Friday, February 26, 2010

Dynamic Alignment

Alignment in yoga is not rigid. When we are new to yoga, it could be easy to be confused... People want to know that they are doing things "right".

"Is this right?" students have asked me over and over again: because I offer instruction. If someone has practiced for a while and asks that, sometimes I will put it back to them: you (the student) tell me (the one temporarily in the teaching role).

As a teacher, it is my job to see that students are working with the poses in the way that will best serve them. So I do offer plenty of suggestions and modifications as needed. And I am incredibly blessed to have the kind of detailed training that I have had. But if it is the habit of the student to depend on my eyes to see if they are doing it "right", then it might be time to offer another suggestion in line with my goal as a teacher to teach students to work with Yoga themselves.

I am also suspicious of the 'doing things right' question because it can be close to a confirmation of the question: am I a 'good boy' or 'good girl' for the student. And, yes I teach adults. But many of us didn't get the blessing we needed as children. And deeply important questions can remain unanswered like: 'Do I belong here' or 'Is my existence good?' Considering this observation, the expectations of the student-teacher relationship, and my own experience of having this deep subconscious need met in my own adulthood, I respond differently to this sort of question depending on the situation. It depends...

With a new student I teach as well as I can how to do the pose, because we have to start somewhere. And (just know that) I am still learning Yoga too, and I recognize that there is always more to discover and learn. So it is not just "new students" who can learn poses. I think we all can.

If I have the opportunity of seeing the beautiful light of someone's spirit, and I see what might be that needy little boy or girl in someone's eyes who missed their blessing somehow, I will honor and bless them as best as I can.

What I am especially thinking about today are regular students who seem to prefer my acknowledgement that the pose is "right" to their own seasoned sensibilities. There is a time, a wonderful time, to take responsibility for your yoga! And I am still happy to offer support and instruction as needed... But the Yoga is Yours! Fly with It! Explore It! See where you go with It!

The Alignment is Dynamic in so many ways! The shapes of our bodies are different, so my expression of a pose will look different than yours. Also teaching poses to raw beginners is different than teaching seasoned practitioners. And then there is the matter of aligning ones spirit to the expression of the body and outward to expression in the larger world. Totally dynamic.

And just like we need to take responsibility for our yoga when the timing is appropriate, so also do we need to take responsibility for the blessing of our own spiritual inspirition when the timing is appropriate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Not trying to be perfect... (couldn't be anyway...)

Hi readers! I was interviewed by BlissChick about body image stuff... I answered questions like 'how do I feel about my body', 'do I weigh myself', 'how do I feel about shopping for clothes' and more...

I did my best to answer honestly because truthful sharing is helpful. I am learning through the process, and readers of the interview will find that either they relate with what I shared, or perhaps they will see a story different from theirs. Either way is good.

One thing I have learned in reading over the published interview is that my comparative sense of my own body (an example is big boobs versus my smaller ones) is not really seeing myself, it is more a technique of self-denial than anything else. To really see myself is a combination of feeling, sensing and observing myself and my thought processes in time and space, and as resin naturally is produced by certain trees, I too may find that my life process produces certain understandings about my life as lived in this world, during this time.

And I feel a strong connection with other women who are going through this experience of living during this time, too. It's a sort of cultural song on suffering, especially when it comes to the relationships with our bodies! We need to share together about these things. Thank you, BlissChick, for the opportunity to share.

With loving and caring regards,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nonverbal language of yoga

A vertical line symbolically connects earth and sky, or physical with spiritual. So when I lift my arms for a sun salutation I reach beyond myself and breathe in, like the branches of a tree seeking the light of the sun. As I fold forward, and breathe out, my hands find the earth at my feet, reminding me of what supports my existence: I have a history here, a past; I walk the earth. When I breathe in again, I gesture horizontally by extending my spine, towards parallel with the ground, in between earth and sky, seeking balance between inspiration and the substance of my path: a present moment synergy where I get it, and know where I am. I belong right here walking the line between physical life and light and inspiration.

An open hand indicates friendliness, is ready to receive, or has nothing to hide. In yoga an open, spreading palm activates energy, cultivates optimism and connects the yogis beyond themselves (into a perception of the yoga mat if the hand is there).

