“The lure of yoga demands from one the highest potential. At the same time it reveals one’s weaknesses. The moment of truth cannot be experienced without the constant play of these opposing forces.” ~ Mary Palmer, Iyengar Yoga Pioneer
“You’ve been doing some WORK!” a friend recently exclaimed. My immediate feeling was, “Ugh.” Yes, this blog tells the world how hard I am working at life stuff. It’s not a horrible association, but…I am feeling a bit overworked and yearning to enjoy the benefits of all this effort! Some joy, liberation and balance would be nice…
I am tired of trying.
On New Year’s Day, I attended a friend’s “Awaken to the New Year” yoga class. She always hits the nail on the head with her context for our practice. But to tell the truth, at this point, I don’t remember the exact theme from January 1st. I do, however, recall a profound experience as we settled down in Savasana for deep relaxation. The music was a little low, and I was straining to hear what song I was supposed to be relaxing to…! All at once it hit me: “Stop trying so f-ing hard!”
It had been a very long week with many challenges, plus a lot of exciting preparation for my own New Year’s Eve “Let Your Intentions Flow” workshop. And as I lay there in Savasana on New Year’s Day, I realized how completely pooped out I was. Over the next two days, I slept for a total of 24 hours.
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Back around the December Winter Solstice, when global attention was geared toward the tragedy in Newtown, CT and the 12/21/12 “End of the World” phenomenon, I started feeling notable shifts in my life. Sometimes they manifested as very strong thoughts, beliefs and values; and other times as more mysterious vibrations, visions and dreams. The December 28th Full Moon was approaching, and I’d received a box of “New Energy” incense as a holiday gift – thus, “Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy” was born.
The daily practice included: lighting a stick of “New Energy” incense; asking myself the question, “How will I sustain my total well-being, in order to serve others and live on purpose?”; chanting 108 repetitions of the Asato Ma prayer (“Lead me from unreal to real; from darkness to light; from that which dies off, to that which is everlasting.”); and, posting a daily Facebook reflection on whatever arose during the ritual.
I can’t blog my way out of old energy. Lighting a stick of “New Energy” incense every day for a month does not guarantee change. And, chanting and praying do not “manifest” outcomes – they enhance clarity and awareness. So, these “day count” commitments are, simply, devoted efforts of observation. For “Full of Shift,” I simply wanted to start each day with a consistent routine so I could sustain awareness of the ongoing shifts; note any related developments; and, detect potential guidance and direction.
The “How will I sustain…” inquiry grew from wondering whether the shifts were related to my ongoing efforts to stabilize and strengthen my health (body, mind, spirit), my education (school, trainings, experience), my relations (family, friends, community) and my work (full-time job, yoga, service). December was a super intense time of holding space for others to grieve tragedy and ponder the apocalypse, while they were also managing holiday demands and setting New Year intentions. Understandably, my own energy was thrown off kilter, and I experienced conflicts with old friends and new acquaintances. At the same time, new work opportunities kept popping up and new ideas for further education were brewing.
I sensed it was time to pay attention.
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“Love brings up everything unlike itself.” ~ Marianne Williamson, author
If you read my December 22nd post, “My Heart Exploded,” you know that the night of Winter Solstice, this happened: “I’d been asleep for about an hour, when my eyes gently opened. I was lying on my back, with my hands resting on my chest. Suddenly, in the core of my heart center, I sensed a feeling that is hard to describe. At once heavy and liberating, full and breathless, sinking and expanding. Something profoundly beautiful softly exploded in my heart. After a little while of witnessing, I went back to sleep.”
The next evening, I attended a friend’s holiday party, where I had some notable encounters. I enjoyed numerous conversations about yoga with new people. I met an elder woman – the wife of a man who knew my father back in his film making days – whose energy and spirit impressed me. And, I was shamed by a stranger regarding a mistake I made at the food table.
That night, I had this dream: I am at a party, in the host’s bedroom, because I feel vulnerable. I am changing into all-white yoga clothes. I emerge and head up the stairs to the kitchen. Halfway up, I bump into an elder mentor, who is coming down. She also wears white, has white hair and sparkling eyes, and is graceful. She’s just seen a movie called “The Lotus.” I ask how it was and say I want to see it. She trips on the stairs. I try to stop her fall; but instead, I drop her on the crown of her skull. It is a very, very painful scene. (I’ll stop here.)
