The Key to Deep Joy

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The Key to Deep Joy

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A short, sweet post to deliver a profound if  counterintuitive message.

Deep joy can only exist when we have experienced our pain.  When we've actually let the pain IN, without filters and coping mechanisms.

Sure, we can feel happy.  We can think positive.   Good stuff.   I abide by all of it.

And... I know that experiencing the true depths of any emotion requires the allowance of its opposite.   

We must know the dark in order to recognize the light.

Which one wins in the hierarchy?  The light wins every time.  That's the design.

Use this Truth in order to conjure the courage it takes to look at the dark patches that keep you stuck where you are when you'd rather be experiencing a more majestic life.

Consider it a valuable contrast that lets you get clear on what it is you really DO want.  Knowing what we DO NOT want is a powerful launch point that gives us direction on our path... keeps us out of the bushes.

And here's an interesting rub.  The threatening nature of pain subsides once you know you can use it to your benefit.   

Then you begin to see right through it... because, after all, it's ONLY energy, electricity, chemistry running through your body.  

If the fear of pain feels threatening, know that even that is an illusion... unless you're actually facing a bear in the woods, in which case please hightail it using your elevated adrenalin.

So go in and see what's there.  Play with it.  Find the give in it.  See if you can see that it actually wants good things for you.

 

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Do I have to be the best in order to be a leader?

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Do I have to be the best in order to be a leader?

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“You are the most important person in your life,” the instructor said as we lay in savasana at the end of today’s 9am class.  She meant it, unequivocally.

Between August 2009 and August 2010, I attended 300 yoga classes, most of them Bikram, a style of yoga created by the infamous Bikram Choudhury, whose mantra is “If you can, then you must.”   

Bikram style yoga consists of 26 postures, each done twice and held for a prescribed period, in 105 degree heat.  It is very yang.  Yoga for Westerners, if you will.  It is a brilliantly rigorous entree for the Type A mind into the meditative gifts of yoga.   

The studio was my second home at a time of great transition.  I began my journey there during a period of stress and struggle, and that beautiful heat and intensity came right up to meet my anxiety where it lived.  By the time the class was over, lo and behold I was feeling pretty darned good.  It was an answered prayer.  

I felt so humble when I began, like a child.  I had left my 19-year career as a court reporter and I wasn’t exactly sure who I was in the world anymore.  I’d been carrying so much fear around inside me that I felt I'd lost some of my ability to interact with people.  I wasn’t sure what I had to offer anymore.  So I listened a lot in the locker room to the ladies talking, and I didn’t join in very much at the beginning.  When I did, I often felt awkward and silly.  I was 43 years old, by the way.  I had been around the block a few times and had been generally quite confident in my interactions.   This was a delicate time of complete newness for me.  

I had a couple of yoga idols that I admired in class - their elegant practices, their confidence, even the way they dressed.

Did you know that when you like the way someone dresses and wish you could look as amazing as they do, it simply means that you are seeing a part of yourself in them?   It’s not a copycat thing or something “followers” do.   You’re seeing yourself.   My yoga idols helped me to see my future self… which of course would not be exactly like them.  Not at all.  I wouldn’t want it that way.  But it’s great to “borrow” from people we admire.  It’s the design of things.

Bikram yoga was a natural fit for me in certain ways.  The ever-present mirror and the relative rigidity of the practice were very akin to the numerous ballet classes I attended growing up.  It played into my inclination to be rather hard on myself and expect my body to go along with my wishes.  All of this, right alongside the many wonderful gifts that yoga brings of insight and openness.  Paradoxical and true.  

My body loves yoga.  My hips are naturally open and I’m very flexible… in some directions.  I can go so deeply into some postures that one might think I could do all of them with ease.  Not so.

Anyhow, I was engaged every day and I began to push my body to do better and better.  

Note the word “push.”  This has become a red-flag word for me because it doesn’t lead to good things.  The heat has a sneaky way of allowing you to go more deeply into a posture than your body might otherwise go.  Ultimately I’m glad I pushed at that time because it resulted in injuries and I learned well from the experience.  

Gradually I became one of the students who had an "admirable" practice.  I was quite good at many of those coveted Bikram poses that hold lots of clout.   Plus, I have natural focus and presence, which can be quite lovely to witness, and I was told this frequently, which was nice for my ego.

But over time my consistent practice waned as I began to focus more on the people around me and my deep desire to be of service in the world.  I opened a small wellness practice and began offering massage therapy for women.  I rocked at it and got great results, because I wouldn’t have it any other way.   And… I hurt my body along the way.   Lesson learned once again.

Incidentally, over the past seven years - scratch that.  Throughout my entire life, I’ve learned over and over this particular lesson of the injury that comes to Me when I focus too much on You… whether You are my kid, my husband, my client, my friend, whoever.

Fast forward to my recent return to Bikram style yoga after a 2+ year hiatus from really any committed yoga practice.  Today, by the way, I do believe I have found my new yoga “home” here in the area we’ve recently moved to.  I’m really excited about this.

Class today was taught by a sorta famous instructor from a sorta famous yoga studio in San Francisco.  She’s the owner, actually.  She transplanted up here like me.

These days I have more clarity around Who I Am in the world and just in general how to live in a healthy way.  A big part of that has been the understanding that I don’t ever have to be the "best there is" at what I do.  

It felt great to be new at the studio today and have all these wonderfully friendly people telling me about the amazing teachers I need to experience at this groovy studio, and how Bikram yoga has a way of inviting you in, and in general treating me as though perhaps I had never practiced Bikram.  