My aim in yoga is to connect FULLY with the HERE and NOW. One of the ways I can do that is by connecting to myself physically within the four corners of my mat or wherever I happen to be practicing. Another way I can cultivate this is by watching for future-tripping and memory-lollygagging. If I see my mind wandering like this then I can bring myself back to where I actually am in the moment by watching my breath or noticing my surroundings or sensations. I can find the anchors in the internal experience or external world.

I strive to live in this moment in this world, rather than living in the past, a future fantasy, or a lie.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Physical Attachment in Yoga

This is a Guest Muse by George Costakis.

Preventing my yoga practice from becoming increasingly focused on my physical body or my ability to do poses is a struggle. If there is a pose I can’t do I want to do it. If there is a pose that makes my abs look better or my chest bigger I do more of them. Staying so driven towards the physical prevents me from addressing the ego. In fact, it feeds the ego.

Early on in my yoga path I became enamored with going to more and more yoga classes at increasingly more difficult levels. Initially I started practicing yoga to feel better and improve my meditation practice but it was turning into something competitive and ego driven.

Yoga should free you from attachments not reinforce an attachment to the body which in turn reinforces an attachment to the ego. It’s easy to lose sight of this. I knew I had to do something about it before I became a washed up Yogi with no chance of enlightenment.

I made up rules to keep myself in line. The first rule is that I am not to look in the mirror once I have determined my alignment is correct. Looking in the mirror moves my focus away from my practice and onto my hair, or my clothes, or my butt. One time in class I kept marveling at how muscular my thighs looked in Virabhadrasana II. I should not be focusing on this, even though it happens to be true.

Secondly, I am not allowed to look around the room at other students unless I need clarification on how to do an asana. By looking around I start judging other students or comparing myself to them. Thoughts enter my head such as, “The tall woman in front of me can take the full bind. Why can’t I? “, or “The guy next to me needs to lose weight.” There seems to be no end to my mental commentary. Keeping my eyes off other students is a way to put a stop to this, pronto!

My final rule is to follow the instructor. That might seem obvious so let me elaborate. In some classes I want to take a variation of a pose because I think the instructor is wrong or because I was taught the pose differently. There’s the ego. I’m right, you’re wrong, my way is better.

Now, I do give myself a little bit of leeway with this rule. If I’m asked to do something that I think will cause an injury I won’t do it. If there is a variation that I know the instructors let’s us do I might do that variation. But, if the instructor says to grab the inside of my foot in Natarajasana (dancer’s pose) even though I was taught to always grab the outside of my foot I will follow the instructor’s lead. This takes my ego out of the equation.

When doing asana practice, I stay mindful of practicing without the ego, practicing without judgment and practicing without attachment. It’s difficult. Frequently I have to remind myself that Yoga is not a work out, it is a practice that leads towards awakening. If my mind strays, I first check my alignment, then I engage the locks and finally I return to my breath.

No matter how often I practice Yoga, though, eventually my body will die. If I would just stop attaching to it I wouldn’t have to follow a bunch of stupid rules.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Warrior Cool

A workshop offering at yogaview with Brooks, Saturday March 6, 2010 from 2 to 4:30pm.

Centered and Calm, Ready for Action

A plenty vigorous afternoon of yoga practice that is sure to include some Warrior poses. We will refine the actions and alignment of these, and explore what the warrior poses might help us embody. The story of Virabhadras, the warrior who's name the poses bear, will be told during the class.

Just as the physical positions of the yoga poses help us to release from the confinement of muscular tension, so also do the mental forms created through words have the potential to help us release from the bounds of mental tension. The sanskrit names (like "Virabhadrasana") of the poses connect to a rich mythological story, which can support psychological awareness, just as the poses cultivate physiological awareness along with strength, steadiness, and flexibility.

Come and enjoy an experience that is intended to affect physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, resulting in a lighter, more relaxed and centered sense of self. Clearheaded and calm, ready for the tasks at hand.

Appropriate for all levels of yogis.

I am so excited to offer this warrior and warrior goddess-inspired session to yogis at Yogaview! Thanks everybody! The class will include elements of invigorating vinyasa flow, stabilizing alignment, and creatively clarifying language.

