Thursday, December 12, 2013

An Open Letter to Greg Gopman

Dear Greg,
I've been thinking about what you said all day, as I watch the equally caustic responses to your words stream through my news feed. Personally, I found your words more disturbing than offensive because I'm afraid that they reflect the uninformed views of so many more. I am curious about you. I wonder how long you've been in San Francisco, how long you've been watching the city evolve, and how wide your understanding is of homelessness. I'm a teacher by nature, and I would like to help you understand this issue a bit more so that you can help educate others.

During college, I did volunteer work as a Crisis Counselor with San Francisco Suicide Prevention. Part of our thorough training was a history of mental health care in California. Did you know that California used to have a vast, comprehensive public mental healthcare system? During his tenure as governor, Ronald Reagan gutted the system, leaving very little behind. People end up in public mental health care because they either have no family, or their families cannot afford the care they need. This may change with the ACA, but up until now mental health care has barely, if at all, been covered under insurance plans. Most plans will cover maybe 10 therapy visits, which doesn't even begin to appropriately care for someone who is severely ill.

The huge gaps in social support for persons with mental illness are an important factor in homelessness. Many of these people cannot "pick themselves up by their boot straps," get a job and lead a normal life. I used to regularly talk to a man on the hotline who thought that dollar bills were illegal, and that everyone but he and the people of Australia were robots. Without someone to take care of him, he would surely be raving in and living on the streets.

This is an example of someone who is severely mentally ill. But what about the more subtle disabilities? The majority of the people I spoke to on the hotline found themselves in the positions they were in as a result of being the recipients of abuse as children- in particular, physical and sexual. I hope that this was not a part of your upbringing, and that you have no personal understanding of what it does to a person to be abused in these ways. I will explain for you. Being abused encodes a deep sense of unworthiness into the minds and hearts of its recipients. If the child’s environment enforces or fails to correct the abuse, the child will grow up to believe that they are unworthy of the things most of us take for granted- happiness, love, safety, respect, consistency, healthy relationships, etc. If the abuse is severe and/or sustained long enough, it can be the cause of mental illness that otherwise may have never existed. Even if something more severe such as Dissociative Identity Disorder doesn't present itself, it is sadly common for the recipients of abuse to develop substance abuse problems very early, in addition to depression or anxiety, explosive anger, impulse control, self-abuse such as cutting or eating disorders and a multitude of other issues that can prove to be quite debilitating.

Further compounding the already complex issue of homelessness in San Francisco is a sneaky tactic used by other US cities to bus their homeless population to our city. Although no one will admit to this still being unofficial policy in their city governments, it was for a time. This is such a problem that San Francisco created a program called Homeward Bound, offering homeless people bus tickets back to wherever they came from. Without a solid public mental health care system and with the existing non-profits overwhelmed and at capacity, there are very few options for the vulnerable, often deeply wounded and mentally ill inhabitants of our city.

The area of Market Street that you described is, yes, in the heart of the city. It also happens to be the area of town that belongs to the “degenerates,” as you put it. The Tenderloin and the SOMA may now be on the gentrification chopping block, but they have been the home for low income families, artists, the mentally ill, pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and others on the fringe for far longer than either of us have been alive. I lived in the Tenderloin for several years and in that time, while not enjoying the constant urine smell and occasional gun shots, met some truly lovely human beings. Most of them approached me not for money, but to make sure I wasn't lost because as a young, healthy white woman, I didn't appear to belong. I ended up moving out because the (young, friendly, white kid) next door was beating the hell out of his (young, friendly, white) girlfriend and I couldn't handle not being able to do anything about it. You know, I witnessed some intense, ridiculous, disturbing things in all my years in the neighborhood, but nothing comes close to the horror I heard that boy scream at that girl through the walls. Nothing.

If the most grotesque experience of your travels thus far is walking down Market Street, I have two thoughts for you: 1) Congratulations! It is rare to live so long and be spared more traumatic experiences, and 2) I don’t know where you've been travelling, but I’m guessing you’re not having much of an adventure. Which cities are you referring to when you say “cosmopolitan”? There are some beautiful, clean cosmopolitan cities in the world, like Vienna, but the rest of the cities I've ever visited are dirty and gritty, at least in part. I was once very aggressively accosted by a homeless man in a Paris McDonalds (I swear, going in that McDonalds was not my call). Paris is dirty, as are Rome and New York and Chicago. Have you ever been to Seattle? Their homeless population is way scarier and more aggressive than San Francisco’s. I digress.

What I hope you take away from all this is that the relative squalor that characterizes Mid Market is a complex problem, symptomatic of much deeper societal issues, which begs a very thoughtful discussion and a sophisticated understanding. If we have been fortunate enough to travel the world, to have access to a good education, to have been raised by mostly functional, loving families, then perhaps we’re in the position to help those who have not. Ask not what the crazy, toothless lady can do for you, but what you can do for the crazy, toothless lady. I’m not even asking you to part with any of your hard earned, American money, but simply to educate yourself about this topic. Rather than wallowing in your own discomfort and lashing out at those people who caused it, get curious. Ask questions. How did it happen that so many people could slip through the cracks? What are the multi-faceted factors and issues which contribute to this problem? What approaches can be taken to best address them?

There is a brokenness in the minds and hearts of these most vulnerable people which can only be healed with love. Our love. Allowing ourselves to love another in this way means opening our hearts to grief, pain, sadness. Harden not your heart, dear. Being able to love so deeply, through our own fears and discomforts, is an essential skill for a full, rich, wild human life. That is my wish for you, and my challenge to you. Open your heart very completely to those who frighten you. Then you’ll get to see what you’re so afraid of, and be that much freer.

Love, Respect, and Prayers for Greatness,
Kirsten

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Being Pretty isn't IT

We were hanging out awhile back and you asked, all full of frustration, "Well, what do you want then?" I had been talking about how uninteresting I find perfectly sculpted physiques to be due to a longtime exposure to beautiful, built gay men. My answer at the time was, "I don't know," which was a lie. I do know what I want, but explaining it in that moment was beyond me. We were in a bar and I think I had just done a shot of tequila.

The truth is, I want MORE. Feeling a physical attraction to your potential partner is important, I appreciate nice looking things, but I have also become concerned with sustainability. The condition of our physical bodies is highly unsustainable. What is of lasting value is what's between your ears and in your heart, because that's who and what you really are. Being beautiful will take you far, but then what? That is not a train that will help you travel the entirety of your lifetime, should you be lucky enough to age to the point of wrinkling everywhere. What carries you across the time and space of a life well lived is character. Character is what you choose to do with the time that you have, and this matters more than anything else.

Not everyone will require you to be anything but pretty. They will see what's outside and be satisfied. It is not enough for me, dearone. I want MORE from you. I have looked you in the eye. I See You, I've Heard You speak with great depth and honesty. I know what's there and I want it ALL. I want your sadness and fear, your humor and brilliant ideas, your remarkable strength and your vulnerability. I want to see you deeply fulfilled, fully self-realized and authentically happy, no matter what that looks like. Because I love you. I told you I loved you but that I didn't even know what it meant when I said it. It wasn't until I revisited this quote from my favorite Zen master, Osho, that I found something which begins to articulate this feeling:
"What we call love is really a whole spectrum of relating, reaching from the earth to the sky. At the most earthy level, love is sexual attraction. Many of us remain stuck there, because our conditioning has burdened our sexuality with all kinds of expectations and repressions. Actually the biggest "problem" with sexual love is that it never lasts...As we mature, we can begin to experience the love that exists beyond sexuality and honors the unique individuality of the other...This love is based in freedom, not expectation or need."

When all is said and done, it doesn't really matter what you look like. For your professional purposes, I know it does, but I want you to know that you are worth so much more than that. Your body is not the real you, it is a temporary, ever changing home for the you who is timeless and eternal. I understand that because you spend so much time working on your body, this might feel like hurtful devaluing. This is not my intention. I respect and admire your discipline and dedication. You are magnificent looking- I wouldn't have you change a thing.

This is so small of a concern when compared with what you're doing with that magnificent body, though. How are you treating yourself? Are you taking care of your mental and emotional life? Are you speaking your truth and honoring your No? Do you perceive yourself to have great value beyond your looks?

