have seen the commercial, or know of what I am speaking, here is a link to the original commercial. For the record, I find it to be beautiful and inspiring. Here is why.

First of all, let's address this "war on men" idea. There is no war on men. There is, however, a push-back against toxic masculinity. You might think that means that masculinity = men, which = men are toxic. Not true. Men are not toxic. The way they use their masculinity, however, can be. That's what we're talking about here: not men, but how they use their masculinity. (By the way, women are also not toxic, but they can use their femininity in toxic ways, too. Think of catty, manipulative, gossiping women, and you have a general idea.)

Now let's define masculinity. Masculinity in its best form (see what I did there?) is logical, strong, and full of action and purpose, tinted with just a bit of Divine Femininity such as gentleness or patience. This is also know as the Sacred Masculine. Men are meant to be sacred, using these qualities for the good of all. But sometimes the masculine energy tilts into a toxic pattern of repeatedly over-playing the strengths to make up for some deficiency or wound (lack of love, lack of parental care and guidance, some trauma in their life, etc.), whether real or perceived. So instead of being logical, strong, full of action and purpose for the good of all, toxic masculinity shows up as selfish, bullying, and stubborn strong-arming for personal immediate gain--a desperate attempt to fix the wound. This often appears, as we've seen quite often lately, as hatred and bullying of cultures not identified as one's own; coercion and manipulation of other wounded men (and wounded women who support them) toward agreement on something that promises to alleviate the wound but really only serves the manipulator; violence; and hatred of and violence toward women, who are seen as a threat (even though their Divine Feminine--ie., intuition, gentleness, patience--is actually part of the healing).

Now, it's important that when toxic masculinity shows up, we don't fall into the trap of disgust or hate for such a display of misuse of power. Understanding that there is a deep wound in the men exhibiting this behavior is essential to responding with a Sacred Masculinity (or a Divine Femininity). In my opinion, the Gillette team did a lovely job responding with Sacred Masculinity. They logically presented the problem; they exhibited strength in speaking up; they took appropriate action for the good of all; they gently, firmly, and patiently called on men to remember to be their best selves, especially in the presence of those carrying on the Sacred Masculine mantle. They did not deride the wounded. They stepped forward as the Sacred Masculine to invite them to a higher standard of behavior. They reminded them of who they really are. Well done.

Men are sacred beings, just as women are divine beings. No gender is better than or less than the other. We need each other's energy in its best form to survive and thrive. Let's not see the prophetic call to our true selves as a war against a gender. Let's step up and truly embody our Sacred Selves.

Finding Peace in Panic

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Last year brought a lot of changes into my life that sent me into survival mode. Somehow I intuitively knew that to find peace in all the upheaval, I would need to spend a lot of time getting my head in the right place, and readjusting my mindset from fear to faith. So I did the work to get there. And then I got a little lazy, because things were going so well. (We've all been there, right!?)

This year the fear started to creep back in as a result of my lack of diligent soul upkeep, but instead of judging myself and going deeper into the hole of depression and scarcity, I remembered what I tell others all the time: do the work. We've got to do the work, or we get blindsided. We get complacent, we think it's all good, we go through the motions; and then we get hit with a big dose of fear and wonder where that came from. It's quite a natural cycle. But we each have tools that work for us, and we all, deep down, know what we need to do when the lows hit.

I've been pulling out my own trusty tools this summer: spending time outdoors, running off (literally) the adrenaline, finding gratitude for the beauty around me, meditating, seeking community, and reading uplifting literature. But I also turned to some not-so-trusty tools like panicking, trying lots of different ideas for "fixing" the situation without really stopping to understand the real issue. Do you ever find yourself there? Panicking, and then swimming frantically in circles to fix what you haven't taken the time to understand? It's ok; turns out you're not alone! Your yoga teacher does the same thing when she's not fully present!

This morning's meditation session brought it all home for me succinctly. In Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates writes,

In our fear we believe that we must make things happen; in our practice we learn to let things happen...I am reminded that I do not want to be the doer. I want to be the channel, I want to be the witness, I want to be grateful. I do not want to be the doer. That's God's job...When I let go, my whole life becomes a work of art."

Isn't that beautiful? There's a lot of truth packed in there. When we operate from fear, we may be tempted to make things happen: I need to do X, Y, Z, and then it will be all right! I can put it back together! But living in fear keeps us from seeing the bigger picture. My exercise in A Course in Miracles yesterday was quite timely: "I do not perceive my best interests." When I'm living in a fearful mindset, I have no space to see what's really going on. I'm operating blindly, flailing my energy first in one direction and then in the opposing direction, going nowhere. I have no idea what I need to do to be purposeful and intentional. 

And that is the tricky part, for all I need to do is let go. I need to realize that I'm not in control of outcomes. I am required to live my life one duty at a time, as the Bhagavad Gita says, and leave the outcome to God. There is no need to expend energy flailing about as though I were God. That is, quite frankly, stupid. I cannot see what God sees. I cannot do what God does. I am simply the channel for God to do His work through me. 

When you stop struggling, you float.