Call yogaview to register: 773.342.9642

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yoga Student Musings

Last year I started opening my blog space to a few Yoga Student Friends. It literally started when I received a beautiful letter from Tirzah after she took my class while she was here on vacation. I asked her if I could post it, and she said I could. It just felt so good to share this space with another voice on yoga. I also enjoyed that it offered a picture of myself from another viewpoint. It's a blog about my yoga experience, now opened to include how someone else experienced yoga with me. Cool.

So I started talking to students who knew about my blog and such to see if they might be interested in doing a "Guest Muse" for my blog. Part of what was behind my offer was simply a desire to share this wonderful experience that I had benefited so much from. Through articulating my thoughts for this space, I had grown so much! It was truly astounding. And I thought I might be able to offer an experience that others could enjoy, too.

So the first person I worked with towards this aim was Kay. She was my guinea pig in terms of figuring out how to communicate what I wanted. Thanks Kay! She gave me valuable feedback through the process. I wanted to invite her to go into her yoga and write about it, and if it included something about yoga with me--great! But if that didn't fit that was okay, too. I wanted it to be an exploration for her that she might benefit from.

The next Muse was Andyogini! My favorite line from her post:

"Toting my pink yoga mat seems to disperse what I call my Senior Cloak of Invisibility."

And how. This gave me valuable insight into her experience of yoga. Thank you Andyogini!

And then A. Quinn offered a beautiful poem. It has creative spacing that I set line by line with HTML coding. I was so glad to go through this process that required that I go back and forth between the code view and the browser view, so I could make it look as close to the printed page that she had given me as I could. This gave me time to contemplate every line, and as I did I went through heart opening, and sometimes tearful emotions. We go way back. Thank you A!

Then we went down the Yellow Brick Road with Jan. I enjoyed this one so much! It sounds like a map of Soul Healing. Thank you, Jan!

And Gina shared about her journey of healing with Yoga. Thanks Gina!

Be sure to come back on Friday (February 19) for some musing from George!

I'd also like to offer the opportunity to do a 'Guest Muse' on this blog to readers! If you have taken yoga with me (or have taught me yoga) and would like to write about it or your yoga, let me know. And even if we haven't met in person and you've read something thought-provoking here that you'd like to share your thoughts on, let me know. Email me at yogabrooks at yahoo (dot) com.

Thank you! Let's keep on blogging about YOGA!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thank You, Sun!

Check out those crepuscular rays!

Thank you, sun, for your beautiful rays and inspiration.

Rabbits are crepuscular. They are neither particularly active during the day (diurnal) nor are they too frisky in the middle of the night (nocternal). They are most active in the spaces inbetween, enjoying most the transition times back and forth between day and night, night and day.

As a yogi, I relate to a concept that describes the inbetween like that. I strive to align my heart's yearning with earthly form. So in a sense I am living in the inbetween, too. ...somewhat crepuscular, myself. Especially if you consider all the opposites we navigate on a daily basis: dark and light, love and rejection, fear and acceptance, happiness and despair, craving and aversion, and the list goes on (but they're all kinda' similar...)... Yogis have a unique perspective when it comes to all this. We seek to make the process of life a conscious experience so we can really live it! That's my take on it anyway... And I think this might translate to life Online, too.

Yogis look for the boundaries between safe movement and injury, and walk the path from Asana to Meditation. We look at what we believe and see what is true, even if it is different from what we once believed. We look at what is sometimes hidden like emotions and also see what is apparent like what someone just said.

As yoga bloggers, I think that we might bring some of our uniqueness as yogis to our blogs and find yet another instance of revelation. In practice we seek union between body, mind, and spirit. In our blogging we find yet another connection between our inner and outer worlds. Inner world--Outer world--the Inter world is inbetween inner and outer... (inner + outer = inter) So we find another creative way to exist in the inbetween.

And it is from this beautiful inbetween place that we can connect with one another in that cool yogic-bloggy way! Our light can shine in the inbetween, the transition between outer world experience and inner world knowledge: we meet in the inter-world!

