Hammock Time with Ash

Winds of Change and Sunday Messengers

Nature is a fascinating teacher. Yesterday, in Nosara, she offered her messages in the unique way she does in the jungle. The winds blew strong in the morning, not a typical quality of the dry season’s March. But when they move the dirt, dust and crackling trees like they do, I am reminded to reflect upon the winds of change…”Am I listening?” I ask myself. 

In the open air studio at Harmony Healing Centre, we are often met by the animals with whom we share space. In the beginning of the Sunday Breathwork class, a woman called me over to her set up in the corner and prompted me to see the large scorpion who was looming under her props. She was not sure if it was dead or alive. It was alive. I found a piece of bamboo to trap its tail while I continued to guide the class through the opening relaxation, I recognized the scorpion’s presence as a messenger. We escorted the animal under a glass to be released into the jungle at the end of the practice, but each time I walked to the back corner of the room where she was waiting, I could hear the pincers tapping on the glass…reminding me to listen. 

The medicine of the scorpion is a sign of transformation. A message to remind the receiver to release what is no longer necessary…what gets in the way…what is exhausted…what needs to be cleared out. 

From that moment, the practice took on a different form than what I had originally planned…like air infusing fire, signifying that it is time to take action towards the transformation and to be courageous in the steps forward. 

As the class came to its conclusion with the scorpion now settled waiting for the moment when she could scurry off out from under the glass, I witnessed the presence of the butterfly…floating on the strong winds of the afternoon:  another message of transformation and the beauty of the process of emergence from the other side. A completely new form was born from the pressure created in the hibernation of the chrysalis. 

For me, the past few months of my life (and possibly yours too, in our collective journey) has felt like the chrysalis…I have felt the pressure, as you may have or may still be experiencing. And, I am remembering that pressure is an invaluable presence for growth and change. Now is the time for greater consciousness in our actions, deeper focus while asking for support from the outside forces and messengers that are present to help us see the next steps forward. 

When I made the commitment to make a part time move back to the states from a place that most people refer to as “paradise,” I had no idea that I would be walking into such a charged political, social and emotional environment. In some ways, I was like the scorpion trapped under the glass…in my protective bubble of the green jungle just waiting for my next step forward. Now is the time for those next steps. 

What are you preparing for? What support do you need to take the next leap and create action that is setting the foundation for your heart to soar and consciousness to be raised? I am asking you these questions, because I ask them of myself as well. 

Now is the time. Notice that every breath is keeping us engaged in this life that we are sharing together. Yesterday, I was also reminded of the butterfly effect…that even in the most subtle ways as the butterfly moves her wings, change is evoked and life transforms. 

I invite you to share in this journey with me. What subtle ways are you shifting and moving into a new form? 

Pause…listen and breathe. You’ve got this. You are surrounded by support and messengers of all forms. Can you hear what they are whispering to you? 

A Girl Can Change Her Mind

Did I ever mention that I thought I would never return to the States to live? Well…a girl can change her mind, right?

In 2016, a strange turn of events sent me into an existential crisis of sorts…My identity was stolen. On the streets of NYC, my wallet was lifted from my bag the day after I landed for a month long US excursion. It was my worst nightmare…one that forced me to push a big PAUSE on all of my plans. It felt like a daunting task, to reclaim my identity, especially because I had no back up plan for something like this. (Sidenote…you really need proof of identity to prove who you are…and if all of your proof of identity is gone…then how do you prove who you are?)

Most people have photo IDs and paper proof of identification stashed in their desk drawers. But, because I literally dropped off the radar to move to Costa Rica about 7 years before, all of these important documents were hidden somewhere in the dark corners of my NC storage unit.

The moment I actually realized the implications of what had just happened, I became more present and walked downtown to my friend’s house with no identification, no cash, no Metro Card, no credit card and no idea of what to do next other than wake up to the moment. This moment of chaos was the beginning of a new cycle for me. One where I was called to wake up and get my shit together in a bigger way. As I started sharing the dilemma that I was in with close family and friends, the questions bombarded me.

What are you going to do?

I can’t believe you had your passport and license in the same place, how are you going to replace it?

What are you going to do?

How are you going to prove who you are?

What are you doing to do?

I learned from that experience that presence and taking things one step at a time can take a person far. As I navigated the process of reestablishing my identity, I stepped closer to the consideration of actually stepping back into life in the US.