What do I want then, dearone? Everything. Bodies can be fun, beautiful and overwhelmingly sexy, but they are not enough. It is the totality of your infinite being that I'm after. I want to know and love every part of you.

Which is a hard thing to explain in a bar.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Wild, Rebel Heart

As I descended the stairs into a sea of crisp black blazers and pencil skirts, fresh blowouts and french tips, it immediately became apparent that I was out of place. You know when it feels like everyone is watching you enter a room? In this case, everyone was. It was something like America's Next Top Model, a sorority rush and free diving with great whites...all at once. However, I smiled wide and laughed in my head at all the beautiful, scowling, full faces of makeup. I reasoned that amid all the black, it would be to my advantage to be in blue and cream stripes. Heck, I barely remembered to shave my legs! I'm a stylish individual and I will stand out!

When we entered the conference room, I realized how flawed my logic had been. The woman leading the open call was in the same uniform as all the other contestants. I naturally immediately suspected a conspiracy, then realized a simple truth: I've been wearing yoga pants to work for a very long time. Even when I worked in an office, my personal style was Kindergarten Librarian Chic. I rocked a knee length skirt with tiny kittens on it on the reg. Business attire is not my forte. This is not a job I will be getting.

By the time I reached my senior year of high school, the bulk of my core community had already graduated, so I became involved in multiple clubs and choirs to fill the time. When I had a free lunch period, I could be found in the library reading Girl, Interrupted or Backlash, writing angsty poetry and listening to mix CDs heavily influenced by riot grrrls. My spinster Honors English teacher referred to me as one of her "bright, sensitive girls." Being bright and sensitive in high school is fine if it's buried under more enticing qualities to teenagers, but that was all I had to work with at the time...smarts, sensitivity, mild depression and anxiety, and awkwardness, especially in my body.

My favorite teacher ever, also from the English department, promised me that it would be different when I got to college, and she was largely correct. I've always had a good radar for girls like me- the bright, sensitive ones who forget to shave their legs- but in college I suddenly had a huge tribe. We hung out for hours in the dining hall laughing and stealing handfuls of cookies, learned to knit in a snark laden club called "Stitch and Bitch," stayed up late telling secrets and stories, and watched The L Word and decided we were lesbians...or maybe not...or maaaayyyyyyyybbee. San Francisco, the mecca of tolerance and free expression, welcomed me like a long lost child. I was finally home.

The world at large is not an easy place to be on the fringe, though, but it is getting easier in many ways. The planetary consciousness is shifting rapidly to include a knowledge and embrace of "alternative" and holistic healing methods, universal human rights, environmental activism, political transparency and economic equality. There is so much beautiful, revolutionary, authentic work being done in the world, so much light being spread.

Yet amidst this is a sometimes violent and sickening backlash against these gains in human dignity and awareness. Of course, this is the hallmark of any true revolution. There will always be push back from those who benefit from the maintenance of the status quo. People on the whole are very much afraid of change and, as Osho has to say about Rebels, "people are afraid, very much afraid of those who know themselves. They have a certain power, a certain aura and a certain magnetism, a charisma that can take out alive, young people from the traditional imprisonment...The enlightened man cannot be enslaved - that is the difficulty - and he cannot be imprisoned...Every genius who has known something of the inner is bound to be a little difficult to be absorbed; he is going to be an upsetting force."

Before I continue, I'd like to preface the following by saying that I like getting my nails done and I neglect shaving my legs not out of militant feminist principle but laziness. Women spend entirely too much time tearing each other apart, a separate issue I could talk about forever. I don't seek to shame anyone for having different interests and priorities. I respect where everyone is on their journey. Namaste, y'all. That being said...

This is the time to be an upsetting force. This is the time to be bright stripes in a room full of black suits. The very survival of our planet requires that we question the false truths that we've been indoctrinated to believe and agree with. The foundation we built with these agreements is crumbling. We cannot continue to live as we always have and expect anything to change, and make no mistake, change is very much necessary. Since all sustainable change begins within, it's time, above all else, for some deeply honest, fearless self-inquiry. We must get very real.

What is working well?
What is not working well?
What requires adjustment? And how?
What needs to be disposed of entirely?
What is energizing and brings me joy?
What is weighty and regressive?

For everyone who has ever felt like a misfit or an outcast, rejoice! Our time has come. The tide is turning. Our unique perspectives and alternative approaches are needed. This time of reevaluation and adjustment presents us with the opportunity to make our world more inclusive and loving. The misfits intimately understand the agony of feeling out of place. Let's make our world a place where everyone belongs, just as they are. Not everyone could or should be alike. Variety is just as important to our human eco system as it is to the realms of flora and fauna. There is truly space for all kinds, and it takes all kinds to make it work.

The time has come to shine our wild, rebel hearts...
or rather, to discover what is preventing us from doing so
and burning that up with the light of our own brilliant truth.

Burn it up. Shine that brilliant, wild, rebel heart.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Women Want From Men


Obviously...
A couple of weeks ago, Magic Mike some how came up over drinks with my token, straight guy friends. I explained two things:
1) That sorry excuse for a movie pandered far more to the fulfillment of male fantasies than women's. It's a movie about men getting what they want, written and directed by men.
2) When you're raised into adulthood in the gay community in San Francisco, ├╝ber attractive, muscular, naked guys are a dime a dozen.

...but countless women (and gay men) loved it! And that's fine. Maybe I'm a grumpy feminist with no interest in a film based loosely on Channing Tatum's time as a teenage stripper in Tampa. Maybe I've just seen too many perfectly chiseled bare derrieres in person to be moved by seeing them on screen. There's no lack of appreciation for the male form here. Men's bodies possess a strength, grace and power that I adore. The sentiment underlying this is: "You're hot. So what? What else do you have to offer?"

Physical attractiveness is the deal maker for some women, though. Thus we once again see the problem with sweepingly deciding anything about a large group of people based on the needs and opinions of a non-representative sample. Magic Mike was not a movie made for a lady like me. But neither was The Notebook, which one of my token straights insisted I must love because I'm a Ryan Gosling fan. Nope. Too sappy, too poorly written. That Nicholas Sparks guy is the worst. Now, Lars and the Real Girl, there's a unique, nuanced, interesting story worth watching. Man falls in love with Rachel McAdams? Eh... Man falls in love with a sex doll? Yes! How delightfully quirky!

There are billions of women on the planet, gents. What do they want from you? A lot of disparate and possibly conflicting things...and possibly nothing at all. There will never be a neat and tidy list that accurately encompasses the needs and desires of every woman. If you fancy a lady you're just going to have to, oh gosh, I don't know, ask her questions about herself and listen to get to know what she's about. It's called communicating. Get into it.

The neat and tidy list of needs and desires is so attractive, though, because then you could just jump into checking things off, right? Something I appreciate about the men in my life is their ability to single mindedly solve a problem or handle a task. I need these boxes moved into that truck, and BAM! It's done. But your relationship is not a problem to be solved, or as Osho would say, it's not "a business to be managed, it's a mystery to be lived." Women are mysterious creatures and life is a mysterious venture. Maintaining a sense of mastery and control is alluring, but it's always illusory. Your woman is changing all the time, just like your life and you have to let both of those things grow and evolve so you can, too.

As a grumpy feminist, I see the ways in which men are granted privilege in our culture, but men are also severely short changed in some ways. As boys, men tend to receive a more rough, brusque quality of love that doesn't prepare them well for giving and receiving gentleness and compassion. Men are also generally taught an emotional vocabulary that is limited largely to happy and angry. Being able to get what we really need in life depends on the ability to express a full, complex range of feelings. And just as men could become more adept at communicating their needs and desires, so could women. Men shouldn't be expected to "just know" what their partners want. We could all stand to communicate with greater frequency and efficacy. No one is masterful at everything always. Men should not expect themselves to be, and their partners shouldn't expect that either. It's so much unnecessary pressure. Men should just be able to be good at what they're good at, and be encouraged to ask for help with everything else. I think this would make for happier men, and happier, healthier relationships overall.

