Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Commitment, or, The Sisterhood of the Nonexistent Pants

December 2013
November 2014

Growing things used to be a mechanism much like breathing. Maybe because I grew up with my hands in the dirt, eating all the strawberries as they ripened. Maybe because I'm a woman and it's our biological inclination. Whatever the case, all this changed as I barreled into gypsy life just before Thanksgiving four years ago. In my very first blog entry, the 26-year-old version of myself mused that "our reality often unfolds in ways we never would've imagined" and blessed be, how naively wise she was in that assessment.

In the intervening months and years, I have suffered mightily in my desire for things to be other than the way they are. Of course hindsight is 20/20, and I encourage the weathered, wizened version of myself to be kind to the woman who struggled through so much illusion to come into this current clarity. Deep in her discomfort, she rushed to "get it" and move forward, sensing the mystery of the journey, but taking well over a year to understand that what was called for was not creation, but total destruction. She didn't yet understand that everything she had brought into being before was built on a mostly shoddy foundation that would never support the rest of her life. She had to burn everything to the ground and begin again.

While sifting through the wreckage, I have been repeatedly greeted by the theme of commitment, or a lack there of. It's startling to suddenly be alive long enough to observe how patterns have shaped your life over a span of decades and realize that unless you do some massive rewiring, you're poised to live in your history and not your potential...or in my case, your POLEtential (see what I did there?).

Almost a year ago, I was introduced to the positively earth shatteringly transformative powers of pole- not just as a fitness apparatus but as a way to reshape my entire sense of self. While yoga and other dance forms paved the way, pole has done more in this short time to change my life than anything before. As my physical strength grew, so did my emotional strength, and I found myself suddenly able to go All In with tremendous faith, intuitively leaping into a brand new life in New York.

Since I first emerged from the subway at Columbus Circle 10 years ago, New York has always felt like home, but I never imagined I would or could live here. It felt too different from California...because it IS different. Living here required a sudden, massive upgrade to my body's electrical system to take it all in. More importantly, New York asked me for a commitment. "How badly do you want to be here? What are you willing to do to make your life happen? How hard will you hustle?"

After about a month, it became clear that the answer was, "Not very hard." Worn out from living out of my suitcase and struggling to get enough money together to find a permanent home, I fell into escapist patterning with fantasies of moving back to LA where at least it doesn't snow. It wasn't until I fell a little bit in love (okay, a lot in love) and had my whole experience of this city changed that I found the hunger for the hustle. I had the incredible fortune of being warmly adopted into the most wildly supportive, loving, talented, diverse, hilariously inappropriate, open minded and hearted collection of women that I have ever met. My New York pole community is the shit, yo. We take everyone in and never let them go- like the good kind of cult you really want to be a part of! My pole family helped me love New York (and myself) with an unbridled passion, and have given me the confidence to be in my power.

Everyday I give thanks that I get to be here and for the first time in years, I feel a readiness to be deeply creative once more. My pole community and I are dreaming big dreams to build a sustainable home for us to grow and glow together. After setting a new inner foundation upon which to build my life, I know that whatever comes out of me at this time will be from a place of clarity and balance. It will be strong and sturdy enough to support not just me, but those around me who also crave a safe space for exploration and belonging.

The next chapter of my life opens with me hanging upside down in my underwear, being showered in love and money. My reality is indeed unfolding in ways I never would've imagined.

It's so much better.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Choose Ease

New York City is not known for being easy. It is known for being intense, fast paced, loud, crowded, dirty, culturally rich, diverse, beautiful, the best city in the world...but easy? Oh no.

Yet here in the mecca of highly productive, famously neurotic millions, something very slow and gentle is happening to my whole being. My anxious and neurotic mind has begun to still and clear. My control mechanism, forever tightly wound, has begun to relax. Where I used to see only one possible path, I am beginning to actively recognize the endlessly creative array of ways in which life can happen. My summer goal was to learn how to have fun again, and as we tiptoe into autumn, I feel the cumulative effect that a season of playfulness has rendered: so much lightness, so much ease.

