"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Real Life Yoga

When my son was born five and a half years ago, life changed. That little man came flying into our lives and the roller coaster that was his first two years of life had a profound impact on our little family. Where my daughter had been so easy, he proved to be a challenge. He was sick and rarely slept. Life was insane and hard.

About six months in I realized I needed to do something or it wasn't going to be pretty. My nerves were shot, my emotions were a wreck, and my overall health was suffering. I had flirted with yoga for well over a decade at that point but it was time to get serious. So I reluctantly drug my mat into the middle of my kitchen and my journey began. I have been asked, how did you do it with a two year old and a six month old? Well, it was hard but each day I unrolled my mat and started again.

Through the past five years during my yoga practice I have been crawled on, screamed at, puked on, and during some cat and cow pose series, ridden like a horsey. My children have attempted some rousing games of "London Bridge" while I held down dog. They have "decorated me to make me more pretty" while I held a precarious half moon pose. I have had to stop five minutes in because little man was just not having it.

My three dogs thought the kids were having too much fun so they joined in as well. Licked faces are common. Stepping back to find a pile of puppies that magically appeared is just not a surprise. Our new kitten now loves to attack my pony tail on any inverted position. It is good times.

I have also had the joy and privileged to guide my children through their first asanas when they wanted to,"do yoga with mommy". My precious old guy pup,now 15, often seeks the peace of my practice and curls up to sleep right beside my mat. Many of my savasanas have been accomplished with a warm, quiet toddler or preschooler draped immobile across my body. "I can hear your heart mommy. It is beautiful.", whispered to me in a reverent tone.

My yoga is my life. I try to live it on and off the mat. The truth is the world is not going to stop. It will not ease up with its demands and distractions as we find our inner peace. No, we must learn to find that inner calm, that equinimity, within the maelstrom of life. My kitchen yoga practice has taught me these lessons well.

There were many days I was frustrated. Could I please just get a few minutes of peace and quiet so I can do this???? How am I supposed to learn with all these distractions??? Well, now I understand the distractions were the lesson. All of these crazy and often hilarious situations has taught me great focus and determination. Learning to laugh at myself and humility were included for free.  It has taught me to get up, unroll my mat, and start my practice fresh each day.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chaos, Broken, and Foundations for Greater Strength and Growth

The past 5 months have been hard, life changing even. Once again I will warn you the following is pretty chaotic, raw, and even messy but that is what life has been for me so I think that is fitting.

In the past few months I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, experienced major upheavals with my closest friends including loss, have been hit with some major financial issues, found out I no longer have a brain aneurysm even though they don't know why (but I am still very grateful), started experiencing perimenopause, and been brought full circle to face some of my greatest fears. It has been a hell of a ride.

The brain aneurysm was huge. It stops you in your tracks and makes you re-evaluate everything in your life. What matters? What is actually important? What will you do with your very short and precious amount of time here? Have I failed at this event called life? Big stuff. Often without any clear answers, just more questions. Then after some major tests....it was gone. They don't know why. The earlier tests showed it was there but the better test now shows nothing. I don't know why. Out of all of the things I have experience this summer, I think I am most at peace with this one. Maybe it was even a miracle. I could live with that.

During this time of medical mayhem and immediately following, I experience some very difficult and very emotional situations with friends incredibly dear to my heart. It was not a good time for me to deal with these issues but they happen when they happen. I won't go any further with this because it is not just my story to tell but needless to say I felt like part of my heart was ripped out of me. It hurt, a lot.

This all brings me to facing my fears. For most of my life I have never felt good enough. Deeply within my soul I have felt I was not living up to my potential and for some reason that failure mattered deeply. I am not actually terribly ambitious. I like living a life of thinking and dreaming. I like living a quiet life and I do not crave, nor do I want, to live a rigorous life of success. Even though it wasn't important to me, I felt the failure. I was failing...someone or something.

Having children changed my life. I am really good at this mother thing. I love running my home and caring for my family.  Homeschooling is something I excel at with ease. It just makes sense to me and I love it. What I do each day really matters. During this time I have branched out and went deeper in yoga and meditation. I started drawing and painting. I discovered for the first time I am an artist and I revel in it! I taught myself to play the recorder and then the piano. My life was very beautiful and fulfilling to me.

This summer has rocked that paradigm. Over a year ago John lost his job. We devastated all of our savings and money put back in order to survive the months before his new job started. We had to buy a second car and incur some additional expenses outside of our budget. Due to a high  deductible, NONE of my tests or doctor visits were paid for this summer. Every, single penny is out of pocket. Both kids and myself where walloped with major dental. Groceries and gas keep climbing. I am sure you understand. You live in this economy too. But what it comes down to is, I need to bring in some money to help the family and this scares the hell out of me.

