Do you find yourself ready to get started and then every five minutes checking your phone? Changing your music playlist? or my go-to…opening and closing the refrigerator door? Watch this video about being stuck…and getting unstuck!
Many emotions last week as I embarked on training week #2. Old patterns of thinking kept coming up-the pushing, the needing, and feeling like, “I can’t.” I am also having some pain in my left foot that I want to be mindful of. I’m not going to push through and hurt myself and yet at the same time there’s a need to have a little bit of fire under my butt to keep going. So while I am committed to training in-so-far as it feels like I am taking care of myself I’ll do it. If September comes and I don’t feel ready then I’ll let it go.
Lately, a sickening feeling of rage and frustration around how lost I’ve gotten, after a year of quiet, into the world of consumption have come up for me. And it feels that, a practice that I so carefully cultivated around just being, is dissipating.
The addiction of indulgence has once again returned. It’s obviously natural to want and it’s a beautiful practice to give oneself a treat every once in awhile. But that treat (for me) turns so easily into a desperate need to have that thing, to complete that goal, to get everything finished….
…I used to feel very much that if I didn’t keep pushing I would lose something vital to who I was. But now I see it as an ingrained habit and the patterns of thinking that say, “See! I told you you weren’t good enough! You just need to keep at it (at what?) and then you will have what you need to be happy.” And as if that thought pattern wasn’t enough of a blow there’s a whole story and judgment that goes along with that too.
I’m angry this morning at another careless act of leaving bike shoes outside my house that are no longer there. It’s not the money. It’s the judgment around, now, making another purchase around my carelessness.
I teach and preach forgiveness, patience, and self-compassion; fundamental to the “undoing” of ourselves. I am grateful to have developed and be supported in a practice of such mindfulness; it reminds me in all these times of feelings, whether frustration or elation, and the judgement and stories that go with them, to just be still with them and if I’m so lucky, to return to a state of just being.
“Are you ready to fly solo?” the text read. “Kristen went into early labor so you’re on your own tomorrow!” On a Tuesday in late October I entered Humanities Left at 8am with some knowledge of myths needing to be completed. I was taking over for the 6th grade teacher out on maternity leave. Thinking that time was on our side Kristen and I had met the previous Friday going over the classroom routines and then planned for a week together where I would shadow Kristen and then gradually be released into the world of humanities.
Well, babies have their own timing and Kristen was in Labor and I was standing alone in front of a bunch of sixth graders. What, I wondered, would a three month stint back in the classroom bring? Stomach flipping anxiety? Fun? Would I be able to let go of the classroom at the end of the day or keep my experiences tied into who I was as a person, my self-worth included?
What I found , during that three month stint, finally was a growing sensation that I could finally be myself. Certainly there were rough stints.
One day was especially hard. After a week of teaching, tutoring, and babysitting I burst through the doors of my house practically in tears. “What’s wrong?” asked Swami Ramananda. . As I recalled the daily digest and also expressed frustration at myself for feeling a need for control, he said, “Hmm..can you notice your behavior without responding to it?”
What was it about the classroom then that I felt I had to control others’ behavior? I watched myself one day as I got into a futile argument with a student over paper. Hmm. Would the result of the argument help the objectives of the assignment? Or just prove to this ego that I am the teacher and therefore in “control.” If the argument didn’t go my way then what? Was I not in control?
Taking Ramananda’s advice, I began to watch my behavior. Were there times, when altough I might not agree with a student’s decision, I could let it go? And what happened if I did? As I stepped back, the classroom became it’s own entity in which I was a part but not in charge of.Students come to me for help, and I started to only interfere if I felt that a student needed to be guided back on track to reach the objectives of the class.
More and more I let the class become truly about the students and I as an ally to guide them along. One student in particular if not given specific directions would spend the class gazing at the ceiling or tying his shoe. One day I asked him, “What is it that you need from me to help you feel successful?” The shift from having all the answers to a collaboration with the students shifted the space dramatically.
I will also say that this was a class that allowed for an easy collaboration. The classroom so varies on the personalities that it brings. It’s not always the case that I, or any teacher can so easily step back and let the classroom be as it is.
Children reveal our greatest vulnerabilities. Child professionals and parents have an especially big sensitivity button that when pushed can spill tears, rage, blame, love, hugs, and praise sometimes all in one blubbery sentence! It is easy to put one’s expectations of self-worth, and measures of success and failures on that of a child as they have an easy way of exposing adults for whom they really are. Inside we feel a great sense of pride when these children experience a certain measure of success and a bout of dissapointment when they don’t measure up to one’s expectations.