I sobbed for hours and hours when I woke up from that dream. It took a few days to release its hold on me. Thankfully, every time I revisit it, new meaning emerges. Teaming up for some dream interpretation, a friend and I discovered the primary takeaway: yoga wraps me in security and clarity; I am at a crossroads with my future, more spiritually mature self; and, something about the Crown Chakra cracking open… Well, duh. Who governs the crossroads and resides in the Crown Chakra? Shiva. My old friend who likes to pull me through the fires of life. Apparently he wants to show me something. And the journey will be painful.
After teaching my New Year’s Eve intention-setting workshop and realizing how depleted I was feeling as the result of a very effort-full December, I set aside the MLK holiday weekend – exactly one month after having my Heart Explosion – for my own 2012/2013 reflection, meditation and journaling. (See the “Full of Shift – Week Three” blog for a photo of my at-home retreat writing desk/intention altar!)
On Saturday the 19th, after spending the day preparing for my at-home retreat, I had this dream: A yoga teacher friend and I visit a tattoo shop where I am going to start working as desk help. The shop owner encourages us to walk around and check out the artists’ work before we leave. I am feeling positive and light as we explore. At one station, there is a toddler in the client chair, surrounded by two adult females who look ashamed and apologetic. The child was born without the top half of his/her skull. Where the forehead and hair should be, there’s nothing – just a hollow cavity leading up from the spinal column. In addition, it’s as if the baby’s circulation to its hands and feet has been cut off, and the extremities are balloon-like and swollen. I smile warmly at the women and the toddler. As my friend and I leave, I say, “Well, the kid’s gonna look like a freak when it gets older – might as well start getting tattoos now!” And I don’t say this in jest; I say it because this child’s imperfections are not shameful – they are reality, and they are lovable to me.
Again, positivity and confidence when close to yoga. Again, a reference to the Crown Chakra. A child born with a wide-open, unobstructed channel to the higher self? An imperfect child that likes tattoos. Still not sure about the swollen hands/feet significance.
On Sunday the 20th, I awoke at dawn. By the time I attended my teacher’s 11am “Spiritually Fly” yoga class, I had practiced my “Full of Shift” ritual, completed my 2012 “clearing” journaling, eaten breakfast and drafted my Week Three blog. After class, I did some speed-journaling on the first four Chakras, ate lunch, took a super hot shower, practiced Yoga Nidra, then led myself on a visioning journey.
Highlights of the journey: My home, and “all that is here” (exact words from my journey), was (is) my sacred space, my starting point for the journey. I then met a red fox on the cliff overlooking the dried-up, sacred river of ancestors of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota (a place I have visited a few times). Together, like comfortable old pals on a hike, the fox and I traveled the riverbed until it became thick with bramble. We continued through, winding up in her den with her children. I felt trusted. She asked me, “What’s in your heart?” After allowing me to reflect for some time, she coaxed, “I invite you to take a step back.” We returned to my sacred space and said good-bye.
All that is here, all that makes up my home – the paper piles, the unfolded laundry, the dust, the sunshine through the windows, the sticky note vision board, the family photos, the everything that’s come before and lead to this moment here – is sacred. Traversing tangled roads in the company of a true friend. Trusted in The (Urban Yoga) Den with youth (and fox youths encounter their biggest challenges in early childhood, as they are born deaf and blind). Taking a step back to survey what’s in my heart. Significance of the Red Fox as a symbol of silence, invisibility, witnessing; controlling the “aura” in order to harmonize more with others. Strong sense of survival, yet also a gentleness. Ahimsa Now.
After this rich, fulfilling day of practice and journaling and blogging, and getting deep and real and true, I had this dream: I am strolling through my ‘hood, I am dressed in my favorite clothes (jeans, boots, corduroy jacket…blues, olives, browns), I am confident and peaceful. I pass and greet friends along the way. A Latino family in their front mini-yard invite me to chat. Apparently I am moving away; and the little daughter is sad about that and wants to give me a hug. Next, their dog comes over to snuggle me. There’s even a little bird from their yard that lands on my shoulder. I feel like that image of Snow White, when the dwarves and forest animals find her and adorn her and care for her. There is a sense of trust, love, sweetness, nurturing and gentleness among me and my community. (Even in this dream), I feel that all of this proves that I am OK, that I am not a bad, tough, harmful person – I am trusted and loved and adored as this local gal in the ‘hood. I am whole (no cracked or missing skull, no odd limbs, nothing to be ashamed of). I don’t feel like I am saying goodbye. (And yet apparently, I am moving away.)