If you're one of those sad guys convinced that every woman is just some __________, ___________, ___________ who's only after you for your ______________, you might want to consider the caliber of women you're choosing...and again, keep in mind how ridiculous it is to claim to know the character of billions of people because you've had some unsatisfactory dating experiences. Stop it. So you got hurt. So it was disappointing. Find a way to let that go and move on. I know we don't live in a culture that encourages you to express feelings, but you're a grown ass man and it's your job to take care of your emotional life. You can learn how.

Sometimes some women do choose to embody those negative things you might attribute to all of us. Don't date those women, and certainly don't marry them. In the same way that women ought to consider why they are attracted to inappropriate men, you ought to consider why you keep finding yourself attracted to women with whom you can't deeply connect. Perhaps you don't really want to be in a relationship at all or are terrified of intimacy. Regardless, you deserve a romantic partner that is, minimally, kind and respectful to you. You can decide whatever else it is that you need and desire.

Every woman decides for herself what's sexy and attractive and necessary in a man. You want to know what she wants? You're going to have to ask. If it turns out it's not what you have to offer, relax. The lady is not a bad person for not wanting anything from you. You are not a failure for not being what she wants. No matter what a catch you are, not everyone is going to be into your deal. And would you want to be with someone who doesn't see you clearly and love you completely? Should you change yourself to fit into their needs and desires? No...the answer is no.

What have we learned here today? No one can tell you what women want because women are humans and humans are wildly complex and diverse (especially human women). Don't worry about being what someone else wants. If you're unhappy on your own, being in a relationship won't make you happy. Work on being the best possible you, someone you would want to be with. Live a life you love. Find and shine your own light. In closing, a wise soundbite from Osho on this very topic:

"Nobody, whether it's your current mate or some dreamed-of partner in the future, has any obligation to deliver your happiness on a platter--nor could they even if they wanted to. Real love comes not from trying to solve our neediness by depending on another, but by developing our own inner richness and maturity. Then we have so much love to give that we naturally draw lovers towards us."

((Much of this could easily be applied for women in relationship to men, men in relationship to men, women in relationship to women...))

Sunday, November 17, 2013

To Be Mastered

"You surrender to a lot of things which are not worthy of you. I wish you would surrender to your radiance...your integrity...your beautiful human grace."
-Yogi Bhajan

Being in the healing business makes one the recipient of a lot of stories and secrets. They vary in tone and content from heartbreaking to heartwarming, triumphant to shame-filled, sacred to irreverent. My favorite stories are those of the healing journey, hearing about and sometimes having the privilege to watch people transforming. I had the joy of bearing witness in such a manner recently, after Donna Quesada's ever gorgeous class at Yoga West. An older gentleman approached me to ask some questions about my practice and tell me his story of a decades long battle with alcoholism. He had been in and out of many types of programs over the years, but shared, with tears in his eyes, that after three days in yoga he had finally found something that made him feel different, that he felt would actually help him. He talked candidly about how afraid he was to lose this feeling and asked how to proceed. We chanted the AA mantra, "Keep coming back. It works if you work it," together, smiling, and then I recalled the above quote from Yogi Bhajan.

The good news is you already know how to surrender, I told him. You spent years of your life surrendered to this substance. You have recognized that your life has become unmanageable, that alcohol has mastered you, and you sincerely wish to change your experience.

Now comes the easier-said-than-done process of giving yourself over, body, mind and soul, to your Highest Good. This will change you, sometimes in ways that are most uncomfortable. There will come a time when you want to slip back into the safe familiarity of the skin you're shedding right now, but it will never be the same. You will be too expansive, too free, and your old ways of being won't soothe you as they once did.

You will be humbled before the disorienting task of learning How To Be all over again. You might stumble like a weak kneed fawn. It might get weird. When you change fundamentally, you stop playing the role you always have and then no one knows what to do with you. You may be met with frustration or distrust while you're making this shift. There may be some people who will cut you out, or who you will have to cut out. There is often a price to pay for following our sacred heart, but it is never too high. It will always be worth it in order to live our truth, to do what is healthy and life giving.

------------------------------------

My own healing path has been strange and fun and uncomfortable and full of backsliding. I used to teach yoga then bounce off to happy hour. I have spent quite a bit of time in AA and Al-Anon, in individual therapy, in healing circles, in acupuncture, in church...but none of it really made me feel different until I became very vibrantly, thoroughly alive through the practice of yoga, specifically, Kundalini. It activated in me an undeniable awareness of my truest self and what was aligned with my Highest Good. In my inexhaustible desire for The Truth, I took the red pill and true to form, there was no going back.

Such is the harrowing aspect of surrender. We don't consider this when we're slipping addiction on. No one thinks, "Oh yeah baby, I'm going to tie on a massive opiate addiction! I'm going to surrender myself completely to this horrible beast! By the time I really let go, I'll be so skinny and unwashed, no one will recognize me!" This happens incrementally. The addict's freedom is slowly chipped away by the dis-ease of addiction until they have a moment of awareness that they've come much further than they ever intended. Sometimes several of these moments have to compound before a person begins to think that it may be time to reevaluate. We go far deeper than we intended because we think we can control the substance. But it is us who is under control.

Surrendering to our radiance, integrity and grace, as Yogi Bhajan suggested, inspires more awareness. We don't consider what might become of us as we wade into addiction, but the outset of revolutionary, positive personal change seems to come with a deep knowing that aggravates the ego something fierce. Cue the ability to suddenly do absolutely anything other than the new habit you're trying to establish. "I was going to meditate but I've suddenly been inspired to pick ALL the lint out of the rug...and make a souffle!"

There is a fear that in the silence and clarity, we will have to face ourselves honestly. And fair enough, because it's true. Everything you've been knowingly avoiding and things you aren't even aware of yet are waiting for you, to be seen, to be felt, to be healed up. Embarking on the healing journey is an act of incredible courage. We decide to walk willingly into the darkness and engage with whatever we find there. It will strip you of some important things you thought you knew about yourself, revealing deeper, truer truths. It will change how you react to and interact with the flow of your life. It will take you places you never thought possible. It will break you...and put you back together again, better, stronger, happier.

What would you like be mastered by? I was once mastered by unhealthy habits and patterns. Despite deep fear and resistance, I chose to sit still, close my eyes and breathe slow. I'm not perfect. I'm not a master of anything yet, but I am slowly surrendering, allowing myself to be mastered by the dawning remembrance of who I really am and alignment with what is best for me.

We have the ability to choose what to surrender to and be mastered by. You will be changed by becoming absorbed in something bigger than you. Being mastered will make you a stranger to yourself and others for a time. With as much consciousness as possible, choose to be mastered by what will give you the most space and freedom, inspire the most joy and be in truest alignment with your Highest Good.

Surrender to a version of yourself who you don't even know yet, who the people that love you know under the noise of all your chaos.
Be mastered by your body's irrepressible desire to thrive.
Become absorbed in that which will elevate you beyond all your illusory limits.
This is your life.
This is your time.
Be brave.
Choose well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Love Story.

Spoiler alert! This won't end well.
Baz Luhrmann ruined my love life. Or rather, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet did. This fabulously flashy spectacle came out when I was a very impressionable adolescent with a preexisting drama condition. I had already read the play and loved the story, but dreamy LeoDiCap and sweet, lovely Claire Danes sealed the deal: If it's not tragic, intense and consuming, it's not real love. (Don't even get me started on Titanic...)

We harbor all kinds of ideas about love and life from stories but none of these are derived more powerfully or importantly than from the way we were raised and our experiences along the way. The way we are loved and the quality of love we witness as we grow up teach what to view and accept as love. This writes our story of love and informs our ability to live openhearted, be intimate, and desire and maintain healthy relationships.

What's your Love Story?
Is it a tragedy? Is it a drama? Is it fraught with conflict? Does it hurt?
Is it a comedy? Does it make you laugh? Is it energizing and uplifting?
Is it a documentary? Does it offer valuable lessons? Is it inspiring?

What sort of love did you receive growing up? What did that teach you to believe about your worth?
What sort of love did you witness growing up? What did that teach you to expect and give in your relationships?