When a child appears resistant or shows a lack of understanding it is easy to jump into fix-it mode. With what could appear as stalled movements forward fix-it mode can turn into desperation which can spew blame, dissapointment,frustration, and sadness by the adults around him or her.Is it possible that while we are applying all of our knowledge to those that need it,we can also just be by their side and let them know that they are not broken, but loved just as they are?
Connection and empathy are often the most empowering gestures that we can give and receive. The ablity to sit with a student and be with him or her exactly where he or she is in struggle or success is a practice. As authors Michael I. Bennet and Sarah Bennet express in their book F*ck Feelings, “It’s the loving parents of self-hating kids who are genuinely the most amazing, specialest, snowflake parents of all.” In the acceptance of that self-hating child or whatever stage they are in, allowing him/her to just being perfect in their imperfections we are also showing ourselves that same acceptance which, at the end of the day, may (or may not) help us take a step forward.
In many eastern religions we learn that the body and mind are not real. Therefore thoughts and feelings are not there. In fact they are distractions that keep us from self-realization. When we learn to witness our thoughts similar as we might witness a movie or the clouds in the sky we become detached from our thoughts and have a steadier mind.
A month ago, I returned to Yogaville, the ashram in Virginia where I received my yoga teacher training to assist in a yoga teacher teaching program. At a staff check-in towards the beginning of the month I said, “I am so excited to be here, and my one worry is about being far away from a friend who is terminally ill.”
Sure enough, yesterday, an hour after I had landed in San Francisco I received a phone message that this dear friend, after living and fighting cancer for two years, passed on. I listened to the message passively. I called the person who informed me of her death, and as I spoke tears unexpectedly flung from my eyes.
Today, a day after finding out this news,I find myself in a strange state of being grounded in my very present life of what’s going on and also feeling sad and confused.
For all the books I have read in the past few weeks, conversations that I’ve held, friends that have had parents and partners and other loved ones passed on, I can’t get a handle on this whole “death”. It’s the way I don’t understand letters as numbers or the way I want to see the intestines squeezing toxins out of the body in a half-spinal twist. Really? How?
I can’t feel it. I can’t relate to it. And I can’t take an airplane there. So then how is death real? Yoga would say it’s not. It’s an illusion. But my very rational type A self says, “But she won’t use her voice to communicate with me anymore!” and yoga would say there’s no “she” and there’s no “me.” And yet, I am not so disconnected from my body and mind that I don’t feel a very real sadness or see her physical death as a serious loss to the material world.
I also don’t understand how I don’t understand. People grieve every day for loved ones. Grief isn’t mine, it’s a collective feeling in which every one has experienced. And yet the feeling is so personal.
In a talk about anxiety, a psychologist spoke about how some patients who came to him were so infused with the importance of positive-talk that they were afraid to speak aloud their fears and anxieties. The psychologist made it clear that positive talk is a good thing if it clears the anxiety. For some, though, it is an avoidance tactic. And speaking those anxieties aloud, allowing yourself to really feel the feelings might actually be coming up (even if they are not positive) might help in relieving anxiety.
Often times when friends express uncomfortable feelings I say, “It’s there. It’s uncomfortable, And it’s okay.”
I’m uncomfortable. I guess it’s okay.
There is a collective of family and friends who love this woman very much and have been sharing pictures and stories to celebrate her life. My friend said to me yesterday, “Let’s get together soon. Eat something. Talk about our friend, and maybe even cry together.”
On the one hand, grounded in practice of meditation and yoga I witness the sadness, the anger, and the frustration at the grief and the incomprehensibility of it all. And on the other, I let myself feel all of it while being uncomfortable. I Perhaps by doing so, there will be some relief .
As a collective we will share our happiness and love of this woman, and also the sadness of our loss.
And in doing so we join hands with however many more in this world who have grieved in the past and will join hands with that many more who will grieve in the future. Perhaps this connection will, just for a minute, give us some peace.
And to add to the simple answer of “Stop,” you might say, like Thich Nhat Hanh, “Breathe, smile, and go slowly.”
So many problems arise in the world from people doing. Doing, doing, doing. We forget that we are often referred to as Human Beings rather than Human doings. Being is a much more enlightened experience than doing.
D0ing is actually an illusion that stems from identifying with the mind/body. Ultimately, we are not the doer! We are the watcher, the consciousness, and we can choose to enjoy the show every step of the way, even if the body/mind is just sitting and breathing, focusing on the breath.
