Total Eclipse of My Solar Heart

I don’t know if you heard, but there was a total solar eclipse on Monday in the States, and it felt like a holiday. We are so overworked as a society in the United States, that if there’s a reason to take a day off or even a half day, we do everything we can in our power to celebrate. We all need permission to rest anymore. We need to justify a cycle of rest. I teach Yin & Restorative yoga because it gives people permission to rest. I feel guilty when, like last week, I take a nap every day. I feel guilty because I don’t yet make enough money to not think about money all the time. Just let that shit go… Right. I feel guilty because I could always “be working.” Let that shit go. Working on it. I must have been born with some past life guilt. I don’t remember learning that emotion as a child. Ask me about shame and that’s a story I could recite from memory, but guilt wasn’t familiar to me until adulthood. Anyways, there was a total solar eclipse in the United States yesterday, and my sweet town of Boise, Idaho had 99.5% total eclipse of the heart. I had to. So yes, I cancelled my morning Vinyasa class and climbed a foothill to experience it.

This could be a piece about my light and my shadow and how the two must work together for balance and the light and shadow of the world, etc. I’m definitely feeling more called to shadow work these days, and my numbers in my yoga classes have dwindled, isn’t that interesting? But here’s what happened for me during the eclipse and what I experienced.

standing in totality.jpg

During the moments of totality, a few before, during and after as totality was all of two plus minutes, I found some space for me. I wandered away from my family and partner and as I turned away from the eclipse I saw her, my own shadow. It was as if she could have easily detached from my body and formed her own reality. We stared at each other it felt like, tears welled in my eyes, and I was overcome with love and compassion and stamina for this life. It wasn’t the way it looked – dense, solid; it wasn’t the visual spectacle of the solar eclipse. It was the mystery. Veils wavering. My shadow was opaque and real. It reminded me of looking in the mirror while being under the influence of psychotropic mushrooms.

When I started experimenting with hallucinogens in my early twenties, I always consumed too much. If there were one word to describe my twenties I think it would be excess. I excessively partook in most everything in life; alcohol, drugs, sex, eating disorders, exercise, work. The first warning someone gave me the first time I ate mushrooms was, “Whatever you do, don’t look in the mirror. You will look crazy!” So I ate mushrooms in the woods mostly. No mirrors, and I forgot about the warning. And then I was hallucinating moderately in a friend’s backyard and had to use the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet is always where I seem to truly feel the full awareness of my altered state. Hello wavy shower curtain.  I washed my hands and without thinking about it, looked in the mirror. First a few tears, then a smile, then laughter as I truly saw myself. Real. Human. I felt so much compassion for that young woman staring back at me. Separate yet together. Since that moment, anytime I’ve found myself in that altered mental state I make sure and spend some time gazing in the mirror. It’s always a little bit of a risk, but that’s where the rewards are, right?

You know that feeling when you just know something is right or good or important? Yeah? That’s how I felt looking into my eclipse shadow yesterday. Carve out the time to write. It’s important. I don’t know why. I only know that it is. Carve out the time to sit quietly with your own breath. Take the time to fill the diffuser with essential oils. Respond to every text and phone call. Ask for help. Say thank you. Forgive. Love. These are things we don’t know why we do them, only that we must.

Imperfect Action As I Stand Against White Supremacy

Writing isn’t action, unless it’s published. I live in a safe, mostly white community in Boise, Idaho. I enjoy a privileged life that is not without its own set of challenges, but I’m still a white, cis female. I identify as how I was born. I feel at home in the body I came in this time around.

When Donald John Trump was elected President in November 2016 and took office in January 2017 I knew the media would become a series of painful stories, images and hateful othering. And it has. I admit I often ignore the news, or when I read a story about a horrific murder or hateful demonstration I feel shame and guilt for my inability to do something. I took yet another personality assessment and it told me that I often times dwell excessively in how I can help marginalized people to the detriment of my own happiness. So, I stop reading the news and I stop worrying about what I can do. I like posts on Facebook and Instagram of others speaking out, and I move through my life as a woman entrepreneur with desires of empowering those who identify as women to live whole and healthy lives.