Opinions of love span the gamut from "love is all you need" to "love is a battlefield" and at varying times both may be true. But perhaps coming at our relationships as if they are war zones isn't the healthiest approach. What if love wasn't tumultuous or violent, burdensome or shaming, tragic, dramatic or consuming? What if it wasn't a game or a war where there are competitors, and winners and losers? There is conflict inherent at some point in all human relationships, but with compassion, respect and open communication, these moments can transform the relationship and the people in it, creating a deeper understanding, more love, respect and growth.

Life has enough naturally occurring difficulty that we don't need to burden ourselves with weighty, unsupportive relationships. If our Love Story tells us that this quality of relationship is Real Love, it may be time to reevaluate. I've long feared the boredom I perceive to be lurking in the stability and calm of a healthy relationship. Unhealthy relationships have become just as unsatisfying as I imagine it may be boring to be happy, though. What if happy was slanderously rebranded as boring? And what if people with addictions to suffering rebranded it so everyone would remain just as miserable as them? "Oh no, haven't you heard? Happiness is boring now. Dissatisfaction is the new black."

If your Love Story swings from agony to ecstasy, consider how nice it may be to spend more time somewhere in the middle, in the "boring" hum of happiness and consistency. Conflict will arise (it's even healthy if handled well!), but if the relationship isn't life giving and affirming the majority of the time, what are you doing? All our relationships, romantic or otherwise, should be inspiring and uplifting, challenge us to grow beyond our limits and nurture our passions. If a relationship becomes consistently unsupportive, unloving or ever becomes abusive in any way, leaving should be at the top of the to do list. No one likes letting go, but honestly, what are you holding on to? Life being a struggle from cradle to grave is a story to be disbelieved. Happiness is our birthright.

Let your love be an offering, a sharing, a partner puzzle, an inspiration, a party, the right kind of touch, a perfectly ripe persimmon, a secret smile, a gentle confrontation, an intimate whisper.
Let your love light up the life of your beloved.
This Big Love, given and received gracefully.
It's what we all deserve.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just Right, Right Now

http://shop.soworthloving.com/
"I approve. I approve. You can do what you do. I approve of you." -Charlie Getter

Sometimes I accuse myself of being lazy. Then I find myself deep into a project, without thought of eating or sleeping, and I realize that there's a difference between being lazy and being unmotivated. When it comes to the things that inspire my passionate focus, I am a tireless, dedicated perfectionist. My standards are exacting and occasionally unrealistic. There's some control neurosis wrapped up in that, but it's moreso due to a desire to make the world a perfectly, ideally beautiful place. Why settle for anything that's not exactly right? Work until your fingers bleed, until you fall over out of sheer exhaustion.

There's nowhere that these rigorous requirements are enforced more stringently than inside my own head and heart. For someone who works helping people to breathe, heal and feel good, I am not especially nice to myself. I know I'm not alone in this. The idea of being ones own toughest critic far predates me. I suppose the harshness is a sort of insulation against criticism. If I thoroughly point out how flawed I am, I beat everyone else to it. "Yeah whatever I already know that about myself!" That seems healthy...

Recently, I began to notice the effects of this fascist rule over myself in my yoga practice. I have been participating in these online challenges, posting daily video and photos of assigned poses. It's been a wondrous and expansive exploration of my capabilities and limits. I've gained new skills and confidence, and made friends with a really sweet mama yogi in Sweden. The dark side of this was watching all the joy get sucked out of something that I love by my monstrous need to be perfect. It was only after I pulled a rib out of alignment that I had some (mandatory) space and stillness to fully feel how painful it can be to treat ourselves so militantly.

One of my favorite wise sound bites from a teacher of mine is: "Space and freedom through stability and discipline." Sweat and focus are a kind of alchemy that transform our efforts to pure gold. Hard work is a good and right thing, but we have to be easy about it. There is a balance point there, one we will always be playing with because the demands of our lives change all the time. Very few beings exist in a perfect state of balance and peace, and that's okay because we're not perfect and we never will be. We will have moments of utter perfection, only to teeter again on our axis. And that's okay! I came across this quote a few days ago that touches on this exploration of (unconditional) self-love:

"Dear Human: You've got it all wrong. You didn't come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn't come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love, in truth, doesn't need ANY other adjectives. It doesn't require modifiers. It doesn't require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. It’s enough. It’s Plenty." -Courtney A. Walsh

The pillars holding up our capitalist society as it exists are the truth that we are imperfect, and the lies that we need to be perfect and that someone can sell you something which will make that possible. When you weigh this much or own this car then, THEN you will be perfect! It's all possible...for a price. Even self-help gurus peddle this shrill, tired rhetoric. When you read my book and recite these mantras then, THEN you will be perfect!

Even I, who love self-exploration and -improvement, am reaching a point where the impulse is to take a step back and simply admire what is just right, right now. [[I could be more consistently grateful. I could spend less time on the internet. I could have a stronger home practice.]] I spend a lot of time thinking things like this, striving to be the best possible version of myself, to find that space and freedom through my stability and discipline. But dang, lady, when will it ever be enough? When will I ever be enough? What will it take?

It's a sad thing to think that we could go our whole lives never experiencing our own unconditional approval and love. This constant dissatisfaction drives many to "success," but can you actually enjoy that success if you never feel like what you've done is good enough?

What I propose is what I will always propose: a softening and a surrender.
Soften to your own weaknesses, fears and ugliness. The only way to ever really get better is to shine a light into your dark places. Pack a picnic. Bring your curiosity, compassion and courage. Maybe bring a good friend or therapist. Illuminate and give expression to everything inside you that you've smothered for so long, that will eventually make you small, hard, angry or drive you mad.

Surrender to unconditional self-approval. Let it wash over you like a wave. Let it take you in like a warm embrace. You can love yourself really well and still strive for greatness. In fact, I'd wager that achieving great things will be all the more satisfying if you can celebrate and approve of your success. I'll even go so far as to say that it's not really success if you can't celebrate it. If you are not enjoying the journey of your life, what are you doing? When you look in the mirror ask the question, "Do you love me?" and begin to answer Yes! wholeheartedly, every single time, no matter what.

We're trained to seek and need external approval from very early on. It's a kind of survival necessity. As we grow, hopefully we begin to learn the song of our hearts, developing the confidence to trust and sing this sacred truth loud and clear. This authentic confidence can only come from a deep, internal well of self-approval. It gives us the strength to say what needs to be said, even if it's unpopular. So much of my life has been difficultly defined by a hungry search for external approval. It is only now that I see that I was begging, manipulating, compromising and waiting for something that no one else could ever give me. What a tremendous waste of time! 

This is my commitment to give myself the sort of love and approval I've always wanted. No more waiting. There are far too many truths to speak and risks to take, far too much messy, gloriously beautiful and imperfect human experience to miss. I approve. I celebrate. You and I. Right now.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Deposits and Withdrawals

http://therumpus.net/2011/02/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-64/
In all our relationships, whether they be romantical, friendly or familial, there is a sort of common sense equation we can employ to maintain equilibrium. We make deposits towards the strength and health of the relationship with consistent kindness, integrity and presence. When our feeble humanness overtakes our angelic nature, we make withdrawals from the relationship with our bad behavior. If we have taken the time and effort to make deposits into our account with the other person, the relationship will not become overdrawn when we have those moments that everyone refers to when they say, "Well, everyone has their moments..." The greater and more regular the deposits, the stronger and healthier the connection, the more of your humanness it can withstand.

One of my special witchy gifts is the ability to accurately predict the long term potential of couples I know. It's only partially due to psychicness, and mostly the result of being good at math. If both halves of the couple are making loving and respectful deposits into the account, and only making withdrawals of a reasonable size periodically, or of a larger size sparingly, the couple has a good shot at happy longevity. If not, well, they have a good shot at making each other pretty miserable until one too many checks bounce, and one or both parties call it quits. It's pretty simple: give more than you take, offer more than you ask. Sharing is caring.

