The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Letting Go and Moving On? August 30, 2013

RockCreekBridgeGreenSpringAlthough I did not plan things this way, it’s no fluke that the next New Moon and Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) coincide with my move from DC to TN.  I have been letting go of DC since the last Full Moon.  On Tuesday, September 3rd, I’ll get in my U-Haul, drive south, and let go completely.

The 2nd-half of my trip falls on Wednesday, September 4th – so I will arrive at my new home in East Nashville on “New Year’s Eve.”  This is the 1st year since September 2001 that I will miss attending Rosh Hashanah services.  Next week, I’ll be observing the opening of the Book Of Life by carrying boxes and furniture up two flights of stairs to my sweet little flat.

Sounds appropriate to me.

Thursday morning, the New Moon will peak and I will rise at 5:36am CST.  I will continue my personal Rosh Hashanah observances by reflecting on my previous year, and considering any amends, resentments, unfinished business to address.  I will repeat “I’m sorry, I love you” many times and probably cry a lot.  (For many reasons.)  And I’ll spend ample time moving things around my new space, deliberating each placement’s energy and meaning.

If that’s not a great way to begin anew, I don’t know what is!

In packing up my books, I’ve left out six, so I can access them readily upon arriving in TN: The Makhzor (a guide-book of prayers and practices for the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, know as the Days of Awe); “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” (the most utilized text in my collection); “The Golden Present” (Swami Satchidananda’s collection of daily reflections); Alcoholics Anonymous (an important recovery text); Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (another); and my journal.

This collection represents the foundations of my life: spiritual and religious ritual and practice, the Eight Limbs of yoga, and the 12 Steps of recovery.

*  *  *

During August, we’ve been exploring the Eight Limbs in my yoga classes.

Swami Satchidananda’s commentary on Yoga Sutra I.50 says, “In this state <the 8th Limb, samadhi> you become a jivanmukta, a realized saint.  Jivan means one who lives; mukta means liberated…”  He goes on, “A jivanmukta may be doing anything.  He or she need not be sitting in samadhi in some cave; this person may be in Times Square, but is still a jivanmukta.  A jivanmukta is involved in the world for the sake of humanity without any personal attachment.”

Judaism’s prayers and recovery’s steps also speak of healing and growing – in order to be of service in the world.

This move to TN would not be happening without these foundations.  Many years ago, when I lived without these influences, my self-centered ego drove all of my attitudes and actions.  I was neither willing nor capable to serve anyone or anything beyond my own needs and desires.  Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would one day move to Nashville, Tennessee to be closer and of service to my aging father.

Today, I can’t imagine NOT going.

So thank you.  Thank you to all of the friends, family members, communities, teachers, healers, helpers, strangers and others who – unwittingly or intentionally – pointed me in this direction.   Who generously offered their authentic selves over these decades and helped me become who, how and what I am today.

As I let go of being physically and geographically close to my DC-area community, and move on to join and cultivate new community in TN, I don’t feel like I’m leaving anything behind.  On the contrary – I feel like everything is coming together…

Much love.  OM Shanti.  h*

 

Namaste: A Journey From Resentment To Relief April 21, 2013

Namaste.

I honor you. All of you.

The good and the bad.
The light and the dark.
The divine and the human.

NashvilleClouds2Flipped(June2011)I honor every part of you.

The parts that doubt.
The parts that feel certain.
The parts that don’t know.

The parts that leave.
The parts that stay.
The parts that hide.

I honor the whole you.

The you that stumbles.
The you that falls.
The you that rises…and falls again.

The you that gracefully balances.
The you that is rooted.
The you that is buoyant.

I honor you.

The you that is hurting.
The you that harms.
The you that grows.

The you that loves.
The you that can’t.
The you that will.

I bow to you. I bow to you. I bow to YOU.

*  *  *

My first yoga teacher used to tell us, “I’m just an old junkie, passing on what helped me change. Sat Nam.”

With a strong Kundalini practice and immersion in American Sikh communities for the first 10 years of my yoga journey, “Sat Nam” became an everyday greeting. Whether I said it silently or out loud, I reverently offered this prayer to my friends, to my co-workers, to strangers. “Sat Nam: I honor your truth.”