I’m still connecting the dots among these experiences. A few things that ring loud and clear:
I am moving away – from many, many things, habits, people, situations. These 30 days have led me in some very clear directions. I am trustworthy, loved, good. I am 100% OK, just like this.
When I step back and see what’s in my heart, I know that I will give birth to The Urban Yoga Den – a sacred space where nonprofit programs like “Ahimsa Now” and other yoga-related activities for healing and transformation will thrive. I will reach this goal in good company.
Unusual children – those who seem “deformed” or “freakish,” whose families are ashamed of them – are lovable to me. Yoga and I will smile warmly upon them.
Sometimes enlightenment can look shockingly painful. Together, Shiva and I will continue to traverse the sometimes rough road of transforming from that triggered, scared, uncomfortable trauma survivor, into that experienced, graceful, humble elder.
And: my heart is wide, wide open. Despite anger and frustration and conflicts in my personal realm, I am as healthily vulnerable as ever. Which means that, like the Red Fox, whose sense of smell allows her to discern keenly, I am being very selective regarding with whom I share my heart. And that is OK.
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“may we forgive ourselves when we get scared so we can more forward.” ~ Elena Brower, Virayoga Founder
With all the forward momentum of these 30 days, I’ve had my hands full. Full of life! Always a juggle of ease and effort (just like yoga) – as well as withdrawal into my isolation cave or internal/external struggle (unlike yoga).
AH-HA MOMENT (right this very second)!
I DO see all of this as moments of ease and effort! Even the cave dwelling and friend fighting. I’ve often heard, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Perhaps the most productive Shift and New Energy I can gain from this month-long practice is the relieving realization that I need not be so scared about the comings and goings of life. I don’t have to analyze and monitor every shift. None of this has to be blogged to pieces or chanted away. It’s no big deal.
I can stop trying so damn hard.
So it’s time to return to my usual daily Sadhana. The morning practice that has evolved over the past 20 years. The routine that makes me aware, awake, present. That keeps me accountable, serene, ready. Someday I might launch another day-count project/observation like Ahimsa Now (2012’s 100-day study of violence and non-violence) – but I’d like to keep my internal process to myself for a bit.
HAHAHAHA! Let’s see how that goes! (I can hear y’all laughing at me, too!)
To clarify – I will stay transparent with and connected to my close peers and friends, my recovery crew and other therapeutic partners. And in appropriate cases, with my students, where my experience may by useful to them. But I pray to not publicly blah blah blah as much. Another blogger pal mentioned that her 2013 astrological reading gave her permission to lay low until Autumn… and in a certain way, that resonated within me, as well. So I checked out my Leo AND year of the Snake horoscopes (something I nearly never do!), and apparently, this year is supposed to be a doozy. I’d like to be present for it instead of reporting on it, so to speak.
My god, I couldn’t disappear completely! There’s still my monthly yoga class focus, bigger themes of purpose and much more to continue exploring here at the Urban Yoga Den. I also want to invite some guest bloggers into the Den, and start holding local, in-person circles for Urban Yogis. When I do blog and post, I’d like to write more about the solution – not to hide the problem, but to share more about what all this work has yielded! Practices, resources, tools, benefits, internal transformation and life results.
I love my blog/Facebook/online communities and grow so much from relating here. You all kick my butt! At the same time…I know I need to plug in with Face Time (vs. Facebook), my journal (vs. my blog), my local recovery community (vs. sharing online) and NATURE (vs. sitting here).
So what is my “final word” for “Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy?”
Research. Discernment. Decisions. Action.
All four phases require space, time and deliberate efforts.
Less work. Less trying.
More allowing the warm nest to nurture outcomes.
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Thanks for reading! OM Shanti.
PS – Great gratitude to Toronto-based artist Sanjay Patel for allowing his 1st 2013 paintings to appear here. This series so beautifully portrays the shifts and new energy during my 30-day practice. By chance. Love and thanks to you, Sanjay.