Of course, it's not like we're keeping track, assigning some kind of ethical monetary value to the behaviors of our friends, family and lovers. Texting just to see how I am? How sweet! +20 relationship bucks! Forgetting to take out the trash when I've already asked you so many times? RAWR! -30 relationships bucks! It's not about "being even," or being sweet now to buy yourself some asshole time later. We do the right thing simply because it's the right thing. Sometimes we're hungry or tired or depressed and the right thing is impossible. Luckily, because you have invested so much so consistently into the account, your loved one understands that you love them even if you're not acting like it right then.

Unless you haven't been. If you experience a sudden lack of support in a relationship that was formerly supportive, it may be a good indication that you have exhausted your resources with that person. Relationships of all kinds require an exchange of energy. If you see a therapist, they listen to you talk and you pay them. If someone besides a paid professional listens to you talk all the time and you never take the time to ask how they are and listen to them, don't be surprised when they stop listening. Everyone has a limit to how much they're able or willing to give, and it's usually directly proportional to the effort you expended before. This is where we see what we've sewn.

Because human relationships are gloriously complex and messy, even the best math doesn't always apply. Sometimes the deposits you make don't end up in the account. They are immediately spent or outright rejected by a person whose account with themselves is so empty that they have nothing to offer or feel unworthy to receive. When you're momentarily unloving, they cease to believe their status as your loved one because they don't actually believe themselves to be loveable. Alternately, they will take all the love you have to fill their own void and offer you little or nothing in return. This, my dears, is what we call codependency. Someone is offering more than they get, someone is getting more than they offer, and it's not ultimately sustainable or healthy for anyone involved.

There are some withdrawals that are simply too massive and damaging. There is no preparing for or repairing later. The real sneaky killers, though, are small daily withdrawals that are not replaced with sufficient, consistent deposits. The degradation that is done to the account with days grown into years of little slights and lack of appreciation is terribly hard to make up for later, if it can be made up for at all. Both parties have to shift radically in order to bring balance back to the account, and change is challenging, especially in deeply established habits and patterns.

As it is with all shifts, the change begins within. Every relationship in our lives is built on the foundation of our relationship with ourselves. If the inner environment is unhealthy, unkind, unbalanced, it cannot be expected that the outer environment will be any different. I am loath to quote Rumi anymore, but he wrote this smart, true, applicable thing: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." Once some inner love and balance has been established, it becomes much easier to feel the areas in our lives that are lacking and either let them go or work it out.

And how do we work it out?
We make our relationships a consistent exchange of respect, gratitude, time, attention, and kindness big and small.
We make far more deposits than withdrawals.
We recognize our responsibility to give ourselves the kind of love and approval that can only come from within.
We hold onto grace.
Because it is ultimately grace that we are gifted when our loved ones choose to unsee our foibles.
They know we love them because we show them all the time, and they have the grace to overlook it when we don't.
We say Thank You for this act of faith and unconditional love.
We return it when the time comes, and it will.
Because we all have our moments.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Gilded Cage of Magical Moments

Time stretches both languorously and lightening fast between that moment and this one. The more time that I feel there between us and our eyes and their first electric meeting, the more I begin to wonder about The Magic that I've spent the last three years steeping That Moment in. I gave the millionth retelling of The Story the other night before a new friend suggested that These Magical Moments could simply exist in their particular time and space without attempts to prolong them. Some story arcs span decades, some only a matter of hours or days, but the length matters little. Strangers can transform our lives in an instant with their love or hate, kindness or courage. Just because a moment doesn't last "forever" doesn't mean that it wasn't magical.

Por ejemplo: At the beginning of summer I took a spectacular, sweet, sweaty trip to New Orleans. One afternoon found me solo adventuring, as I'm apt to do, through the French Quarter on the way to a yoga class. I stopped to admire some street art and was engaged in conversation by a wizened older woman eating ice cream. Set behind her network of yawning wrinkles and weathered skin were eyes of an unfathomable depth and complexity. She ended up being one of the most profound and authentic spiritual teachers I've yet to have, a living sage who blessed me with her clarity of vision and powerful prayer. It was a deeply moving, magical exchange, the ripples of which may still be spreading, but which I will not attempt to retain or extend.

On the other hand, one can try to write forever into the narrative, which we'll call "future building." Even if a moment with someone was magical or cosmic, it doesn't mean that we will be sharing long term destiny with them. I'm not a big proponent of the one night stand, but the usefulness and natural flow of some connections really doesn't extend beyond an evening. However, we interpret The Magic as a lighthouse in the otherwise terrifying and unknown darkness that is the future, and begin building an as-yet-nonexistent reality based on this Feeling which may be meant to expire very soon. There is no way to know what It means in reality without being willing to walk into the darkness and find out as your story unfolds. As scary as that can be, isn't part of the fun of life marveling at this intricate and delicate unfolding, at how many things go right for us every day?

Of course, there is challenge and heartache built into the experience of life. Future building doesn't inoculate us against that, though. If anything, nonacceptance of the transitory and ultimately terminal nature of all things creates more suffering as we cling to our ideal vision. The narrative is ever evolving. You don't know what It is and what It means until you know, and it's okay not to know. It's okay to fumble through the darkness without understanding the nature and scope of the entire arc. You may never understand.

Perhaps through the wisdom of time and space, though, you may begin to see the arc. Perhaps this will calm the nervous bird that wanted so badly to perch forever on the moment that you spent years gilding. Perhaps you will begin to be able to appreciate that that singular moment pales in comparison to the flow of grace and magic that followed. Perhaps you will find that you were right; the moment was magical and important, just not in any of the ways that you could've imagined at the time. Perhaps you will see that today's reality is far better than the previously built future. And maybe, just maybe, you will let the magic moment take its rightful place as something nice that happened one afternoon three years ago that initiated you into a wholly transformative, massively magical adventure.

You will finally understand what It Is and what It Means (for now) and in this knowledge, you will be free.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Build the Bridge

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." -Ephesians 4:29

"You are communicating for a better tomorrow, not to spoil today." -Yogi Bhajan

Bridges carry cars and bikes and people from one side of something to the other. We're told not to burn them, but how many of us have been instructed in how to build them? Revenge is far more sexy and exciting than forgiveness, but ultimately it is cowardly. It takes far more courage to forgive or ask for forgiveness. We must be very brave to tactfully articulate our grievances or concerns to another, or to respectfully listen to this feedback.

Bridge building is an act of grace and love, making a way for peace in our relationships. It is also an act of great vulnerability, trusting that the recipient of our offer will be open minded and listen. To admit you were wrong or forgive a wrong requires a softening, a letting go of "being right," which is a seductive but alienating sort of armor. Soften. Drop the armor. Speak the words that need speaking. Listen. Allow your softness and receptivity to build a bridge so that you may find harmony in all your relationships, especially the intimate ones.

But. Just because we build the bridge doesn't mean that the other person will cross it, or that they have an obligation to do so. Pride or hurt may prevent them from admitting their wrong or forgiving you yours. We can only control our own words and deeds. What matters is the sincere, expectation-less building, the catch-free offer to clear the air. We make the offer, softly, with curiosity and openness, and we let go of attachments to the outcome. Be brave. Be vulnerable. Build the bridge to peace in all your relationships.



Here is my invitation: if you have a grumble or grievance with me, please tell me. I am building a bridge between us, offering you this opportunity to (respectfully) confront me and have a dialogue about how I've hurt or offended you. I want to experience peace and ease in all my relationships. If you feel a lack of peace or ease with me, please say so. I am curious, open and ready to listen. Thank you for the chance to do my part to make it right, whatever it is. I love you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Doing the Deepest, Fullest, Most Perfect Thing Today

We were coming in to Virabhadrasana II and we all knew what we were doing. After surveying the room at the start of class, he noted that we had all been there several times and said, "You already know how to do this. So instead of fidgeting, I want you to go right into the deepest, fullest, most perfect expression of the pose you can do today."

How often do we know what the right thing is and even how to do it, but choose to fidget instead? Because the deepest, fullest, most perfect expression of the moment is more difficult than fidgeting. Because our best effort has not become ingrained habit yet and the right thing is still a bit uncomfortable in its unfamiliarity. We know what it is, but do the easier thing.