As with the Native American, Yoruban, Jewish and other spiritual perspectives that started shaping my view of myself and others in the early 90s, I embraced the inclusive nature of “Sat Nam.” When someone pressed their palms into prayer position at their heart, and said, “I honor your truth,” I felt genuine and total acceptance.

When I started practicing Vinyasa style yoga in about 2001, I heard a new greeting. Teachers would end class saying, “Namaste: the light in me bows to the light in you.” Or, “Namaste: the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Or, “Namaste: I bow to all that is good and light and divine in you.”

Ick.

Sorry, but that was my first reaction! “Ick.” What about the imperfect, the dark, the messily human parts of me? If you know even a little of my story (and you might guess some of it, based on my respect for NashvilleCloudsLines(June2011)and admiration of my first yoga teacher), you know that those very non-good, non-light and non-divine parts ruled my world for a good long time. I also grew to understand, accept, appreciate and deeply love those parts after yoga came into my life in the 90s, and I started growing toward a healthier balance.

Yoga continued to be a huge part of my life; and I started to feel defensive at the end of classes, when teachers pressed their palms into prayer mudra at their heart and – with all the best intentions – bowed to the light in me. Sadly, I grew to resent this highfalutin’ “Namaste.”

*  *  *

After 15 years of yoga practice, I decided to become an instructor. I chose the residential Integral Yoga Teacher Training at Satchidananda Ashram in Virginia. At the IYTT, we ended classes (and meetings, texts and e-mails!) with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” I didn’t notice at the time, but am now realizing that I did not hear one single “Namaste” during the four weeks. As the days passed, our immersion in the Yoga Sutras and the Eight Limbs nourished my craving for a sustainable inner peace – and, my yearning to share yoga’s tools for cultivating that peace. I became very comfortable ending classes with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti: Peace, Peace, Peace.”

Then came the dilemma. Teaching at studios in DC, I would end sessions with “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,” and some students would bow and answer “Namaste.” Ack! Did these students think that I didn’t appreciate their light? Mama mia. Quickly, I had to let go of that worry and continue to believe in my choice to simply wish my students peace.

*  *  *

Over recent years, I started hearing different definitions of “Namaste.”

In 2011, I attended a yoga workshop with Max Strom. He both greeted us with and explained “Namaste.” “I bow to you,” he said, firmly. “That’s all it means. If you go to India, you will be greeted the same way by everyone, whether saying good morning at a temple, or, buying a drink at a tea shop.”

In 2012, one of our summer camp teaching assistants was from Nepal. He told me that in his Hindu culture, “Namaste” (or “Namaskar”) is a basic greeting. As common as “Hello,” and as meaningful as “I honor you.”

Earlier this spring, 2013, at the Shiva Navaratri ceremony I attended, the Hindu priests would periodically invite devotees to take some “Namaskaram.” I saw people doing prostrations, offering themselves in deep bows and lowering themselves to the ground. With this visual illustration, I finally understood that Namaskar is the most humble way to show respect, honor, gratitude. (It also redefined my own practice and teaching of Surya Namaskaram, or, Sun Salutations.)

Quite recently, I noticed a residual jolt of resentment when someone offered a bow to the divine in me. I’ll admit it – I needed academic validation that “Namaste” is inclusive of our entire being. I asked a Sanskrit expert for the literal translation. His response: namas = I bow/ honor/salute; te = NashvilleCloudsThunderhead(June2011)to you. “I bow to you.” “I honor you.” “Salutations to you.” It is a reverential expression of greeting and/or thanks. Used as hello, goodbye, and thank you.

What a relief!  No matter what other teachers say, I can finally focus on the true meaning of the greeting when I hear it.  I can feel the essence of unqualified acceptance.

*  *  *

I’ve chosen to continue closing my classes with my IY-influenced “OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…Peace, Peace, Peace.” But for the month of April, I have been experimenting. Replacing “OM Shanti” with “Namaste.” And I have to admit, it still feels very uncomfortable. Because I know students have heard other teachers share their adapted definitions of the greeting. And I don’t want them to think that I only honor the good, the light, the divine. I want them to know that I deeply bow to every single part.

From this, the above poem evolved.

I will always remember and yearn for the humility of my first yoga teacher. That old junkie, just sharing what changed him. So whether I offer “Namaste,” “Sat Nam,” “OM Shanti,” “Yo, wha’s up?” “Hi!” or even a silent smile, I offer my greeting with 100% honor for the whole of you.

