Courage

To be courageous is not to have an absence of fear. Rather, to have courage is to have mastery over the fears that reside deep within us.

It is the willingness to tear the bandage off, dissect our subconscious mind, heal old wounds, and understand our inner most processes as intimately as possible.

It is to venture into the wilderness of uncharted territory and forge ahead anyway. To step into vulnerability, and plunge into the murky depths of our hearts.

To have courage is to move in the direction of love even, and especially, when we have no other guidance besides the divine truth residing within.

Courage is the light that is shined into the darkest corners of our deepest selves, illuminating the strength and beauty within.

It is the soft and steady voice of the soul that whispers “Come now. This is the way.”

 

El1

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Move the way love moves you

Last month, while visiting family in Minnesota, I taught a yoga class to some of my favorite yoginis. After class, I received this text from one of my beloveds…
“I want what you have. When you were in Warrior One today, you radiated. All of you screamed “Yes, world! This is who I am! And if you don’t like it, fuck off.” How do I get that? There was no doubt. No shame. No fear. No pain.”
…While I was touched by this message, I was also rendered speechless and did not know how to reply. Because I do have doubt. I do have shame. I do have fear. And I do have pain.


I have a lifetime full of it. We all do.


But we can radiate, anyway. By giving a fuck about our higher selves more than we give a fuck about the mistakes we have made, the things that have happened to us, and the pain we have experienced. We can radiate anyway, by allowing these hard feelings to transform us, as we transmute them and transcend. We radiate by moving in the direction love moves us, choosing instead to experience loving-kindess, compassionate understanding, forgiveness, courage and joy.


We radiate by choosing love. Love of self, and love of others.


#chooselove #giveafuck #getweird #godeep #yogawithel

Nowhere. Now Here. Here Now.

 

 

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Presence, or the |Art of Being-Here-Now|{for me} is an ongoing practice.

…For, as I experience it, [presence is a practice] indeed. And it is one that I simultaneously crave and resist.

Because to live in the present moment is to both *feel and experience* ABSOUTELY EVERYTHING that is to be registered on a conscious level.
And to be really and truly present during such here-and-now experiences is to register any and all sensations that may arise, in the very moment that they are occurring, the very space that they are occupying, and for whatever duration that is required for them to unravel and unfold in their ENTIRETY.


So, naturally, to experience this concept of presence, even for just one teensy flesh-and-blood moment, is to feel things intense and uncomfortable. It is to tiptoe beyond the comfort zones of our unconscious living and into the enlightening discomforts of personal growth and awareness. It is to surrender into the present, give into the mystery, and let this unknown stuff wash over, engulf, and have its way with us as we let go and trust the process that we know nothing of.


…So, it is no wonder that these beautiful experiences are also messy, visceral, vulnerable, intense and raw. And, it is also no wonder that these magical moments are also playful, creative, ecstatic, dreamy, intimate, and euphoric, as well.


Yet, even so, this present moment living is worth every moment that it has to offer. It is worth learning to detach, observe, accept, and embrace each and every experience these moments offer us . It is worth learning to unlearn, tear labels off, and become nonsensical, and somehow, strangely, more alive, as we instead surrender into a process of transformational metamorphosis, that deconstructs us, reconstructs us, and then sends us off to emerge and transcend whatever wilderness it was that we had come from.


…This is presence. And presence, no matter how beautiful and tricky, is magical and ever-changing.

OwieZowie

Has something ever happened to you that cut deeply into your soul?  Have you ever allowed someone access to your heart and you ended up being hurt by them?  Have you ever loved someone unconditionally, given them your trust and found that they misused it?  Have you ever been blind-sided by an event in life involving someone you love?

Have you ever been the perpetrator of such hurt?  Have you ever been responsible for the pain of a loved one or a broken heart?  Has something ever happened in your life that you have felt the heartbreak that accompanies the knowledge that you have done damage to someone you love?

If you have been one either side of this spectrum, you are not alone.  Unfortunately for everyone, it seems that most of us have been hurt beyond words.  We know that feeling of betrayal, the sense of deceit, the break of a heart.   And likewise, many of us have been the source of a loved one’s pain and are familiar with the heartache and the broken spirit that is the result of hurting someone you love.  Many of us know that it hurts just as much, albeit differently, to be the broken hearted or to have caused the broken heart.

So when this has happened, when we are dealing with hurt feelings of this magnitude, what do we do to move on from the pain?  It certainly can be hard to be sure.  It can be quite difficult to know the best way to tend to such deep wounds while also moving forward, both with your relationship and with your life.  There is no easy way to decide if it is time to let go and when it is time to continue fighting for something you love.  Rarely is there a right or wrong way to nurse our wounds while also experiencing life as best we can.