This is not how your life changes. Maybe you're perfectly happy, no change necessary. If not, if you have even the slightest inkling that something is off, consider that this fruit was born of the seeds you planted. Plant new seeds, get new fruit. Make different choices, see different results. If we know better, what are we doing practicing the wrong choice when the right choice lives inside us, ready to be made? Does it require consciousness and discipline to change habits? Yes. Is it awkward and challenging to do something new? It can be. But that's no reason not to try.

Do it right because you know it's the right thing to do. Do it right because you have the strength and smarts to live in integrity. Do it right because the deepest, fullest, most perfect response to life is a rich and vibrant place to live. Do it right and do it right now.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Three Years Later

"Even in the ever-changing flow of life there are moments in which we come to a point of completion. In these moments we are able to perceive the whole picture, the composite of all the small pieces that have occupied our attention for so long. In the finishing, we can either be in despair because we don't want the situation to come to an end, or we can be grateful and accepting of the fact that life is full of endings and new beginnings.

Whatever has been absorbing your time and energy is now coming to an end. In completing it, you will be clearing the space for something new to begin. Use this interval to celebrate both - the end of the old and the coming of the new." -Osho


It was almost three years ago. We made eye contact through the window and I recognized you immediately. Your eyes are the eyes I saw years before in a (possibly) prophetic vision that I'd forgotten about until, my goodness, there they were! I get this feeling in my body before something entirely important and life altering happens, this anxious, excited, anticipatory buzz that ignited within me in that moment. There you are. Where in the world have you been?

You made a big move. I became a gypsy. Almost three years later, I am bemused to find that we are both in the exact same place, but even more so. You are moments away from an even bigger move. I am moments away from the extraction of the major remaining roots that kept this gypsy at all tethered. We are both poised on the edge, preparing to jump into brand new volumes of life...you, once again, into something neatly manifested, me, into the great, wild, wide open wilderness. Of course, no matter how neat the plan, every step we take is a wild one, always living and leaning on grace. But here we are. There you are. Where in the world have you been?

Over the course of my life, so many people have lived strongly in my consciousness for a time only to slip away on some inauspicious night, rarely to be thought of again. Except you. The size of the mental real estate you occupy waxes and wanes, but you remain even as I have tried to replace and forget you. If your eyes are not the eyes I saw years before in that (possibly) prophetic vision, then what are you still doing here? If you are not my beloved, then you must go to make room for the one who is; the real owner of the eyes that will make prophecy from my vision.

As we perch on this ledge of new beginning again, I can't help but feel a closing, an ending, a completion in the story that we began that afternoon in October. I wondered what you might mean to me and it turns out, you have been just as important as I intuited you to be, but perhaps in different ways than I envisioned (but isn't that always the way?). I am forever grateful for what you have brought in to my life and how that helped deliver me to this moment. Part of me wants to believe that you will remain importantly in my life and that the completion afoot is an ending of the way we were with one another and the elevation of our relating. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. This much I know for sure...

We must only take what is freely offered.
Only freely offered love is true.
True love is the only sort of love I want.

Tonight I ask God to cut the ties between us that bind. You are free to live and love as you will, and you always were. If we are beloveds, God will draw us together as He did so perfectly before. I wanted to make you see what I see, I wanted to pry your love from your hands, but no more. All I want is what's written for us, what's right and true, graceful and authentic, aligned and destined. Among other things, the last three years have cultivated within me this commitment to and joyful celebration of Reality.

I joyfully celebrate whatever It Is.
I let myself off this hook.
I love you for everything you were and are and will be,
even as I, perhaps, let you slip away on this inauspicious night.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Jesus is My Guru

Years ago I spent Easter with my boyfriend's family. The day began with a ridiculously fun, all-adult egg hunt, and was rounded out with brunch and Easter service at the new age Christian church that his family attended. The church was housed in a large, almost industrial space in a strip mall, and immediately offended my sense of reverence. My faith was formed in beautiful, old, columned and marble shrines to God where everything was taken quite seriously; Catholicism may be stuffy and archaic, but it sure has produced some impeccable architecture. This church, on the other hand, looked like it could easily be converted into a Best Buy. Surely this is not a place where God dwells, I thought. The service included Christian rock music, the lyrics of which were projected on the wall and an impassioned sermon from a cool young guy in jeans. Naturally, I thought the whole show was bizarre, and my boyfriend and I laughed about it later.

Time passes, as it does. I get really deep in to yoga, which opens my mind and heart back up to the spiritual enrichment possible inside churches. I attend mass with my mom whenever I'm home on a Sunday and sometimes walk over the hill to Saint Peter and Paul in North Beach because it's just so pretty. The better sermons lead me to deeper inquiry and exploration of my relationship with God. I even begin to study the character of Jesus, who is present but not heavily emphasized in Catholicism, and to whom I have never felt particularly connected. Through a wild, winding series of events, I find myself in Los Angeles because God told me there were people I needed to meet and things I needed to learn at this time that would be delivered there. Nine months into my stay here, thanks to the influence of a tremendous new friend, I arrive quite unexpectedly one Sunday evening...

in a new age Christian church housed in a modern former theater with a Christian rock band whose lyrics are projected on the wall and impassioned sermons from a cool young guy in jeans.

And this time I'm not laughing. This time I'm in joyful tears, my heart overflowing, because my whole being has just been flooded with a light like a salve for the wound. Mosaic presents faith, God and, most predominately, Jesus, in a way that is relatable, relevant and easy to apply in order to make you and the world around you better, brighter, truer, more graceful, more loving and more aligned with God's unique plan for your life. The version of me all those Easters ago would be in shock and awe at the spiritual home I've found and how profoundly right and life giving it feels to be there. The message and story of Jesus that the pastors of Mosaic share is changing and healing my heart in ways I have struggled with for years. It reminds me of a piece of ecstatic poetry about Jesus written by Symeon the New Theologian a long time ago that I identify with now:
...-Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ's body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light,
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Pastor Erwin told a story I heard recently in which a woman lamented to him that Jesus was a building she was running around but couldn't find the way in. He countered that it was she that was the building and Jesus was running around her, looking for the way in. In all the softening and surrender that I have been working on in my yoga practice, it would seem that what I have invited in is, most surprising to me, a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is with me now to lead me, like the best and truest guru, from darkness to light, from the past into the unimaginably glorious future God is creating for me. And through Jesus, in whom all things are possible, I was finally able to recognize that He was what was missing from my life.

This coming Sunday, I am choosing a life of faith as a conscious adult through the celebration of baptism. I am deeply grateful for this outward recognition of what is already happening within: the covenant made with God as I surrender to a life lived joyfully in service to Him. Through this journey, as I continue to explore this new relationship, I look forward to Jesus growing my love big enough to envelop the whole world and everyone in it.

Big Time Love: it's what Jesus would do, and what I hope to live in every breath and word and action.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

On The Hook/Off The Hook

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -Galatians 5:1

Freedom is a funny thing. Like oxygen, its intangibility makes it easy to take for granted until it's gone and suddenly you cannot breathe. Although slavery has become passe, there are people in this world who still toil in bondage, forced to work in a mine or factory or brothel against their will. For those of us lucky enough not to live under such circumstances, we might feel as though we are quite free, and relatively speaking, we are. However, all but the most enlightened of us are bound in other ways that limit our choices, creativity, honest expression and vision. Some of these binds are innocuous or necessary, but others are unhelpful at best, deadly destructive at worst. How are you bound? Where do you give away your freedom?

Step 4: Make a searching and fearless inventory

If we are to be free, we must first determine how we are not free. For some people, this is easy. Their shackles have grown to such an obvious size and weight that they cannot deny them. They are stuck on a big hook, they made a big ol' mess while wriggling around, everyone around them has noticed, and their loved ones (and sometimes a judge) hold them accountable for the clean up. With the sudden recognition that they've lost agency in their lives, this is often when people go to rehab, into therapy, into AA (and start smoking), find religion, get in to yoga (and become raw macrobiotic vegans), etc. It's socially unacceptable to make a mess so large, and to do it so publicly. But what about the secret, quiet messes? The smaller, normalized hooks?

Most people aren't hooked on crack, but everyone has a hook or two...or ten. What are yours? In what ways do they limit your life? Can you live with that?