*  *  *

I still wonder: What influenced the new “Namaste?” Where did the good/light/divine skew come from? Why would millions of yogis – in the studios and the trainings and the magazines and the videos – want to stray so far from the real thing?

Well…that’s another can of worms, for a different writer to tackle!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

20 Years of Yoga. 10 Years of Recovery. 1 Day at a Time. October 16, 2012

Over the past 20 years, yoga has changed me.

This journey of cultivating a constructive way of living has guided me through many styles and teachers, many stops and starts, and many hard-learned lessons. When I first started practicing in 1993, the transformation felt quick and intense. My insides were uprooted and exposed. I started to see myself clearly. My self-centered, self-reliant nature had landed me in the vice-grip of substance addiction. Long-term change was necessary, or I would die.

Thankfully, yoga gradually dissolved those destructive patterns; and after my 1st 10 years of practice I became flexible, willing and teachable. Still addicted, however, I reached an all-time low in 2002 – and I surrendered. I finally reached out for help.

I am deeply grateful to share that next Monday, October 22nd, I will observe 10 years of sobriety – and 10 years of complementing yoga’s foundational design for living with a recovery program that addresses the cunning, baffling and powerful disease of addiction.

Our October class focus is Change – how has yoga changed you? See you soon! OM Shanti.

 

My Superhero Death Grip On Life October 6, 2012

The wise one observes the world
but trusts her inner vision.
She allows things to come and go.
Her heart is open as the sky.
– Lao Tsu

I can hold on too tightly, to many things.
Expectations.
Wishes.
Ideas.
People.
Solutions.
Fear.  Yup.  I can even hold on to fear.

*  *  *

Today I am being forced to release my superhero death grip on life.

After a few fear-based eruptions, some heartache, a back injury and now a stomach virus (I think), my outsides are looking pretty bruised.  Between joyous celebrations of my favorite baseball team’s victories (I am a huge Washington Nationals fan), it’s been a rough and tumble week of crying and crying out.

After all, the Buddha says that life consists of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows!

Despite my outer messiness, my insides are feeling serene.  The crying has helped melt some of the pain.  And the crying out has brought relief in the form of immediate strength, support and tools for navigating tough times.  I am so grateful to have a team of people and resources who have my back – and know how to strengthen it when I am caving in.

*  *  *

Often our ideas toward others/ideas/situations may not be very clear. Thus reacting harshly could land us in situations we do not want to be in. In such circumstances, any opportunity to have second thought is worth considering.
– TKV Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

In the beginning of the week, some things happened that triggered a downward spiral of fear regarding finances, friendships and security in general.  I lashed out toward others, including loved ones and fellow yogis.  Thankfully I recognized the pattern and started making amends.

Still, the bottom of that barrel was NOT a good place to be.  So the first resources I tapped into were: practicing Pratipaksha Bhavana; repeating 108 Asato Ma chants; and asking Shiva to guide me through, then relieve me, of this darkness.  Thankfully on Tuesday a Google search revealed a powerful essay on the benefits of replacing destructive thoughts with yogic intentions, aka, Pratipaksha Bhavana.  I’d never seen the “Yoga With Amey” blog before, but I am so glad I found it.  (Check out the essay here: http://www.yogawithamey.com/pratipaksabhavanam.html)

The Asato Ma chant says: “Lead me from unreal to real; lead me from darkness to light; lead me from things that die off, to that which is everlasting.”  When I repeated these phrases, I started to feel a shift from dwelling in doubt to thriving in truth, acceptance and love.  Then, like the Jai Uttal song says, I got “down on my knees, crying for freedom, begging for freedom.  Om Namah Shivaya.”  The Hindu deity Shiva governs the cycle of birth, life, transformation and death.  So I was praying for freedom from my traumatic past’s destructive hold on my present.  The past will never completely be erased; but I would like to be liberated from the irrational fears and related overreactions that arise when I get triggered.  I recognized that this was another instance of my agitated brain turning a trigger turning into reality, when in reality, a trigger is just a passing detached moment.

