Satya | Truthfullness vs. Excuses

I hear it all the time.

“I’d love to ___ but I just don’t have enough ____.”

“Someday I hope to ____. “

“This is exactly what I want! Let me know when it’s happening next year and I’ll plan for it.”

It swirls inside my head, comes out of my mouth, and I hear it from almost everyone I encounter. How can we be so willing to hand our dreams over to excuses and “somedays”? Where does “someday” live? Could we get together?

Let’s be real. How many excuses have I made to inhibit the flow of writing? Let’s just start with today’s list: It’s monday and I haven’t worked all weekend so I can’t wake up and write, I need to get something done first. I can’t write at lunch because I was staring at the computer all morning and I need a break. I think I’ll read and send some emails. I don’t know what to write about (even though I have a list of 25+ ideas). I’ll write after dinner. After I clean up the kitchen. And fold my laundry. And practice yoga. And make a phone call. Maybe some chocolate would help. Okay, I’m ready to write now. Except, maybe I’m too tired and I should wait until the morning. I could wake up early, light incense and candles, make a cup of tea and then it would be perfect.

I’m not buying it, Ms. Someday. The beauty of writing NOW is that it’s real. It’s not out there in the future or floating in my imagination. So much energy and time is given to creating and feeding excuses that if all those scattered moments were redirected into what I’m really passionate about I’d be swimming in creativity!

My mantra lately is: “Is this what I’m committed to?” One of my beloved teachers, life coach Grace Caitlin, suggests that whatever it is we’re doing is what we’re committed to in that moment.  So if I’m saying I want to write but instead I’m folding laundry, then it’s actually the act of folding the laundry I’m committed to. I would have protested in the past – no, it just has to be done first. Does it? Who says? Will the Laundry monster come and eat up all my clothes in the night if I leave them in a stack on the chair?

Writing is just one example from the myriad of dance partners my excuses choose.  They are fond of discovering a workshop, training, or vacation I’d like to be a part of and then telling me I don’t have enough money. Or time. These are whole blog topics in themselves and I will be turning my attention to each of these in coming weeks.

Letting your excuses know you’re onto them is the first step. Once you see them you’re more likely to laugh at the absurdity and choose to recommit to your vision.

Try it on this week:

  1. What am I committed to?
  2. What are the excuses I tell myself to avoid it?
  3. When I am living in these excuses what do my actions say I’m committed to?
  4. Is that what I want to be committed to?
  5. Act in accordance with what I am REALLY committed to.
  6. Know that I am likely to repeat this cycle a few (hundred) times and love myself anyway.

 

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Satya | Truthfulness and My Parents

This month is an exploration of truthfulness for me and the first major encounter I had with it was a visit from my parents. They live in Canada and had not been out to visit me in San Francisco in the two years since I moved here. Though I had been back to Winnipeg twice I felt a strong desire for them to see my life here. And so it was that they took a  cruise from Vancouver that stopped for one day in San Francisco.

It felt surreal to me walking down the Embarcadero and seeing my parents standing in front of Pier 35. We walked along the Bay, saw sea lions, the Golden Gate Bridge, wandered through Golden Gate Park and North Beach before bringing them back to the house to see where I live.

When it was time to say goodbye, we stood on the same dock we met at 10 hours earlier. The weather reflected our emotions – shifting from the bright sunshine and lightness of the day to the bone chilling Ocean winds and darkness. My Mom cried as she hugged me and we took the last pictures.

For the first time in my life I missed them. I cried all evening and the heaviness lasted for days. My Uncle passed away in August and it was startling to me that he could be gone, the same age as my Dad and leaving a daughter behind. The visit was tinted through those glasses. How many times had I taken it for granted that my mom would pick up the phone if I called in the middle of the night? How often have I relied on my Dad for his gentle wisdom and support? How many fights have we had and yet the love never goes away? I have given a lot of energy to our struggles and rarely voiced my appreciation.