Over the past years, I had comfortably slipped into life at the end of a dirt road beside the ocean with the sun rise and monkeys song as my alarm clock every morning. I spent 7 years settling into life in the jungle of Costa Rica unwinding the stress and overwhelm I had accumulated from the previous cycle of my life. In this time, I learned that I had moved to one of the world’s 5 designated Blue Zones, where inhabitants live longer, happier, with decreased amounts of chronic diseases. I studies longevity principles, seeped myself in nature, and learned and practiced the art of breathing deeply (yes…there is an art, science and practice to it).

As beautiful as it all sounds, life there, 9 degrees north of the equator, is not just an idyllic paradise like most people imagine, and almost inquire of me on a daily basis.

Don’t you just love living in paradise? Is the question that I started to resent. I often wanted to scream to the one posing the question is that “THE GRASS IS NOT GREENER OVER HERE! Sometimes, it is a dry, dusty shade of brown.”

I wanted to honestly reply, “Life here is challenging in ways you cannot imagine. I have to hustle as much as I celebrate. It’s like living under a magnifying glass…with the most mundane obstacles feeling like a mountain that needs a new trail.” 

I didn’t understand where my resentments were coming from. After all, I do live in paradise. I am surrounded by nature in a place where most people come to retreat and vacation. I began to recognize that I needed to shift my perspective again. I started considering the changes that would help me to light a fire and get me inspired to find the center between the chill of Pura Vida mode and the movement that would help me to manifest my dreams.

The movement of that contemplation pulled me back to consider living again in the States, and I eventually chose to land in NYC.

In answering the call to come out of my jungle bubble I dipped my toes back into life on the east coast and started visualizing life in the big city (where I had never lived, but always dreamed of living). It was time for me to make a halftime move to the heart of Manhattan.

I landed in my Upper East Side apartment 2 weeks after the election in November. The chaos continued and it felt like the foundation of life as I knew it in the past 7 years was even more bumpy than the dirt road that leads to my house at the edge of the ocean.

I continued to come back to the trust that I have in my spiritual guides and my internal wisdom, those messages that have been screaming loud and clear that this is where I need to be. I even scheduled a call with my mentor, who is a psychic of sorts, and she also confirmed that I am needed in NYC to share of what I have learned from the teachers of nature and breath and the culture of Central America. She could see that the city will serve as a backdrop of inspiration for me, as I complete the final pieces of my memoir (the one I have been writing for the past decade+).

So, I settled into the wintery embrace of the city and prayed for the best. On my best days, I venture out and meet people who remind me that I am in the right place at the right time. And, I am also human and still have those times of doubt and despair where I want to put my tail between my legs and humbly crawl home. In those latter moments, I light a candle, breathe deeply, pray, and realize that change is the only constant in life.

Navigating Successful Transitions

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.20.38 AM

Understanding the cycle of a transition and our key choices, patterns and circumstances that have led us into various experiences can be valuable to ensure that we skillfully lay the foundation for our continuing evolution.

Many years ago, a mentor gave me something to consider that helped me to get out of a spin cycle of suffering. He said to me, “Insanity is repeating the same habit over and over again, but expecting different results.”

The tricky part to this is acknowledging the habits that create the stickiness in our life’s patterns. My mentor was able to reflect to me to the ways that some of my patterns were getting in the way of my intention of successful relationships. I was a conflict avoider, people pleaser, and couldn’t communicate my needs to people around me. It created a lot of misunderstanding, which in turn loaded much more work and suffering on my plate than I could handle. Inadvertently and unconsciously, I was creating the drama, chaos and suffering by the way I interacted with the experiences in my life.

Once I became aware of my patterns and triggers, I was able to slow down and make different choices in the moment.

Taking greater responsibility for where we find ourselves in the present moment, we may find it easier to navigate life’s current and future transitions. The first step for me in creating a successful foundation of change, was to even acknowledge what I was doing. And, at the same time, the awareness wasn’t enough. I wanted to know “why?” Why did I operate under the patterns that held me back from my deepest desires?

Those were pivotal questions that guided me on a journey into a deeper healing and new cycle of transformation. I traveled back as far as my birth, attempting to uncover the stories, lessons and conditioning that landed me in the tangled mess of miscommunicated and broken relationships.

I was adopted to my parents after my birth mother delivered me (I imagine without much support from her family or my biological father.) As a high school teenager, she was sent to live in an unwed mothers’ home until I was delivered. I was in the hospital and foster care for the first 2 months of my life. As I dove backwards in time to my story, I started to connect the dots and understand that I operated under a deeply ingrained belief that I am alone.