Summer wasn't entirely joyful, though. True to form, New York put me through the hazing that seems typical for all new recruits. When I got the keys to my apartment after sweating through an insane handful of weeks of Craigslist hell, I experienced an incredible wave of satisfaction. I had made a list of things I needed and each was met in my new home. I closed my eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths, memorizing that feeling of having my prayers answered so directly. Like every time before, the God of Abundance who loves me had taken care of all the details.

And like every other time, I had forgotten. Fear and insecurity produces a contraction of my mind and heart, and I suffer the dense illusion of disconnection. I forget how loved and supported I am by those I know and by people I haven't even met who may never know how they've helped me. I forget that each of the breaths in our bodies is bound together as if we were all one great lung, rising and falling. Don't let the space and difference between our physical forms fool you: we are all made of matter and we all matter. There is no real separation.

Osho talks about the importance of doubt, about how in order to enjoy a rich faith, we must not believe blindly, but that we must keep seeking our own experience. Far too often I find, though, that even as I experience profound confirmations of faith, that I suffer terrible amnesia when faced with the next trial. I am almost immediately lulled back to sleep by the lie of separation, and the false power offered by control, anger and worry. Once again, I contract back into myself, folding over and over in lonely misery.

Until I stop and breathe deep into a moment of perfect peace and confirmed faith. There is always a point in which we have the opportunity to flip the script and rewrite the story. When it arrives, let the Truth carve down into your marrow, into new neural pathways that shape your personal reality, into your DNA. Let it change everything you knew. Soften and receive a new way to be.

The new way for me is the Path of Joy and the Way of Ease. Having confidence that I am connected, loved and supported, I am able to relax in moments big and small. When I feel my blood pressure and cortisol levels rise, I ask, "How can I bring more ease into this moment?" Most often, the answer is to breathe consciously, smile and drop whatever burden I've chosen to saddle myself with. If the subway is late, the subway is late. I can rage and fume, indulging my intoxicating addiction to anger, or I can let it go. I can disengage from the limiting contraction of No in favor of continuous expansion by embracing every moment. I am running late and stuck behind a slow moving mass of tourists. Yes! Something didn't turn out as I'd hoped? Yes!

Sometimes No is the more expansive option. This relationship isn't healthy anymore? No, byeee! Accepting dysfunction or trauma as normal or healthy may be normal (as in regularly occurring), but it's not healthy. As the prayer goes, we accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

In every moment we have the power to choose how to receive and respond to our experience. We are the sculptors of how it feels to live in our bodies. Our choices and perspective change everything. What will you choose for yourself? Do you wish to live small, scared, contracted inward, feeling isolated, always lacking? Or would you rather live with grace and confidence, openhearted, connected, loved, supported, provided for, in joyful celebration of the reality of your life?

The latter may feel far too vulnerable and prone to heartache and disappointment. It is true that living bright does attract all kinds of attention from all kinds of people, some of whom would wound us. Relying on others does mean sometimes being let down. Yes, it is a risk, but the possible rewards are unlimited. However the former is a slow, lonely soulcrush, a long, hard road full of struggle, one battle after the other with no end in sight. It offers no room to breathe and grow, no support, heaviness, isolation. It may feel safer than living wide open and ready to receive, but there is nothing to receive when you refuse to open up.

It seems counter intuitive for hardened, badass New York to be my teacher in softness, but this city is really the perfect classroom. Every day is an assault to the senses, presenting constant opportunities to practice everything I've ever learned about keeping calm and carrying on. To become gentler and more loving in such a place is my greatest challenge yet, but I suspect that it will make my gentleness strong as iron, and my love bold and mighty.

How can you bring more ease into this moment? What will it take for you to choose a life of joy?

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Worth of Your Sex

Prostitution has always baffled me. It's not a question of morals. As my friend Darrin once said, "Giiiiirl, you gotta get it any way you can!" No judgement here.

What's confusing for me is how it's possible to put a value on sexual contact. It is something I consider to be priceless and (potentially) sacred. It is also something that I consider to be less valuable than other things like loyalty and honesty. Sex is powerful and can be a wonderful exchange of energy, but aren't we worth more than that? Aren't we worth more than our sex?