There is peace in panic when we realize we're not in control, when we stop struggling to make things happen. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but the more we practice floating, the more we understand it, and the more abundance we experience. I, for one, am going to keep practicing. It doesn't mean I do nothing; it means I start from a place of peace instead of fear, so that my intentions have a safe place to live out their purpose. It may look like I'm floating, doing nothing, but without the peaceful start, there's nothing there but fear, panic, and swimming in circles. My life is meant for more than that, and so is yours. 

How to Survive in a Hate-Filled World

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It seems that everywhere we look these days, from personal lives to social media to the White House, there are hateful attacks on people for the craziest of reasons: appearance, race, religion, gender preference; telling the truth of someone's character, speaking up for injustice, explaining a different experience or point of view. All of the vitriol can be overwhelming. How do we survive the onslaught?

I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year or so, both in meditation and in non-meditating moments. How does anyone not only survive, but thrive in the midst of all the anger and hurt? My answer might seem trite at first glance, but I will explain further.

Survival and thriving come from an intention to see everyone and everything through the lens of love.

Let's start with what this does NOT mean. Seeing everyone and everything in love does not mean that we let people get away with bad behavior. Bad behavior needs to be called out, not with more hate, but with compassion and a sense of justice. Seeing everyone and everything in love does not mean that we let others take advantage of us. We can offer forgiveness, seek justice, and still maintain boundaries. Seeing others in love does not mean that we avoid interacting with them. It means first making sure we have dealt with ourselves lovingly, making sure we are in tune with our intentions and truest selves, and then having hard yet respectful conversations--and knowing when the conversation needs to be over. Seeing everyone and everything in love does not mean that we who try to see through the lens of love are perfect. It means we're trying, which means we'll fail, which means we need to be willing to offer ourselves grace and forgiveness along the way.

So what DOES it mean? Seeing everyone and everything through the lens of love means that we filter every interaction, action, and word through love and compassion. We may not go quite so far to offer the benefit of a doubt; for some things, there is absolutely no doubt as to what has been said or done! But we do attempt to understand the heart cry of the person who says or does something that is or appears to be hateful. Gabrielle Bernstein says it well in her book The Universe Has Your Back.

The Course [in Miracles] says, 'Every communication is either an extension of love or a call for love.' When you attack with judgment, you're really just looking for love. The search for love is your true intent behind the attack because deep down all you want is to protect yourself from not feeling loved. It's also the intent of the person you believe has attacked you. Both of you are simply looking for love. At its core, attack is a call for help.

Think about that: "at its core, attack is a cry for help." Hateful remarks on social media, spiteful speeches, bullying, reacting in fear and anger, a (wrongful) attack of character--these are all cries for help. It's the cry of a wounded heart who doesn't know anymore how to be loved, rather like an abused or cornered animal. 

Now, I understand that this might be a stretch for some of you, that life experiences and circumstances seem to imply that there are "good" and "bad" people, and that the best you can do is either fight back tooth and nail, or avoid them altogether. Today I invite you to a possible third way of living: a way of forgiveness, grace, and love. This requires starting with yourself, gently. 

Look at yourself, not necessarily in a mirror, but if it helps, go for it. Look at your heart, what you desire deep down. Do you desire to be loved? I think all of us, to one degree or another, can agree that we want to be loved. When we don't feel loved, what do we do? Do we go on the defensive? Do we retreat? Do we tell ourselves a story that we need to be protected, no matter what? How does that story play out for you? Don't let your imagination run into emotion here, just watch. Acknowledge your patterns of behavior. 

If you tend to retreat, ask yourself why. Is it because you feel like you don't deserve love from someone? Or that it's too much to ask? Does it mean having a vulnerable conversation you'd rather avoid? Why? 

If you tend to be defensive and attack, ask yourself why. Is it because you want love and can't figure out how to get it? Is it easier to pretend you don't need love? Or that love should look only the way you want it to? Do you tend to live with the notion that you only get what you fight for, even if the fighting never quite gives you what you wanted? Why? 

Whatever your reasons, whatever your habits, whatever the story you believe, try not to judge it. Instead, look at it through a lens of love, and acknowledge the deeper reason for your behaviors. Then forgive yourself for living from a place of fear and anger. Commit to living from a place of love, even if it's a slow process with lots of mess-ups and restarts along the way. 

You might wonder if you really need to go through all this. After all, this is about how to survive in a world filled with others' hate, right? Well, sure. And we are each part of the problem. We start with ourselves. We can't change anyone else, but we can change ourselves. When we change our habits and our perspectives, we are able to see others as we see ourselves. We have the same problem: we all want love. We all have similar responses to that desire. The more we understand ourselves and our own habits and responses, and the more we choose to intentionally operate from love instead of fear, the more compassion we will have for others going through the same thing and the more we will be able to interact through the lens of love. 

Living and interacting through the lens of love gives us freedom and peace. We don't have to get caught up in how so-and-so could possibly think, say, or do such-and-such. We don't have to replay the words or actions over and over, torturing ourselves. We set ourselves free from all of that so we can make life choices that intentionally work for the greater good. We not only survive, but thrive, and that kind of energy is contagious and world-changing.