Blogging about yoga is one of the infinite ways to express and share light. It shines through the darkness like crepuscular rays...

Which brings me to the Sunshine Award I received from Yoga Addicted who is also really into Raw Food preparation and eating. Thanks for spreading the light, Mandy! Your rays have touched me.

May the warmth of the heart's sun spread without bounds.

Blessings to Yogic Bloggers! Blessings to you!

Here I honor just a few:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Devotion, Absorption, Dissolution

"Of even mind, capable of bearing hardship, wishing to perfect the work, speaking gently, moderate in all circumstances, such is the average seeker. Recognising these qualities, the Guru teaches him Laya Yoga, which gives liberation. (Laya means devotion, absorption or dissolution.)"
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 52nd paragraph of the Introduction.

I am thinking of "liberation" here as referring to freedom from aspects of ourselves that are controlled by unconscious forces, sometimes referred to as "latent impressions". A latent impression (samskara) is a remnant of past experience that colors a person's perception of the current moment, and affects how someone responds now. Particularly harmful are the impressions left by psychological wounding.

For example if a father of a daughter can't give love, this leaves an impression on the daughter (or son, of course!). When the daughter was sick he bought her a magazine. When the daughter cried he left the room to go watch TV, or if she cried in the passenger side of the car he pretended not to see. When she was a teenager and came to him when he was a single parent and he satisfied himself by giving her money and stifled her speech with 'here's twenty bucks. now I'm going to get back to me and what I want to do.' All of these kinds of actions created deep impressions inside the daughter.

And how about if the father also said, "I love you," fairly regularly. Might this not skew the daughters understanding of love? It might. Might it also affect how she perceives men? It might...

This is an example of how a latent impression might get laid down in someone. It happens bit by bit with little things that happen all the time that teach about how things are. Let's say that the daughter in the above example has grown up. Eventually these interactions with Dad fade into the background and are not even consciously remembered by the daughter. But forgotten is not gone in this case. This woman finds herself simultaneously strongly desirous and highly resentful when it comes to the men in her life. She could feel pathetic, unworthy and super-needy at times. And none of these qualities are helpful if her aim is to be in a healthy relationship with a man. But the main point here is that these qualities (pathetic, unworthy and super-needy) are uncontrolled out-picturing from the latent impressions that were built into her during her childhood experience with Dad.

Yoga offers a solution for people who are living similarly to the above story with qualities that have been learned and forgotten through the normal process of life. These latent impressions keep a person trapped in a smaller version of themself, and prevent them from seeing clearly. For example the woman in the above story may never feel comfortable for long in a relationship with the man of her dreams until she can somehow heal her daddy-stuff that is taking her on an emotional hayride when it comes to her dealings with men.

Who is living your life? Is it you or your past impressions?

A Yogic Solution:
Devotion, Absorption, and Dissolution.

In Yoga there can be experiences of total Absorption and bliss. These experiences of a yogic high help someone by temporarily removing them from their pain. The woman in the above example might feel great relief from a yoga class, but she would probably find that the effects eventually wear off, leaving her in the "pathetic, frustrated and lonely" state once again. Nothing has changed deeply at this point, except for the fact that she has now experienced herself feeling SO GREAT. This might give her the hope that she was lacking before she found YOGA.

Devotion to ones Yoga is key to keep someone practicing, otherwise there is a whole world of distraction, for sure! Also Devotion to the knowledge that life doesn't always feel this heavy is helpful when one is in a rough spot. The memory of the experience of Absorption can serve as a helpful reminder to KEEP AT IT. Devotion to IT, or that which feeds you (I'm not talking about food here, but spiritual nourishment) is key to moving forward in daily life. So Devotion is the Yogic Process as seen from the perspective of daily life. We still live a daily life with all of the usual stuff, it just becomes infused with something good: YOGA! And Yogic Absorption is Blissful Removal from a sometimes toxic experience.

