Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gracias Grazie Merci Danke!!

This week I've had the pleasure of hanging out with two very darling, extremely grateful little children. These kids say thank you for everything to everyone. The ice maker in the freezer starts making ice: "Thanks refrigerator!" They like the strawberries from Trader Joe's: "Thank you Trader Joe's!" We see the garbage man: "Thank you for picking up the garbage, garbage man!" No joke. They do a lot of other adorable things as well, and are basically the kind of kids I hope to raise someday: curious, silly, bright, adventurous and grateful.

Being surrounded by a sea of gracious thank yous all week has been extremely uplifting and really put me in a gratitude mindset. While writing on the train this morning all I could think about were the many things I'm grateful for, and so I listed them. This put me in an indelibly good mood that carried through my walk home during which I decided to throw any remaining normalcy to the wind and say thank you to the sun and trees and bushes and grass and birds and cars that I passed on the way. I'm sure I looked crazy (I probably am...). In any case, you'd be crazy not to be crazy grateful for how ridiculously blessed this life is. Our very existence is a miracle. So I ask you...

What are you grateful for?

Orienting yourself towards abundance, grounding yourself in the richness that already surrounds you, is a much better way of attracting more abundance than always thinking about what is lacking. Gratitude: it's what's for LIFE!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love Recycled, Grown, Transforming.

The myopia of love (or infatuation, whatever ails you) is so enveloping when you're in the thick of it that it perhaps never occurs to you that someday you will not care about the person who used to take up 97% of your brain power. Time and space begin to stretch between you and your former, and eventually their name will come up in conversation and you'll realize it's been months or years since you thought of them. Or their relationship status on Facebook will change and you can begin to answer the question, "What happens to all those people I used to be in love/infatuated with?"

This is not something I ever really consider. By the time I let someone go, I've exhausted myself and the connection so completely that there's no returning- it's part of my intense, all-or-nothing charm. Recently this guy I used to have a mega-crush on got married. Long ago I sent him to the Island of No Romantic Feeling and he had come to only exist for me in the periphery of my consciousness. Still, something funny happened when I was looking at a photo of him at the end of the aisle, beaming at his beautiful approaching bride. It was not jealousy, but curiosity- "Who have you become to be able to look at that woman that way? What's happened to you over all these years?"

Of course, I don't know the specifics, only the general details that Facebook supplies. One might fall into a thought spiral considering why it couldn't have been them at either end of the aisle- what was wrong with them or missing, etc. Danger danger! Over the last year I've become acutely aware of how it's less the people involved and more the timing of the relationship. Some people are never a good match even in the most ideal circumstances, but sometimes it really is just a question of timing. Sometimes people meet while one or both parties are in other relationships, or one or both parties are just getting out of a relationship. Sometimes two people meet when one of them is moving far away in a week or going through some other major transition. We relate to one another not in a vacuum but within the broader context of our lives, and life is not always conducive to nurturing love.

It takes everything that's ever happened to us, every shred of experience, for us to become who we are- the groom busting at the suit seams with so much love, the wizened young woman content to wait until someone looks at her that way. Whatever role (if any...) I played in helping the guy of my past to become the man of some other woman's future, I am grateful. Because the man that elopes with me someday, barefoot on a quiet beach, will be the guy of other women's pasts. He'll know how to take care of my tender heart because he will have had his heart broken and broken hearts along the way. We will come together in the right place at the right time and I will say a prayer of deep gratitude to all the women of his past who helped ready him to be the man of my future.

Love- and infatuation-fueled myopia stems from a starvation economy mindset in which there is not enough to go around. This lacking is an illusion. Life is rich, ever expansive and abundant. Reconsider all your relationship "losses" as mere stepping stones on the path to becoming who you need to be in order to attract your beloved. The best that I might hope for, my ideal, is a wizened young man who will meet me where I am and continue to evolve and grow with me, sharing in this crazy, beautiful mystery of life. No matter how many stepping stones it takes, I'll be over here joyfully living my life and holding out for a look so filled with love.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Regret.