Taking these actions mid-week – shifting my thinking, chanting and praying – brought so much clarity and balance.  Although the week would continue to bring difficulties (one of my friends is not accepting my amend, and I am so sad; then, I hurt my back while moving furniture, and I am in serious physical pain), I continued to rely on the symbolism of the Asato Ma and of Shiva to have faith despite challenges.

Yesterday, in the midst of a paralyzing sadness about potentially losing my precious friend as a result of acting out, I reached out to my Facebook community asking, “How do you not hide from life when feeling great emotional pain?”  My M.O. at such times is to disappear into an abyss of negative thinking, doubt and shame.  I feel really grateful to have such a caring, understanding and experienced friends, whose wisdom has been helping immensely.

Among other things, they answered:
– Reach out.
– Random acts of kindness.
– We pursue and embrace life with all of our heart, body and mind.
– Crank up some tunes and clean! I find it kind of meditative that way. Plus, I do not like being around others when I feel like crap. Plus, it always cheers me to see my material environment brightened at the end.
– hide if you need to hide, cry uncontrollably until the tears run dry, lean on friends, post on facebook, listen to and play music, wait, sleep, be depressed, be suicidal, let these thoughts and emotions pass like clouds in the night sky, sooner or later, this too shall pass, walk on the wild side, you already know what to do.
– I find chanting a mantra helps – calms the monkey mind and really does a healing number on all areas of the body-mind-spirit.
– You know what to do already, but you may be too busy, too agitated, too stressed to hear it. Stop. Wait. Wait. Wait. Mountain pose. Sukhasana. The answer is waiting.
– For me being quiet with god for 30 mins.
– Breathe.

By the time I went to bed last night, I felt a lot more peaceful.

*  *  *

Finally, today, I was reminded to relax my clinging fingers.  Release the grip.  Surrender.

At about 6am, I woke up with some kind of stomach bug and have been feeling completely wiped out.  I had to text and e-mail and post that my morning yoga classes would be subbed.  While on Facebook, I came across a post that truly awakened me.  Wisdom from Swami Satchidananda.  This week I experienced aches and pains of all kinds!  Everything at once.  So I’ve had to reflect on accepting the things I cannot change, and changing the things I can.  I don’t believe in an interventionist, capital “G” god, but I do believe that surrendering my attempts to control this life can bring great healing.  Because it has in the past.

You cannot do everything by yourself.  If you believe in God, if you trust God wholeheartedly, even your sickness will go away because you are putting yourself into the hands of a more powerful doctor.  Difficult situations come to give us a chance to prove that we trust in a higher energy.  Otherwise, how can you ever prove yourself?  When everything goes smoothly you are all good devotees, no doubt.  But you really prove it when everything is shaking and still you are able to say, “It doesn’t matter. Even if I lose everything, I am not going to lose this faith.”  Once you prove that, then everything that was lost will come back to you.
– Swami Satchidananda

So I am letting go.  Again.  I am letting go.

*  *  *

When this much is happening, what relaxes me most is sensing that a great change is coming…and I’m not talking about the obvious change in seasons or change in my situation or changes around me.  If I am open and willing and proactive, there will be great change within me.  When I surrender, I trust that the right things will happen around me.  And even though I am nursing my heartache and back ache and belly ache this weekend, I feel simultaneously horrible and hopeful!  In my opinion, that’s a great place to be.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace.

 

Spring: Transition and Balance March 20, 2012

This morning I rose pre-dawn to rumbling thunder and bright lightning.  Stormy downpours soon yielded to an orange-grey sunrise.  As I stepped out for my habitual dawn stroll, the smell of rich, wet earth halted me.  I inhaled deeply and realized – almost as if by surprise – it’s Spring!  My heart swelled and tears rolled.  I felt excited for this change of seasons, this change of pace, this change of mind.  I took my walk with a chorus of awakening birds, under dripping trees and bursting blooms.

A hopeful anticipation settled into my soul.

Today is Spring Equinox. Well, the actual Equinox occurred earlier at 12:10am, to be exact.  This is the date when night and day are the same length, a supposed time of equilibrium and balance.

Hilariously, my Asana practice this morning was the wobbliest ever!  I laughed at myself as I swayed all over the place while processing toward Dancer Pose.  I drew upon all of my resources for balancing postures: rooting down through my hip and foot; engaging the buoyancy in my pelvis and abdomen; rising up from my heart to the peak of my fingers; breathing long and deep; and especially, fixing my focus on a Drishti – a single raised bump in the texture of a woven blanket on the couch in front of me.