Dissolution is the dismantling of the latent impressions that hold us back from complete freedom in life. So there is a meeting point between Absorption and Devotion. Absorption is being completely in IT. Devotion is standing just outside and honoring space for IT. And Dissolution is the process of dismantling the unconscious hold of the latent impressions and moving more freely through life's experience, here someone is connected to IT yet also in the personal soul-space enough to release what is not true, personally. It's like a spiritual balancing point. When you're here the only thing you can do is watch it go. It's not a process that is under our conscious control. Dissolution breaks the unconscious bonds that unresolved woundedness fosters. So the woman in the story would be very fortunate to break the connection between love with a man and not getting emotional needs met. This is a self-defeating connection and it is false. Just because a girl has a father who connects love with material giving does not mean that all men operate in this way. So I conclude that the hurt caused from this early relationship does not have to apply to all future relationships with men. But, of course there is also an inner dynamic that is not so rational as a mind that might feel smart about figuring this one out. And Dissolution operates at the level of the irrational inner dynamic that controls our actions much of the time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

‘Man’ means “to think”

"The feeble seekers are those who lack enthusiasm, criticize their teachers, are rapacious, inclined to bad action, eat much, are in the power of women, unstable, cowardly, ill, dependent, speak harshly, have weak characters and lack virility. The Guru (Teacher or Master) guides such seekers in the path of Mantra Yoga only. With much effort, the sadhaka can reach enlightenment in twelve years. (The word mantra is derived from the word 'man', meaning to think. Mantra thus means a sacred thought or prayer to be repeated with full understanding of its meaning. It takes a long time, perhaps years, for a mantra to take firm root in the mind of a feeble sadhaka and still longer for it to bear fruit.)"
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 51st paragraph of the Introduction.

Even though Mantra Yoga is advised for “feeble seekers” I don’t think that there is anything easy about it. So there is nothing “feeble” about Mantra Yoga itself, or about any human beings I know either. So I’m not going to talk about “feeble seekers” because I don’t think about people that way, except maybe myself on a bad day…

I think that we are all using mantras or thoughts to direct our experience whether we acknowledge it or not. Since Mantra Yoga is advised here for someone who is experiencing difficulty in life, I look at it as a first line of defense against the pains of life, and the fragmentation of mind.

What is your Mantra?

I think of a ‘mantra’ as thoughts I tell myself repeatedly. On a bad day my mantra might be, “I wish I was dead,” and on a good day it might be, “I love this!” What gives?? These are just thoughts that bubble up inside of me.

Repeated thoughts are powerful

It’s a good idea to watch your thoughts, because they make a real difference in how you move throughout the world. If I have evaluated myself as unlovable, or ‘nobody likes me’ it is going to affect my body language. I might make less eye contact, and avoid interactions with others who might like me, so I am likely to miss opportunities. And if someone is nice to me I might react inappropriately friendly, wordlessly saying ‘wow, it’s so amazing that you like me.’ When maybe I’m just likeable and so it’s really not such a big deal that SOMEBODY LIKES ME. Aren’t we all essentially likeable beings? I shouldn’t be so especially horrible that nobody likes me, right? Well, the mechanisms of thought are not rational in the scientific sense. Our thoughts spring up from how we feel and what we’ve been told—all that touchy-feely stuff.

So it could be time to tell yourself something good

If you listen to your daily brew of thoughts and hear some nasty stuff, it could be helpful to take action to interrupt the toxic thought-stream. You could try positive affirmations.

I have a teacher who’s really into this affirmation stuff. So I tried it for a while, and I found it helpful in a particular way. When I started to purposefully say positive things to myself over and over, I had a heightened awareness of how poor my inner messages were. It was as if my gentle messages of blessing to myself elicited an attack from my inner status quo of low self-esteem.

An example would be if I were to tell myself that ‘I am competent, loveable and wise’, and if what I believed about myself was that I was inadequate, unlovable and stupid. Well, bullshit! Total rejection and inner turmoil could result.

Prayerful thoughts can be helpful

I have found repeated messages of prayer to be more authentically helpful for me. In prayer I am opening up my inner world to something larger than my old thoughts, so there is more space for a fresh breeze of inspiration to enter my experience.

“Mantra thus means a sacred thought or prayer to be repeated with full understanding of its meaning.”

This is very personal. Finding words that are helpful at any given time could be as individual as you.