There is forward momentum, feet pounding the pavement in busy city stride, totally absorbed in. each. step. And then there's this moment that arrives when you've walked far enough away from something to turn around and see it entirely- every detail of every moment from start to finish. And then the "oh my what have I done?" moment. And the "head in hands in frustrated near tears at inability to take back misspoken words" moment. If you are so inclined, you might even have a "bargaining with God" moment.

After all the bellyaching, hopefully you'll take a big, deep breath and look at it again. What do you see now, dearheart? If you were me, you would see Ego staining every bit of regretful moment you cling to. You would be embarrassed by the way you behaved, and by the disgracefulness and vulnerability that you allowed other people to see. You might begin to compose letters in your head to manipulate your witnesses into forgetting the version of yourself that you presented so that they may know the "real you," whatever that means. You want to repair the damage by explaining it all away- "it wasn't really me! I'm not that crazy! I was just having a crazy moment!"- and also fear that trying to repair it will only make it worse.

With each mindful inhale you bring your attention back to the bigger picture and to an observation of the Ego doing its best work. You see that this whole elaborate show is really meant to attempt control in a world that feels like such a ridiculous mess. You see how self-indulgent this regret is, how totally Ego-soaked and conveniently distractionary. In the face of taking steps to create an adult life, you opt to cling to a past that you know very well is gone. And the closer you come to surrendering, to deeply letting go of illusory control, the louder your Ego kicks and screams.

Gently, ever so sweetly, with kid gloves even, you pick your Ego up, cradle it in your arms and assure it and yourself:
I love you.
I will never leave you.
I will always take care of you.

We are grown now. We don't have to grasp and beg, or be in control of everyone and everything around us to get our needs met. There is much we can do all on our own. The real, big truth is that control is a Mind-Ego construct designed to help us feel safe. We are children with our finger in the crack in the dam, so naive if we think that we can hold back the ensuing flood. We are in control of precious few things. Really, all we can control, all we have a right to control, are our own actions and reactions. Anything outside of us has its own will to assert on itself.

If regret has any function, let it be to help us take something away from difficult moments when we were not at our best. No excuses, no clinging and no attempts at manipulation or control. Allow regret be a temporary stop over between who we were and who we can become. Then allow yourself to arrive fully and presently to today, to a vibrant experience of your miraculous body in this moment. Become someone new today, someone who knows better because you've been there, done that, regretted it and became a better person for it. And, for goodness sakes, try to remember where you've been and what happened there. A compassionate, realistic memory of our history helps keep the past stumbles out of our present and future.

Regret is not a place to linger, playing pretend that you are doing something productive or atoning for your wrongs. Don't forget but don't dwell. Let the past teach the lessons and let it go.

Friday, August 26, 2011

projections:how what you think about me has everything to do with you,dear.

There's this e.e. cummings line that's been rattling around in my head for days:
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

This line is scrawled in a quote book I started keeping in high school, filled with poetry and inspiration. I fell in love with e.e. around that time because of his daring (mis)use of punctuation. I helped edit the lit mag and couldn't imagine anything sexier than a man who only capitalized when he felt like it. I've always loved a rebel.

In the rest of the poem, he is revering the frailty and small hands of (in theory) a small-handed woman and I wonder if she was really all that frail. I wonder how many women fall victim to idol- and idealization. Men paint a picture of who this woman is based on some deep rooted, possibly unconscious fantasy of what the "perfect" woman encapsulates. When the woman falls short (inevitably) or surprises with a multifaceted personality beyond categorization, the man is bewildered at best.

Of course, this is not isolated to men relating to women. Women do this in their own way to men (or men to men and women to women for all my homoz out there). Perhaps, as we mature, we can come to be more compassionate and realistic about the foibles of others and less rigid about our ideals. Perhaps we can even come to appreciate and celebrate our complex human partners.