But nothing worked.  I surrendered to wiggling and giggling my way out of Dancer and back to Mountain Pose.  And in that simple stance, I felt as balanced as ever.

I guess it’s going to be a Two-Feet-On-The-Ground kind of Spring!

Hah!  The sun just broke through the clouds as I typed that phrase.  No kidding!  A bright and enlightened moment: two feet on the ground this Spring.  That is fine with me.

Spring’s energy is very pushy.  The intense shift from restful hibernation to forcive sprouting can trigger aggravation, annoyance and impatience.  What tools and resources can I take off my mat and into daily life to address the feeling of being pushed over by Spring’s abrupt changes?

Thankfully, everything from my Hatha Yoga practice can cultivate this balance.  First and foremost – traditional yogic three-part breathing.  Long exhales followed by deep inhales reinforce that there is plenty of space and time between Point A and Point B.  When change surprises me, I can pause to breathe, consider what’s next, then take step-by-step action.  And during flow sequences, reaching a pose at the very end of each slow exhale and energetic inhale – and focusing on the process vs. the pose itself – reminds me that there is always a process from event to event, from intention to goal, from here to there.

Specific practices in balancing poses can also cultivate balance during times of transition.  The most obvious is finding my roots.  In Asana, I connect downward through whatever body part is touching the mat.  (I might be balancing on feet, hands, arms, head, buttocks or belly.)  During unexpected change, I can physically root down for stability.  I can bring attention to my seat or feet, or kneel and touch the earth.  But what if I need more momentum for a situation?  In poses, I cultivate buoyancy by liberating the center of the pose (for example, resting downward from the “sit bones” and/or shoulder blades while lifting through the pubic bone, abdomen and/or heart).  In life, I might ask what frees me to float through changing times.  On the mat, I can focus on the peak of my pose – a feeling of rising through the highest point in the body.  Off the mat, I can consider – what in life lifts me out of a myopic view to a broadened vision and perspective?

Above all, I find that the most supportive practice in balancing poses is using a Drishti – staring at a fixed point.  Gazing at a consistent, dependable, unmoving source of support can take me from shaky and distracted to still and focused.  Just like in life.  There are people, practices and resources that – without fail – restore my balance.  Teachers, healers, friends…meditation, chanting, breathing, praying…reading inspirational writing, walking in nature…beauty, joy, gratitude.

Although sometimes I must be reminded to depend on these powerful stabilizers, once I set my sights there, I feel unshakeable support.

However!  As this morning’s Asana practice proved, sometimes not one tool in the Hatha Yoga kit will work!  And so I fall back on Pratipaksha Bhavana – the mindful replacement of negatives with positives.  Instead of judging or criticizing my wobbly reality, I laugh!  I place two feet on the ground!  I use the precept of Samtosha – contentment – by accepting that I feel off-balance.  Then I take positive action to address (rather than “fix”) it.

What tools for transition and balance will you take off your mat and into your world this Spring?

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.

 

Heart Is Where The Home Is March 1, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,love,Relationships,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 6:48 pm
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In my last post, I wrote, “I feel at home in my heart these days.”  What do I mean by that?

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the idea of “Samtosha” (sometimes spelled “Santosha”) signifies contentment.  For me, cultivating Samtosha requires a combination of understanding, acceptance and surrender.  When I feel upset or rattled or troubled (vs. content) about something, I ask myself, “Is this something I can change?  If so, what action makes sense?  If not, what practices will help me reach acceptance of and surrender to this uncontrollable concern?  How can I grow to be content with things just as they are?”

First things first – I have to accept that I have little-to-no control over the situations, things and people around me.  I am, however, 100% empowered to change myself.

Interestingly, my life circumstances that seem unfortunate or tragic have actually fortified me – because these hardships drive a commitment to self-knowledge for the sake of personal transformation and serving others.  I have studied and witnessed my behaviors, growth and change as a human being.  So I can’t say enough for self-awareness as a tool for accepting humanness in general.  I don’t even need to understand others – just myself.  When upset by someone, I can either stew in resentment, or, I can change my negative opinion by remembering my own past, process and fallibility.  Acceptance leads me to surrender any illusion of control over people; and this surrender leads to inner peace and contentment.