And with all the love that’s there why has it been so hard to share it fully? So I am admitting it here, before it’s too late. I want to rest my head on my Mom’s lap and have her stroke my hair. I remember the days when I came home from school and she’d baked fresh banana bread or cookies and the sweet scent filled the whole house. I remember sharing gigantic bowls of popcorn as we watched movies in our matching robes. I remember sitting at the dinner table and talking for hours together. I remember going sledding with my Dad over huge ice hills coated in snow. I remember the nights I was sick and couldn’t sleep. My parents would trade-off, Dad reading me stories and Mom laying on the floor holding my hand as I draped it over the side of the bed. I remember going to the Cottage we had when I was young and how magical it felt to canoe, swim, walk among the Birch and Cedar trees. I remember how my Parents sold the cottage to pay for my education, because they wanted the best for me. I don’t remember how hard it was for my Dad to support us because it always seemed like I had everything I wanted, it was much later when I learned the truth of it. I don’t remember the 10 years they wanted a baby so badly, but from the day I was born they never stopped telling me how loved I was. And that’s what I feel most of all now. Amidst all the contraction and all the expansion that comes with family I feel love.

And that’s the truth.

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Generosity

As my exploration of abundance consciousness continues I have discovered the generosity of people in a multitude of ways. I’ll share some of the sweetness that happened this month and a few questions I’ve been asking myself in reflection.

I met a wonderful life coach a year ago and felt supported and inspired by her style of empowering coaching. I recently discovered this feeling was mutual as I offered my service in writing and social media. And now we’re sharing our strengths with each other. What mutually beneficial relationships are you creating that increase your energy?

I’ve been receiving lovely emails from friends and the yoga community that celebrate the art of appreciation. I’ve found that I not only uplifted but it leads me to reach out to friends and those who’ve inspired me along the way creating a ripple effect. When I think a compliment now I share it. Who’s your ripple affecting?

This past weekend I was camping on Angel Island with my boyfriend and a couple of his  friends. As he was packing up his gear, I sat down under a tree to read. I heard one of his friends saying, “look, she’s bored waiting for you. Hurry up.” “Just the opposite,” I responded. “I’m grateful for the chance to sit with myself for a while. Later that same day, I saw their disbelief that I’d volunteer to sit on a secluded patch of beach with all the gear while they continued to hike. Having time to write, with water lapping at my feet and the salty scent of the Ocean filling my nose left me fully available to be with the group for the rest of the day. As someone who gladly admits to the joys of solitude I am discovering the balance of being with others. As I open up to dinner and party invitations (and initiate them as well) I feel honored to be spending time with such beautiful beings. This too feeds me. We are taught to ask out romantic interests on dates but what about seeking out friends with the same level of commitment? Who would you like to know better?

Speaking of friends, I offered one who’s recently started teaching yoga a bag of lululemon clothes as I’m fortunate to have an abundance of those from the 4 years I worked with the company. A week later she had cleansed her closet and brought me a beautiful sweater and skirt I’d admired, among other things! This came the day I was thinking how I’d love to find a new sweater for fall. What clothes or other items you rarely use that someone you know might love?

Similar to the sweater manifesting from my desire, later that week I was at the farmers market looking at beautiful watermelons but recognizing that I didn’t have enough arms to carry it home along with all the weeks groceries I’d already purchased. The next day I was sitting on the UC Berkeley lawn having a picnic and could see two women sitting across the lawn cut into a large water melon and eat some. As they walked towards the path a while later they stopped and offered me a quarter of the melon as “it’s so much to carry back, and we thought you might enjoy it.” Give it a try – offer a random act of kindness to a stranger.

The last sweet delight came in a moment of frustration. It was a sunny day and I was done work, ready for yoga in the park or a walk along the beach but instead I was walking to the BART station for the nearly hour and a half journey to my boyfriend’s home where I was planning to cook him dinner. It was my choice of course to do this but I fell into the victim role and found myself complaining, about the distance between us, the walk down the hill, what I could be doing instead of sitting on BART and on and on the little voice in my head went for the entire journey. As I waited outside his office I could feel the fire rising, not a passionate one either. And then he appeared. Smiling and playfully peaking around the corners until he came and held me in his arms and kissed me. I already felt softened. Then he showed me that he’d bought us breakfast ingredients for the next morning along with a croissant for eating while we walked to his house. And chocolate. Soon I was happily cooking in his kitchen and feeling so grateful to be with such a sweet man when he walked into the room with a card. Not just any card, but my favorite lotus image. And inside, a love note and many BART tickets. He knows the way to this girls heart for sure.

I’ve devoted to keeping this ripple going and spreading the generosity I’ve been so touched by.