Until then, I often find myself the victim of men's disappointed expectations. The way that I am idealized and the woman that I am are not different so much as that the idealized version is only one part of me. Yes, I am soft and sweet and gentle. I am also wild and blunt and fiercely stubborn. I am, above all else now and forever more, a yogi goddess. And what's the goal of yoga? Union! So you best believe that I'm not trying to create inner divisiveness by tucking away my wild to preserve some unrealistic angelic vision. No one, man or woman, is perfect, and putting people on pedestals is a recipe for heartbreak for everyone involved. Period.

The only ways to work this out are to a) resolve to live alone, or b) suspend judgement and assess with neutrality. We project SO much shit onto other people, good, bad or otherwise. When we're feeling hopeful about a prospective partner, we see all the best, most prized qualities in them that we think we want. On the flip side, when we're feeling vulnerable or defensive, in them we see all our fears and wounds manifesting. If we don't like ourselves or other people have been cruel to us in the past, we will find proof in their behaviors to reinforce how unlovable we think we are. The ego is mighty powerful and will stop at nothing to assert itself by keeping us in the same, comfortable tape loops.

There is an Osho card, Projections, which speaks directly to this:
"All of us can get caught up in projecting movies of our own making onto the situations and people surrounding us. It happens when we are not fully aware of our own expectations, desires and judgements; instead of taking responsibility for them and owning them, we try to attribute them to others. A projection can be devilish or divine, disturbing or comforting, but it is a projection nonetheless- a cloud that prevents us from seeing reality as it is. The only way out is to recognize the game. When you find a judgement arising about another, turn it around: Does what you see in others really belong to you? Is your vision clear, or clouded by what you want to see?"

Cultivate neutrality. As the condition of our mind controls our experience of the world, we can't hope to rest in reality without a soundly neutral mind. Maybe you don't want to live in reality, and I can't say that I blame you. Life can be pretty tough to swallow sometimes. But I am coming to find that true, lasting happiness comes not from having all our ideals met, but from working gracefully within the bounds of reality. If we are unwilling to extend this grace to others, this allowance of all that they are, how can we expect to find it for ourselves? And don't you want that? We all deserve to be known completely and loved for it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Goddess of Never Not Broken.

My sewing macchina, Maria, was humming along steadily last night, burning the midnight oil in my one woman sweatshop. Suddenly she began to slow and seized to a stop with a terrible groan. Uh oh. Unable to find a solution in the manual, I grabbed a screwdriver and pulled that baby apart. Poor, neglected Maria was long overdue for maintenance, and as I brushed out fuzzies and threads, I couldn't help but consider how fortuitous it is when things break. Split open all over the kitchen table, I came to understand Maria completely- every bolt and spring and screw. And don't we all deserve to be known so well?

This is true intimacy, honeys. It's propping each other up on the floor of the Phoenix Greyhound station at 3:00am, half crying, so exhausted. It's freaking out, drinking too much, spending the rest of the night with your head in the toilet and being loved anyway. When life cracks our little hearts open, we get to peer inside and see what's there- maybe some old, deep pain and patterns, betrayals, fear. When life cracks open the people we love, we get the immense honor of bearing witness to their raw vulnerabilities. To me, people in disarray are just as beautiful, if not moreso, than people in perfect harmony. The chaos of being broken open is a time of pure potential. We can plant seeds in the mud that we're mucking around in, this rich, deep soil, that will blossom later like the lotus- up and out of the filth, pure and perfect. The important thing is to avoid myopia, allowing the present moment, however awfully consuming it feels, to be something that will pass eventually. This is the reassurance of impermanence that we dread when life is great- everything comes to an end.