In the spirit of being searching and fearless, I'll go first. I'm hooked on all kinds of things! Sugar/fat/salt. Control. Personal and spiritual exploration. Complication. Shame and guilt. Anger. The list goes on...

All my hooks have to do with the conditioning I've undergone throughout my life that taught me how to be and how things are. With the exception of personal and spiritual exploration, which enables this sort of inquiry, all my hooks hold me back in some way to some degree. They have become like masters to me, but only because I have allowed them to be. I have been a willing slave, closing the lock and swallowing the key to my own freedom.

The time has come to choose new masters. I want to be mastered by and be a slave only to that which is committed to my freedom. Grace. Beauty. Truth. Ease. Surrender. Peace. Goodness. Reality. Deep Love. Yoga. God...to name a few. I will wriggle off the hooks that harm instead of help, and choose to align myself with people, emotions, ideas and experiences that elevate and evolve my consciousness.

There is another part to this. We have identified the ways in which we are bound and chosen new masters that are committed to our freedom. Now, how can we help free others? If our loved ones are on a harmful hook that they haven't identified as such, we can lovingly bring this to their attention. And if we are the hook that someone else hangs on, we can do everything possible to compassionately let them off. "But wait!" you say, "I can't control how other people feel!" No, we can't, but we can become masters committed to freeing anyone bound by false ideas of who we are and what we offer. If they remain on our hook once they know the truth of our feelings and intentions, that is their choice. At least we have tried, and try we must.

With honesty, with courage, with clarity...All beings rise up free.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Between My Maker and I

Suddenly this thought occurred to me: that where he is in his development is none of my business. It is solely between he and his God. I can expend a whole lot of time lamenting the unmet potential I see, but hiding behind the guise of me championing for his highest good is judgement. There is a time, a place and a way to hold people accountable for their greatness that is respectful and uplifting, but the way I am approaching this is neither of those things.

We could consider yoga in the same way. You're on the mat, holding Trikonasana and breathing, a gentle smile on the lips, the eyes gazing softly upwards, past your fingertips... Unless you're checking out the alignment of the people around you, mentally adjusting their posture. It's become like a tic. You can't help but want to see everyone perfectly aligned in the full expression of the pose. You know what's possible now and are practically demanding that everyone meet your ideal vision. Ahem. How unyogic is that?

As we watch and judge others, it it likely that in that very moment someone is doing the same to us. When I fall out of a pose, because I have reached a certain noticeable level of skill, I wonder how those around me are reacting. Hopefully they're so adsorbed in their experience that it goes unnoticed, but in the competitive environments in which I find myself, I'm inclined to think it's more along the lines of, "Thank goodness she's not perfect! I feel better about myself!" or something more judge-y like, "She acts so perfect. Look at her now."

Mentally critiquing the alignment of my fellow students is not making me a better yogi. It does nothing for the refinement of my own postures. That's the thing about comparison: it teaches you what others are capable of, but if you want to find out who you are, you have only to see if you're fulfilling your potential in the best way you know how. This inquiry requires us to stand before ourselves and do the hard, honest work of assessing how happy we are with what we've made of our lives. When the answer is, "Not happy at all," it's easy to avoid the harder follow up question, "What am I going to do to change?" by trying to control or being critical of someone else.

This is the real weakness- not admitting that you have made a mistake, are flawed and attempting to change, but righteously demanding perfection that you yourself cannot even attain. It speaks to a cowardly inability to be honest even with yourself about where you are and what work you have to do. It's a great expenditure of energy for an activity that does nothing to benefit you and will weaken the relationship with the recipient of your harsh assessment.

There are times to offer adjustments to others... When someone is doing something that will likely result in injury. When someone needs that push to go a bit farther or deeper. We offer this encouragement with respect to the fact that their practice belongs to them alone. It's ultimately not any of our business how deep or strong it is. It is called yoga practice, not yoga perfect. Let's let each other off the hook a bit. Perfection is a myth, anyway, and it's way more fun to celebrate the bold attempts rather than criticize the failures.

This is your life, this is your practice. Make it whatever it needs to be to fulfill your destiny. At the end of the day, the choices you make are between you, your God and no one else.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Waiting

Each season of the year brings about a bit of nostalgia. In fall, it's for apple picking and subsequent pie baking. In summer, it's for falling in love for the first time. Charlie and I were introduced through mutual friends and experienced an immediate intimacy. We poured our stories and secrets out with the sort of intense urgency that only teenagers can muster, and came to know each other completely within a matter of weeks. Yet although we were deeply connected emotionally and wildly hormonal, we never slept together (which I credit for the existence of our friendship all these years later). It was summer and there were plenty of opportunities, but we weren't ready. So we held hands and kissed endlessly, sweetly, in front of the mall, at the movies and everywhere else. And that was plenty.

Recently, I was rewatching an episode of Sex In The City in which the sassier of the token gays tells Charlotte that she better get laid soon or it would "grow over." Once we become sexually active, the expectation seems to be that you must be having sex all the time, but what if that is more than we need? What if it becomes a compulsion, an addiction or a debasement rather than a beautiful, transcendent experience that two people share? Sex does have the potential to be an act of love, but far too often, especially in our younger years and despite how intimate of an exchange it naturally is, sex is used as a way to keep people at a distance while feigning real intimacy. You can pretend to really care about someone in the hot and heavy of it, in the intensity and passion, but will you be there when it counts? When your partner's world is crumbling around them, or they are experiencing incredible joy and success, will you be there to witness and share in those moments?

This is true intimacy and it has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. Sex is an animal act inspired by instinct and hormones. The only thing that makes it different is the intention we bring to it as supposedly conscious beings. You can continue to fuck like an animal, but is that really what you need? Other than a temporary rush of pleasure, what is this doing for the development of your consciousness and the elevation of your soul?

For the first decade of my sexual history, I had no concept of this. I had had two partners, both of whom I loved. It was not until my late 20s that I came to understand how base sex could be, how terribly lonely and unloving it could be to be so close to someone and yet so far away. Don't get me wrong! It's been a valuable experience and I've had a lot of fun, but no matter how satisfied I've been in the moment, it never lasted. Each let down hollowed my heart out a bit more, stole a bit of my shine, and developed within me the terrible ability to not care about someone with whom I'd shared such a personal moment.

It was the startling recognition of this growing misandry and jadedness that led me to decide that when it comes to sex without love, it is more than I need. In inviting in these experiences, I have given up my freedom to live with a soft, open heart and to love without fear. I have become hard in some ways, learned how to use sex to put up walls and feign closeness. In all this, my sexuality has become a burdensome cage, these unhealthy habits limiting and degrading. The time has come to set my heart free. It is the time of a Revolution of Innocence.

Therefore, from here on out I give myself the gift of time and space: Plenty of time in which to slowly get to know potential partners. Plenty of space between us, allowing hands held and kisses shared to once again be plenty. Sex is not a mandatory requirement of adulthood; taking wise care of your own physical and emotional safety, however, is. No one can do it for you. It's up to you to draw and hold firm boundaries.

It is my intention that the next partner I have be my Beloved. There will be many obstacles for him to overcome on the path to my heart, but he will be so honorable, so courageous, so strong that nothing will stop him. Anyone who is not those things, who cannot keep up, is simply not my guy. I will wait in the middle of this ocean of time and space, buoyed by the knowledge that I am worthy of someone with the ability and the determination to make the long swim to meet me where I am.

For as long as it takes, I will wait.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dealbreakers for My Beloved

There comes a time in every person's life (hopefully!) when settling for anything less than perfect becomes intolerable. That time has come for me. The following is a list of commandments for anyone who would seek out an intimate relationship with me. As I am a Rich and Royal Queen, I deserve to have all these needs met. Good luck!

The Commandments, in some sort of order

1) Thou shalt be Real
Because there's nothing less attractive than a liar. Tell the truth of who you are and do it now.

2) Thou shalt be Present
I'm looking for a partner, yo. You best strive to fully occupy the space of now.

3) Thou shalt love and serve God
My primary relationship is with the Divine. If yours is not, we won't have a whole lot to talk about.

4) Thou shalt enjoy time alone
Do you like the company you keep when you're solo? No? Ruhoh!

