The Time Before Goodbye

5 and 1/3 years: that’s how long my feet have walked the streets of this particular town. 3 houses, 1 home: this is where my occasionally weary, sometimes happy body has rested, or at least tried to. 50 months, so far: this is the length of time I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of an amazing community of yogis in the sweetness of a studio I get to call mine. 11 dwellings and 5 cities: that’s where I’ve lived in my life, not counting the year of travel around the world. 136 to 157 days, roughly: this is how much time my heart has to explore and explode and experience and expand in this neck of the woods before I say goodbye and start over. Again.

f0e9ec0c795d690d0f04a3170186f289I’ve started over a lot. Sometimes I’ve done it because I wanted to, because my heart wanted nothing more than to follow the magic of beginning. Sometimes I’ve done it because my heart wanted nothing more than to follow the thumping of another human’s heart. This time, it is both.

The last few years of being rooted, un-rooted and up-rooted here, have been the hardest of my life. This is where I’ve known isolation and judgment, feelings of disconnect and insignificance, endings and beginnings, chaos and so. much. change. I’ve found myself face to face with demons and leaches, my own and other people’s too. I’ve looked in the mirror and seen morsels of decay left to fester in the corners of multifaceted rooms I didn’t know my body held. At times, I fought so strenuously against the current it felt like I was swimming in place, tethered to imaginary monsters of the past.

tumblr_nxk010GCRi1rpuw07o1_500And it has also been a period of standing over the cauldron of my own swirling light, marked by momentous leaps and bounds of growth, by love that managed to tear my heart open wider and wider and wider still. I’ve stepped in soupy messes with courage I didn’t know I had, leapt wild-heartedly into unknowns, and with a few scrapes and bruises to prove it, learned to fly. I’ve risked my significance in order to eagerly stand (with increasing patience and readiness) by my own genuine self. I’ve stripped down to the bone, shed my snake-skin, stood in the harshness of raw, achy exposure, and emerged a shinier, brighter, fuller me. I’ve been hurled by the universe’s slingshot into depths of knowing, remembering and re-membering.

To this community of souls that has witnessed my journey, that has stood by my side, that has taught me to be, thank you. My hands have been warmed by the strength of your hands, my eyes have been seen by the beauty and wisdom of your eyes, my heart has swelled by the expansiveness of your heart. To you who have had the courage to share of your selves, who have trusted me with your secrets, your joys and your struggles, thank you. It is in the witnessing of your blossoming that I have been given permission to bloom. And to those ones that have shut me out, shot me down, turned away from me and chosen not to see me, thank you. You’ve gifted me the audacity to show up, the grit to work through the muck, the determination to stand in my own light.

I have 3264 to 3768 hours left in this place. Here’s to thriving in each of those clock-ticks, to relishing the time left, to being in the untidiness of it all. Here’s to the turbulence of the next moments. Here’s to the not-so-gentle juncture of leaving, to us – you and you and I, in the chaos of parting. And here’s to the brilliant flame of beginnings that follows the disorientation of endings.
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(all photos found on tumblr)

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Inhale, exhale

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Inhalation, exhalation.
Bridges and rubble. Tall spiraling staircases and the after-math of bombings. Light so bright it hurts my eyes and dark, moldy, terrifying corners.

Transformation. Death and birth and death and birth and birth and death again. The full moon is in Taurus. Remember to remember, they say. Let that shit go, they say.
It’s the last super-moon of the year. Harness that creativity, they say.

Tap in or tap out. And it feels like chaos.
Inspiration, expiration.
Inhale, exhale.

It’s a whirlwind of destruction. It’s a fertilizing, a readying for the planting, a preparing to receive. Brush the dry skin off. There is beauty in the particles floating in the sunlight…and it is skin – old, dry, decomposing debris. I’ve got one foot (and perhaps half of the other) out the door. I’ve got two hands hanging onto the windowsill, trying to pull myself back in. I can hear the pitter-patter, I can hear the thump-thump-thumping, I can hear the unbridled-almost-ferocious-roaring of my heart.

Inspire, expire.
Space and sweetness. And gasping too. And just a hint of fear. Fear is good, they say. It keeps you moving forward. Fear is bad, they say. It freezes you in your tracks.

And then there are the trees, breathing and reaching, simultaneously shedding and quieting and getting ready to sleep. Earth and metal. Salts and ores and quiet streams. Water so powerful it’s about to break the dam.

Don’t you dare hold back, they say. Be wild and true. Create a container, they say. It’s not polite to be who you are.
Inhalation, exhalation.
Inspiration, expiration.
This room is too cramped. The walls are too tall.
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(top photo by Christopher McKenney, bottom one here)

It’s not always light and love…

(This post was spurred by an intelligent and thoughtful discussion with a fellow yogini and friend following the unbearable news about what happened in Charleston and why/how it’s important to talk about it. What follows has been modified from my response to her)

There is a lack of conversation in the yoga community (and elsewhere) about the racism and discrimination we are experiencing in North America. I believe is it linked to the distorted (and, if we are being transparent here, appropriated) culture of yoga, guided by the beautiful wishes to always be inclusive, to move toward oneness, to continue to walk in (seemingly) constant peace and love – or at the very least to project that image. It is misguided, unfortunately, and based in fear of being rejected or labeled as being too harsh, too abrasive or non-inclusive. It is a product of a culture that, at least in the parts of Canada and the United States I have witnessed, is dominated mostly by white people (and, lets be honest here: it is, in my experience, still dominated more accurately by white men – though I admit this is changing. Slowly).