As I worked to untangle that belief and create a new pattern of belief that I can trust others to create mutual support, the new reality did not happen overnight. I went through pendulum swings of fierce independence and unbridled vulnerability. And, still today, I more easily recognize my core belief of “having to do everything on my own” when it triggers me to make decisions in times of challenge. It takes a pause and a recognition that I have choices and that to create a new way of being, I need to do things differently than I have been conditioned in the past.

If you acknowledge that you are in the midst of a life transition, and don’t want to recreate your own chaos and drama, consider the following perspectives as you navigate the waves of life.

  1. It all begins with intention. Maybe we recognize it, maybe we don’t, but the reality that we experience now began with past intentions that infused action (or inaction.) And, as we hope to create a new life, and move successfully through the transitions that happen daily, our clear intentions can be crucial in making the next best steps.
  2. Pause. In the pausing point, you have the ability to get clear about key facets of the moment. In the pause, noticing mental projections can be valuable in creating more successful actions and choices that align with your intention. Often times, our conditioned responses keep us in a comfort zone, and help us to repeat and deepen the patterns that keep us in the state of “insanity” (repeating the same actions but expecting different results.)
  3. Hold yourself accountable. A mantra of accountability that I use is: “It is because of the choices of my spirit, mind and circumstances that I have landed here.”
  4. When moving through a transition, recognize that this process involves surrender of a past way of doing something, past relationships, or even past identification with a role that no longer fits your future vision. It’s ok to grieve that loss as you make movement to your future reality. Give yourself permission to feel the feelings fully that come along with the transition.
  5. Be present and patient. As much as you want to get to the next place, observe what happens when you practice gratitude for where you are right now. In all of the transitions that I have navigated in life, I look back and wish that I would have given myself more opportunities to enjoy the moment that I was trying so hard to escape.

And, above all…enjoy the ride!

Join me for a distance learning opportunity that will guide you into your own successful transition. Radical Transitions in a Chaotic World 2.0 begins August 1, 2016. This 8 week class guides you through your own storyline and helps you consciously create new intentions and actions towards the life that your heart desires! For more information, check it out here:  www.theradicaltransition.com.

Now is the Time

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 4.19.54 PM

I have a confession. I am in love. I have been having an affair for many years; more than 2 decades to be exact. We first met when I was twenty-one, during my senior year in college. But truth be told, the roots of this love began years before our first physical touch.

If you have ever been engaged in an affair of the heart, you may have had a similar experience of reflecting back to where it all began. If I could trace it back to its inception, my love affair with New York City began while I was a child, waiting for class in the lobby of a converted ranch house at Miss Donna’s School of Dance. I sat in my pink leotard and white tights, looking at the picture on the wall of the older dancer from my school who “made it” in NYC as a Rockette. I was in awe of her beauty and how the picture seemed to sparkle. I watched as other people took notice of her success and from that moment I wanted to go to New York City. Before stepping foot into her pulse, I knew in some way that this city was special. We sang songs about her in the recitals that inspired my curiosity…“if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…” “Give my regards to ole Broadway…and tell them I’ll be there…” Every Thanksgiving, my highlight of the holiday was to catch glimpses of the city’s character between the floats and the bands of the Macy’s parade.

Fifteen years later, I finally consummated the projection of my dreams and we met in person fall break of my senior year in college. I convinced two of my best friends to join me on the adventure. This was before cell phones and GPS, so we traveled on foot with our worn out city map in hand, trying hard not to look like tourists.  My confidence grew as we learned to navigate the subway system and call cabs.  We did the typical tourist things and stood in line in Times Square for half price tickets to “Cats.” Afterwards, we partied so hard that we actually got cut off at the bar near Madison Square Garden with the horse statue out in front.

I have returned back to the city almost annually since 1999…which was the year I became a Yoga instructor. That year, I scoured the city for the most diverse Yoga classes…finding some as far and wide as the brownstone walk up (I think it was Sivananda Yoga Center) with the Satchitananda cardboard cutout in the corner, where we practiced on big, dusty, old oriental rugs. I found the hip class in the basement of Crunch fitness in the black room. I arrived early and watched the New Yorkers. I wanted to be one. I wondered why they seemed so different. I found the space that used to be Yoga Zone before Alan Finger got bought out by the Yoga corporates. I was seeking the “true Yoga” in the city. It was a time before the Yoga boom, and I loved the places that were under the radar where one had to seek the hidden. After each class, I would retire to a little nook in a coffee shop, and write in my journal about the class, the sequence, the teacher, the experience. I dreamt of a day that I would be one of the NYC Yogis.

