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)

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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a long time coming

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‘he’s aging so fast, and not so well’ she said.
she’s been letting the tears come, and then the frustration, and after that the desperate laughter.
she’s been saying goodbye, both consciously and not so consciously.
and in the process, she’s been weeding through the garden of her relationships.
she’s been sweeping out the cobwebs and saying what needs to be said.
she’s been expressing her gratitude, she’s been telling them to piss off.
she’s sharing her pain and allowing herself to be raw, laying it all out for the spring sunshine to heal.
she’s been feeling the age of holding it all in.

and so she said what has been sitting between us like a paper cut.
she found the courage – or was it the resignation – to voice what’s been at play there, that heartbreak twang of a country song unheard in the deserted strip mall parking lot.

the wounds were opened a bit, stretched out and slightly stinging, wanting to be washed.
we peered in to see what was there.
we found words, lots of them. there were lonesome words carelessly strewn about, and secret notes torn to shreds and impossible to piece together again. we found old dusty pictures of us laughing, and some of us hiding from each other. there were love songs, poems of mistrust and a rusted wagon that held our deep seated wish to be each other’s ‘person’. both of us sat there, poking at our noodles and wanting to take a spin in the red flyer once again.

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we felt vulnerable as we spoke our truths. we were talking to each other, yes, and also to our own hearts.

they had sensed it before we could, had offered a window into the freedom that might come if we gave ourselves (and each other) permission to expose the burden of our hurt. they didn’t talk to each other, yet they each told us the same thing. he watched the sadness and the protectiveness and knew that all we needed to do was talk with honesty and clarity. she whispered at first, and then let it come with more certainty. she knew that if we just let it out, if we just gave it up to each other, then we would feel better. they both knew we could love each other and hold each other and allow for each other’s truth without getting in the way. they knew before we did because they know how to hold us without getting in the way.

it’s been a long time of so much.
we rummaged through it all in those couple of hours.
we dusted off the dirt and found diamonds and lotuses.
we yanked at the weeds that had made thick roots and found that if we both pulled together, they weren’t so deep after all.
we dug into the dirt and found beautiful healthy bulbs that have kept us holding hands and we planted new promises…
to shed the old callused skin of protection,
to see each other,
to listen and hear our own songs,
to find the lovely harmonies we know how to make together, if we both give ourselves permission to sing.

it is our very own spring, our very own thawing.
becoming best friends is an afterthought – somehow we both know that we are already sisters and mirrors of each other.
we didn’t say it explicitly. the words weren’t spoken out loud because they didn’t need to be. we know now that what has the most value is this net we’ve decided to cast for each other. we know that if either of us chooses to jump, the other will catch us. we know that the bumps and bruises we will inevitably get along the way will be given time and space to heal.
we’ve decided to trust.
all we need to do is continue to put one foot ahead of the other and keep walking.