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Abundance Conciousness: SF Farmer’s Market

With the same care I give when choosing the most vibrant berries and sweets to present in a puja offering to Lakshmi, I choose the foods that will enter my body temple.

I have explored various ways of eating – mostly raw, ayurvedic, whole foods only, no sugar/caffeine, gluten-free and vegan. Throughout all this I have been vegetarian for the last 9 years and these last few months I’ve been noticing how it feels to eat what my body asks for in balanced portions. One of the greatest gifts of living in California is being able to go to Farmer’s Markets all year round and buy local produce. It seems that when I eat what’s growing now I feel very satisfied. Especially when I add in a few delicious croissants.

I love getting to meet the beings who grow our food. Every Wednesday I go to the Castro Farmer’s Market and see the same farms arrive with seasonal produce. Just last week I bought the most delicious pears and tiny peaches from a farmer whose main business was apples. This week I asked if he had any more and he said no, that was the whole crop last week. To taste what those trees grew feels like such a privilege. Earlier in the summer there was a shortage of Kale and so I strayed from my staple food to eat lighter field greens mixed with wild flowers, and now the Kale is back in a myriad of forms. I cooked fingerling potatoes and summer squash for a month and then they were gone but heirloom tomatoes began overflowing. I discovered the joys of fresh pasta and basil.

In the grocery store we have the ease of nearly every ingredient all year round. Don’t get me wrong, an afternoon at Rainbow Grocery leaves me flying high, and bananas find their way into my life most days but eating in tune with the rhythm of this part of the Earth we’re living on is turning out to be a sweet adventure for my taste buds.

Walking into your local farmer’s market or grocery store is an experience in abundance. It’s an opportunity to revel in the wealth of tastes, colors, and textures. We might not be able to choose any dress in a store and walk up to the cashier without looking at the price tag, but as we look around at these offerings from the Earth it’s safe to say, you can have whatever you like. So go ahead, treat yourself.

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Aparigraha – Non Grasping

I have been studying and incorporating the Yamas and Niyamas into my life for years and recently on a teacher training, Tantric Scholar Hareesh Wallis suggested working with just one at a time in my daily life. It could be for a week, a month or a year but simply noticing the ways in which I am living it, or not, and what I discover. I am  going to share my month-long look at each of the Yamas and Niyamas with you here.

I begin with Aparigraha, or non-grasping. I’ll admit, it’s a struggle for me. I’ve practiced grasping in my life in many ways – scheduling and planning every possible moment so that I can “expect” what will happen tomorrow, next month or next year. Holding onto old clothes, furniture, books etc. that I may need again one day. I inherited from my parents the art of buying on sale, and this has led me to purchase much more than I need because even if I already have 4 pairs of flip flops I might as well get another couple pairs. They were only $2! What would you have done? I have cried over the ending of travel adventures and spent thousands attempting to hang onto the memories.  I’ve held onto more than things though. I have stayed in at least 4 jobs in my life that I felt uninspired to be at because I didn’t believe at the time that I could succeed in doing what I loved most. I have hung onto people, relationships that were ending or already had. What if I was making a mistake? How could there be love out there outside of my current experience?

When I moved to San Francisco I let go of what defined me in many ways. The city and country I was born in, my marriage, the home I owned and decorated as an elaborate extension of myself, the yoga studio I ran out of my home, friends and family. Moving from a 3 bedroom house into a tiny bachelor apartment I had to rethink what mattered most. The decision turned out to be clear. I took my costly opium den bed, hand carved in Indonesia. This was symbolic of what I had once been, once owned, and been capable of achieving. Proof, reassurance, in some way, that it could be done again. The bed was u-hauled, dismantled and reassembled many times by many helping hands. In her last move with me we discovered she couldn’t fit around the corner to be stored inside so I would either have to rent storage or let her go to someone that could use her now. I was truly shocked at my emotional response. I was deeply saddened, angry and confused.  Could I retain my feeling of worth without this beautiful thing? It sounds silly to me now to read this but it was true just a couple of months ago.

A buyer offered me an eighth of what I paid and I saw in that moment it had nothing to do with money. I needed to let it go to start fresh and be free of something that had begun to take some of my self worth away from self.