As you may know, I recently relocated to New York City and have been stumbling about like a giddy, newborn fawn trying to find my feet. In an effort to plant myself in a quiet place for a moment, I threw an ad up on Craigslist offering my services as a house and pet sitter. Although I should have expected this, I got a surprisingly large amount of dubious replies from men offering me lodging in their home in exchange for my "open mindedness" my services not as a house sitter but as a live in friend with benefits. What is my sex worth? My own bedroom in a midtown penthouse, apparently.

And ultimately I can't help but think how silly this is because my sex is not my most valuable, important or interesting offering by a long shot. It obviously is to some, but had they eyes to see and ears to hear, they would know that it's not what's between my thighs but what's behind my eyes and in my heart that is the real treasure.

If you pay attention to pretty much any media form, you might've noticed that sex is the hottest commodity on the market, though. It seems to be the motivation behind much of human behavior, particularly among human men. I ain't hating on men or their sex drives, just pointing out a truth already widely acknowledged. Men go to sometimes outlandish lengths to get laid. One of my girlfriends once had a guy ride his bike a hundred miles to catch her on the side of a wild patch of California highway. According to Greek mythology, the Trojan War was started because of a fight over a girl. In the ancient Greek play, Lysistrata, the women of Greece end the Peloponnesian War by refusing to put out until their husbands put a stop to the endless fighting. Greek comedy and myth aside, sex is and seems to always have been a powerfully inspiring force.

We are not animals, living from the groin on instinct, though. We are human beings in possession of prefrontal cortexes which grant us the unprecedented ability for a profound awareness of self and others. Don't tell me you're "only human"! Do you even know what that means and how much rich potential lies within our humanity? And here we are, obsessed with our genitals. What a waste of talent.

Of course, sex is an integral part of the human journey. It is our genesis as beings. Aside from its necessity for the continuation of our species, it's also a pleasurable flavor of experience. But it is not the only experience. There is so much more to life and there is so much more to us as people than our sex. Women are particularly subject to having our bodies sexualized and commodified, but I see the ways in which the intense focus placed on sexuality does a disservice to men. There are men in my life who have so much of their sense of self tied to their sex that rejection wrecks them. They don't know who they are without sexual attention and they chase that feeling like junkies. Women do the same thing. None of us are totally immune to the ache for a good ego stroke.

What I see happening here, though, is that our sexuality becomes a burdensome trap rather than an enjoyable piece of a much larger puzzle. If it is the only aspect of ourselves with which we identify, we miss out on attaining a broader and ultimately less ephemeral understanding of ourselves.

We are intricately constructed, wildly complex machines vibrating with timeless, divine consciousness.
We cannot be bought or sold for our worth is beyond any unit of measurement.

When someone offers you something in exchange for your precious time and sexual attention, make sure they are offering you the totality of their infinite being because that's what you're worth...
everything that they are.

My everything in exchange for yours.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SurThriving New York

New York City is the most electric place I've ever been. A month ago I plugged into the grid with all the other millions upon millions that call this place home and it lit me UP. I was so immediately electrified that I buzzed hard for about 10 days, fast talking, fast walking, fast living. So. Damn. Alive.

...until I blew a circuit, unaccustomed as I am to running such a high voltage through my heart and nerves. During my subsequent recovery, I began to grasp at a more subtle understanding of the current that moves this place and its people. Every time I stepped out of the house and into the flow, I could feel the urgent pull to move at lightening speed even if I wasn't in a hurry. It's a compelling force. I find it's giving my body and mind immense power and a sharp clarity that I've never experienced anywhere else at any other time in my life. Something different is happening here.

My friends and I declared 2014 "The Year of the Upgrade" and my move to New York has been no exception. New York is rapidly expanding my ability to receive. Evolution is triggered by crisis, so one might say that this expansion was evolutionarily necessary for my survival, and perhaps they would be right. With all the intense sensations that make this place what it is, there is so much to take in. In order to find this stimulating instead of overwhelming, I have had to continue to create the inner spaciousness that allows me to contain all this madness. I can be fed and nourished by the current without burning out.

But how? How am I able to do this?

Exquisite self care.

There's no way around it. Where I could skimp before, I will not gracefully or joyfully survive this upgrade of my body's electrical system without activating every healthy habit I've ever cultivated. I was already pretty good at taking care of myself, but it has become an essential part of my life. The question at hand is always, "What time am I going to yoga?" or "How much water have I had today?" or "When do I need to go to bed to get 9 hours of sleep?"