I do not know if I have the strength and reserves to manage our family, homeschool, work, and keep my depression at bay. I am easily overwhelmed. I want the best for my family. Over the summer I also had my spirituality questioned. That was deeply personal and really cut me. The amalgamation of experiences had given rise to anger, irritation, anxiety, and even some rage. I think I had a band-aid over these emotions ripped away and they all poured forth. There was doubt that I could possibly practice yoga, mediation, and intentional living AND experience these big, ugly emotions. Any other time I would have let these musings roll off of me but this time, well this time was days after I had found out I didn't have a ticking time bomb in my head and my heart was vulnerable. It caused me to really doubt myself.

Now I know a lot of people have it harder than I do. I know there are eleventy frillion cases of people in far worse situations than I am. This is true. But pain is relative and still hurts. It doesn't really matter where you fall on the who has it worse scale, it can still feel devastating.

This brings me to now. In many ways I feel broken. I feel like my soul was stripped of protection and vulnerable then experienced some rather rough handling while in that fragile state. I am at a crossroad of how my life will be shaped from here. I am at the foundations. Yes, there is fear but you know what? There is some excitement as well. Change can be beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Before we can create, we must often tear down. Am I broken or am I simply stripped bare and metaphysically tore down ready for the creation process? I can tell you I feel real. I feel authentic. I feel as if perspectives and preconceived notions have been at least partially stripped away leaving an open space waiting quietly for the new.

I wonder where this adventure will take me?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

That Moment When Everything Changes

I hope you are good with raw and probably not edited very well because I think that this going to be my style for the foreseeable future.

A few weeks ago I started experiencing vertigo. It was fairly significant at first but soon eased off. Still something felt off. I am not one who goes to doctors very often. I have a high pain tolerance and I just figure things will sort themselves out. Hey I am relatively young and quite healthy so it will all be okay, right? But something was just off so I went.

We went over everything and it was decided I should have an MRI. Just to be on the safe side, you know. No big deal.

Well, long story short. I have a brain aneurysm. I am 42 years old and a vessel could pop in my brain at any moment and it is over. Really changes your perspective on, well everything. This morning I spent time teaching my beautiful 6 year old daughter how to contact 911 and tell them our address and they we have dogs. Of course, we have talk about this but all of sudden the lesson seemed quite pressing.

I just found out today and I am meeting with a neurologist tomorrow. I have no idea what the prognosis will be but whatever it is that is what we have to deal with. There isn't a choice. I don't like that. I find I like my choices very much thank you.

Okay, now the good stuff and my friends there are always good things to be had. I find myself tearing up because of all the beauty in my life. My friends and family have already been offering help and prayers. I am surrounded by love and that is incredible. Then my husband, oh that man, that man. I don't think I say often enough how insanely lucky I am to have him my life. Do you know the Lana Del Ray song "Young and Beautiful"? She has this amazing, heartbreaking voice reminiscent of the torch singers of yesterday. She asks in her song if you will still love me when I am not longer young and beautiful and all I have left is my battered soul. In my relationship with my husband I can answer an unequivocal yes, yes he will still absolutely love me and stand by me no matter what happens. That knowledge leaves me feeling unbelievably secure. It is a comfort that means more to me than I can properly express.

I have been a little sad because I have not had much time for art, the piano, and reading. Now I have time to spend on those pursuits and really indulge in my creativity. I have something new to explore and I am effectively grounded from physical pursuits for the time being. One door closes and another one opens. Hannah and I will have more time for chess and science experiments. Logan and I can paint together and work puzzles. There are bright sides.

My best friend had super scary life threatening cancer. She beat it and her life has been irrevocably changed for the better. There are a multitude of stories like that. I choose to find hope in them. I think so much depends on your attitude. Will you stay positive, open, and loving? Will you see this as an opportunity to learn and grow? Will you take this reminder to cherish life for the precious, fleeting gift that it is?

Yes, yes I will. To all of it, yes I will.

May harmony and peace find you and fill your hearts and lives my friends.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bootcamp with the Universe As Your Drill Sergeant

The following is raw and unedited. I just needed to get it out and this felt like the right place. 

Lately the universe has been dealing me some body blows. Earlier this spring, I will publicly humiliated by women I didn't even know in a way the reminded me of the humiliation only junior high mean girls can dish out. It hurt. I honestly hadn't done anything and it came out of nowhere. It was, well shocking. Then an important relationship ended on an ugly note. I don't form deep friendships with just anyone. I have the impression the I have been the subject of conversations with many other people. Being picked apart by people I don't even know at the instigation of someone close feels brutal. I feel emotionally violated and hurt.

