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A year ago today, we woke early and made coffee. We watched men put our things into a truck. We packed our tiny car with what we needed for 6 weeks, we stuffed the dogs in there too.

I remember driving away, whispering farewells to the house we’d called home, to the neighbours we’d called friends, to my favourite tree down my favourite street. When we left the familiar city boundaries, we turned the volume up and sang our sorrow into excitement and bubbly beginnings.

It’s been 365 sleeps (366 to be exact, since it was a leap year), and just as many emotions. Exhilarating days discovering our neighbourhood, our city, and days missing the comfort of the known. There’s still so much we haven’t done or seen, still so much to hold our attention.

I miss the forest and the river steps away from our front door. I miss the wisdom of the wind singing harmonies with the leaves.

But the trees in Montreal are approachable. They’ve been around people so much, they know exactly what to do with us.

And living in French has rekindled a part of me that had been forgotten.

So… here’s to another orbit around the sun.
Here’s to newness and challenge and discovery.
Here’s to transforming a house into a home, acquaintances into friendships.
Here’s to roots breaking through cement.

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(top photo from wehearit.com , bottom from jetpac.com)

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)

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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The Shape of Love

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They sat by the water, watching the sun sparkle on the clear surface, telling stories with the rocks on the bottom of the lake. They played with beach rackets, throwing their heads back and letting the wind catch their laughter. The dogs, almost as happy as they were, chased the balls that got away from them. They relished the quiet magic of this place: the soothing sounds of the waves hitting the dock and the cool breeze that was just another reason for them to take refuge in each other’s arms. They had no neighbours peeking at them, no one to check up on them except the night sky like none other they had ever seen. The stars spoke of their ancestors and guardians, the ones that told them they were exactly where they needed to be. They went for walks in the woods. They stepped into the water, covered their calves and stayed as long as they could bare the shivers that ran over their entire bodies. But mostly, they allowed themselves to just be, to bask in the warm embrace of the land, sunkissed on the deck, reading, writing, holding hands. They were on their honeymoon after all.

They were me. Me and my wife, that is.

I didn’t think I would ever write those words. I didn’t think I would get married, though perhaps somewhere deep inside, the idea wasn’t so far fetched. At some point in my childhood I’m sure I imagined myself in a beautiful white gown with my handsome husband carrying me out into the sunset. I don’t remember dreaming that dream, but surely it happened. Every little girl dreams of being a bride, right? Barbie and Ken taught me that.

And then in high school I felt different from all of them. I wanted to be loved, liked. I wanted to belong and yet I wanted to stay different. The mold was attractive but so uncomfortable to try to fit into.

University came and I fell in love. We made a life together. We travelled the world, moved often, learned to be adults together. I thought that was it. For sure. He looked good on me. We looked good together. They all liked us so much. Twelve years later we bought a house and moved to where our “real life” would begin. You know the one – the one the adults live, the one that is settled, the one where you go to the market on Saturday mornings, the one where you garden and cook and keep the house clean. You know, the life you’re supposed to have. The one where she feels a little sad and lonely. The one where he works a lot and tries his best. The life in which they love each other dearly but wish somehow things were just a little different.

And then it all changed. That’s when I met her. That’s when the Universe reminded me of the lesson I’m still learning, the lesson we all have been learning our whole life. Things change and though you have the ability to choose, happiness doesn’t always come in a pretty pink package. Sometimes happiness comes in the shape of chaos, at least for a while.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And the easiest. The bomb went off and the trees fell down, roots exposed, sap bleeding out a little. 563013_516474015098660_962157212_nShe scooped me up, nursed my bruises and, with the kind of patience only love can provide, she kissed each of my scars and turned them into butterflies. We broke each other’s hearts open, kept waiting for them to stop growing, but they never did. Our hearts as vast as the sky. We held each other’s hurt and turned it into songs. She helped me find my long lost voice.

We didn’t want to spend a minute a part. When distance separated us, we texted sweetness. Early on, she drove with her windows down, music blaring, wind in her hair, and I wrote that I could marry her. I tasted the richness of happy, the warmth of gratitude, the thrill of new love. We kept waiting for the intensity to dissipate but it still hasn’t. Sure, its shape has changed a little. We’ve made a home together, one where we go to the market on Saturdays, a home where we garden and cook and clean. But every day we pause to look around at what we’ve created. We drink our love.

And so we gathered our friends and family. We found a barn and a field. I wore a blue dress with flowers printed on it, hers was red and flowing. The East, South, West and North guided our day. The eagle feather blessed our hands. The sun and the sweet breeze wrapped themselves around our shoulders. The trees and birds whispered their wisdom. And our people, all of them, cheered our loved. The ones that were uncomfortable couldn’t deny what was between us. They smiled and raised their glasses and toasted us with softness in their eyes.

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And here we are together, married to each other, married to the moon and the sky, married to the joys and the sorrows, to the comforts and the challenges, learning, laughing, growing, side by side. Here we are, marveling at the shades of red and purple, the pinks and yellows of our life together. We’re learning and teaching those around us that the light shapes its way in many forms. It will seep through the cracks and fill your beating heart with joy. If you let it.