One Foot Forward

 

long roadI’ve moved many times; almost too many to count. I like to think I’ve developed a few reasonable tools: the art of getting lost, the dexterity of being alone, the talent of turning bread-buying into daylong adventures, and the okayness of feeling isolated, sad, confused. This last set of skills is doubtlessly the most important.

Today is the last day in this city. Today is the last day in this community, in this part of the country. Today is the last chance to pack boxes, to whisper secrets into the walls of this old house, to run fingers along the mortar and the windowsills, to plant feet into the dirt of this particular yard. Tomorrow morning we’ll wake early. We’ll strip the bed, walk down the stairs, let the fur-kids out and make a final cup of coffee. Men will come with a truck to take our things – furniture and plates and shoes, memories and stories and truths. We’ll walk through our empty home, vacuuming the dusty corners as though gathering our tattered ends, tidying up the technicolour residue of our joys and of our tears. We’ll leave behind a beautiful and nameless edifice, ready for someone else to know love in. They’ll hang frames and find hiding places for their most private hurts and pleasures.

I’ve moved many times; almost too many to count. This time feels different. Momentous. All of the regulars have shown up, as if on cue: doubt, anxiety, excitement, uncertainty, willingness, readiness and unreadiness. There is a bubbling cauldron of magic too, a witch stirring in strands of hair, dirt, and possibilities. I can see her in the corner of my eye. She’s playful and coy and testing. If I try to look at her directly, she disappears; she is building my trust and my confidence. She is measuring my tenacity. She is teaching me a dance. It doesn’t start with fear or attachment. There is a pause as the music begins, and I move one step back on the second beat, grounding the left foot, then the right. There are a few quicker, harder to master steps moving into joy, a swing of the hips to shake off the ashes of who I used to be, a mammoth jump, and the promise of sweet release on the landing.

I’ve moved many times; almost too many to count. I’m at a fork in the road and this time I know which path to take. If you hold my hand, I will hold your heart.

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(both photos found on tumblr.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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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 Between

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Sometimes you sit in sadness.
Sometimes the lines get blurred and you don’t know the difference between your own tears
and someone else’s.
Sometimes the bleeding wound you’ve been running from is exactly where you need to be.
Sometimes the blistering is what points you to the tenderness of your own
breaking heart.
Sometimes it is your aloneness that shows you kinship,
your pain that teaches you gratitude,
your defeat that guides you to the light you’d forgotten.
Sometimes, something gives you the courage to step out of yourself,
and into your self.
And you find your way to the centre of your centre,
to the heart of your heart.
And there you are once more, returning home
fragile and tender and broken.
There you are again,
strong and magnificent, a wild horse running.
There you are,
the universe inside the universe.

Love-d.

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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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Rehab for the Soul – A Step by Step Approach.

imgresAbout a month ago, I realized I’d been in the mud. My feet were sinking in just a bit deeper with each passing day. Nothing was wrong as such, but I felt stuck. I’d been there before. We all have. You know the place. Maybe for you it is sitting in front of your computer screen or your sheet of paper or your blank canvas. Maybe you’re facing the monotony of your kitchen cupboards. You’ve strayed from that intuitive creativity and the words and ideas are lost to you – for a while.

I’ve just been so busy. I hear the ridiculousness of the words as I say them. They feel shallow and weightless. I’ve been caught up in work and school and routine. I’ve been caught up in lack of routine too. I’ve walked around like a zombie. Sometimes I’ve tried to make eye contact, sometimes I’ve desperately avoided it. Looking around I’ve caught myself thinking ‘I just don’t get it’. And yet there I was amongst them; lost amongst us all. I’ve been tired. I’ve sat in front of the television knowing full well it was dulling me. If you’re sensitive like me, you can justify it – sometimes you need to be subdued and put to sleep.

And so the cycle went. Or so it goes. Some of the time.

During those few months, I caught myself trying to get off the ride. I stuck my hand out of the window of a moving car and said something brilliant but nobody heard it, not even me. I skimmed my fingers against the soft feathers of the dream catcher hanging by my bedroom window.
I realized my disconnect.
I longed to find the light again. I knew she was there, hiding behind the veil.