Then something massive happens. A mass shooting in a community I identify with. A ban on humans in the country I live in. Destruction of sacred lands for oil. Genetically modified poison masquerading as food. A white supremacist rally in the country I live in. Our government may be fucking up around the globe, but we’re recreating a civil war in our own country. I need to talk about what side I’m on. I need to talk about it. It’s ethnocentricity at its worst. I also want to dig a hole and stay safe and private in my introvert’s paradise.

I am a Yoga teacher, a woman entrepreneur, a holistic lifestyle coach, a spiritual mentor. All that means is I’ve had things happen in my life and I’ve found empowerment and healing through nature and Yoga, and I want to share that with others who are also seeking. And I live in Boise, Idaho where the majority of the population is white. Very, very white, which isn’t to say that there are not black people or people of color in my community, but very few. I remember in elementary school in Eagle, Idaho which is about 10 miles outside of Boise, there was one black kid. He was my 4th grade boyfriend. I read an article the other day that asked white, spiritual women to talk about racism and white supremacy. I’m attempting to talk about it, and I prefer listening. I stand against white supremacy in all forms, and I am fumbling with my own words.

Yoga is self awareness. Awareness of the Self. Ability to remain present, witnessing the experience, embracing the experience of the moment and then watching it pass away. Impermanence. I believe the role of teacher is to hold space for the experience of each student. I often set my own intention before a practice, class or session to hold the space for students to simply be, to be free enough in their experience to listen. We live in a world filled with doing, the next thing, the next accomplishment… So, be. Be aware. Be present in the experience. Tap in to the juice of the experience, the sensuality of the experience – what do I taste, smell, hear, feel, see in this experience? Witness the experience without judgment, but with loving compassion. Know it is impermanent. This is the greatest gift I have received in my life, so yeah, I want to try and share it with others.

So what about when the experience is painful? How does one stay present during injustice? I don’t know the answer, that’s why I’m asking. Where do we find conscious activism? How do I talk about racism in a one hour Vinyasa yoga class? I don’t know. Can I still find a way to be and take action? Can I hold space for others to do the same? I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how to take action from a small town of mostly white people, and I know that imperfect action must be taken. I sit with it. I hold it in my heart. I ask the Divine for intervention and direction. I offer space for others to sit with their experience and feelings, to hold it in their hearts. I’m talking about it. Let’s talk about it. I don’t know what it feels like to be black or to be a person of color. I don’t know what it feels like to be judged or sneered at for being who I am. I am not here to try and sympathize because I can’t. Empathy. Action. Communication. Love.

There’s no let’s all just get along message that works, but I did love what Obama posted after the white supremacists hate-demonstration.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” –Nelson Mandela

And that's ok

I am lucky to be surrounded by a plethora of successful women. Self-starters, entrepreneurs, creatives, mothers, the list of intelligent women in my life goes on and on. But I feel like it’s important to talk about what happens on the other side of creating a beautiful and bountiful life. Exhaustion. Depression. Sometimes, even madness.

Yesterday, my partner and I had an argument so I took solace on my yoga mat for a simple practice of presence. One little, heart opening, upward bow and I collapsed into a puddle of tears. The puddle got bigger, the tears wouldn’t stop, and I spent the rest of the day in bed with the cat alternating between sleeping and crying. Our argument was not that bad, but isn’t it interesting how our closest partners in life are often the ones that can add the final metaphorical straw to break the dam? Bless them.

I have been working hard for a few months; I have been working without stopping or coming up for air since New Years’ Eve. It’s winter. My body and soul are calling for rest. I make agreements with myself like if you can just hang in there a couple more months then we will be comfortable and can take a rest. If we stop now, we’ll lose our momentum, and so on. I don’t have any answers other than, well, honey, screw the momentum and take some rest. But then I will be stuck in this place, this zone of excellence as Gay Hendricks writes in his book, The Big Leap. I want to live in my zone of genius, and that zone activation requires a leap of faith and a willingness to do the work. And the work takes time.