At the end of 2001, my plane ticket was already booked for a long weekend at the end of 2001 when the WTC towers came down. My friends thought of cancelling the trip…driven by the fear that the entire world was feeling at the time. But, the fear is what drove me back into the arms of the city again. I needed to be there, to feel her, to experience it firsthand, not from behind the screen of the television. I needed to be with her while she grieved, and feel her sadness. The pain of the attack cut me to the core, and I needed her presence to fill the hole that was carved in my psyche.

This time, the reconnection was a bittersweet one. Like two lovers testing their perseverance after an indiscretion. For days, I could feel my guard…protecting me. I attempted to look into the eyes of the people on the street, offering my love without words. After all…there were no words to be said at this point. The emotions in the eyes said it all. We knew.

A couple of days pass before I could go “there”. In silence, I walked to the site where the towers once stood. The waffle like wall of the collapsed building had not yet been removed. A chain linked fence separated me from the mass grave of destruction where love and futures still smoldering, buried under the rubble. Photos of lost loves were placed by the grieving. They were no longer looking, but were still searching for ways of saying goodbye. We all needed our unique closure. I stood in a reverent reflection, the closest thing to prayer that I can explain. I finally allowed my last wall of protection melt so that I could feel the spectrum of emotions that the city was pulsing. So much had changed since that day.

Sadness, empathy, connection, support. I was grateful to be there to see and feel for myself what was really happening. I returned different, with the need to be truer to my heart. After that trip, I traded my television for an antique mirror, and haven’t owned a TV since, knowing that the constant media images were a source of a downward spiral in the months following 9/11. I realized that there was no more time to sink into the hole of despair, or even continue down a path that no longer inspired me. I quit my job and opened my Yoga studio six months after I returning from the city.

A couple of years after the studio opened and we were managing to make ends meet, I returned again to NYC.  I was desperately attempting to reconcile a depression after my business partner and I could no longer stand to be in the same room with one another. Another failed relationship. I remained, trying to hold the Yoga studio together while not doing the best job of holding myself together. My friend, Diane, encouraged me to join her at the Yoga Journal conference, but I was hesitant. My body hurt so bad from the mental and emotional anguish that I could not (or would not) let go of. I wasn’t sure I could make it through hours of Yoga, let alone a weekend of nonstop practice. But, she nudged just enough and I realized this may be the best medicine: returning back to the arms of my place of inspiration and magic.

The opening speaker that night was John Friend. Diane and I chose seats on the floor of the hotel ballroom, waiting for the conferences festivities to begin. As we sat, awaiting the opening ceremonies I could feel that something special was approaching. The crowd hushed, signaling the start of the keynote address. We chanted a chant. I didn’t know what it meant, but the vibration coursed through my body and sent chills through my spine. This pudgy man with white curly hair and spoke for over an hour about his life lessons and the death of his mother and about embracing the full spectrum of emotions as a practice. His story helped me to start seeing that there was value in my pain and that it could be a teacher to me. That story was a starting point in my recovery.  

After I changed my course of the weekend’s events to study with this man and the teachers that were proselytizing his work, I again curled up in a little nook…writing about my life through the lens of this new philosophy. A few minutes later, in the lobby of the midtown Sheraton, a little boy walks up to me as I sit in the formal red velvet chair and asks if I am a writer. I immediately respond, “YES!”

_______________

And, now, over ten years later…many trips back to the city behind me, another dissolved business partnership and life realignment, I am again led back into the arms of the lover who nurtured me, taught me and excited me decades ago.

_______________

February 2016

I usually like wandering through the NYC streets alone. I have always had the fascination of how one can be anonymous and so alone in a city where there are millions of people rubbing up against each other in crowds and trains while packed into a small radius of the island of Manhattan.

Years ago, I received a treatment from Susan. She relayed to me the messages of my spiritual work: the messages that I could not see on my own yet. I came into the session that day with some questions about the next unraveling relationship in my life. She held her hands on my temples as I lay on her healing table. She pauses, as if receiving the message from beyond her own mind, and states matter of factly,  “On this path, you will need to learn to be alone.”

That statement struck me like an arrow in the heart. I always took Susan’s statements seriously, but with this one, I became a little exasperated, wanting to hear the exact opposite of what she was reflecting to me during my session. I wanted so much to be loved by this person who was rejecting me, and wanted to understand what I needed to do to make it happen. I would never have guessed that the answer was being along.