So, when in doubt – stop! The ego/mind can easily start to say, “But why are you stopping? All this needs to be done! This and this must be changed! There is so much to do and so little time. Let’s go, go go, now, now, now!” Ahh, what an illusion. The ego/mind loves to think that it knows what is right. It loves to think it knows and has the power to judge right and wrong, good and bad. Of course, the knowledge the ego/mind operates is incomplete, so ultimately it cannot know. Who/what is the ego/mind to think it knows what is right and wrong to do in the world? Surely, the world has existed long before it, and will continue to exist long after it.
So really, the humble answer to any question is “Stop.” Just being is enough. Doing is not necessary. The doing will follow. But first it is important to center and ground our beingness in Love, in Goodness, in Peace. We must be what we want to see and experience in the world. For Peace in the world, experience Peace oneself. Charity starts at home. Peace starts at home. It all starts with our individual, subjective experience. And from there we build our castles! We must achieve peaceful ends by peaceful means, Peace is Every Step!
And what is one of the most Peaceful actions/non-actions imaginable? How about sitting quietly, just breathing, maybe smiling. Whatever goes on internally is up to you. Prayer, meditation, sending out love to the world, all these holy, sacred activities seem to be most easily practiced sitting still and silent.
There is ultimately nothing to do, no where to go. God takes care. God provides. God sustains. God supports and loves, unconditionally! More like, God is Love. So there is nothing to fear, and nothing to worry about. Worry and fear and anger and any all negativity are illusions of the ego/mind. Remember who and what you really are – remember who your Father/Mother is! Then all the negativity and illusion vanishes. And we can return to our Peace in just being, rather than doing.
Be. Be. Be. This Moment the Omnipresent is Present! Everywhere Present – Love.
Let go of the attachment to changing things in the world, especially if they spark feelings of anxiety and disturb the Peace. Stay connected with Peace, centered in the Holiness that is Always Present, and live. God wants nothing. So we can all strive to be like God and want nothing, realizing that nothing needs to be changed. And there is always something to enjoy and Love in the Present Moment 🙂
Attachment to any dogma regarding the world of form only creates pain and suffering. Let it go. There is not one right way to do anything in the world of form. Generally, simplicity is a good rule. And an even greater rule, which transcends form – Love! Love, Love, Love. Give, give, give. 🙂 Forget the self and Know the Self. The True Self in One and All.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!
This blog post was written by a dear friend and blogger who, thought he was writing a post on his site instead of mine (we were both using a shared computer). However, I am so delighted that it “accidently” ended up here! To read more of his inspiring abundance please visit his blog here.
“What would you do if you had nothing?” an ex-boyfriend once asked me. I was in the middle of preparing report cards, and training for a half-ironman. I didn’t have a whole lot of time for him, and he was frustrated. Nonetheless, his question gave me pause. I loved being busy. It’s who I was, and without it? I didn’t know. I never stopped to think about what “nothing” was.
Coming back to San Francisco this past December, I felt totally lost and lonely. I had entered a huge urban metropolis that I wasn’t used to anymore. And I was confused by that lostness as I had once loved this city so much. I realized over that month that I was holding onto expectations of what this city was for me before, thinking that I would drop back into the life I had previously and pick up where I left off. Once I started to let go of those expectations I was able to have patience with the ups and downs that come with moving to a new place. But still, I marveled at the busyness of it all. Maybe because I wasn’t part of it. And of course I had just come from living in community where, part of the busy day was consciously stopping to make time for meditation and for conversations at meal time.
So yeah, I was confused…especially because I had been a part of a bigger urban metropolis just 6 months prior. So the fact that it was strange and foreign was strange and foreign. Had I changed that much in just those six months? Was I jealous of all the busyness that I no longer felt that I was a part of? Did I suddenly feel that I had “nothing?”
As it was, my loneliness led me to the Integral Yoga Institute. Having just come from Yogaville, I was rejuvenated with the idea of teaching yoga again and was determined to do so. The Integral Yoga Institute is a center in San Francisco related to the Yogaville Ashram in Virginia. It is situated in an old victorian up on a hill from Dolores Park. At night, when I stand outside on the front steps the sun lights up the sky with different neon colors as it settles over the top of the city. Since I was there, and desperate for housing in a seemingly very expensive city with a housing crisis I thought I would ask about residency as well. “Yes.” They said. And so here I am two months later living in a yoga center with housemates and a community that practice meditation and yoga, and embraces peace of mind and transition.
Shortly after I moved in, I came down with a cold. That ate up quite a few expenses as well as had me laying low for almost a month. Almost no work, no going out, and certainly no signing up for the classes that I had hoped. I was, by nature of the cold, forced to stay home, get quiet and meditate. And meditate. And meditate. It was stressful at first. I am active. I am an ironman! And to sit and watch the busy lives of those around me while I had to sit, drained of energy was indeed frustrating. And then, something happened. I relaxed. I stopped worrying. There was no need. There was no use.