I can’t tell you how utterly fabulous it felt to simply look at them and exclaim, “Really?  How cool!  I can’t wait!”  

I didn’t need to tell them I had taken 300 classes in one year and had built an entire wellness practice with clients from my former Bikram yoga community.  

I didn’t have to show up as a “yogi” or prove anything to them at all.  All I have to do is show up for me.  It feels so brand-new and so familiar all at once.  

So, how does all of this tie into my being a leader?  

Simple.  Being a leader is about showing up for myself and modeling that for others.  

It’s not about how good I am at what it is I profess to know how to do.  It’s the courage it takes to step out and see myself in the world.  If I only know 10% of something and I want to share it with others, then perhaps the folks who know 5% will be interested in what I have to offer.  

I think you know what I mean.  We’re all leaders, and we can own our leadership entirely, with elegance and great pride.

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My New Body at Menopause

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My New Body at Menopause

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It came sooner than anticipated.  I actually had a very regular cycle from age 11 to Age 49.

And then came the weird-ass symptoms.  And I mean that literally.  I started to have symptoms of pressure in my butt, of all places.  Which in itself sent me into a tizzy given my then-profession as a colon hydrotherapist.

Did I do this to myself?   And… if I did this to me, then am I doing something wrong in my work too?   Double whammy - physical and emotional crisis.  As a woman of service, the idea that I may be causing harm unearths me.  

All this was heavy enough to tip me into trauma.  And, I’ll just offer that when we have something go awry in the area of the root chakra, pelvic floor, or butt, it is tremendously ungrounding.  So I was scared, guilty, and majorly freaked out.   I began having daily panic attacks that made it seriously difficult to function in my day-to-day life and reminded me of similar periods in the past when I was ridden with anxiety.  The association had me diving head first into nervous breakdown mode (aka dramatic spiritual transformation, which I’ve now learned can be done without such extremism).

Funny how we must agree to such things.  I didn’t want to, but my system was compromised and I was delicate, so I guess I invited it.

Then followed a full 3 months of extreme weather shift in my nervous system.  Scary weight loss from sheer fear, adrenalin and a feeling of being whisked away in a whirlwind of terror.  I felt as though I had lost my life as I knew it.  

I don’t recommend.  

Word of advice:  When you feel your body going through something profound, try as you might to ALLOW it to work its way through you, without getting your mind all up in there adding to the storyline.  Easier said than done, I understand, but I have to say it.  Your body is wiser than your mind and knows exactly what she’s doing at all times.  Trust her.  

As a side note… while I desperately wanted to gain weight back then because I was so far below my norm, it’s amazing how, when the weight comes back on, we long to see that crazy low number on the scale again.  Actually, I’d settle right now for that plus 10 lbs.

Anyhow… it turned out I had good reason to feel the pressure in my groin and it had nothing to do with my colon per se.  It had to do with some hefty uterine fibroids, one of which was pressing back against my rectum.  So I hadn’t harmed myself… nor others.  Of course I hadn’t.

As a holistic health practitioner I had all but turned my back on Western medicine, so it had been some time since my last gyno check.  I was working with a naturopathic doctor at that time on some adrenal imbalances and I was taking something (DHEA) to amp up certain hormones, and I believe it plumped up my already chunky uterus.  No one’s fault.  All good intentions.  The DHEA helped a lot with energy, I will say.  Just be careful in knowing that it’s a hormone precursor and can feed certain processes like fibroid growth.

All this to say…. I ended up having a hysterectomy.  It was surreal, actually.  But I was in a fragile state and really wanted help.  I think it was the right decision, as sad as it was, not to mention threatening to my identity to lose such a significant organ.

I’ll write another time about the significance of giving up my uterus and why it was actually the perfect avenue of learning for me.

My surgeon said I could keep my ovaries if they looked “perfect” while she was in there, and I guess they were because I still have them.

However, once ovaries lose their big buddy the uterus, the circuitry is never quite the same.  Ergo, I find myself in menopause.

And I have a new body.  She looks different and acts different.

This perspective of having been gifted a new body by God helps me to accept changes that I would not have otherwise preferred.  

In a word, I feel more compact.  Less elongated.  I have an extra roll around my middle that feels as though it’s as much from the loss of length of my uterus as it is from hormonal shifts.  I think it’s both.

In fact I know it is.  I have hot flashes and the whole nine.  

Interestingly, before my surgery, I had history of being VERY diligent with my diet.  I was very well studied on most methods of eating, with special emphasis on digestive health.  I had had the mistaken notion that if I ate perfectly I would never have health significant problems.  After all, I had had success in remedying lots of health challenges with diet.

But after my surgery I just couldn’t be rigid.  It was as though my heart blocked that frame of mind.  It was a time of letting go.   The perfectionism no longer fit.  Thank goodness, really.  It’s such an insidious pattern.

Now, finally, two and a half years and lots of poorly combined meals and plenty of carbs later, I’m ready to become more disciplined.

With some trial and error over the past several months, I see that, not surprisingly, sugar is the thing that undermines my aspiration to be more light and airy.

I’m seeing results and it feels good.  It dispels the myth that we cannot lose weight after menopause.  So I’m encouraged.

I look forward to sharing my path with you in hopes it will provide encouragement to you as well.

I’ll end with this.  I LOVE my body.  She looks a bit different, more solid.  I imagine that whatever God has planned for me in my life to come, she will serve me strongly.   

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