I don’t think my experience is unique in any way and I'm not sharing this seeking sympathy. I do think the more we open up and say, hey, me too, the more we don’t have to feel afraid of speaking our truths – even the ugly ones, and trust me the puddle of tears and snot on my yoga mat yesterday was anything but pretty. I was raised to be fiercely independent and never ask for help, but with each rotation around the sun I am recognizing that asking for help makes me stronger, not weaker. So, I offer these personal words and my experience of struggle and sadness. It is my sincerest hope that one by one we can be less afraid of the repercussions of saying, me too. Life IS amazing and beautiful! Just look at all the things we can create… but sometimes it also totally sucks, and sometimes I am so tired and sometimes I can’t even put pants on. And that’s ok.

I love you.

I love you I'm sorry please forgive me thank you

Today is Thanksgiving, and I feel these words burning in my solar plexus with the deepest sense of desire. For a week I have been contemplating the connection between Thanksgiving and the travesty happening at Standing Rock. This holiday is meant to symbolize peace between new settlers and Native Americans, yet at this moment white men and women in power are using a multitude of methods of extreme force and brutality against those who are called to protect our water.

I am writing this because I am still participating in Thanksgiving, and I am standing firm in my support of Standing Rock. I considered boycotting today. Oh yeah did I mention I’m also a vegan who can’t stand the sickness of the meat industry and today is a day when the corpses of majestic birds are paraded en masse? But this isn’t about that. This is about humans. I know that some believe animals were put on this earth for our service and consumption, but I don’t think many feel that way about other humans. So, today I write for Standing Rock and to share what I’m feeling because I have no other way. I am participating in Thanksgiving, and I will be vigilant in my gladness today.

Guilt. She is not a new emotion. I live internally in a place of policy, rules and procedures not because I think it’s the “right” way, but because if you look at my astrology chart I have most planets in my sixth house. It is who I am. I create an internal guideline of how things will come to pass. It’s not like I sit and write down a plan for every little thing in my life. These guidelines happen organically without any conscious thought at all. I become aware of them eventually and then, guilt. I shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t expect these things. I am not enough. I should be more like those who live on heart and air. There are days when the internal monologue is deafening. I observe guilt almost daily. I do not banish her, and I do not beg her entrance, but she is always welcome. I am learning to allow her presence without reaction, but I am also a creature of deep feeling and loyalty. Yesterday I was awash with guilt. You see I had a pretty good day. I joined a communal meditation, empowered two new people with essential oils, did some of the work that I normally put off because it’s the boring stuff, guided a Yoga class and had a great dinner and conversation with my partner. And yet, there are people being injured, tortured at Standing Rock. Guilt. I should not be happy when there is so much pain.

We teach what we need to learn, and last night I shared a poem in my Yin class by Jack Gilbert. If you are an Elizabeth Gilbert apprentice, I’m sure you know it as she mentions it often and even has a quote from it tattooed on her. The poem is called “A Brief for the Defense.”

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

I’ve had this poem in my toolbox to share in a class ever since Trump became President elect, but it hasn’t felt right, or I’ve been too scared. It’s an intense poem, and it mentions god; I don’t want to offend anyone. As a nation we decided that bigotry, misogyny, othering, gentrification, etc. is A-OK for someone in power. The love of power, oil and “things” is more important to some then water. Guess what? These things offend me. So, last night I shared this poem. This is my mantra

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.

I may not be literally standing at Standing Rock. I may not have more than five or ten dollars to offer. But I promise that I will continue to risk delight and I will be stubborn in my gladness. I will not lessen the importance of your deprivation. I stand with Standing Rock, and I celebrate giving thanks. I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. #hooponopono