And you know what happened? I felt lighter. happier. I cut my hair shorter, went to Harbin Hot Springs for the weekend and walked around naked in the sunshine. Just like this moment where I feel it so clearly, swinging in the backyard hammock as Japanese Maple leaves fall around me, letting go of summer and returning to the earth for fall. There’s nothing to hang onto.

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Wanting it all – and what does that mean?

For the last 10 years I was sure I didn’t want children. I enjoyed them from a distance the way someone might enjoy a ballet or theater performance. I congratulated friends and cousins on their happiness, secretly looking on in fear for all they were losing.  I imagined how free my life would feel with no one to answer to, no one to support, no one to wake me up in the night.  I could work as much as I want, go on luxurious vacations and my home would be spotless. I did a very good job convincing myself that I didn’t want children, that is until I moved in with two of them.

I recall the moment my plan fell apart. It was my first time putting them to bed and having them snuggle in, one under each arm for stories. They wanted me to make up stories and I couldn’t believe how blank my mind was. What was I supposed to say? Would it be good enough? Would they like me? This wasn’t my first encounter with this doubtful internal voice.  They offered to show me how it’s done and proceeded to whisk me off into a world of fairies and gnomes. As I said goodnight and got up to leave, they wrapped me in full body hugs and told me they loved me. I wondered how this was possible?

Last week I was on retreat at Esalen and in the past I would have felt I was really missing something if I didn’t attend every lecture, event and workshop. I was sure there was something that I needed to know that I didn’t already. I gathered up wisdom in my journals and held on tightly. So that was my plan, when I wasn’t assisting I would participate. On the first night I soaked in a beautiful kirtan followed by literal starlit soaking in the hotsprings. I wandered off at a few of the meals during the week simply to stare out at the ocean in silence and awe. I had a massage that felt like I was being rocked by the Earth. I practiced yoga facing the abundant gardens. In short, I took care of myself and my needs for solitude.

During one of the lectures I heard the following:

To live with love as your guru, that is bhakti yoga.

To see that love everywhere, that is tantra.

The fire that burns your house down and shows you who you really are, that is love.

Soon after that statement L, in all her 4-year-old glory, declared she wanted to go outside. I left the lecture and we crawled on our knees in the grass pretending to be dogs, looked closely at flowers, and talked softly. Being present to her being, seeing her deep knowing as she looked up at me was as rewarding as being inside the lecture. Eventually her mom came and took her back to their room and I was free to turn my attention back to the lecture. I had arrived so afraid of “missing something” and found that what I was missing was L.

As the retreat continued I found myself wandering by her outdoor school and stopping by to say hello and if I was lucky, get a hug too. I felt honored when she’d take my hand and lead me to a new fairyland in the bushes and even lend me her wings. We went swimming together in the salt water pool while everyone else was in an afternoon workshop.

On the final night I went to an MC Yogi concert/dance party and knew I was staying for only a few songs so I let myself go. I was fully present to the joy and the vibration that was pulsing through me. As I wandered down the path to L’s room I felt the internal vibration expand out to the stars overhead, the quiet radiance. I sat beside the sleeping angel and tried to imagine anything or anyone more divine than being present to witness her breath and my own. If I stayed and chanted every offering that night to Lakshmi, Durga, Shiva, Ganehsa or Hanuman would I know more peace than this? I had forgotten somewhere along the way that meditation, chanting, asana and darshan are all tools to bring us into union with the divine, with love. And here I was.

That night I realized that love isn’t for when I feel like it. It’s not for when all my needs and desires are satisfied. It’s not something that fits into my plans. It’s certainly not always a party. Sometimes, it’s staying home from one.

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after class

Tonight I am Anjana, bowing my heart to the Earth
My blood is a river of prayers
I see how much I’ve been holding on, holding back
Disguising this gripping and grasping as reverence

Tonight I saw that loving flowers isn’t limited to one garden
I see blooming happening even in the concrete cracks
Love is an open field
I was starting to build a fence

Tonight I felt the hand of the Goddess
In the form of you
Reach down and touch the space behind my heart
I exhaled and inhaled and exhaled

I am Anjana tonight
Trusting the flow of this river
Surrendered

Note: Anjana is Hanuman’s Mother and Anjaneyasana, the lunge we so often flow through in Vinyasa yoga, is named after her.

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