5) Thou shalt have an active spiritual life and practice
You should probably do some yoga and meditate. You should definitely not be a scientologist.

6) Thou shalt recognize, respect and appreciate the Totality of My Infinite Being
Aren't we all looking for someone who knows us completely and loves us unconditionally?

7) Thou shalt take care of your health (physical, mental, emotional, etc)
You're a grown ass man. I'm not your mom (ew). Feed yourself. Handle your life.

8) Thou shalt be humble enough to ask for help when needed
But of course, if you ask nicely, I'd love to bake you a potpie from scratch. Or return your books* to the library (*see Commandment 19) on my way to work. But a closed mouth doesn't get fed, honey. I'm only a little bit psychic. Ask.

9) Thou shalt have faith and confidence in yourself
The hotness of a man in a well cut suit is second only to the hotness of a man who is living the truth of his worth.

10) Thou shalt be a creative and confident lover
Can you keep up?

11) Thou shalt do work that you love and are passionate about
If you hate your work, I'm going to have to hear about it all the time. And you won't be living an inspired and  purposeful life, which would be a bummer for you. Live your potential.

12) Thou shalt have your own friends and spend time with them
How can I miss you if you won't go away?

13) Thou shalt be adventurous and open to new experiences
Especially with travel. This is very important.

14) Thou shalt love and be kind and respectful to children
It's not that I necessarily want children so much as I know I'm destined to have them. It's just a matter of when. It freaks me out, so I'm hoping to find someone who will more or less joyfully join me in attempting to raise healthy, functional humans.

15) Thou shalt have a fantastic sense of humor
It should be silly, a little bit dry, a little bit salty, a little bit dirty.

16) Thou shalt be flexible
Sometimes I evolve so quickly that it makes my head spin. I can only imagine how the people outside my head feel. Will you evolve with me?

17) Thou shalt only take what is freely offered and offer what you can do so freely
If everyone followed this guideline, most of the world's problems would be solved. If we follow this guideline, it'll make for a much more harmonious partnership.

18) Thou shalt get comfortable with the discomfort of the unfamiliar
Sometimes life gets weird. I can't have you freaking out every time it does. Keep calm, darlin.

19) Thou shalt own and read books
Because John Waters says I shouldn't be with you if you don't. And I can't raise kiddos with a non-reader. Oh gosh, no.

20) Thou shalt keep a warm and welcoming home
There are few things I love more than feeding people in my home. If you do, too, we'll get along just fine!

21) Thou shalt realize that I am almost always right
I really am. If I argue a point, which I rarely do, it's because I'm sure of it. Every once in awhile I'm wrong. I'll be the first to admit it.

22) Thou shalt tell me when I have food in my teeth
Or my fly is down. Or you think I might need a nap or food or a glass of water. Let's cover each other's gaps.

23) Thou shalt give me a break sometimes
I'm not perfect and I know you're not either and I love that about both of us.

24) Thou shalt value, respect and adore me
Duh.

If you think your experience and skill set is a good match for the position, please inquire. You should be prepared for other commandments to be put forth, and old ones to change or disappear. I am a woman, after all- ever flowing with the tides, well worth the glorious ride. Come correct.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Light Unto Yourself

"O my friends,
What can you tell me of Love,
Whose pathways are filled with strangeness?
When you offer the Great One your love,
At the first step your body is crushed.
Next be ready to offer your head as his seat.
Be ready to orbit his lamp like a moth giving in to the light,
To live in the deer as she runs toward the hunter's call,
In the partridge that swallows hot coals for love of the moon,
In the fish that, kept from the sea, happily dies.
Like a bee trapped for life in the closing of the sweet flower,
Mira has offered herself to her Lord.
She says, the single Lotus will swallow you whole." -Mirabai

Mirabai was an Indian princess turned deeply reverent and pious Krishna devotee who flouted severely strict tradition and familial expectation to worship her Lord. Her independence and the strength of her vision and devotion have been a great inspiration to me over the last five years as I melt and merge ever more with the deep and endless ocean that is my own experience of the Divine. 

Nearly three years ago, I began chanting a nightly prayer from the Sikh tradition called So Purkh offered up for the healing and elevation of the men in my life. Aside from being a blessing for them, it is said to attract a woman's true beloved. Hundreds of days and thousands of repetitions later, I'm not sure that I'm any closer to finding my sweetheart, the man whose eyes I've already seen in the vision I had long ago of the daughter we will someday create. Sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of him, but as far as I can tell, he has yet to be revealed to me. Every night I chant with reverence, thanking the Divine for preparing my sweetheart and I for one another and for bringing us together in the right place at the right time.

Lately, I've begun to harbor a growing impatience for the pace of this part of my story. Where IS he?? I have been technically single for what feels like ages and while I recognize all the ways in which this has been highly valuable, I feel ready for a different experience. There are some things that we can only learn when looking in the mirror of the other, and I am hot to get at all this new insight. Come on, man! I want it all, all the exquisite, ecstatic, humbling, challenging, empowering, enlightening, maddening glory of intimate relationship. I have cultivated rich inner depth! I have so much to share and still so much to learn! Where is my partner? Where is the missing piece of my prophetic vision?

On the flip side, I know from experiences painful and frustrating how important it is to take only what is being freely offered (or in yogic yama speak, asteya). Timing is precious delicate. If it were time it would be time, but it is not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or...never?

What if there is no partner? The eerily accurate yogurt shop psychic, Miss Tina, predicted a lasting lifelong love, but what if she was wrong? Or the plan shifted? It's not like we really understand how this whole life thing works anyway, death being the only certainty. What if it is Just Me?

Fantastic! I'm an extremely easy, lovely person to be with most of the time. It might get lonely sometimes, but that's okay. It's okay to be alone.

Thing is, though, I'm not alone; never have been, am not, never will be. Like Mirabai, I have recognized that my life belongs to the Divine and I seek to melt like wax being softened by the burning truth of my eternal connection to and place in Divinity. My primary relationship is with God and everything else flows from the understanding that it is He whom I serve in this life, not myself or anyone else. I read this incredible, cheeky-but-accurate blog post titled, "Guide to Dating a Yoga Goddess" years ago, this part of which is especially resonate these days:

"A Yoga Goddess will worship God first, then you, if you’re lucky. A Yoga Goddess is comfortable being alone. The spiritual journey is a lonely path since the road less traveled is never crowded. She is used to solitude, comfortable with its pleasures and pains and has used time alone to contemplate and commune with God. A Yoga Goddess has taken the time to know and understand herself and her relationship to the divine and it will be nearly impossible to share a meaningful life with her if you are not inclined to do the same...A Yoga Goddess has a connection to the divine that preceded you and God is the center of her universe, not you." -Namaste, Bitches

You don't have to worship or even believe in God to passionately devote your life, to surrender yourself completely to your calling. It is this devotion and surrender to whatever is true and important to you that I believe is essential in ultimately drawing in your perfect beloved. I heard a story recently about Saraswati and Lakshmi, how if you pursue Lakshmi (wealth) before Saraswati (knowledge), you will attain neither. I think there is a similar principle for love.

Seek first a sophisticated knowledge of yourself...who you are, what you offer, your darkness and light, how you are strong, where you are weak, why you do what you do, what is important to you and what is not. Stretch. Explore. Clarify. Heal. Cultivate a rich inner depth. Devote your life to whatever makes you come alive. Get lit from within. Be your own parent and best friend. Learn to love yourself madly. Get good at being alone.

From this place of rich and royal inner abundance, then seek the wealth of an intimate connection with another. In all this, never lose track of your primary relationship with your own deepest truth, the Divine, your passion and devotion. We are here to help elevate each others' consciousness, but we are not deities to one another. Our human connections cannot sustain the weight of worship. The Buddha's last words were, "Be a light unto yourself." You already contain everything. The other is simply a mirror to help you see yourself more clearly, to remember how divine you are when you forget.

If your beloved is not helping to elevate your consciousness and show you your truth, they are not your beloved. We are better off "alone" than with someone who will not support our upliftment. Seek those who are a light unto themselves, who possess rich inner depth which they freely offer. You deserve nothing less, you beautiful, rich and royal lightbeam.