In the last few years, I have been working with what it means to be authentic – truly authentic. The yoga world is a very easy place to hide behind one-love-paradigms, too-sweet-too-accepting facades that, as practitioners and warriors of love, we end up believing are true, even when they are not. I have seen myself convinced (truly believing – not in denial, but honestly convinced) that I wasn’t stress, wasn’t hurt, wasn’t frustrated/angry/lonely/insert-whatever-‘challenging’-emotion-here because I was (and still am, though working on it) so practiced in gracefully being yogic, knowing the “appropriate” way to act or to respond. Instead, after years of hiding behind the yoga mask, I am allowing myself to speak in honour of my true voice, my true feelings, my true thoughts.  And I am also learning to speak in honour of the truth of the world as it is right now.

Everything is not light and love. Some of it is, yes. And if we want to walk truthfully and authentically into light and love, we have to openly, loudly, fearlessly denounce darkness and hatred.

AND we have to own our part of the responsibility.
I think that, right there, is the hardest (because it’s fucking hard) part…

I have no idea what it means to be African-American living in the States right now (or even to have black skin in most parts of the world for that matter), and I’m not going to pretend I ever could understand what that means. But I do know, from my own sheltered experience, that it is hard to have a ‘different’ last name and to be discriminated against because of it… I do know that it feels pretty shitty that 95% of the time i walk into a yoga class (as a teacher or as a student), I am the only non-white body in the room…. I do know how awful it is to feel restricted or judged or singled out or called a terrorist (!!) because of my appearance or because of the letters that form the words that were given to me, meant to define me as ‘who I am’… I do know what if feels like to be in a place where I feel unsafe because of the colour of my skin… (and i’m not even talking here about being in a homosexual relationship or simply about being a woman)

But here’s the thing. I have lived, for the most part, a privileged life in which I have been loved and cared for and provided for and accepted. So my experience cannot even begin to be compared to what millions of people are suffering now because of the colour of their skin or because of where they were born. And so it is not only my choice, but my obligation (and i believe it is also the obligations of all privileged people – especially yogis and even more so, white yogis) to acknowledge and speak out about what is going on in the world. It is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness for our mistakes, and with humility, to ask what, precisely, is needed to even begin to heal the deep wounds (and then to respect what is offered to us as guidance and answers, without trying to take the stage).

So. Thank you, each of you who have chosen to, or are choosing to step in. Thank you for the courage it takes to tell the truth of where you are at. Thank you for not shying away, for not hiding behind false pretences (like the hashtag ‘alllivesmatter’ – read more here), for acknowledging your capacity – whatever it currently is at this point, and for the strength it takes to show up and to learn and to move forward. #blacklivesmatter

photo by Blair Ryan Photography(photo by Blair Ryan photography)

Love’s Year

The moon will show herself one last time this year. She begs me to do the same, calling my name in that sweet soul-whisper only she and I can hear. It is a hushed riddle she requires me to answer before opening the door to the unmistakable truth. She only uses it to beckon me when I’ve been hiding too long. She’s quick to remind me it’s been a while.

Don’t worry, sweet one, she murmurs. We’ll wait for you if we need to, and we’ll love you voraciously all the same. But it’s been long enough now.

I can hear the indisputable thump-thump-thumping of my heart… or is it hers? There is no difference, 491ef5df644db602d3142dd48662a3acI feel, but I cannot know for sure. There is an unambiguous anxiety that builds as the clock tick-tocks it’s way to a new calendar. The moon has orchestrated a mesmerizing rhythm of waves crashing over each other like the days of the past year, muddled and messy and powerful; and this cold, salty air pleads me to look back as though it carries all of my secrets, disappointments and revelations. I can feel it right down to my marrow. I’ve been stretched in a way that cannot be unstretched. I’ve learned things impossible to unlearn. I know it is a good thing – it’s been a formidable few months. I’ve taken giant steps only to (momentarily) fall back tenfold. I’ve brushed myself off and seen the ferocious beauty of my universe-sized soul only to hold a mirror up to where I’ve conveniently been hiding a small speck of darkness. More, always more, she urged of me. Each time, managing to force me into deeper knowing, added forgiveness, and continually expanding grace. So now this head of mine begs for some spacious silence, a patch of warm ground to rest on for a while, a few spotless moments to piece together the puzzle of sagacious wisdom gained and not yet fully understood.