In the years since, I have given in to the earnest effort of practicing aloneness. During the seven years since Susan dredged up that duty, I have become friends with it. I now know that the aloneness is a condition that actually comforts me.  It feels very familiar. Maybe it’s because I learned this way of being as I was ushered into the world. My parents didn’t get me until 2 months and 6 days after I was born. I often imagine people not wanting to bond too much with me because I was going on to the next place after the ink was dry on the adoption papers.

But tonight is different. Tonight, the aloneness feels confusing, stifling. Tonight, it’s coupled with a visceral entanglement just below my ribcage and above my navel.

The February air directly blasts my face as I turn onto Church Street on the walk back from my late massage appointment. I look at the phone. 10:30pm. I thought a soak and a massage would be the trick to help me get rid of this pit in my stomach. It didn’t. I feel into the sensation, and realize that I haven’t eaten since early this morning.

I am sure that my body needs more than the 2 day old pasta and half bottle of Prosecco waiting in the apartment. When I get like this, I often forget to eat. As I attempt to feel into what I really need to nourish myself, I pass by a sandwich board, situated just beyond the plastic covered entrance of a bar at the corner.

Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad, the board displays as the first special of the night.

This is what I need, I think to myself.

I turn back around, and enter the darkened bar to feel out the scene. There are people, but not too many. The bar is flanked with small groups at either end, but the spaces in the middle in front of the beer taps are free and seem like they are waiting for me to occupy the space. There are still groups of people in the back tables finishing dinner. Lana del Ray plays in the background.

I choose my seat at the bar, and the bartender approaches me.

“What can I get ya?” He says with an accent I can’t quite put my finger on.

“What are your drafts?” I reply at the same time I answer my own question and look up to the blackboard of choices above the bar. “Can I try the wheat?”

“Why sure you can.” He gives a big toothy grin.

I take the taster that he pours, not in the mood to be friendly or talkative.

“Good.  I’ll take one of those, and a kale salad.” I order, choosing not to look into his eyes.

He passes me the beer and walks away, and I am assume he tunes into my desire not to be bothered.  

I turn to my phone and start checking my mail and Facebook messages. I feel a need to be connected to my community. The day before, I saw the message that an uncontained wildfire was threatening the land where I previously lived. Although the owners of the retreat center no longer want me there, still I have a deep affinity to the home I created in my initial 5 years of living at the edge of the Costa Rican jungle. My friends still live there, and their homes are being threatened if the fire is not managed within the next day. I check the pictures in the community social media groups to see exactly how bad it is.

As I see the fire’s destruction, I wonder how much longer I can stick it out in Nosara. Is this fire an omen? The pit in my stomach growls a little gnarlier, and I take a swig of the beer that sits in front of me. It helps somewhat. I become more curious of the energetic tangle and try to feel into what is tethered there.  

I have just gone through an existential crisis, of sorts. I reason with myself.  A couple of weeks ago, I was sent into a pit of despair when my wallet and passport were lifted from my bag the day after I arrived for my month-long getaway from the jungle. I still have no structured plan of reclaiming my identity other than, “One step at a time.”  It would have been easier to replace a stolen passport in Costa Rica, I have realized, in the days since.

My parents are on my case for not being better prepared for something like this. I stop them each in their judgements and ensure them that I am doing a good job beating myself up. They don’t need to add their own fuel to my fire. One of my worst fears has come to life. I have to come out of hiding and attempt to prove who I am.

Perhaps the loss of my identity is what gives me a deeper experience into the bigger void of aloneness. I have felt this pit before, but mainly in fleeting moments when I give myself permission to be hidden in the house, windows covered with music prompting me to dance until the tears and emotions finally flow. It is there in hiding that I can truly let go.  

But now, I am in the city that is not my home. I am couch surfing again, and although I am being welcomed with open arms by friends who have an amazingly spacious apartment in TriBeCa, it is challenging when I am not in my own space with my own stuff around me.

I put the phone down, take a deep breath and survey the scene around me. The bar is too quiet for what I imagine a Saturday night to be in New York City. My attention wanders to the front window of the bar. It stretches from floor to ceiling. It’s apex is an arch, and the panes divide an image on the building across the street. I look beyond the window frame and stretch my vision to the faded image on the side of the building at the corner of the vacant lot.

It’s her. It’s the dancer. The lover. The knot in my upper stomach begins to unravel.

Her pointe shoes are still the most evident part of the 75 foot mural that stares back at me from the other side of the glass. She is leaping with heart open and head facing the sky.  

I stare back at her. It’s as if she is telling me, It’s time…Time to leap.