But, I must say that even while it may be hard to know how to best recover from your pain and move forward in some way, many of us do have an idea about what we need and what might be most right for ourselves and the relationships that we are in.  Many of us have a voice that resides deep within us that whispers to us, offering us guidance and direction towards healing.  Many of us know, somewhere within us, the path it is that we should follow.  Most of us have something within ourselves that has utmost faith in our ability to recover, to carry on, and to flourish.  Something that trusts, something that wants to guide us toward love again.  Something helps us look inward in order to move forward, mending both the wounds in our hearts, as well as our loved one’s.

Even while that something within you might be difficult to hear or understand, it is worth your while to at least give it a chance.  Pause, listen and reflect on what it is trying to tell you.  Consider the message it is giving you about yourself and those you care about so that you may tend to your wounds, give and receive love, and begin to experience life as fully as possible once again.

“Unseen Others”

When I was in grad school, I was introduced to the concept of “unseen others” by one of my professors. According my professor’s theory, we all have them. They are the people in the world that we choose not to see because our reaction to them makes us uncomfortable.

I would like you to take a moment and consider who your unseen others are. Is it someone of a different religion, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status? Perhaps it is someone of a specific profession, age bracket, range of ability, or political belief? Or maybe there are certain appearances, interests, or personality traits that come to your mind.

Regardless of who these unseen others are or what it is about them that makes us uncomfortable, we all seem to have such reactions to a certain group of people. Most often, we avoid our unseen others because we are uncertain of how to relate to them, or we have made assumptions, passed judgments, or developed biases or prejudices against the type of person we believe them to be.

I find this to be such an interesting phenomenon. How curious it is that we have a hard time seeing people as real simply because they are different from us. How unfortunate it is that we short change people because we have unfairly made up our minds about them. What a disservice it is to everyone when we cannot look deeper into one another simply because we are unsure of how to relate to who we think they are. And isn’t it interesting that we tend to validate certain people based on their likeness to our own self-image?

If you have been able to identify your unseen others, I challenge you to consider what it is about you and them that makes them so difficult for you to see. Invite your unseen others to hold up a mirror to you, and take a long look at yourself in the reflection that you see. Ask yourself questions about what you see. Too, ask yourself if you are willing to challenge your beliefs about yourself and the people around you. Are you willing to learn from someone that you have always thought has nothing to teach you? Are you willing to allow them to touch you? Are you willing to reach out and touch them? Are you willing to venture out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons?

Although it can be difficult to deconstruct our personal biases, it is rather easy to approach people with curiosity, rather than judgment. To be kind, respectful, and accepting. It may be easier than we think to have a positive influence and be positively influenced ourselves, even when we least suspect. Just think about a time when you were surprised by someone. How good it feels to be treated as a whole person worthy of understanding and acceptance.

Take a moment today and think about what a wonderful thing it is see the goodness in one another. See that we are so much more connected by our similarities, our vulnerabilities, and our very human nature than we realize. Celebrate and embrace our differences as a source of richness, rather than a point of division. Give all people a chance, no matter who or what we assume them to be.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Have you ever been subject to unkind words, insensitive comments, or criticism? Have you ever felt that something you did or said was misunderstood, misconstrued, or picked apart by others? Have you ever invested your time and energies into something meaningful to you, something that you cared about dearly, only to learn that your efforts would be met with negative feedback? Has there ever been a time where you invited dialog from others, hoping for help and constructive suggestions, and instead received messages about what you have done wrong with no mention of alternative solutions? Have you ever felt judged unfairly or labeled because of a single trait, decision, or characteristic of yours? Have you ever felt that you were, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”?

I am willing to bet that you have. It seems that each and everyone one of us can relate to these feelings. We have all been criticized, fairly or not. Therefore, we are all familiar with the sting of harsh words. We all know that criticism can hurt.

Criticism can hurt, not just because people disagree with us or because there are people that do not prefer us. It is hurtful not only because it points out our mistakes, faults, and imperfections. Rather, criticism seems to be most painful because it leaves us feeling misunderstood, mistranslated, misconstrued. It leaves us feeling short-changed, judged, and undervalued. Quite often we feel frustrated, picked apart, ganged up on. Criticism often leads to self-doubt, insecurity, and self-consciousness. Criticism is deflating. It is discouraging. Disheartening.

And yet, criticism serves a purpose. When delivered with care, criticism can be eye-opening. It can lead to growth, self-discovery, and awareness. Criticism, when constructive, can lead to much better outcomes for ourselves and others. It can help us learn, overcome difficulty, and master our skills. Criticism is necessary for objectivity, critical thinking, and honest feedback. At its best, criticism allows us to better understand ourselves and strive for improvement. At its worst, however, criticism is damaging and destructive.