I will draw a bath in these last hours of the year. The salts will leach the worries out of my precious bones, one by one. The water will soak away the impossible expectations I’ve come to have of myself. I will replace them all with lists of laugher and smiles and sweetness past. As the hourglass drops her last grains of sand, I will set the unresolution to just be. I will deepen all of my cracks and wrinkles until they become grooves, prayers that hold an infinite capacity for love. I will meet your eyes with unconditional softness and trust that you will do the same for me.
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Falling In Love in the City of Love

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It all started one morning as I lay on the makeshift bed, trying to plan my day. Metro stops, directions from here to there, frantic notes taken in my book and on my phone, all to ensure I wouldn’t get lost.

photo by Myriam Khouzam

I realized I was wasting precious moments, my mind slowed by the fear of being disoriented. It was enough to move me out of doubt.  I slipped into my favorite jeans, wrapped my heart in my scarf, and headed out the door.

The magic opened up before me. She found me instantly. She guided me through winding streets, reminding me patiently to trust my intuition.

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There I was, lost among the crowds of tourists. They were missing the beauty, their noses so perfectly buried in guide books. There I was, found in the beauty of my surroundings.
For a few days, I learned what it felt like to be truly present, one breath, one step, one bite at a time. The past and the future chose to forget me and I saw myself reflected in windows and flowers and beautiful eyes looking back at me.

I ate croissants and watched lovers kiss. I felt the sun, and later the rain, tickle my cheeks. I navigated the streets of Paris waiting for my heart to be swept away, searching for romance.

And I found it.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the company I kept. We made the most of those few days we had alone together, lost in time for a while.

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We took each other on long walks, talked to locals as though we were one of them, and they believed us. We sat for long, delicious meals, allowing the wine to go to our heads and mesmerize us by our collective beauty. We told each other fairytales and they melded so perfectly with reality that we could no longer separate the two.  We teased each other and laughed. We learned the language of soul-speak and without a single word, absorbed the history around us, communing not only with our own selves but with those who had taken these very same steps before we had even inherited these bodies. We looked at old photographs and tombstones and knew we had been here before, many times.

At night, we shared our discoveries with our beloved and her smile became a reflection of our own.

We were me, and I am all of us.

I know, with the cells of my soul, I am in love with each of you and with the moon reflected in our eyes.

 

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*all photos by me. see more here

Learning to Listen

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I got to bed late last night.
This morning I am up before the sun.
It is bitter and crisp and dark outside, my breath a cloud of smoke.
I feel sorry for myself, tired and irritated and chilled to the marrow of my bones.
As dawn rises, it paints the sky a thousand shades of yellow and pink. Without trying, I look up to see her staring back at me. She is shining in her majestic grace, half of her face cloaked by the growing sun’s shadow, the two so perfectly mismatched and yet unconditionally entwined. She shows her sectioned self, and in an instant I know she is preparing to rest a while. Her wisdom is in the repose that allows her to return again, as she always does, fierce, bold and clairvoyant.

Now that I’ve gotten to know her, she is impossible to forget. She keeps me a (consenting) prisoner of her subtle changes. Inevitably, I find myself riding the waves of her tide. From time to time when I forget to let her in, she knocks me to the ground, a reminder of her strength and her unrelenting vigilance and love. She doesn’t speak much, not in the way you or I do. But she is constantly teaching me, tirelessly (and oh so patiently) waiting for me to get it. Sometimes I do, and other times it takes a few repeat lessons. She faithfully becomes my tutor and through her compassionate command, she shows me again… and again… and again.

tumblr_mzj0ra4IeU1qmjc0fo1_500And so this morning, in one quick, impressive glint, she summons me to rest.
She whispers: “Rest, my sweet child. Wrap yourself in warmth. Be with stillness. Immerse yourself in the ritual of running a bath, making a cup of tea, cuddling with the dogs.” She sings in her moon-shine language: “Be with your irritable, sullen self without judgment. Hold her until she thoroughly understands what love means. Warm yourself by the fire of your own heart. Listen to it’s rhythmic cadence and let it’s tenderness bundle you with unblemished goodness.”

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Half of my face is veiled too, a childish mimicking of hers. Part of me wanting to push and fight and run and do; the other, an undeniable knowing, a fountainhead of wisdom.

This morning, I choose to listen. I choose to let myself be moved by the current. I choose to give in to her stream, the moon’s tempo, and be carried toward a mending, a healing that can only happen in the belly of the quiet, in the place where the dark turns to light.

Meet Me Where the Light Rushes In

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Hide yourself from the world.
Wade for a time in the
Murkiest corners of your soul.
Sit in the squalor of your own disgrace.
Know what it is to embody voracious
Greed, ignorance, intolerance.
See yourself reflected in
The eyes of a murderer,
In the hands of a pedophile,
In the mind of a terrorist.

Trust deeply that it is from the
Dregs of your own decay
That the blossom is born.
Accept that,
For you to be only love,
In the heart of your heart,
You must also have tasted disgust.
Acknowledge that wisdom
Can only be birthed out of sadness.
Believe that, within you,
There is a harmony
Of light and dark,
A symphony of sentiments
That allow you to feel fully,
To live with fervor,
To be.

And know.
Fully understand.
Your love is the heart of the universe.
Your fire is the soul of the world.
Your truth is a reflection of the cosmos.
Your muck and your beauty,
A mirror of us all.

Sit with me in the dark of the dark
Meet me where the light rushes in.

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