Come here and dance, she beckons, reminding me of that moment in the dance studio when I dreamt of a place far away. It’s now here.  

As I feel the tears well up from inside the tangle, the bartender arrives to deliver my salad. I attempt to make small talk to the people at the end of the bar when they realize I have been holding a deep trance outside on the larger than life dancer. They, too, take notice.

The bartender stands directly in front of me while I make my typical effort to hold back the tears. People don’t like to see other people cry, especially at a bar. I push the Brussel sprouts around on my plate, trying to find the hunger that ushered me into this darkened space and the empty stool in the direct line of the dancer’s image.

As he scrolls through his cell phone, I want to reach beyond the bar that separates us and punch him in the gut.

Why can’t he leave me alone in my space so I can cry and eat and drink in isolation? That’s really all I wanted tonight, to be left alone to nourish myself, surrounded by a room of people who have no idea of who I am.

My anger is internally palpable now. I have always had a hard time getting to the core of this emotion, so it surprised me that it took the bartender invading my energetic space from his perfectly positioned side of the bar to ignite a fire that slowly burns through the tightness of my knot.

I put my fork down for a moment, let out a deep sigh and take another swig of beer. I watch him to see what he is looking for. And, then I realize. He is looking for a picture of the dancer.

I sit for a moment and let the anger dissolve.

In the moments the bartender continues searching, my pause gives me the space to feel the dissolution of the knot. I let my tears come and silently fall. In the dimly lit bar, this is acceptable.

He finds the picture and shows it to me and the group at the end of the bar.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 4.15.03 PM

A street artist plastered the image on the side of the building of a principal ballerina in the New York City Ballet. I remember my days en pointe and what I learned from dedicating to such a practice.

And, now, this dancer was staring at me through the window, giving me a message. I felt it.

Remember me? I’m your long-lost love.

Why did you stop dancing?

Dance with me.

It’s time.

You will reclaim your identity here.

Keep dancing…when you don’t know the next steps, keep dancing through the unknown.

In the other jungle, I stopped dancing. I was no longer welcome on the finca that I once called home. My adopted Costa Rican Gringo family rejected me. After taking space away from the situation, I eventually understand why. Our vibrations and perspectives are too diverse. I was no longer willing to play the games of the land. I want safety and security. I long for community and family and sacredness. They could not provide these things, although I expected them to. It was unfair to all of us to try to stay when we each had our own side of the resentment.

The anger is balled up in that knot. I’m angry because I thought that staying and working  harder should have been enough.

The knot continues to unravel as I remember back to my initial work from my first plant medicine ceremony. It showed me my deepest patterns. I was a leaver. I left before others could hurt me. I was good at that.

In 2005, my teacher encouraged me to take on the work of staying. I spent more than a decade practicing the art. In this night, the dancer met me and asked me to leave the resentments behind and dance with her. Leave the resentments, but stay in the dance

I look again at the images of the encroaching fire. The land that beckoned me in 2009 became my home. The message that welcomed me back then came through the soles of my feet, while I stood at the center of the finca under the Pachote tree, only 500 meters away from where the fire looms currently.

It’s ironic that tonight the message comes through my fire center. Like the initial spark of a fire stoked by the heat of my own emotions triggering the deeper questions of “who am I?” and “where do I belong?” I don’t necessarily have the answers yet, but am ready to dance again into the space that remains that is waiting to be filled.

Now is the time, she says. Take the leap. 

Welcome home.

The Evolution of Commitment

My first memory of learning about commitment was in dance class. From the time I was 5 years old, I was enrolled in the series dance lessons at Miss Donna’s School of Dance. The shiny ballet box, and my pink and white leotard were all the motivation I needed to make my weekly dance lessons that first year. I even tried to wear my dance outfits when it wasn’t dance lesson days. My teachers told us to go home and practice, and I did. I would sneak into the downstairs living room and play my parents’ ABBA records while they were upstairs having a meal with friends. I would make up my own dances and act out the songs that were coming through the speakers of the roll top record player, always getting stopped at the same scratched points. I learned to delicately pick up the needle and replace it on a new groove and continue my interpretive dance. 

When I was a little older, we went en pointe. I didn’t want to take my toe shoes off, and practiced my turns and arabesques with a vengeance. I must have practiced so much and improved so quickly that my dance teacher took my mom aside and told her that I had a natural aptitude for pointe, and that my parents should consider placing me in the Charlotte School of Ballet for more serious instruction. 

When my parents approached me with this idea, they initiated the conversation and spoke about commitment. 

“If you want to do this, we will support you. But, you have to be committed and understand what that means,” my parents warned me.

