Friday, December 23, 2011

Death Becomes Me

A few days ago, after looking for him and filing a missing persons report, we learned that my grandpa had died.  At 78 years old my grandfather died alone in a hotel room (he was found by a hotel manager in room 410), surrounded by the very few things in life that comforted him, music, cigarettes and alcohol. I say that not as a judgement but because I am not comforted by the fact that he went out as some would put it "on his own terms." I wanted him to know that we loved him and missed him and he never got to know that. He never got to feel the urgency of his loved ones while he was missing. He never got to know that his only great grand child was praying for him to come home safely.
In the midst of the sadness and grief I observe others and their process and what they have to do to get them through the day. Everyone's process is different.  Some may party to get them through the night. Some my sleep to get them through the day. But no one knows when you're all alone, the thoughts, emotions and tears that may come.  It is sure nuff a process that I am trying my damnedest not to judge as I see, hear and watch others go through it.Not judging is a huge lesson for me (albeit it is a struggle). I am usually a solitary person, but as I go through it all, I don't want to be alone. It's too similar to how my grandfather died. Actually all of my grandparents (and father) died alone. The one who is still alive is also alone. The point of life is to love and be with others. I struggle with it all. Maybe he did too. Maybe that's why he disappeared for days. But even the thought of this is no solace.

At this point I don't want to be strong. I don't want to be on auto pilot. I want just melt into this tub and drown in my tears of sorrow until I can cry no more. That night, I couldn't say the words. I couldn't say that he was dead. The words wouldn't my escape my lips. My head was not connecting with reality. I wanted it not to be true. We were supposed to help find him. He was supposed to come home alive. He was supposed to be our Christmas miracle. Returned to us safe and sound.

I am mired in death.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Honest Eulogy

What do you do when it's your birthday?  Does it cause you to be more self reflective?  Do you think about the the year gone by or do you think of the year to come?  Does it make you pine away wistfully for your youthful years?  Or does it make you young folk wish to be older than you are?

Birthdays make me quite pensive. I start to review my life on all levels.  But mostly I think, "am I becoming more of the person that I want to be?"  If I died today, what would those that knew me have to say about me?  Could they get up and be honest, or would they say a lot of things because it's not kind to speak ill of the dead?

How would your honest eulogy read?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cutting through Yoga Elitism (RePosted)

I have to admit.  Sometimes I get annoyed by seeing yoga retreats in Bali, or Brazil, or some other exotic place in the world.  Yoga, which is an ancient tradition, was originally passed on from teacher to student right in their home, village or community.  Now with elite yoga you get to travel halfway around the world outside of the daily grind of life to chant together or practice asanas together in the serene setting of a foreign land.  I say that is not yoga.  It feels like escapism.  It's getting away from the ugly harsh realities of how people are living in this country and going some place where all of that is erased and real life melts away.  Yoga is supposed to be brought to the people wherever they are,  in the muck and madness of daily life.

 Yes, I could probably find specific slokas of the gita or of patanjali's yoga sutras to back up what I am saying, but my heart tells me all I need to know and that is:  If we are to use yoga as a practice to help us deal with the daily struggles of life, how does running all over the globe help? How are you improving your life or the lives of potential yoga students right where you are?  Be here now!  Right where you stand, that is yoga!

While discussing this with a co-worker and fellow practitioner she said "You need to get in a space that no matter where you are, the distractions don't distract you."  She is absolutely right, that is one of the aims of yoga.   I wish that more of the magazines focused on this as a core teaching of yoga.  I wish that there was more of a focus on seva and karma in present day yoga.  I am almost at a point where I'm ready to unsubscribe to yoga magazines, because I'm tired of the hard tail ads and the perfect little yogini's with their perfect little lives and perfect little bodies.  Where is the magazine that digs deeper?  Where is the yoga teaching that gets to the core of what we face as individuals when we are off the mat?

I feel incredibly fortunate that I work at a place that has free community yoga every week for the last 3 years.  It began as yoga for those that were unemployed.  Michigan was hard hit by the recession early on, especially those who worked in and around the auto industry. So this idea sprung up to give back to those who were in need of this practice.  Yoga has given so much to me a practitioner and now as a teacher. I feel this overwhelming urge to give back, to help, to transmit something that cannot be spoken through words, but only through sharing of this practice, the breath, body and mind connecting as one.  While I try not to judge, I admit right now it's very hard not to when there are $20 yoga classes and book signing with yogi "masters" and yoga groupies and all of these things that just seem to be the antithesis of what yoga is.