I have heard that if you trust in the universe it will provide. I have some tension with this. How is that not lazy? I believe that if I want something to happen then I need to put the energy out there to make it happen. And yet, once that’s done there needs to be a certain amount of trust that the right thing will bounce back. I think what it comes down to is listening. It doesn’t mean being lazy. It means sitting and listening to that voice inside even if it doesn’t make sense. It means, at least in my case, practicing patience.
So in my three weeks in which I couldn’t do much I sat and listened a lot.I did nothing. I have achieved a certain amount of relaxation that I fear is lethargy, although I am also making sure to keep an eye on that.I am yoga-ing, journaling, involved in a small fun project, discussing, and my favorite, practicing to be a professional coffee shop dweller, an aspiration of which I had in my early twenties.
Simple Pleasures Cafe
I was coming back from my favorite coffee shop, Simple Pleasures, late afternoon one day, after a morning in the foggy part of the city. I called my friend to say hi, and left a message. She texted me back and said, “I hope you get this with your phone dying and all, but I love that you ended your message with ‘I’m walking towards the sun.’
On February 14, 2002 I wrote in my journal, “Floating in the ocean with nothing better to do than stare at the bright blue sky.” This was from the white sands of the beaches in Northeastern Brazil. It was my third year of college and this was my study abroad…I was studying the relationship between ocean and sky. I wasn’t, actually. But there was something that I was trying to grasp in that journal entry that I’m just finally moving towards twelve years later: relaxation.
The road outside my mom’s house. The start of the 40 mile biking adventure from the suburbs to Boston.
In that moment as in other vacation moments I’ve wondered how to bring that “floating” sensation to “every day life” or “the real world.” After leaving Mexico, where I taught 2nd grade for three years, I decided to take the year off from teaching.On purpose, with no job or home in place, I flew to Boston where I floated in between my parent’s homes by bike, by car, and by train. Things just worked out. My dad gave me his old car for the price of a new muffler. I found a job substitute teaching very easily, and out of the blue came the email that my acupuncturist said I would get. Would you like to staff the Basic Yoga Teacher Training it read from my yoga teacher.
The trails in Yogaville
And so I floated to Yogaville, an ashram situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Once there, floating was easy. My “work” was supporting a program that I truly believe in while I too practiced with the students. Work was learning the elements of Integral Yoga again, practicing yoga every day, and meditating. “Work” was getting to know participants and their floating lives, learning and conversing with the other interesting members of the staff. “Work” was hiking the trails,
long conversations in the dining hall with others’, and jamming to poetry and chants. While I was “working” the support and love I felt as a staff was the same that I had felt four years prior when participating in the program itself. Floating felt natural as I found that many participants in the program and others that were living in the ashram were also floating.
The Dunes Trail. Arcata, Ca
From there, I floated to another retreat on the coast of Northern California.. While these two retreats were different they had a very similar effect on me and the message was clear: “Relax into love and you can’t go wrong.” The question among many of us was, “But how do I do that during every day life?”
Something in both places that was said resonated me. “This is every day life.”
San Francisco in the Fog.
Living in community, acting with and discussing what it means to move with awareness. And most of all, learning to live in the in-between, because that is the only thing real that exists.”And yet, that is a very scary place to be, especially when living in a city; a city where“floating” doesn’t always feel acceptable because everyone’s always racing to get on the next train especially me!
Or where there are so many distractions it’s hard to remember what feels true and to remember to give myself the time to stop and listen to the voice of love inside. And being in a city has brought up old anxieties and it’s hard to be patient with myself. I somehow feel that because I just came from these magical places of conscious floaters that I should automatically be different and when I put that should on myself I feel the fear of being in that “in-between” place creep up and from that fear tension grows.
And yet, also while being in this city,I have been lucky enough to float from amazing person to person, including loving family that has let me into their home.
The stories of inspiration, trauma, and love that I have heard are incredible.No one has spoken of perfection or of lack of want. But everyone has spoken with an understanding of the importance of following one’s heart and understanding of that chilling fear when hearing the voice that says, I am lost. And yet, with patience and tranquility the answer of what’s next always comes.
Before I left Mexico, I had lunch with a friend. When I started telling him all of my plans and everything I wanted to do with all of my excitement he said, “Sarah, I see you as lost.” My face fell and I started crying. “You need to have a plan.” he said.
I heard a “but” creeping up inside me. What’s wrong with being lost? It said.