Why is it so wrong to be broken? Messy? Desperately sad? Sure, it can be uncomfortable to witness and is almost always uncomfortable to experience, but these moments are moments of becoming. We crack through the shell of our understanding and capabilities, and come blinking blindly into the light, stretching our wings. Bringing consciousness to our fucked-up-ed-ness allows the whole ordeal to become an exercise with much to teach. Being conscious of our fucked-up-ed-ness also makes it more okay to be broken...at least it makes it easier to function day to day. If we can be aware that the lens with which we're viewing the world is skewed, we can remind ourselves of this every time we have some crazy idea or get angry at someone for no apparent reason. Of course, this requires us to be aware that we may be a little crazy, and it's hard to know you're crazy when you're crazy. I guess that's the tricky part- becoming aware of what's happening, remaining aware of what's happening and taking it into account before you speak or make major decisions.

The pretty lady pictured above is Akhilandeshvari, the Hindu Goddess of Never Not Broken. She reminds us of the power, the beauty and the importance of being broken...not constantly, but long enough to crack open and shake out all the shit that doesn't serve us anymore, long enough to keep becoming ourselves. She inspires me to not only lean into the challenges of life, but to relish them a little. All these hard times and all this hard work are making me. This is, once again, over and over, my becoming. I find this so beautiful for the same reason I love helping people move- those in between, transition times are abundantly creative and ripe for deep transformation, like the moment right before the Universe existed and everything was and became possible. God opened Her mouth, took a deep breath and vibrated everything into being.

Don't be afraid to be broken! Remember what Marilyn Monroe said: "If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." Keep vibrating. Shake apart. Lose the outdated agonies and self-doubt. Shine your remaining pieces and put them back together. Repeat.

((p.s. I got Maria back together and working initially with one, tiny bolt left over. I came to realize later that that tiny bolt was immensely important and had to take her apart again to replace it. A funny reminder of how even the smallest things can make such a big difference.))

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When life gives you lemons...

Keep calm. They're just lemons. Do you have any idea how many delicious things you can make out of lemons? Lemon bars. Lemon curd. Meatless lemon "chicken." Lemon cream pie. Lemon vinaigrette. Not to mention, lemonade. You can add lemon zest to all kinds of things to give them a little kick, like oatmeal cranberry cookies or marinara sauce. You can grind the used lemon up in your garbage disposal for a fresh smell. I know how awful it can feel to receive lemons, but try to see past your initial frustration/anger/sadness and consider what they can become. Everything is a gift and an opportunity, even lemons...especially lemons!

Yesterday morning I awoke in cry-for-your-mama pain. It was early and the clinic hadn't opened yet for me to make an appointment, so I got to lay awake for a while lamenting the incredibly challenging nature of the last week. Lamenting. Crying. Exhausted. Then I feel asleep again long enough to be in less pain, and I woke up and carried on; ran an important errand, taught a kickin' yoga class to a room full of beautiful souls and took my body to the doctor.

There is a time for lamentation and self-pity, for sniffling and whining. Shortly thereafter, the time arrives to take a big ol' breath and get on with it, already. How long are you going to let darkness and heaviness get in the way of what you love? This past week, I took about an hour- an hour to glumly eat leftover stir fry while taking care of some uncomfortable, albeit important, adult business. At the end of the hour, I didn't really feel better, but I'm unwilling to wait for things to be perfect to live my life. There is good work to be done that cannot wait and we are the ones who have to do it.

It's taken years to learn how to let my experience wash over me without nearly drowning in it. Yoga and meditation have made me buoyant enough to stay afloat while also enabling me to dive deep into the heart of the matter and reap valuable learning. Experience can be a harsh teacher, but I've found that the most demanding, sometimes painful moments present the biggest opportunities for growth. Fears, avoidances and known limits are the edges to work in order to expand your capabilities and master yourself. This mastery is possible if you limit wallowing, take responsibility where appropriate, learn the lessons and keep moving.