I understand that things get westernized to a certain extent when they reach our shores, but do they have to become totally bastardized?  There is this righteous (or so I think) indignation building up inside of me where I feel like being The Yoga Renegade!  No I'm not skinny, never have been and never will be.  No I'm not white.  No I'm not blonde.  And no I'm not teaching in a suburban yuppie neighborhood.  I want to take yoga to the people who could benefit from it the most.  I want to take yoga to the people who can least afford to pay for it.  I know what yoga has the ability to do when you practice.  This is why I became a teacher. This is why I love yoga, this is why my head is about to explode seeing this beautiful practice being stripped of its roots.

All power to the people

Yoga to all people

Yoga is for everyone

Let's cut through the yoga elitism and take it back to where it belongs: "We the people!"

Please check out the links below.  I am organizing 24 hours of continuous yoga to support the Non-Profit work of Yoga 4 Peace.

You can also support Y4Peace and their free community programs

Overcoming Anxiety

For every problem in life there is a spiritual solution, at least that’s what Wayne Dyer says. My major problem right now (well for years) is with anxiety.  I hate that I have it.  It was probably born when I was 3 years old and first started experiencing sexual abuse.  Withdrawing and retreating became my coping mechanism.  At that young age you have no coping skills, so whatever you learn becomes a pattern grooved into the brain and eventually becomes habit and second nature.  So when difficulties arose the only way I knew how to protect myself was to retreat to a place within where nothing could touch me. 

It wasn’t a happy place, it was just a place within, where the outer world didn’t exist.  No pain, no trouble no fear, nothing.  It was my escape.  I often times describe it as being in a catatonic state.  It was my shield.  But I don’t need to go to that place anymore when things get stressful or there is anxiety. Anxiety happens when I feel extremely vulnerable and overwhelmed.   I don’t mean to disappear and fall off the face of the earth, but going inside is the one thing that has “saved” me from unbelievable pain.

I don’t want to react in this way any longer.  It is hurtful to those that care about me.  What I realize more and more these days is that I was retreating from abuse and abusive people, the people in my life now are not abusive, yet I am still reacting to the situations with the same response.  It is maddening to me sometimes that all of this began at the age of 3 and I am 34 years old and still working on breaking these old patterns.  I’ve been in therapy for several years now, and I’ve broken through some major things, but this didn’t occur over a few weeks. It happened over a 12 year period and the patterns are deeply engrained.  But I am encouraged, I know that they can be broken/shattered!  Some things may not go away, some feelings of anxiety may continue to occur. However, I know that from overcoming the flashbacks that I used to have of the abuse, that at some point not only does it occur less, but my response to it can be changed by my own effort. That is what I’m working toward right now, changing my response to anxiety.  

So the first thing that I am becoming aware of is of course my breath.  Through my yoga practice I see that one or two things happen when tension or anxiety about something occurs.  I either hold my breath and stop breathing or my breath becomes short and shallow.  When that happens, I am no longer in the moment. That is where the thoughts started to repeat like a broken record and the anxiety becomes my truth, not just thoughts that are roaming around in my head, but they are my reality.  Now, if I could just continue to take this yoga thing off the mat I’d be able to see that: 1. this is just a story on repeat, 2.  I can change that story by replacing it with something else and 3. Affirmations are always helpful when overcoming negative/destructive thoughts or behavior patterns. 

When I was having flashbacks of being sexually abused my therapist told me to remind myself that I was safe and no one could hurt me, that I was fine.  It took a lot of effort for me to do that in the midst of what felt like day time terror, but I did it.  I overcame those severe anxiety attacks and if ever they were to return I’d know what to do to defeat them again.  This same thing I must apply to the less severe anxiety.  I can use an affirmation to help me become present and out of the loop of the broken record.  I feel like this is a tendency that I must overcome because it has a very negative affect on my relationships with other people.  I am truly a dedicated person and I’ve never seen myself as running away from my problems, until now.  I spent years hiding in my self-created sanctuary.  That story has been on rerun for far too long and I am determined to write a new chapter in my book of life.

This is yoga off the mat!