So how do we handle criticism, if it is such a necessary part of communication and understanding? How do we tell someone something negative, knowing that such a message has the potential to hurt them? Do we tiptoe and skirt around sensitive issues, forgoing such honesty? Do we avoid an opportunity to help someone because it might be uncomfortable for them?

No, we do not. Instead, we ensure that our messages, if they are necessary at all, are delivered with compassion, empathy, understanding, and balance. We give careful consideration so that we are helpful, constructive, and supportive. We may even consider offering suggestions and alternative solutions, ideas, and perspectives and providing an explanation of the rationale behind them. Additionally, we make certain that we understand what it is that we are discussing, and we take into account the perspectives and experiences of the people involved.

So how then, might we better receive such criticism, especially when it is not delivered with care? Do we take offense, particularly if we are insulted? Do we disregard everything we heard about ourselves that we do not agree with? Conversely, do we internalize any and all criticism and assume it to be true? Do we allow it to alter our self-image or our belief in ourselves? Should we apologize, excuse, or deny parts of who we are because they were subject to criticism?

No. Not at all. Instead, I encourage you to listen to criticism with strong ears and considerate it with an open mind. Refrain from all-or-none thinking, and do not assume everything you hear to be true. Instead, adopt an objective perspective when making sense of such feedback, and take it for what it is worth to you. Ask yourself what can be learned from it, if anything, and do what you would like with such information.

Take a moment to consider criticism from a new angle. Recall what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such messages, and show compassion to those that you speak to. Ensure that your words come from your heart, and be selective with what you choose to share with others. As you take the time to reconsider criticism, also reflect on how you might better receive such messages the next time you are criticized. Assume an objective stance if you can, and be selective with what you let affect you. Remind yourself that there is nothing on this earth that cannot be criticized and do not allow yourself to be negatively impacted by the opinions of others. Instead, try only to learn, grow, and evolve from such experiences, or do not allow yourself to be affected at all.

You are unique. You are beautiful. Capable. Loveable. You have a calling, you have dreams, and you should absolutely follow your heart and know that you are a precious rarity. Hold this to be true, revel in who you are, and let no one take that from you. No matter what they have to say about it. Ever.

Hurt People Hurt People

If you have ever been a part of a relationship, I am willing to bet that you have also found yourself amidst an internal struggle that is, at least in part, due to something that has happened within that relationship. Something that was confusing, hurtful, or upsetting. Something that was difficult to let go of, move on from, or understand. As such, I am willing to bet that whatever it was that had caused you discomfort has also had a lasting impact on you in some meaningful way. Perhaps it has influenced how you approach people. Perhaps it taught you a valuable lesson. Perhaps it shaped you in some other meaningful way, for better or for worse. Rarely do we make it through such things without an impact being made.

Because of this, it comes as no surprise that such lesson can be quite difficult to learn. That we may be rendered incapable of embracing a lesson until we are capable of approaching the situation from an entirely different perspective. A perspective that does not focus on the hurt and is instead driven by a compassionate empathy for all that are involved. A perspective that allows us to let go of what may otherwise hard to set free.

When you take a moment to think about the implications of approaching painful circumstance in such a loving way, it is no wonder that many of us undergo a transformation of sorts as we move forward. It is no wonder that we also begin to soften, forgive, and let go of that which has hurt us in the past. I say that this is no wonder, because I believe that when we are able to approach another human being from a point of compassion, we begin to see life through their eyes, instead of through our own, and in doing so, we often gain a better understanding of their true intentions and greater insight into their deeper experiences. Rather than being convinced that we have been hurt by their selfishness or deceit, we may see instead that they were driven by another force entirely. Or, rather than looking down upon them with disappointment, judgment, or condemnation, we may soften our gaze and realize that they are coming from a place that we otherwise may not understand.

And of course, as I say this, please understand that I do not mean to minimize any pain that has been experienced, nor excuse any wounds that have been inflicted. I only mean to say that it does seem to feel better, and therefore take us farther, when we are able to invest in love and compassion and allow our pain to be transformed, rather than submerge ourselves in negative and destructive emotions.

So today, if you find yourself revisiting a painful relationship, I challenge you to consider the alternative perspective. Attempt to understand what may otherwise be unfathomable. Reject the victim mentality and let go of blame. Instead, hold fast to your optimism in humankind and have faith in what you believe to be good.

Self-Worth

Imagine this: A two-year old girl falls down a well and is in danger of drowning. Without hesitation, the community invests incredible amounts of time, effort, and money into saving this young girl. And fortunately for everyone involved, they do. But why would they do this? Why would they save this baby girl, who has done nothing noteworthy in her life, and has contributed nothing to society? I mean, she has no money, she is often self-centered and naughty, and she doesn’t have many friends or loved ones besides her immediate family. So why would people even care if she is ok or not?