Then I was floored, literally, by an acute case of vertigo. It was disorienting but not too worrying. But there were some funny signs accompanying it so I went to a doctor. Due to the lasting headaches, the doctor has ordered an MRI. Well, to be accurate, she is now fighting my insurance for one.

I am going to be honest, I am scared. I don't overreact in general but this one hit hard. I know I am already in an emotionally vulnerable state and I am sure that is exacerbating the situation but whatever the cause, I have a pit of fear in my stomach and it sucks big blue monkey butt.

There have been some other things but those are the major ones. It is true I am having strong, negative emotions over this whole thing but it is being balanced out by an equal measure of knowing in my gut this is all happening for a reason. I feel like the universe is tearing me down so I can be built up even stronger.

All of these experiences could very easily cause me to turn into myself and shut out the world. I could allow them to form a hard shell around my heart filled with distrust, fear, and worry. I could allow them to seep into my being and define who I am.

I don't think I am going to do that.Nope, not at all.

Through these not so great experiences I have been learning humility, clarity, truth, and authenticity. I have learned to trust my inner gut and my own judgement of who and what I am. I am also learning it would be better for me to be more open and allow more people in. I know that appears to be incongruous with having my trust betrayed but I actually feel deeply it is the right choice.

So I stand here and I am going to boldly admit I am scared. But I am also strong, loved, and know a bold, fearless heart is within me to rise up and meet all comings with courage and joy.

May harmony find you my friends.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Saying Goodbye and Honoring Lessons

Through a series of events, I have organized a group of women hikers. We meet and take on endurance hikes, 10-15 miles in length. The interest in the group rather surprised me but I am not sure why. I think it actually makes sense. Women crave a sisterhood, being part of a tribe. I think many of us long to come together and be our authentic self. It is easier to accomplish in nature. How you look or who you know or whatever superfluous and superficial characteristics tend to be stripped away around mile 6 if you brought them at all.

I love this group. I come back feeling more connected and refreshed. It brings me full circle. We don't hike in winter as ice is prevalent and dangerous. After a long hiatus, I was excited to for the first one of the season.

At first the weather looked perfect. The long term forecast was for sunny skies in the 60's but slowly temperatures and my spirits started dropping. In the end the forecast was in the 40's. People dropped out. Too Cold. This winter has been hard enough. I get it. I do. I had to go. I was the one who put it together but I wasn't very happy about it.

Then I realized the universe was presenting me with a beautiful opportunity. Just this past week, my daughter and I had been on a hike looking for signs of spring. We had found them. We saw the first two wild flowers of the season rising out of the stark beauty of the barren winterscape. But I had never really said good-bye to winter.

If you read this blog or know me, then you will know this particular winter has been, well pretty horrible for me. I fought hard with despair and depression. It came close to overwhelming me but I pulled through in the end. But looking back, I can see I learned some immensely valuable lessons. I learned how strong I was. I learned what friends I could truly depend on for comfort and much needed strength. I learned it was okay to throw up my hands, hunker down, and just hibernate for a bit releasing myself from expectations and self-imposed responsibilities.

We don't tend to learn the truly important lessons in easy, comfortable situations. Nope, we best learn in the fire. It is within the metaphorical crucible we are truly reborn. For whatever reason, we need hardship and strife to break through to the next level. Winter had been my frigid fire. I have grown exponentially in these months. I think I owed my honor, respect, and a heartfelt and thankful good-bye to this season of my life.

The hike was amazingly beautiful and lifted my spirits higher than I could have imagined.

There is life waiting to burst forth in each of these pictures. It is quiet and patient but it is there. I am thrilled I was granted the opportunity to say good bye and honor the hardships and lessons learned. It was  beautiful and magical way to round out the experience.

May harmony find you.

(PS My friend Laura took these amazing pictures. Thank you so much for giving me permission to use them.)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reflect and Refresh

Spring is almost here. I can feel it. My flowering Dogwood is beginning to bud. My surprise lilies are pushing up through the cold dirt and light layer of snow. For several days the skies have gleamed with true blue only found this time of year. It has been a hard, hard winter. My commitment to health and stability has been tried. I remained focused but it was difficult. The time to release all the tension is at hand. 

Lent is a traditionally a time for reflection and renewal. Growing up in a non-liturgical church, Lent was never something we focused on. The idea of of honoring the Lenten season is new to me but one I find myself embracing. This year I intend to take 40 days to refresh and renew my spirit and my mind. I think it will greatly benefit me after this particular winter. 

Meditation and yoga have not been practiced as diligently as I would have like. Our home was so chilly in the morning. My morning yoga sessions became miserable as cold muscles refused to warm or be supple. It was a fight I decided to forego as long as the frigid temperatures remained. 