These have worked for me:

“You are not only you, you are also me. I am not only myself, I am also you. I should care to live for you, and you should be able to care for me.”
-Guru Nitya

“My work is to carry this love
as comfort for those who long for you,
to go everywhere you’ve walked
and gaze at the pressed-down dirt.”
-Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks

Poetry can offer this kind of healing opening in the mindspace. I also like Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman and others.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yoga Hierarchy or How far do you want to go?

"The Siva Samhita divides sadahakas (pupils or aspirants) into four classes. They are (1) mrdu (feeble), (2) madhyama (average), (3) adhimatra (superior) and (4) adhimatratama (the supreme one). The last, the highest, is alone able to cross beyond the ocean of the manifest world."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 50th paragraph of the Introduction.

Yoga Hierarchy

The Siva Samhita (possibly from earlier than 1500) is one of the “three major surviving classical treatises on hatha yoga” according to Wikipedia. So according to this text there is a hierarchy for aspirant yogis. In the culture I come from, American culture, we are practically allergic to the concept of a hierarchy like this. We want equal opportunities. Anybody can become rich, materially or spiritually. Anybody can become famous. Anyone can be a success. Supposedly... This is what we are led to believe. But it might not be true. In the end it isn't true. If it were wouldn't more people be wealthy, enlightened, famous and successful?

I have no inclination towards categorizing students, nor do I want to be judged like this. This could be a case where I question the relevancy in modernity of this teaching.

How far do you want to go?

But when I look at the different distinctions in myself, it gives me a way to relate with this. There might be some days where my attention isn't so good, and so I'm less-than-inspired on such a day. And then there are times where my focus is great so I might be having a better day. So dare I say that on some days I'm "feeble", and on other days "average" and so on?

"The last, the highest, is alone able to cross beyond the ocean of the manifest world."

With the last, the highest, I don't think I truly relate. Would I really be willing to go that far? I don't even understand what that means. I seem to know the "manifest world." To go beyond this ocean and still have my body, is that possible? If not, what relevance can it have for me while I am in my body? I seem to understand the world from a body-centered perspective, and to go beyond that, well I can't speak to that just yet. And don't I need a mouth, a part of my body/manifest world, to speak, anyway?

Perhaps the spirit of the above excerpt is to just let people know that we should work really hard, and that many will not make it because for whatever reason we might not make the cut.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blogging is a life-enhancer!

Instead of talking about my resistance and impression of deep change inside myself about turning 39 this week, I think I just want to talk about my realizations about how my online life is really coming into my reality in many beautiful ways.

The other day I was playing some beautiful music I learned about at the internet home of Anthroyogini, and was talking to yoga students before class and enjoying the music and thought about what a cool convergence the moment held. I felt myself expanded and inclusive of someone I’d never met in person from Australia, and musicians from the same place, as well as me and the students, too.

Ohhh-kay, maybe I’ll gripe a little… (This reminds me of Dr. Jay over at Yoga for Cynics...) I'm struggling a little bit with having turned 39 this week... And in reality I think that even this struggle is good because it has to do with disregarding my illusions of what I think life is like, and embracing my life as it is. At this point, there is no fantasy to hold on to. I have enjoyed my fantasies, though. What an exciting part of experience to see yourself imaginatively as being totally satisfied with the partner of your dreams, and having a perfect fantasy life that fulfills cultural expectations and so on…

And recently I’ve been reading some poetry to students from the book ‘Go In and In’ by Danna Faulds that I found out about during a chat over at the Namaste Book Club. When I give voice to those words I am also aware of the people who shared this book with me, who of course (it’s not so strange that) I haven’t met. But we learn things about each other that words can tell.

I am realizing that I had some pretty strict rules about what I wanted to have happen during my 30s. The thought of having a child with someone wonderful was definitely one of the guiding forces pulling strings from the background. But I’ve been listening to the audiobook of ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ by Thomas L. Friedman, and since the human population is getting so huge maybe I can be okay with helping the people who are already here in whatever ways I can.

Earlier this year I went to a workshop with Rusty Wells. It was Michelle of The Devil Wears Prana who raved so much about his teaching that brought me to that valuable experience. And I just signed up for a workshop about Shadow Yoga. It was Svasti's experience with this form of yoga that piqued my interest.