Don't be fooled by the deceptive constancy of seemingly stable things like mountains; rain, wind and snow are constantly reforming their shapes in small, incremental ways until one day they look drastically different than they did before. We are sculpted by the events of our lives in just such a way and when times are tough, we can look to mountains for reassurance that everything is always changing. Sour lemons can become sweet gifts if we're willing to wade through the initial discomfort, trusting that they too will change.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this for some is that you have to allow transformation to occur in yourself, the people around you and your circumstances. People stay in terrible situations all the time for the sake of comforting familiarity. Happiness is so foreign that it's scary. The lemons remain sour because to sweeten them is to move into unknown territory.

It's a lemon's tartness that makes it such a great addition to dishes, though. If you add too much sugar, you lose the lemon flavor. Such is our authentic experience of reality. We can't pretend that the hard times were not hard. Of course they were! We have the scars to prove it! The question is, can we allow something to be hard and valuable? Can we say, "Wow, that was a really trying time for me! I learned a lot that I am grateful for," and move forward? Time is usually the great healer that allows us to find the value in pain, but I'd encourage you to begin to take note of what you are being taught when you're in the thick of difficulty. Notice all the ways in which are you are being triggered and challenged- those are the areas that are being worked and need it.

All the while, keep living your life and doing what you love to the best of your ability. Lemons are nothing more than invitations to grow in ways in which you haven't been grown yet. Everything is changing all the time, including you. Might as well let go and consciously accept the invitation to be grown. It is a great gift to become who we already are and it is life's lemons that push us to this becoming. Breathe deep. Keep calm and carry on. When you come out the other side you'll be different, you'll be more yourself than ever before, and that is great.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Practice Not Perfect

Secret share time! I'm not perfect. I'd certainly like to be- or at least have everyone think I am- but I am not and neither is anyone else. I am recalling an Osho card, Exhaustion: "(this card) is about all the ways in which we set up safe but unnatural routines for ourselves and, by doing so, keep the chaotic and spontaneous away from our doors. Life isn't a business to be managed, it's a mystery to be lived."

As much as I enjoy the world around me being neat and orderly, lately I've been witnessing how little control I actually have, and how exhausting it is to try to "keep it all together" when what I may really need is to be shaken apart. Each unsettling quake of my rigid foundation cracks me open a little wider, exposing rotting wooden beams ready to be replaced. That is to say, the hardest times help to clarify what is and is not serving me well.

This perfection game has reached its peak of usefulness in my life. I don't have anyone to impress but myself, and as I am my own harshest critic, that's plenty to contend with. There's something to be said for a sharp eye for detail, but when it starts to border on obsessive compulsive and unrealistically critical, it's time to ease up. And like so many reconciliations, this begins with forgiveness. It's time to give up the game and forgive myself for not being perfect. Life is a practice, not perfect. We are continually being challenged and shaken up, and if we stop trying to manage the mysteries of life, we may actually grow through this de/reconstruction process.

We are being created all the time by the events in our lives and our responses to them, and there is no such thing as an imperfect response. There are hurtful or unconscious or counter productive responses, but as far as I'm concerned, every decision is the perfect decision. Think back to what initially seemed like a totally knuckle head choice that ended beautifully. Conversely, consider how doing the "perfect" thing has ended in disaster. Life is too far outside of our control to always accurately discern how our actions will ripple out. But trust that they will ripple and that the important thing is to act with as much consciousness as possible, letting go of the outcome. That's the big, liberating truth of non-attachment: you can attempt as much perfection as you want now, but the future doesn't exist yet, so you can't possibly hope to mold it in the present. We can set intentions, but you ultimately have to let go of future building and settle for resting quietly in the imperfect present.

While I do indulge in some wild, infuriatingly cheery optimism, I am also sensible enough to see that there will never be a truly "perfect" moment. People are creative enough to find fault with even the most ideal of circumstances (i.e. women with "perfect" bodies who still complain about their *insert body part*). So how can we ever be happy? We have to forgive ourselves, each other and the world for not meeting our every expectation...especially those expectations that we aren't even able to articulate yet. And in some instances, perhaps it's appropriate to loosen or totally eliminate our expectations altogether, gracefully allowing our reality to be without manipulation. How better to articulate this than with the Serenity Prayer?:
"Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference."

