Purpose And The Art Of Fearlessness

5 Feb

I woke up this morning full of fear.

Fear of what happens next, of where I’m going, of how little control I have over so many things. In my meditation today, I noticed I’m not only afraid of what might happen, but also of what might not. For the first time in a long time, I emerged from my morning sit feeling more anxious than I went into it.

I read an old piece I had written about bravery and still felt stopped. Feel the fear and do it anyway? Not today.

Rather than rush headlong into the day’s to-do list, I headed to Pete Guinosso’s Candlelight Flow class to try and give my anxiety some space to move and sweat.

At the opening of the class, Pete mentioned that today is civil rights activist Rosa Park’s birthday, which is celebrated in California as Rosa Parks Day. And he read us this quote:

Rosa Parks

As I moved through my sweaty vinyasa, twisting, balancing, I noticed how my movements had purpose. I have been practicing asana for a long time and my body knows what to do. Pete says “down dog” and without needing to think, I can move into that shape.

I know what must be done and I do it.

As we built and opened through the class, I worked through little difficulties: warming the hamstrings, noticing my resistance to one more strong abdominal hold, balancing in ardha chandrasana (half moon). These poses challenge me, but they’re possible. A little effort and I can get there.

We move into parivritta trikonasana (revolved triangle) and I remember how difficult I used to find this pose. As a new yoga teacher I was frightened to teach it,  because it required so much concentration to stay balanced myself, let alone balance and talk students through it. Almost nine years later, it’s effortless, to do and to teach.

I think I can

Our peak pose this morning was parvritta ardha chandrasana (revolved half moon). Already sweaty with exertion, I pushed myself into it. I felt that moment of wobble as I moved my eyes skyward, noticed the attention that was required to lift, extend and open. It really took something to hold the pose today. I could feel my muscles straining, my heartbeat in my ears, my breath working hard to be smooth.

But as I worked into one side and then the other, I was filled with a sense of achievement. It was hard and I did it. I didn’t fall. I kept breathing. I overcame.

I look at my life and I see how easy it would be to just keep doing the poses I know: to do things I find effortless and easy. There is a safety in doing what is right in front of you; of taking the options that are being offered. But I know choosing those options doesn’t bring as much growth. Life can be simpler, but it’s not as expansive.

I don’t want to be safe. I want to be BRILLIANT.

I want to inspire and be inspired. I want to have the kind of life that lives up to MY expectations, to do things that make ME proud. To be pulled into every day with purpose and passion.

Living from that space, there’s no room for fear.

Life a daring adventure

Shiny Song #29

27 Jan

Letting go is so often a process of grief or heaviness.

Imagine if you could shrug off a situation, embrace things as they are and dance to celebrate what comes next?

Turn Corner & Let Go

I love this song for that reason: Shatter your illusions! Move forward!
And dance while you do it…

A New Year

3 Jan

Oh, 2014.

Last year was about risk for me. Risking my heart, my business, my relationships.

There was a moment during the retreat in Thailand that I stopped and looked around at the glowing faces of my students as they danced around the room, embracing each other, revelling in the week they had shared, and I felt possibly the greatest happiness I had ever known. First: I had caused that! I had so much pride that it had come together, that it was worth all the work and hours and preparation.

Shiny People

Mostly, I felt such a profound gratitude that I was able to share myself with these people and have it land with them in a way that made a difference in their lives. Doing this work has become about what I can give away, and it has been the most rewarding experience of my life.

And then I decided to move to the big smoke.

“Why don’t you stay in the wilderness?  Because that isn’t where it is at; it’s back in the city, back in downtown St. Louis, back in Los Angeles.  The final test is whether your experience of the sacred in nature enables you to cope more effectively with the problems of people.  If it does not enable you to cope more effectively with the problems – and sometimes it doesn’t, it sometimes sucks you right out into the wilderness and you stay there the rest of your Life – then when that happens, by my scale of value; it’s failed.  You go to nature for an experience of the sacred…to re-establish your contact with the core of things, where it’s really at, in order to enable you to come back to the world of people and operate more effectively.  Seek ye first the kingdom of nature, that the kingdom of people might be realized.”  
-Willi Unsoeld

I’m so excited about the possibilities of bringing this work to city life. It’s one thing for me to be balanced and zen in the jungle in Bali, on a beach in Thailand or Mexico. It’s quite another to bring it into fluorescent lit office buildings, to stressed workers, glued to phones and computers, panicking about mortgages, obsessed with having the latest products or thinking that life can never be any other way.

But how can I operate in that world and not suffer from the same malaise?

Be Yourself
My transition to San Francisco has plugged me back into the matrix, the perfect way for me to better understand and empathize with the people I am teaching. Yet I am also experiencing a world where kindness doesn’t always feel like the best answer; where rampant honesty is not always welcomed; where bringing your heart fully can mean being battered and bruised.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
- Mahatma Ghandi

Is it naive to think I can “be the change I want to see in the world”?

I know when I show up with a full heart, good intentions and an earnest approach, my life feels more full, I expect the best in people and I feel more alive. Seeing the glass half full makes me happy.

But it’s also teaching me that bringing that energy is not always the best path. Sometimes, what’s needed is both a soft heart and a sharp elbow.

The Bhagavad Gita talks about ten Yamas, what we sometimes call the Yogi Commandments for ethical living. Dhŗiti, the sixth of these, has been translated as “to act with determination”, “patience” and “perseverance”. I love to describe it as “steadfastness”. You can read more about this tenet here, but at its core, practicing Dhŗiti, you “succeed in every undertaking by having a clear purpose, a wise plan, persistence and push.”