Are you moving to New York? Are you already living here and having a hard time? Get on my level, son. You can't live here with sustainable heath and enjoyment without learning to take the best care of yourself that you ever have in your life. New York will slowly crush you and devour your humanity if you don't consciously choose to fight for it every day...and it is a fight, as is so much of living here.

Upon rereading this I think to myself, "My God, what a terrible sounding place! What am I doing here?"

Then I remember that New York City is the best place in the whole world. You can allow the current to sweep you up and  blow you out, or you can learn to ride it like a boss. The current is really a teacher in excellence. It will push you harder than you've ever been pushed. It will test your resolve. It will chisel away at your bullshit, and show you who are and what makes you up.

New York is not for everyone. For the intrepid dreamers, though, this place holds the key to unlock our destinies. If we allow it, it will make us better, stronger and smarter than we dreamed we could be. It will make us great.

But first, we have to go to sleep.

Good night, urban lotuses. Tomorrow we rise again from the mud for another day of hustle.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dirty Summer

The air is wet like breathing underwater, as pregnant and expectant as a new mother long overdue. I never knew water to be so heavy yet so immune to gravity's pull. How can it hang so still there in the air? The tension reaches a climax as window panes tremor with the low rumble of war drums, lightening splits the sky, and rain spills out hot and thick until you are drenched through.

This is my tropical urban jungle, everything sticky and sticking to everything else. Sticky, warm, bare skin sticking to plastic subway seats. Sticky, damp clothing sticking to skin. The riot of sights and smells and sounds sticking and sinking deep into my subconscious, playing back in the late night/early morning when we finally dance home after having all the fun. This is my paradise and I am home.

The shaman of our over sized village is covered in tattoos, only his faced spared the bore of needle and ink. He leads us deep into meditation, reminding us that we ride the wave of our breath even in the middle of the sea of concrete. Our bodies can be sanctuary if we learn to make peace with the mind, to welcome every thought and memory with equanimity. In his presence, we cultivate a balanced awareness that can accommodate all the sensations. Everything experienced as one.

Teeming and trembling with life, the city hums all hours of the day and night. The trains groan and screech, winding through the tunneled earth. A two man band enjoys the echoed acoustics beneath the ornate underside of a rusty park bridge. Neighbors shout salutations and jibes from stoops. A berimbau keeps time for the rhythmic, graceful dance of a capoeira battle. The tinkle of the Mister Softee truck is ever present and mingled with children's joyful shouts. Air conditioners and fans never stop, a whirring white noise in the background of every household keeping cool.

We live here together, millions upon millions on top of and all around each other, everyone with a love so deep for this place that the call to come is undeniable. Every human heart here carries a story and a dream that brought them to this electric heart of the world, to what some call the greatest city on earth. We are running side by side, to catch a train transfer or a lucky break, to forge a path for ourselves through this wilderness of asphalt and stone and metal.

Even in this place so swift and wild, there are blips when time stops...with the exchange of genuine smiles and neighborly greetings, with the light that falls just right through the leaves overhead, with a magic moment that could only happen here. There is magic to be found anywhere but in this place it overflows. It is the city where dreams come true and anything is possible. Everything is happening here and I am home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All In

Summer 2011
In the spirit of radical honesty and transparency, I have a confession: I have been making fear-based decisions. For the sake of time, I'll avoid avoiding what I've been avoiding and tell you straight up that I've been avoiding vulnerability. While it's been healthy and helpful to be single and celibate, and I really am happy alone, this is not the whole story. I had the chance to be in the presence of my teacher in LA recently and he gave a talk on receiving what we've worked for in which he said, "Your desires will be ridiculous as long as you believe you can't fulfill them." While I have been going through the motions of romantic relating for years, claiming that what I wanted was real, lasting love, my actions spoke otherwise. There has been a part of me which does not believe in the viability of this desire; indeed, not only is it impossible but it is unsafe. The inner, subconscious script goes something like, "No one will ever love me like I want to be loved, and even if they did, I would just end up getting hurt, so I'm not going to even go there."