The ending of my third decade of life seems to merit some grieving, and I’ve felt a bit of sadness…

It also added a totally new dimension to my experience of the sometimes BlissChick, Christine to actually meet the real flesh-and-blood and beautiful spirit person. When we met she explained that she was not always a BlissChick. Sometimes she is also a real PissedChick, and all the other real human emotions. Our in-person conversation led me down a road of self-discovery that has literally changed how I understand myself, leading to a sense of deeper integration and balance in me. I can’t thank you enough, Christine!

I also accomplished something amazing during the three and zeros: I have found myself. This is an incredible accomplishment, and might not be easy to explain… It isn’t something I could have understood before I did it. But I allowed the space for me to understand myself. Yoga, of course, helped tremendously. And the people I met through yoga have helped in direct ways and also by helping me point my sensibilities in a direction so I could find my own tools to learn about myself. This means that I have sat with all of the uncomfortable (and ecstatic) emotions inside myself that I could. And through this process I have learned to accept and love parts of myself that I never would have even looked at before…

And, of course, there are many other beautiful bloggy souls who have been my companions along the way. Thank you, Readers and Commenters!

I would be totally amiss if I didn’t mention the profound effect that blogging in my thirties has had on me! This cyberspace has offered me a place to find my voice by using it. It has also offered me opportunities for community and support that have helped me to accept myself beyond what I might have thought was possible, before. Just that I can share my thoughts and find out that people resonate with what I am saying has been such a boon for my sense of worth. I am not alone, and I know it! Yeah!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is Alive in myself?

It might be the way to break out of some old patterns, just to look for and listen to what is Alive inside myself. And of course, act on the life-affirming impulses.

This could be a confusing notion because we often think of the medical definition of being alive. According to medicine and even our laws being "alive" means having a pulse and perhaps some measurable brain activity. Is the person breathing? If they are then they are alive.

However this is only the ground-level understanding of being alive.

'The walking dead' might be a concept that goes beyond a good-old zombie movie (thanks, George Romero, for your zombie movies, and thanks, Josh for showing me some.). I'll start with me. In what ways am I "walking dead"? Anything I do automatically, and with regularity is a 'dead action', meaning there is movement to it, but it is without conscious thought. Like if I were to get up and turn off my alarm every day, and then go back to bed and fitfully burrow in and then jerk up to check the time every so often before finally getting up. Even though there is some physical movement in what I've described, if it's pretty much my routine then it's pretty zombie-like. I can easily imagine a zombie spasmodically sitting up and crashing back repeatedly into a grave in much the same way.

So I ask myself, "What is Alive inside myself?" and, "How can I recognize what is Alive?" The truthful answer might be that I can't fully know what is alive in myself because what is being born can't be fully seen. And when I can see it it has already happened, already old news...

The thing is, I don't want to walk through the rest of my life as a zombie. So I really would like to understand the hallmarks of something new versus just being stuck in a rut, even if the rut is comfortable. And I get the sense that when I am really taking these steps my fingers might not have to type so many words. Unless part of my contribution to the World is my writing, and this might just be so.

How can I go a new way when the old ways are so familliar?

I find myself at a point in my life where the old ways *must* (I pray) go. The old dreams, if they show up at all, will have a totally unique form. Things might need to be created from scratch. And even if they don't, I think that this is where I want to be. I want to be on the edge of creation of my own life. I want to be at the place where new things are born. I want to experience being Alive while living.

What is alive can feel good! Life is something that can be felt intensely or softly, and preferably lovingly.

Fear is dead.

This is a warning that I'm about to tap into an Alive part of myself. The fear comes in and says "Don't go there. You don't know what is going to happen that way." Fear tries to keep me in familliar places. The places I think I know I am not afraid in. It is in these places that I become like the walking dead. In familliar comfort I might play in the old daydreams.

So it sounds like making an ally of fear would be a good idea. Fear might actually show me where I need to go. The uninformed, or basic instinctual response to something fearful is to turn away from it. What if I could hold the hand of fear without flinching? What would I learn? What new experiences would this unlock?

This could be a step towards a life that is truly Alive.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 1, 2010

Give Brooks a chance.