Smooth sea Skilled Sailor

“A ship that can endure and persevere on its course even when tossed about on the waves of a turbulent sea.” – Gurudeva

 

Sometimes, life here feels impossibly difficult. I’ve stood in front of an entire aisle of unknown brands of toilet paper and felt overwhelmed. Negotiations feel unkind. Showing too much of yourself, or admitting weakness might not be admired. Sometimes it feels like the work I’ve done to become more vulnerable and to wear my heart on my sleeve is a distinct disadvantage.

And yet, my students and clients seek that same openness. They are desperately looking for connection and a way to safely express a more vulnerable heart.

Maybe, what’s actually needed is more conviction to inhabit that space.

vulnerability

So with that, I declare 2015 to be a year of courage, growth and determination. 

I will bring my heart to every aspect of my life, even though I’m scared to do it. I will fail and get back up again. Reconnect with nature and myself. Be big and bold and vulnerable.
And practice, practice, practice, with ferocity. For all is coming.

Practice all is coming

Leap And The Net Will Appear

19 Dec

Nature loves courage.

Leap and the Net will appear

You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles.
Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up.

This is the trick.

This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood.

This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall.

This is how magic is done.

By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.

- Terrence McKenna

Walk Slowly 

13 Dec

Just breathe

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

- Danna Faulds

Shiny Song #28

28 Oct

Cold night, strange dreams 
Memory stuck like glue
Her face, her voice
Sail across the seas with you
Can you hear all the angels?

When you feel like you’re out there on your own
Know there is someone watching over you
When out at sea, feels love can let go
Oh sailor, we will blow the wind right
But if you die out there, tearing you into two
I hope you know that you could sail right on
I hope you know you got the ocean blue

No sound worse than silence 
A curse that grows 
Big words kept in
Whispers of dreams untold
Just don’t fight all the angels

When you feel like you’re out there on your own
Know there is someone watching over you
When out at sea, feels love can let go
Oh sailor, we will blow the wind right
But if you die out there, tearing you into two
I hope you know that you could sail right on
I hope you know you got the ocean blue

When you feel like you’re out there on your own
Know there is someone watching over you
When out at sea, feels love can let go
Oh sailor, we will blow the wind right
But if you die out there, tearing you into two
I hope you know that you could sail right on
I hope you know you got the ocean blue

Happy Birthday, Amy Poehler!

17 Sep

Amy Poehler Do ThingsAmy Poehler is such a source of inspiration to me.

Aside from being funny, quirky and super smart, (and creating one of my all time favourite TV characters, Leslie Knope) I feel like she encourages other women to the same level of empowerment. Oh, that we could all lift the others around us without fear that it comes at our own expense.

Here’s to another year of kicking ass, teaching us how to dream and supporting the doing of amazing things, Amy.

Thanks for being my spirit animal.

 

Books That Changed My Life

6 Sep

This week, I was set an impossible task by a dear friend: create a list of the 10 books that mean the most to me, or changed me, or touched my soul.

I immediately came up with 50 and had to cull ruthlessly. And then cheat, by tucking in 10 more at the bottom. Ahem.

So here are my ten, in no particular order.

1. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

the-time-travelers-wifeI wish I wrote it. So original, so bittersweet & beautiful. Don’t watch the movie.

2. Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

DaringGreatly_largeWhy vulnerability is a strength, a beauty and a connecting force. This book changed the way I do everything and how I see my role in the world. Watch her Ted Talk for an abbreviated version.

3. Looking For Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta

Looking for AlibrandiI read this as I was starting high school and it was the first time I realised other Australians grew up feeling like they didn’t fit in anywhere, just like me. Informed my first inquiries into identity, family  and belonging.

 4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon Kavalier and Clay

A great friend put me onto this one. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

5. The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

History of LOVE

This one makes my heart ache, just thinking about it. I read it at a critical time and it was so healing. Made me believe again.

6. Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Wild

This memoir reminded me how important it is to go my own way, even if it doesn’t make sense to other people. And how important mothers are, so appreciate them while you have them.

 

7. Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

eat_pray_love

Spurred my own overseas adventure, guided a different search for spirituality  and helped me realise I wasn’t alone in my wanderlust. It’s popular for a reason.

8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

The best 21st gift you can get anyone.

9. Travels, Michael Crichton

Travels

All kinds of journeys, described by an amazing writer. I aspire to his ability to communicate esoteric ideas in a tangible, pragmatic way.

 

10. In Full View, Lily Brett

In Full View

I read this at age 15 and could not believe how honest she was. Oh, to be so brave as a writer! I love the way she lets it all hang out…

And, because I feel GUILTY about not including these life changers…

- Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

- Incredibly Loud And Extremely Close, Jonathon Safran Foer

- Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

- The Little Book, Selden Edwards

- Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsh

- A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle

- Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

- Persuasion, Jane Austen

- The Heather Blazing, Colm Toibin

- Poser, Claire Dederer

What are your favourites? I’d love to see your lists…

Morning Poem

18 Jun

Zambo Sunrise 3

Every morning the world
is created.

Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches— and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it
the thorn
that is heavier than lead— if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you a beast shouting that the earth is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy, whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

- Mary Oliver

Keeping Quiet

12 Jun

Meg Meditate 2

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms too much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines;
we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm the whales
and the man gathering salt would not hurt his hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about…
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems to be dead in winter and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

- Pablo Neruda

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