While I'm being honest, I have to admit that there are a lot of ways in which I've been living with one foot out. I limited the scope of my life and choices by refusing to get my drivers license until a few years ago. I've given up on passions as soon as the demand to excel pushes me beyond where I'm comfortable because of a deep fear of failure. When you completely invest and immerse yourself in something, it is obvious to anyone how much you care, and in my mind that caring can be a source of weakness, a chink in the armor that can be exploited. If you happen to not succeed, then everyone will know. They will see you fail. This is a crippling idea if you're like me and failure is (admittedly, illogically) a source of terrible shame. Rather than risk this pain, I have consistently chosen to shrink away from challenge and play small.

In theory, I actually love failure. I've been reading about the benefits of failure for years and watching inspirational speeches from the likes of Oprah and Steve Jobs, who both failed only to go on to not burst into flames but to succeed spectacularly in other ways. Zen Buddhism teaches me not to get too attached to the way anything is ever because it's all going to change. What is a disappointment now will transform into a sparkling blessing later. What I'm celebrating now will flicker and fade, or present unforeseen challenges in the future. We simply don't know what It Is yet, so don't get too excited. Just receive it, say "Yes, thank you!" no matter what it looks like, and keep moving. Someday I might really take this in. For now, the instinctual reaction is to have my parachute on hand, ready to bail at the first sign of trouble.

Peeling back another layer, the more frightening possibility is that I might actually succeed. Imagine! Imagine being a big, bright, wild success! Oh lawd! Then what? Then the failures become bigger and more visible. The more successful people become, the more the general public seems to relish their failure. The $3 billion celebrity gossip industry stands as proof of the public's rabid, voyeuristic interest in watching other people struggle. Scanning the comment section of pretty much anything on the internet (which isn't advisable) reveals how much cruelty people are capable of unleashing on each other. It can be a mean world out there.

Years ago I had happenstance meetings with two different psychics while on a trip to Washington DC. They both sized me up incisively, concluding that I was hiding who I was...which was true. It took a long time to admit, because admitting it meant confronting the shame which had kept me hiding away. When you carry a story of  shame and unworthiness, of course you don't want anyone to see you. I spent much of my life feeling like an ugly duckling bad girl misfit alien. Despite this, though, I was a performer from a very early age. The need to be seen clearly and honestly was always there, fighting the shame for dominance and demanding attention. This is a very human condition- it's the reason why theatre departments are so often filled with ugly duckling bad girl/boy misfit aliens. We feel the fear of vulnerability but we put it all out there anyway because our humanity demands visibility. Here I am. Do you see me?

A month ago, I decided that I would move to New York and threw a bit of energy in that direction just to see what would happen. To my delight and total terror, I experienced an opening like I haven't in a very long time. Yogi Bhajan has a bit about manifesting that has been resonating so much lately: "The Raj Yogi's presence performs her miracle. Others have to act and perform and do all kinds of things. But this is the path of the Queen. It is not the path of the slave. Just feel your presence is acting; therefore you have not to act." I did extend my will in a easterly direction, but just barely compared to how much effort I've exerted trying to make other things happen. And yet, like a long overdue exhale, my life began to move very naturally and obviously by the hand of God and there was nothing to do but buy the one way ticket and go for it.

This was a highly vulnerable, bold commitment for me to make, a sign of a turn in the tide of my life. As I approached my 30th birthday, I began to feel the straining limitation of allowing so many important choices to be guided by fear. I had already grappled with my mortality, but had not considered that I might actually live for a very long time and that I had better think about what I might want the rest of my life to contain. The conclusion? No matter what I choose, there is no way forward unless I learn to go all in. No holding back. No parachute. No hiding. I want it to be okay for me to be seen caring enough about something to pursue it far beyond where I'm comfortable, to the point of failure, or even wild success. I want you to know how important this life is to me, how much I really do care. I want to live with both feet in, boldly committed to every moment.

Spring 2014
Believe me, I understand how terrifying this is, but I urge you...
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Never regret your boldness. It is better to have bought the one way ticket to a new life and limped home a failure than to not go and always wonder...

Don't wonder.

Buy the ticket. Take or quit the job. Fail or succeed. Have the baby. Say I Love You. Ask the question. Speak the truth. Allow yourself to be seen.

