i, cedar.

my face pressed deeply into her bark,
cheek and lips distorted.
her surface is softness and jagged edges.
underneath, she bleeds red.
(like we do)
i’m surrounded by people…
for a moment in time,
completely alone.
entwined.
branches growing instead of toes.
leaves in place of teeth.
sinew forced out by seed.
i smell of sap and musk and earth,
of pepper and dampness and moss.
her woody arms wrap around me.
she whispers sweetness,
heart to heart.
when there is gratitude,
she says,
the universe is limitless in her abundance.

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sourced here

Roaring Waters

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The water is roaring. The riverbed can’t hold her in. She’s rushing… flooding… running… trickling way past her usual edges. Like a delirious child, madly colouring outside the lines. Her container is no longer suitable. It’s too constricted. But here’s the beauty – she doesn’t try to fit into it. She just builds a new one.

I put one foot in front of the other. I can’t tell if my hair is made of snakes. I’m not sure if that’s the sound of my heart, or the wild thumping of the core of the earth. And I don’t want to know. My skin feels soft and loose, yet I’m bursting at the seams. There is rage, and power, and excitement. There is magic, unbridled joy, and the deepest trust in all the things. There is mourning also. Sadness. Disappointment. Fear, trying to hold me back. But the current is tenacious; it’s way too strong now. My vessel is too small. It’s time to build a new one…

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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)

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)

In Memory of Utah

11392876_10152872908176860_3668522950837520774_nOne of my friends once said that losing a dog was, in some way, harder than losing a loved one. Our dogs love us unconditionally, every day. Our dogs shower us with kisses and tenderness whenever we (or they) need it. They ask for nothing in return, they teach us the gratitude of every moment, the joys of the mundane: sticks and rivers, food and water, warmth and hugs. Most importantly, they teach us to love openly, to give love and to receive it. And even once they’ve left us, they continue to show us how to grow, to move, one tentative puppy step at a time, through the mourning and the grief, through the mud and murky waters, into the clear calmness of remembering and of re-membering. There is an opening that can’t be closed, a widening of the heart that can never be narrowed, a depth of sensitivity and a new understanding. There is an ability to communicate without the burden of words.

22516_10152872908126860_6684168451912576704_nDogs show us how to follow our instincts, trust ourselves, step into our own beauty, and not worry about what others may say. They show us that for every person that doesn’t want to play, there are three others just waiting to share their joy with us. They train us to explore all of our unknowns, to tumble and fall and get right back up again, bruises and all. They show us how to enjoy what we have, to trust the abundance, to find the loveliness that is everywhere, if only we can learn how to see it, smell it, taste it and celebrate it.

So when we say goodbye to our friend, our number one secret-keeper, our protector, our calm, tender, wise boy – it hurts. Badly. And we are reminded that as the pain begins to subside (and it will), we will find solace in the memories, and even more gratitude in the gift of each day.11011011_10152872908296860_8587589940910800863_n

“There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.” ~Suzanne Clothier

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The Universe Inside Our Heart

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We sat in a circle.
Ten souls new to each other,
As old as the world.
The tears of the world flooded our eyes and our mouths.
We became a conduit for the suffering, and in turn,
The healing of the earth.
We sat in the darkness,
The rain challenging us to step up to the task.
And they came
By the thousands, they came
Checking us out,
Wanting to be a part of the conversation.
We let them in.
We held each other through the storm.
We lifted the curtains and
Entered beyond the veils.
We tasted immense beauty
And knew that our love was not enough
We can always (always!) love more.
So we sat with ourselves and each other.
We struggled with feeling alone and small.
We marvelled at our bigness.
We became immeasurable.
And we knew.
Beyond words, we understood.
It is our darkness that allows the light.
It is our light that stirs us to the knowing.
The entire universe is inside our heart.

We don’t know how lovely we are.
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roller coaster ride

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i’ve got that feeling again…
it’s a feeling that is all too familiar.
it’s the one that creeps into my neck when my throat clenches a little too long, when i have something to say yet i don’t really know what the words i wish to speak actually are.
so instead of talking so much, i am trying to listen deeply. i am trying to hear the language of my heart.
that usually works.
i’m in the habit of asking my body how it feels about momentous shifts… my head usually knows when to get out of the way. but not this time, it seems.
one moment, my heart sings a sweet whisper of a song. it’s a soft, comforting yes. the next, it shouts no so loudly i have to cup my hands over my ears and dream of the ocean. and so my head is confused.
the opening is too small for me to fit through. nevertheless, i can’t quite shut the door.

i’m on a roller coaster ride with bright neon signs coaxing me to try the buffet at the bottom of the hill. it really is the best!
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another billboard convinces me that the food is always fresher next door. i’m moving so fast i can’t figure it out. the ride is wild – slow, rickety rises and hair-raising drops. i’m sure i am turning left and without a warning I turn right.
i’m tired and I want to get off though it seems whoever is running the show isn’t ready to let me slow down quite yet. in any case, if i were to step off now, the ground would feel shaky and it may not hold me in my dizzied state.

stones are grounding, right? we’ve figured that out together already.
i’ve been carrying my sodalite with me everywhere for the last two weeks. i reach a hand in my pocket and feel it’s smooth surface and visualize it’s creamy white and blue. no one knows it’s there except me, and whether or not it’s true, i imagine it helps me get the words out.
it’s one of the stones associated with the throat chakra. it is meant to help me discover my inner truths and then assist me in expressing them freely and lovingly. i don’t know if it’s working. there is no on button and it’s taking too long. i can feel the stone’s frequency in the palm of my hand but my throat is still tight, my words are still frozen…

i know that time will help me figure it out. it always does. i just wish i could speed things up a little. images-5even thought it could make the tilt-a-whirl go faster, it might also quicken the whole process and end it before i get motion sickness.

only, what if time doesn’t lead me to a decision?
what happens if I never get to know what my inner truth is?
what if there is no right or wrong answer to this particular question?
i am putting more weight on myself than i need to. I know that. it’s difficult not to when i know the outcome of my process will affect people i love.

it’s a lesson in patience.
apparently i’m still learning that one.
it seems i keep getting knocked over the head with it.
the cast iron pan is heavy this time.
i’m scared it will knock me to the floor.

the only thing I can do is be gentle with myself. so that is what I am doing…
touching cedar, running baths, eating dates.
the sun feels lovely on my skin, and the spring breeze helps with the emotional nausea.