Second, I must consistently cultivate confidence in, acceptance of and love for my self.  I have to grow to be at home in my heart.  And this take practice.

One of my favorite yoga tools is “Pratipaksha Bhavana” – replacing negatives with positives.  Sometimes my own negative opinion of myself can cause problems all around me!  So I try to use Pratipaksha Bhavana to tune into the positive and cultivate a content mind.

When Pratipaksha Bhavana is not enough, I have to dig into my heart center and find its ever-positive truths.  To do this, I like to use an exercise called “Write from the Heart,” which came from a 2005 issue of Body & Soul Magazine.

In this exercise, I: Identify a specific concern at the top of a piece of paper; write, “I know in my heart…” and finish the sentence with a natural, immediate response; after repeating this about 10 times, I pause, breathe, then keep going until out of things to say.  Knowing that no one has to read this, I can be totally honest, dissolving resistance and building confidence.

I was drawn to write today’s blog because I am in conflict with someone who is dear to me, and, I know that this conflict is a result of the stress, self-doubt and uselessness I’m feeling due to unemployment.  I understand my part (a fear-triggered mind, not shifted quickly enough by the above-described practices!), I accept the other person’s humanness (I felt wronged, but hindsight is 20/20), and I surrender to whatever the situation may bring (we have plans to talk next week).

Still, my heart and mind feel troubled.

So right here, right now (after a pause to brew tea, breath and meditate), I am going to “Write from the Heart.”

  • I know in my heart…there is a chance for healing with this person.
  • I know in my heart…I will find the right work situation and be safe, secure.
  • I know in my heart…my fears are valid but temporary.  I honor them as teachers.
  • I know in my heart…I am not PTSD-triggered and insecure…although sometimes, due to certain situations, I can be.
  • I know in my heart…I am not an aggressive person, although due to some situations, I sometimes can be.
  • I know in my heart…I am a loving, caring, generous and connecting person.
  • I know in my heart…I deserve.
  • I know in my heart…the right job awaits me.
  • I know in my heart…there can be healing with this person.
  • I know in my heart…I have already learned about myself from this situation.
  • I know in my heart…I am useful, helpful and of service.
  • I know in my heart…although my past sometimes trips me up, my present is bright and hopeful.
  • I know in my heart…I do not need to be afraid.
  • I know in my heart…I am loved, thought about, cared about.
  • I know in my heart…all will be exactly as it’s meant to be.
  • I know in my heart…I yearn to and have tools to come from my loving, confident, clear, true heart.
  • I know in my heart…how lucky I am to be willing to grow and learn and change.
  • I know in my heart…love is out there…and in here.

Wow.  (Big exhale.)  That was intense.  And awesome.

When I am accepting of and surrender to the truths in my heart, I feel at home there.  This healthy heart then rules my perception, my thoughts, my actions, my interactions.  I might not have control over situations, things and people – but my truthful, accepting and content heart may certainly have an effect.

I know today is March 1st, but I want to thank you, dear readers and students, for spending the month of February moving, exploring, and opening your hearts with me.  I am honored.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Growing Pangs December 26, 2011

Filed under: Life,New Year's Resolutions,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 10:11 pm
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Photo: Holly Meyers

“PANG: A sudden, sharp feeling.”

Last night I shut the door on The Past.  I had a sudden, sharp feeling that it was time.  So I shut that door and I shut it hard.  The Past might have gotten a shoelace caught while trying to jam its stubborn little foot in the way.  And one day in the future, that shoelace might thread its way into some pushy PTSD trigger or round of unresolved grief.  But for now, the door to The Past is shut and I’m standing on THIS side of it.  Yes, I am standing in The Present.

*  *  *

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kind of gal.  I’m an every-day intention setter.  Still, this is a powerful time of year, as the collective conscience of most humans is evaluating the past, assessing the present and changing for the future through the process of making Resolutions.  Because the universe seems to be elbowing me into that process, I’m going with it.

My 2012 New Year’s Resolution is (drum roll please)…to heal, GROW and serve.

Same as my every day intention.

For the sake of this blog (and my personal transformation), I’m capitalizing GROW.  Because I did a lot of intense healing work in 2011.  And in order to transmute that work into being of service in the world, I need to GROW out of and up from The Past, from which I’ve had to heal.