“Yes.” I nodded my head. “A plan.”
“And not just sit around and have long lunches and tea with people.”
“Right.” I thought.
And I left that lunch feeling miserable. Why hadn’t I voiced what I had heard? There was nothing wrong with being “lost.”. And besides, I love long teas! I learned how to do that in Mexico!
Tea Ceremony at Yogaville led by Ray.
Yesterday, I floated from one two hour tea date to the next. I was able to completely be with them in the moment because there was nothing else I had to do. Floating gives me the time to be still so that I can finally hear that voice within me that guides me to either go left, right, or stare at the blue sky while floating on the waves on the white sand beaches in Brazil.
I heard a car door shut and my coach’s voice, “Sarah, solo es tu y tu camino!” and then it was just me….well, me, my bike and a highway of roaring cars. This was back in November. The last long ride before the Ironman. I stared ahead of me and felt the beating sun on my face. I looked up at the green rolling hills and thought, “This is how I fell in love with Mexico.” And when I looked down at the white line that I was tracking I thought, “Oh hell, this road needs some song!” And assuming that no one could hear me busted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the top of my lungs.
When I was little my grandparents’ house in San Francisco was my magical kingdom: besides being spoiled rotten with sugar cereals for breakfast, jelly donuts on Sundays, two ice cream sundaes for dessert I was also the ever- gorgeous and willing model for my grandmother’s continuous clicking camera.
Upon arrival to the castle from Boston, I dropped my bags at the door, and raced up the winding carpeted staircase, where to the immediate left was the king and queen’s bedroom (my grandparents).My grandfather lay in his the big comfy bed with a breakfast tray lying on his belly and the crossword puzzle in his hand. Upon seeing him, I shouted “PAPA!” and he in his gruntling papa way would say, “Eyyyy, Sarahla, good to see ya.” Black and white photos taken and developed my grandma lined the walls with my mom, aunts and uncles, me and all my cousins.
But the best part…the real reason that I raced up those stairs so quickly was the Royal Closet. A three part door with mirrors on each one. When you closed the two doors it became a hall of mirrors…I spent hours in there making up songs and plays and conversations with the millions of mes so engrossed in my own imaginary play not giving a care in the world what adult might be laughing hysterically on the other side of that closet.
Fast forward twenty-five years, a little more hesitation and reserve has settled in. But on that hot November morning on the roaring highway, after 100 kilometers of riding, I really was not thinking about who might be on the lookout (well, except for maybe that broadway producer who just happened to pass by).
At lunch later that afternoon of the bike ride one of my coaches looked at me and said, “So in the car all the sudden I heard, ‘And IIII will always love you.” And everyone busted out laughing. So much for solitude. Another coach reprimanded me not for singing, but for my choice of song. And so began Sarah’s reputation for singing during whatever she does. (to this day, there are certain songs I am not “allowed’ to sing).
Around the same time, I was introduced to the rodillo libre–
the panic-and -run roller….
…a bike trainer in which the only way to keep yourself from falling is to breathe, pedal, balance, and relax. The first time I got on, my coach said, “Sing to me.” HA. I couldn’t tell him he was crazy, I couldn’t say anything but whimper and cry out “WOAAAAHHH!! AND DON’T YOU DARE LET GO!” nonetheless, not a single lyric would come out of my mouth.
My coach is in front of me saying “Relax!”
Rodillo and I have almost a year together. As much as I panicked (and still panic) over it, it has also been the best meditation. Letting go of the stresses of the day, focusing on just rhythm and breathing (cuz if not, the damn thing will throw me overboard),and allowing myself to be okay with not having a good moment. It has taught me what it means to to fall out and come back, to let go of disappointment, and know that no matter what happens I am loved…
as well of course balance, cadence, and hand position.
The rodillo libre is just me and my road…with the distractions of people moving around, coaches bumping into me as a lesson to keep pedaling and balanced, heavy rain falling on the tin roof, music blasting with coaches and my panicked mind saying “REEEELLLAAAAX.”
Thursday I had come a little late and so everyone else had finished their rodillo libre and went to swim. It was just me, the rodillo, and the wall. The music had stopped. “Coach! Please put on the music!” (I could finally say a few words that weren’t “Shit, I’m going to fall!”)
“What’s that one song that you always sing?” my coach asked me.
Oh how the coaches spoil me! Just me and my road, mirrors of myself all around. My choice of song and the echo of my own voice at the top of my lungs (well as much as my breath would allow)…my very own American Idol Diva Moment….all on tape. And I was not about to pass that up.
Ladies and gentlemen I present to you…free-rollin to karaoke.