It meant daily dance class, without complaint. I would have to attend, no matter what, because the money that they would be spending was no joke. So, if I was serious, they would find a way to make it happen.

I knew that it was a stretch for my parents to come up with the money, and the way that they made it sound, it felt like it was not going to be fun anymore. So I declined the offer, and continued on as I was, grateful to have time in my week to hang out with the kids in the neighborhood on sunny afternoons after school.

I never regretted that decision, and still remember the fact that I was given the choice to make it.

Some years later, I finally quit the dance class, and instead, became a cheerleader. Right after I made the cheerleading squad for my senior year, I realized I had to go to practices every day in the summer before school started again. The problem was that I had already committed to being a summer camp counselor at Camp Tekoa, where I had been a camper for many years before. 

The cheerleading coach told me that I needed to be at practice daily before our first game, and that I would need to decide what was more important. I scheduled a meeting with the Director of Christian Education at our church to explain to her my dilemma. 

“I made the cheerleading squad, and we have our first week of practice that overlaps with the Elementary School Camp,” I begin explaining, expecting that she would see how important this was to me, and let me off the hook with the camp counselor commitment.

Instead, the opposite happened. 

“So, you need to decide which commitment is more important to you.” 

“Well, they both are.” I respond.

“But, you made the commitment to be a counselor many months ago. We are counting on you.”

And, that was it. I knew which commitment was more important. 

I returned the next day to let the squad know that I would be missing practice. Some of my fellow team members were not happy, and my punishment was to sit out the very first game and performances of the season. To a 17 year old cheerleader, that was horrific. It didn’t matter that I went home and practiced the dances and the cheers and my jumps. Because I kept my original commitment to the summer camp, I knew that there were consequences that had to be faced. I lived through the humiliation of being benched that first game of the season, and life went on. 

And, now over 2 decades later, I revisited that memory as I have been contemplating the theme of commitment in some deeper ways.

I have committed to teaching in a new way that has prompted me to take some steps back into my memories of how I was taught about commitment. I have been watching the current reality of my life, and looking at all of the ways I have committed to various aspects of my life: To work life over love life; Friends over family; Costa Rica over the US. I have realized that my previous commitments have shaped my current life. And, the interesting experience is to now watch to see how my current commitments will shape my future life.

One of the questions I have asked my new group of students to answer for themselves (and I am doing it with them): “What is important to you?” As I have grown and understood the meaning of commitment from various places and perspectives, I am now understanding what it means to commit to myself. Sometimes, it means slowing down to recognize that my actions are aligned with the commitments that bring me to the places that I want to be, rather than in the ruts of old patterns where I just “do” out of unconscious repetition, like the scratch on the old vinyls that were played over and over and over again. 

As I motivate my students to listen deeply and consider putting their inner commitments at the top of their list, I know that I must do the same for myself. I was taught many lessons about commitment from my moments in the dance, on the bench and in the cabin with the kids who relied on me as their counselor in the summer of 1990. I see how the current reality has been created by the actions that I have chosen from those moments to the ones that are in my more current memory. 

And, now, I am refining the story a bit more every day. I am learning the difference between stepping up to my commitments and letting go of that which is not mine. It is all a delicate balance of steadiness and ease, and I am always grateful for the dance.

________________

Contemplations:

What times in your life shaped your understanding of commitment?

What is important to you?

How are you spending time in your daily life committing to the actions that nourish you and recharge your spirit?

Are you ready to commit to your self in a bigger way? What would that look like?

The Dance of Transformation: What I’ve Learned

image

In December of 2009, I was at the beginning of a pretty big transformation. Preparing to close my Yoga studio and sell my house, I really had no idea of what was ahead, and that scared me to the core. I was always a planner, but this time, I honestly had no Plan “B.”

Even my business partner questioned that. “What do you mean, you don’t know what you’ll do next? You always have a plan.”

She was right. I did always have a plan. Eventually, I became exhausted by always having a plan and working so f***ing hard and non-stop towards the “goal.” Somehow, I knew that I was missing some of the deeper connections in life by being so head strong and fiercely focused.

Preparing to make the announcement that I was closing the Yoga studio, I needed some space before transitioning from the life that I had grown almost too accustomed to. So, I returned to Nosara.