And so I went to the source.
I drank the medicine of the earth.
I pulled cards to clear my vision.
I burned sage and cedar and sweetgrass.
I listened to the messages; I heard them in the deepest corners of my heart’s heart.
I’m listening still, and navigating the beautiful cacophony – and the harmony, all at once – of my own song.
The lessons are for me. They are for you. They are for all of us.

First, become the hermit.

wings_in_solitudeIt’s time to incubate. Like a hamster caught in a wheel, you’ve been going nowhere except further away from your light. Take the time to stop. Say no and take a break from external activities for a while. Those who love you will understand and support you. Take a walk in the forest and pick some cedar. Soak in a warm bathtub full of the branches you’ve brought home and sing yourself a love song. Listen to the beauty of your own voice and the wisdom of the silence. Take the time to remember your self. Turn your energy inward and rediscover your magical inner beingness. In order to truly feel good, you must learn to occasionally retreat from everything and let yourself be replenished in solitude. Tune in to the rhythms of your heart, you breath, your life force. Welcome the pause. Renew your strengths.

Be open to what arises.

In your solitude, recognize your individual awareness and its connection to global consciousness. Give yourself permission to face your fears in order to shed them. Trust that you have a rightful place in this world, that your gifts are as bright as your heart. Be open to the inevitability of transformation, like a snake shedding it’s old skin and transmuting into a soft, shiny, new self. Let your inner mountain lion guide you back to your spirit. Listen to the buffalo from your dreams. He will answer your prayers and renew your grace. Reconnect with your inner teachers and embody every stage of relearning yourself.

Let go of your past. Thank it, bless it, but don’t carry it around so much. Trust that what truly belongs to you will always be available. Trust that your past is made up of memories that are meant to give way to an infinitely more fulfilling present. It’s time to wake up to a new direction – one where your fears and doubts no longer hold you back.

Welcome change.

Now that you’ve met yourself again, learn to go with the flow. Attune to your forces and allow the metamorphosis. There is no need to complicate things anymore. Once you are in harmony with your self, change becomes an ally and you can see it for what it is: perfection in action. Trust that every turn, every door that opens or closes, has the potential to make you shine brighter still. Allow each success and each failure to become great teachers. Know deeply that there is immense wisdom in not identifying too strongly with any of your experiences. The river is always flowing back to the sea. All you have to do is let her carry you.

Shine like the bright star that you are.

tumblr_ma3wskfMlB1rps2rbo1_500You’ve tuned in. You’ve listened. You’ve learned a few things. Now it’s time to hold your self in beauty, to walk with grace, to speak with openness, to give with generosity, to live in gratitude. Recognize that to give is a gift from the divine. Allow the life that is now freely pouring out of you to guide you. Let is show you how to pass on what you are constantly receiving. It is in the giving of yourself – back to your self as well as to others – that you will generate profound contentment and kindheartedness. Trust that your source is endless, that the earth is replenishing it, that the circle of giving and taking completes itself. Look up at the night sky and see your reflection as the brightest star. She will show you how brilliantly your heart shines. Let her remind you of your own gifts, whatever they may be. Know that your wealth is immeasurable.

Be the mother of air.

From the earth’s perspective, the air or the wind personifies the divine messenger. Step fully into self-awareness and trust your innate intelligence. Give yourself permission to be in self-respect, in inner strength, in clarity, in creativity, in courage. Be who you truly are, not who you should have been, could have been or are supposed to be. Be naked to the world. Drop your masks and vow to never pick them up again. This is the only way to fully return to your centre. If you listen with honesty, you will find you have the intrinsic courage to express yourself with unmistakable clarity. This does not mean pushing anyone out of your path. Instead, it means being kinder to your own heart. It means shedding those preconceived notions you have bought into. It means recognizing your own worth and acting accordingly. Honour, respect and take care of yourself in order to become an example of how others should treat you.imgres-1

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.