Give expression to whatever desire stirs within you and believe in your ability to fulfill it. We are here to fulfill the desires of our sacred hearts. We are worthy of this. In fact, it is our one and only job here.

Let's get to work.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy. Alone.

Root deep and grow your branches
There is a strength, steadiness and comfort in aloneness that you cannot know until you are immersed in it. From the outside, all anyone sees is a tree standing naked on its own in the middle of the field. In their perception, this is a vulnerable, weak position. They don't see the roots reaching deep into an intimate connectedness with the earth. They don't feel the solidness at the core of the ancient, sturdy trunk. They don't know how full and satisfying it feels to be empty.

If I ever marry, I want the world to exclaim, "My goodness, what a man it must've been to finally tame such a wild heart!" Women of a certain age are far too often painted as tragic things that are saved from ruin when some savior man rescues them from a lifetime of destitute spinsterhood. Apparently some people are living in a Jane Austin novel in their minds. Women are supposed to aspire to marriage and family above all else, so of course if one has not achieved that or is not on that trajectory, there must be something wrong.

This weekend I was at a nightclub with my mother and grandmother (long story...). I got up for a moment and my grandma asked my mom, "She's so beautiful and such a wonderful woman. How has no one scooped her up yet?" My grandma is a strong, smart woman who enjoyed a long career as a drug and alcohol psych nurse at the VA. She has always been independent and traveled adventurously. When my grandpa died 11 years ago, she was deeply saddened, but didn't shrivel up and die. She has carried on living her life in a big way. However, she is the product of a time when getting married was just what you did. Had she been born in another era, she might've waited longer to marry or perhaps not done so at all.

The short answer, grandma, is that I have no interest in getting married as something to give my life a sense of structure, stability or meaning. My life is structured to my liking, and feels both meaningful and stable without the presence of a husband or children. I'm not a china doll in a shop of precious things, just waiting forlornly for someone to come along and take me home. The only way that I will consent to being in any sort of romantic partnership again is for the opportunity to share time and space with a truly remarkable man with much to offer. When I meet a man who compels me on a deep level to brave the possible heartache of love, then and only then will I consider giving up the glorious ease, grace and joy of flying solo.

If you are perpetually romantically entangled and have been bypassing being single, the concept of comfortable, happy aloneness may be entirely foreign or frightening. Being single can be lonely at times, but it reveals a wondrous richness after wading through the initial discomfort. You learn how to self-soothe and self-approve, building an emotional independence that gives you the power to feel okay no matter where you go and who surrounds you. You can move about the world confidently and free from the need to consider or compromise with anyone else. It's an experience I recommend for anyone, especially before deciding to marry. If you're unhappy on your own, being in a relationship will not make you happy. We owe it to ourselves and our partners to enter relationships offering the riches of our fullness, not begging from our brokenness and need. Our partners are not there to hold us up everyday. We must be able to stand on our own.

This is something I wrote about almost a year ago. Since then nothing has changed but the yearning I expressed at that time for my beloved. I spent some time considering everything my life could be and contain outside of the traditional, marriage and family path, and found that the limitless possibilities were exciting enough to assuage any longing for a partner. Out beyond sex and romantic desire, marriage and children, is an oft unappreciated world of freedom and experience.

We suffer from this terrible FOMO, though, which ropes some into walking the traditional path because they are afraid to be haunted by a lifelong case of the What Ifs. What if I never have children? What if I regret it later? I am honestly more afraid of what I will miss, or what will become difficult or impossible to experience or obtain if I do. Parenting is the world's most important and difficult job. I think I would be a marvelous mother, but taking on that role would (appropriately) change my life in ways I am unprepared to accept. If you have even the slightest real understanding of the demanding sacrifice of being a parent, you would take a long pause before diving in.

Perhaps "the right guy" at "the right time" would change it all. Yes, perhaps. For the time being, though, I am doing the impossible. I am a(n almost) 30 year old woman. I have been celibate for a year and single for even longer. I am not dating, nor do I have any plans in my future for marriage or children. Yet, I am happy and alone. Fulfilled and alone. Confident and alone. Having said all this, I will undoubtedly be married before year's end. However, for now...

No, I'm no one's wife, but, oh, I love my life.

You can keep your societal standards. I'm good on my own.