This is my first commitment. To revisit these two practices. Both of them combined is where my true peace lies. They culminate in an equinimity that greatly enhances my patience, compassion, and ability to honor love and beauty in their many forms. I embrace them again as old friends welcomed home from a long and perilous journey. 

Peace in my mind also benefits from peace in my environment. With that in mind, I am embarking on the 40 Bags for 40 Days commitment. It is really easy, I get rid of one bag, box, or bin in my house each and every day. Truthfully, I don't know if we have 40 in this house but hey, that's a good thing. Spring cleaning will also be coupled with this process. I am not even planning it. I just know me. As junk leaves, I have an innate desire to clean. Bonus. 

I am also committed to being more intentional with my reading. In addition to the books I read for pure fun, I will reading books on mindfulness and simplicity. This actually coincides with a desire I have to implement a very slow, mindful pace for our family over the next spring and summer with a huge emphasis on nature, unstructured free play, and exploration for us all. 

Finally,  through journaling and meditation I would like to explore some deep seated irritants that are rising unexpectedly. These are deep within my psyche and are embedded below my general consciousness but it is time they are addressed. Time and time again I find anger even rage arise seemingly out of the blue. There are some things still chaining my soul and I want to deal with them so they no longer have control in my life. 

So that is it my friends. Really it is just commitment to be more mindful. I want to slow down and truly savor as my Red Bud tree explodes into color. I want to quietly watch my children make discoveries in nature. I want to really hear people and connect with them. I want to see their noble beauty first and foremost with a heart of compassion and love. I want to be the best and most authentic me I can be and live my life in harmony and joy. 

However you honor this season, I pray you find peace and light each and every day. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Year of Creativity

Each year of my life, at least recently, seems to have a theme to it. I don’t do this deliberately but it still happens. The past several years have been focused on becoming healthier be it physically, mentally, or spiritually. These years have led to some great things in my life. 

This year seems to be entirely focused on art and creation. Almost out of the blue I am creating piece after piece of visual art. I am experimenting in different paints and other color mediums, textures, layers, and loving mixed media on the whole. I am learning piano as if I am fire. I have some musical backgrounds but wow, I am just flying through the lesson. I am truly having the time of my life. It is so much fun. 

But it has been my most recent endeavor into creation that caused introspection on what is exactly going on with my life at this time. Writing has always been a natural outlet for me. I am a well spoken and articulate person but I have always felt more comfortable expressing myself through the written word. However, in the past several years I have not really been writing. Oh, I have the odd blog post and I journal on and off but I am talking about really delving deep into my craft. I mean the true exploration and playing with words, themes, and ideas. I have not been writing. Why? 

Well I think there are two main factors. First, the past decade of my life has been filled with what have been life altering changes. Even though they were baby steps at the time the result has been dramatic and amazing. A little over a ten years ago I left the one truly co-dependent relationship I have had. I not saying my other relationships were models of health, but this was bad. The fact I stayed in those confines rocked my foundations and filled me with self doubt. Those doubts had to be dealt with if I were ever to be healthy again. 

Very long story short, over these 10 years I have turned from an anxiety ridden, unpleasant (really could probably just use the word bitch here but hey, let’s be graceful) , and totally unhealthy person (I smoked like a fiend!) to a grounded, harmony filled person who deals with the challenges of life through meditation, yoga, and stronger focus on whole food nutrition and consistently practices an attitude of gratitude. I am not exaggerating when I say the change is night and day. 

The second major change in my life is I have embraced and even rejoice in the fact I am a introvert.  Actually, I am a really big introvert. For years I thought since I wasn’t shy and could handle groups and socializing just fine, I was an extravert. Since extravert is often the desired way of being in our society, I pushed myself to be just that. It drained me terribly and left me constantly emotional fragile and on edge. I am sure those misplaced attempts contributed to my simply lovely demeanor. 

I  think these two things drastically changed everything about my life. It definitely changed my vision of who I am and how I deal with life. It is the basis of my positive outlook on life. The upheaval, although ultimately wonderfully good, was huge and destabilizing. Yep, some chaos definitely ensued.

All of the above resulting in the need to really compost my experience. I love the idea of that. Experiences, thoughts, whatever lie fallow in your mind and unconscious being dealt with and worked over without you even consciously realizing it then one day BAM!! Explosion. 

That is where I am now. I am having this incredible almost volcanic overflow of creativity and ideas. The artist energy feel like it is just coming out of every pore until I quietly glow all the time. It is really an exciting time and I am just riding the wave to see where it takes me. Hey, after 10 year, this could be really good. 

May harmony find you my friends.