It is you who decides what is perfect and imperfect. Never forget your ability to choose to see perfection everywhere...especially within your beautiful self.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homecoming

In the spirit of embracing a beginner's mind, I excitedly took my first Anusara yoga class recently. Even though it's in the hatha tradition and I was pretty sure it wouldn't vary too far from the many hatha-based classes I've taken over the years, I was still nervous. Every style has its quirks and I still struggle with this desire to be perfect and impressive. Upon introducing myself to the instructor, Gail, she smiled at me and said, "Welcome Home." The last time anyone said that to me, I was ringing a bell with a big ol' piece of rebar in the middle of the night in a desert in Nevada. When I was welcomed home to Black Rock City last year, it became quickly apparent that while I had never been there, I most certainly belonged. Today in Anusara, Gail welcomed me home to my body.

A popular expression asserts that home is where the heart is. If that's so, then you are at home right now whereever you may physically be. Please do something for me. Put your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your heart. Now consciously slow the breath, allowing your belly to fill and extend, breathing all the way up into the collar bones. Exhale slowly and smoothly. Close your eyes for a couple of minutes, bringing your full attention and focus to the breath. There, see? You are alive, you are in your body and your heart is in your chest, beating faithfully, showing great love and devotion to you. You can't lose it, it can't be stolen or given away. You may have left bits of your consciousness in San Francisco, but your heart remains with you, always (for those lucky San Franciscans, your heart is in San Francisco...you are the exception).

Since that first class, I've been playing with this idea of coming home to ourselves. In our lives, our attention is pulled in so many directions at once that we can lose track of a conscious experience of our bodies. Have you ever been so immersed in a project that you forget to eat? Once I was so preoccupied that I started looking for my sunglasses in my purse when I was wearing them on my face. Yikes. In big and small ways, from attending to our basic needs to avoiding being hit by a bus, it is immensely helpful to stay at home in our bodies and present to the moment. We are bound to be pulled out of body consciousness; there are so many sources of possible distraction. The key is to keep coming back to the breath, staying cozy inside your home where your heart- and you- live.

Rest inside your miraculous body wherein you'll find everything you ever needed. You are already complete- no need to go searching around outside of yourself. You are the one that you want. Welcome Home!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fragmented and Totally Whole.

Myla Goldberg became one of my favorite authors during the very specifically-themed "Jewish American Women Writers" class that I took in college. We read her beautiful book Bee Season, which introduced me to the concept of "tikkun olam." (Very) basically, in the Lurianic Kabbalah vision, God filled vessels of light with which to create the world. These vessels shattered and bits of light became trapped in the material of the world. Through prayer and good deeds, this light can be released and the world can be healed and made whole.

54 days ago I began a new series of daily meditations that I'm calling "The Triple Threat": Kirtan Kriya, Sat Kriya and Sodarshan Chakra Kriya. Yogi Bhajan said that if all the other teachings were lost, these three exercises alone would suffice to carry us through into the new age. Kirtan and Sat Kriya are both potent, powerful exercises I had come to enjoy in the past. However, I had been vehemently avoiding the navel pumping-heavy Sodarshan Chakra Kriya for a long time. About a week before I started, though, I was reminded that this is the emergency parachute, when-all-else-fails meditation, and since nothing else seemed to be working, I finally surrendered.

Overtime and for countless reasons, I have become divided. I have turned away from or against parts of my being with shame or anger. I have allowed the voices of outside influences to become my voice, to the point where I couldn't hear myself in the din. All these interests compete for the right to direct my life, so that it is hard to make decisions without wondering if it really is the best choice. ("The voice of my mother says one thing, but the voice of my pastor is suggesting something else. Hmmm...") Like the light of creation, my light became scattered.