*  *  *

Johnny Cash says: “Close the door on the past.  You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it.  You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Recovery literature makes a promise: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development…we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Which wisdom will win in my case?

I know from experience that the stakes of personal development are often pain.  Motivator/writer Kris Carr says, “Do the big maddening ouch work. The cosmic honey lives inside the pain.”  I couldn’t agree more.  In 2011, I examined The Past so I could get to the bottom of some negative patterns and start to cultivate positive alternatives.  Although the process has been painful, I have come to forgive, accept and honor my past.  After all of that examination, I don’t regret it.  In fact, I am grateful for all of its mistakes and lessons.

However, because I have been so devoted to understanding The Past, it can sometimes crowd out The Present.  Despite all the discomfort I feel while exploring it, The Past can begin to feel quite comfortable.  My dwelling on and in The Past can get so thick that it becomes a mask, and I hide behind it.  So as the Man in Black suggests, I am closing the door on it.

*  *  *

Surrender the mask.
Pour out the drink. Put down the gun. Unclench your fists. Stop your running.
Surrender the mask.
Turn off the TV. Say so long to the sugar. Flush the pills. Abandon the computer.
Surrender the mask.
You will be loved. You will be safe. You will be true. You will be whole.
Surrender the mask.
Love will feel strange. Safety risky. Truth bewildering. Wholeness scary.
Life will feel messy. Because you will be feeling.
It will be worth it. (We promise.) Because we are all healing.
Surrender the mask.

*  *  *

I get a little stuck in my story sometimes.  The sad, sad story of The Past and the sad, sad places it has taken my family and me.  The story includes many traumatic events.  It includes destructive patterns that led to horrible decisions that led to dangerous, harmful and/or painful consequences.

My story is sad.  But I am not.  Because I am not my story.

I consider myself a happy person.  I’ve said it before, I know.  And it’s true.  Small things bring me great joy.  Even in the midst of a big, fat grump-fest, if I hear a child laugh, or see a leaf float down from a tree, or learn of someone else’s good fortune, I immediately feel happy.

I love to smile.

It’s in my cells, the fiber of my being, to be happy.  I feel most comfortable with inner peace and shining light.  As you may have read, I recently went to battle with “an annoyingly encroaching emotional darkness” during my 100-day ritual, “The Happy Heart Project.”  During that period, I had to face some hard truths about my past, my now and my future.  I re-learned the value of examining and assessing and transforming.  Yup, just like our New Year’s Resolution process.  And just like my daily intention to heal, GROW, serve.

At the same time, I learned something new.  The Past serves an important role in informing The Present; but it can be downright traumatic in itself to get stuck there.  Hence the growing pangs.

Time to get unstuck.  I am not my story.  I am not The Past.

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Getting back to last night.  I was crying out of frustration.  An old, familiar dissatisfaction.  The habitual complaint of, “When will anything change?”  Boo-hoo-hoo…and then, PANG!  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I HAVE CHANGED.  Life has changed.  Everything has changed!  I stopped crying.  I stepped through the door and shut it behind me.  With a powerful, physical sensation, I felt myself standing in my now-ness.  Finally recognizing its amazing people, enriching practices, time-tested talents, joyful activities, defining values.

The now is new.  The now is wow!

As I planted my feet in The Present, I saw that all is waiting.  All is waiting!

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I have been dreaming about my teachers.  Family members, yoga instructors, favorite bloggers, authors and others.  A few weeks ago, I dreamed that one of my yoga instructors was reminding me to be teachable.  In another recent dream, my whole family (of origin) was moving to New Orleans.  We were driving in an old station wagon.  I’d had my head phones on for most of the ride, listening to music.  When I noticed it was raining pretty hard, I turned off the music and asked, “You doing OK up there, Dad?”  My sister corrected me, “It’s Mom driving.”  And just last night (after the big shift), I dreamed I was with a yoga instructor whose writing and ideology inspires me.  We were climbing.  He was new to this path and I was leading the way.  I felt eager, awake, on-fire.  Excited to get to the top and share the view that had rocked my world so many times before.

Clearly, it’s time to move onward and upward, and to see what’s in the distance – instead of constantly looking back over my shoulder.

Welcome, 2012.

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OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.