I had been retreating to Nosara, Costa Rica since 1999. I first stumbled upon her magnificent beaches on the second stop of the surf trip I took with my boyfriend. It was back in days when there was not much in the way of cell phones or internet, and about half the surfers in the water than there are now. As we prepared to head to the next surf break, I felt a pang of despair in leaving, and each place we stopped after, I felt homesick for Nosara.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 4.25.44 PMSince that original adventure, I returned to Nosara every chance that I could. So when I needed to chill and get my head on straight to tackle my dissolving life and and upcoming holiday season, I booked a 2 1/2 week excursion to my home away from home. My friend, Jimbo, handed me the keys to his house at the top of Playa Pelada. It was the perfect getaway.

It was on that trip and in the space of “not knowing” that the next chapter in my life began to surface. Through a connection of events that could not have been planned in my typical fashion, I was invited to the Finca Un Amor (AKA the Costa Rica Yoga Spa) by a friend whom I had not seen in almost a decade. She welcomed me to her house (the Casa Madera) just beyond the open gate that I always wondered about. I had passed the large Aztec wall and magnificent wrought iron gate many times through the years of my travels to beaches north of Nosara.

A few nights later, I was given a tour of the property and stood at the top of the land at sunset. With my bare feet on the ground under the Pachote tree, I somehow knew I was home.IMG_0144

Within hours of feeling that call of the land, I think my remaining intentions were heard, because I was hired to lead the first Yoga Teacher Trainings and Retreats that were offered at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa when they opened, that following spring.IMG_0640

I spent the next 5 years on the land, and eventually moved into the Casa Madera where I sat at that afternoon at the kitchen bar drinking lemonade with Yesim and Sonja, talking about future life.

I know now that the land of Finca Un Amor is powerfully transformative one. In that day’s conversation, my intentions were heard, magnitized and manifested. In the 5 years since, my life has been catapulted in ways that I could not have imagined.

The many adventurers, students and travelers from across the globe have become my teachers, my mentors, my friends…and sometimes my self-appointed family or soulmates. The rate and the depths to which we have journeyed, danced, loved and fought with one another on this powerful land has literally blown my mind. And, when I feel the devotion that many bring to their Yoga mat, the meditation seat or the space of the conversation: this is what has inspired me to deepen my own relationship to my self-study.

imageThis sacred land that became my home five years ago offered her secrets when I became quiet. The elements and plants became my teachers: they escorted me into new worlds of greater clarity and purpose. The people and the culture have taught me how to live more simply and appreciate the rhythms of life….both here and everywhere.

I have learned to listen to the messages under the surface, love more radically and serve more compassionately. I have learned to slow down and see the mysteries of life in even the most mundane of moments. I have learned to get quieter at times, and louder at others (now…if I can only figure out if I am doing the right volume control at the right times…) I have learned to stand strong and fight harder for what I am passionate about. And, when all else fails… I have learned dance it out!image

I am learning how to trust in the right things and the right people, but more importantly, in myself. I am learning to receive divine guidance (and not be scared to call it that…or whatever else I want to call it). I’m learning to act on the subtle directions with greater confidence.

I am learning to forgive myself and others for unconsciously operating from blindspots of fear. I am understanding that our conflicts have the potential to transform our spirits and our physical world. I am learning to soften into these rough and uncomfortable spots. (This is a hard one for me….but,) I am gradually learning to let go of what is not mine to hold within the dance of conflict and misunderstanding. I am learning to ask for what I need, but more importantly, let go of the expectation that it will (or should) come from something outside of myself.

I am learning to celebrate life more, and laugh daily. I am learning to give space and nourishment to my desires and urges; for they, too will benefit others if I act consciously on them. I am learning to say yes…and no and maybe…and be unapologetic for changing my mind, or wanting what I want. I am learning to love myself in such deeper ways than I knew possible. I am learning that this self-love and acceptance has nothing to do with an outer expression, and everything to do with an inner radiance. (Niralambaya Tejase…) image

All of these lessons, I am quite sure, have been catalyzed by the leap of faith and the invitation to this amazing land, surrounded by her wild nature and inspirational inhabitants. And now…I approach the time where I will once again take the next jump, and write the next chapter.

For those of you who have met me along the way at CRYS…either in person, or in hearing or reading the stories of my recent journeys, I am deeply honored and forever changed by this time, this place, and our perfected meetings that taught me so much.

I am preparing to return for one last offering at the Finca Un Amor. The Retreat of Transformation begins in a couple of days, and as I spend time in contemplation, creativity and gratitude for where I have been, and where I may be going… I am sending out deep waves of love to all of you who have inspired me along the way. In the dissolution, the other side can be a beautiful creation. This is what the dance of transformation has the potential to provide. So…now…get out there…and DANCE!