Aside from being great in a pinch, Sodarshan is notable for helping to clear the aura of past impressions, rebuilding the individual identity. With so many pieces currently in my spiritual puzzle, it's hard to say what is responsible for which effects, but the effect of Sodarshan seems to be the internal reintegration of my many fragmented parts. With this has come an incredible rush of vitality as I experience my total self, unburdened by battling special interest groups and the repression of previously shamed parts. The illusory veil separating my self from my Self is fading rapidly and I am left staring at someone who is quite okay and perfectly fine. I surely have so much more to learn, but there are many things that are not wrong but so very right with me.

This meditation has worked like a magic medicine- not always easy to swallow but so healing. Not only did it help me find wholeness in my fragmentation, but it also is clearing my subconscious, the lens with which I view the world. Among other unexpected positive outcomes, I find myself viewing the world with neutrality, taking ego affronts far less personally and feeling very internally complete...all major departures from previous patterns. As I free and lovingly collect each scattered bit of light, it gets easier to just Be...exactly as I am today, authentic and unapologetic. The thing I avoided was what I needed most of all.

Through whatever method or practice, I wish this experience for everyone.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sometimes you just have to do the work.

Hey America! Fast food, quick fix nation! There's this project management principle that advises that you can have two of the following three things: cheap, fast and good. If it's good and fast, it's not going to be cheap. If it's cheap and fast, it's not going to be good. And, finally, if it's good and cheap, it's not going to be fast. Some things take time and patience. Holistic, non-pharm methods of healing are some of those things.

Take yoga, for example. Yoga is not always easy. Sometimes it's downright hard and certainly not as effortless as popping a pill, and yet it does work. A study released last year found that a 10 week yoga program effectively eased PTSD symptoms in veterans. This study and studies like it are finding that yoga and meditation actually changes the brain, and as a result, how we think, feel and function. There are many things that change our brains and alter our experience of life, but yoga is unique in that it can be done (in certain forms...) anytime, anywhere, with little to no equipment. I start most of my yoga classes with a couple minutes of One Minute Breath because it's a great, easy breath technique that can be practiced on the bus or in the office, anytime one needs to calm the mind and bring it under your control. The best part? It's totally free! You don't need ass-sculpting stretchy pants or fancy mats. You just need to breathe consciously.

Even breathing, our most natural automatic function, can be a tremendous task. When it comes to focusing on the breath and staying in the body, we have to combat a very busy, chattering mind that would pull our attention in 11 directions at once. Where we can swallow a pill with no thought, reigning in the mind takes discipline and, I'm finding, the even-more-difficult-to-achieve humble surrender. In our surrender, we give up trying to control the outcomes of our efforts, and the behaviors and feelings of others, and patiently, compassionately keep bringing our focus back to the inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. We give up trying to master others and take on the important job of mastering ourselves.

This is not always fun. Sometimes it feels like work. Sometimes resting inside and plumbing the depths of our consciousness unearths some seriously scary stuff. I took my first Anusara yoga class last week and it opened parts of me, literally and figuratively, that had never seen the light of day, bringing me face to face with some very old, deeply rooted fear. I'm still reeling a little. Yikes. Wouldn't it be easier to just take some kind of anti-anxiety drug and call it a day? There is certainly a time and place for medication. There is also a time and place in which to snuggle up with your discomfort and actually work through some shit. You can mask symptoms with meds but it's not going to take care of whatever it is that's really bothering you.

There are no simple answers to complex questions. It cannot be good, fast AND cheap. Some kind of practice that works to keep you in your body will help you, but it will not be like taking a pill. It will require commitment of time and effort. Your time and effort. You can seek support as you walk your path, but you have to walk it. There is immense empowerment on offer to those willing to take responsibility for their own experience. Again, if meds are appropriate then they should be utilized, but let's not let that be the end of inquiry. My favorite method of internal inquiry has become yoga. Whatever your method, let's confront and embrace every part of ourselves. It may not be easy, but the results are long lasting and carry no crazy side effects. In my experience, it's completely worth the time and effort.