This is a personal post.

I am giving Brooks a chance. What does this mean? Well, when I graduated from the School of the Art institute of Chicago in 1994 I remember responding to the 'are you going to grad school' question by saying that I wanted some experience in the world before making that decision. I said something like I was going to let the world tell me what I should do because I didn't know. And I have listened.

I tried listening to the different employers I've had along the way. I've tried listening to friends and teachers about what to do. I've tried listening to family... And I've just realized that it's time to give myself a chance.

I think I've avoided that route in the past because it just seemed too scary. When I started to listen to myself a good distraction came along or a compelling friend told me what they thought, and I always seemed to respond by giving myself away as if I believed that 'others know better'. Or I asked for help and was ignored, and I asked myself if I had spoken clearly. I tended to speak clearly, but sometimes quietly and I didn't demand anything. But some things were (and are) important.

And there are some things that I can't and shouldn't depend on others for, even though I have, and it has led me astray. This is why my age turns to 39 tomorrow, and I'm alone except for two sweet bunnies. Okay so I am feeling sorry for myself and I've done all the usual sins like not trusting myself. I think my biggest misstep has been my lack of self esteem. It makes a person do the stupidest things, like trusting the wrong people. Or maybe looking for things from others that they can't give, and lying to myself. I recognize that I have engineered this life I have through my habits and choices even though much of it was done without consciously understanding Anything. So my situation is nobodies fault, not even the fault of my naive past self. I did the best I could with my understanding of life at the time I did all the things that led me to learning about life as I have.

And so many things are good. I love teaching yoga. That is a blessing that goes beyond any childhood dream I might have had for myself. As a child I wouldn't have been able to understand what I do now. I was incredibly reactive and afraid. I cried a lot. However I was developing my listening ear even then, the ear that is available to hear the truth of others without judgement. (I LOVE that about me!)

As I go forward I promise to not accept stories I tell myself about others without confirmation from the flesh-and-blood individuals, especially when it comes to major life-path changes. Like the guy who put his hand on my thigh at that party many years ago, and I accepted that as evidence that he was interested in me. I guess the truth was that I thought I liked him--A LOT. But I guess I didn't really know him even though I saw him regularly and trusted that I knew enough. I didn't.

A well-intentioned family member recently advised that I 'give youth a chance' when I told them about some seemingly romantic interest I had recently been receiving from much younger men. I woke up with another idea this morning: Give Brooks a chance. And if any young super-cutie happens to be reading this, just know that you are perfect and adorable to me. Even though I look younger than I am, I am really turning 39 tomorrow, okay? (And I guess I don't know what that means except that it is New Territory. Never been here before...)

And I seem to simultaneously resent and enjoy being alone. Which is it? Can I choose? Do I have to? I enjoy my life, and sometimes catch myself dreaming old dreams and walking old paths. Those mindscapes are comfortable, and they trap me in sorrow when I see myself there.

Can I live life in a relationship again? Is this possible? I suppose it must be... I just can't see it, because I'm not there NOW. All I see is what I see and what I see is good. Except...not. It seems so cheesy to say 'something is missing'. And I guess it's just the human condition. The fact that people are hungry for experience keeps things moving. So I'm going to breathe to calm myself and to embrace myself in this moment, and turn my frustration into useful energy, a turbine of force that I can apply to managing my resources, abilities and gifts so that my fortieth trip around the sun will be a good one. Perhaps I will get a chance to open my heart to someone wonderful. Hopefully, I will have opportunities to expand my career. It would be nice to explore financial freedom... And to find LOVE!

Whatever changes my fortieth year may bring, I pray that I can meet this experience with cheerful and unrelenting enthusiasm. I just don't want to let old expectations get me down. It's time for a new ruler in the house of Brooks, and so I crown me to guide myself through all of the yet-to-be-explored possibilities that this year, and more coming years, will bring. I look forward to deepening relationships with others where I maintain power of myself instead of giving that away. I'm looking forward to these next years of my life as myself. I will no longer be the empty house that desperately looked for others to bring wellbeing in. I can live in a hospitable house, whether I am alone or with others. Come over some time, will ya?

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Me!