These questions sound cold-hearted and harsh, don’t they?  They do, because as we all well know, it is because this two-year old girl, this loveable toddler, has unconditional human worth. Regardless of her age, her status, or her contribution to society, this tiny little person has inherent worth and value, and she is just as precious as any other person on this earth. Perhaps she has not done much of “worth” in her two short years, but she certainly has worth as a human being. Regardless of who she is, she has a core-self, and that core is worthy of love, respect, and positive regard. Just as everyone’s is.

…As it is defined by psychologists, self- or core-worth means that all people are indeed equal. It means that we are equal because we are human. This kind of value or worth is not comparable. It is not competitive. And it is not conditional. The worth or value of a person does not need to be earned, nor does it need to be proved. It just exists. It always has, and it always will.  And this worth is to be recognized, appreciated, and accepted.

So, if it so easy to say that must absolutely must save this sweet little girl, to see her value as a person because she just IS, I wonder why so many of us do not value ourselves in such a way. Why do so many of us struggle with self-worth and question our value, even while we are able to recognize the value of others? Why we might think that because we may not fit a certain mold, that we are not as worthy as those who do. I wonder why we are so hard on ourselves when they make mistakes, when something does not go as we had hoped, when people treat us poorly. Too, I wonder why some people assign more or less value to a person because of what they do or do not have, how they do or do not behave, the mold that they do or do not fit.

…Quite often, we allow ourselves and others to be defined by externals: by successes and achievements, families and friends, abilities and appearances, social status, material belongings, and the perception of other people. Of course, external things may influence many parts of our lives. They may impact our thoughts, our feelings, or our behaviors, and they may influence how we relate to others and the world that we are surrounded by. They may influence how we experience our worth, but they do not change our value in and of itself.

So what happens when such things do influence our core worth? What happens when we allow external factors to define or equate who we are, be it for better or for worse? When we undervalue ourselves, and overvalue our surroundings?

When this happens, when our core value is based on something extrinsic rather than intrinsic, we become unstable, conditional, and undervalued. This happens because we have allowed something outside of ourselves to trump the internal, most true parts of ourselves. We then lose sight of our core essence, of who we are and the beauty within us. We lose our authenticity and our security and we cheat ourselves of self-love.

…When worth is separate from externals, however, we experience life much differently. All of a sudden, we are much more resilient, much more stable, objective, and reasonable. Our perspective transforms and our thoughts and feelings become more positive. We are able to distinguish feelings about events from feelings about ourselves. We are kinder to ourselves, more patient, rational, compassionate, and loving. When we separate our worth from externals, we experience both ourselves and our world much more openly.

And so, my precious babies, look within yourselves and see your worth. Embrace your human core and the essence of who you are. Appreciate that which you are surrounded by and have gratitude, but do not measure your worth by these things. Instead, hold them tightly to your heart and revel instead in the beauty that is uniquely you. Remember that your core, your worth, is whole and complete, but it is not completed. That you are an ever-changing work of art of immeasurable value to the world, to your loved ones, and to yourself.

Resistance Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

 

Fun fact: I almost never remember my dreams. However, when I do, I am usually in flight. Ever since I was quite young, in fact, my preferred mode of transportation while dreaming has been flying. I had not thought much about this dream-theme of mine until I studied dream analysis in college and learned that dream flying is considered the perfect metaphor for living the soul’s longing, or life purpose.

Upon learning that, I did a forehead slap and thought to myself, “Duh!” The symbolism is unmistakable: For many, flight is associated with freedom, ascension, exhilaration, and peace. Yet, not ironically, many of us have a fear of flying. The idea of free-falling, losing control, letting go, and most obviously, the hard landing is incredibly frightening. The metaphor still holds true, does it not?

And so it is with fulfilling our life purpose, for doing so involves navigating obstacles, conquering incredible feats, and then making a conscious choice to evolve and grow. Living out our soul’s longing means choosing the challenge of change over the difficulty of remaining the same while conquering fear and overcoming resistance every step of the way.

If you have ever set out to accomplish something meaningful, you will know that resistance is an inevitable part of the journey. And if you are anything like the rest of us, you have likely experienced resistance as an adversary. And this was likely so because you did not understand your resistance well enough to make it your ally. You tried to avoid, persist, and resist, rather than carry on with intention, commitment, surrender, and trust. Because resistance really is nothing but a form of fear and insecurity, we are much better off examining it with self-awareness and honesty, getting to know it, and thus better understanding ourselves. For the sooner we are able to do that, the sooner we are able to live out our higher aspirations.

So in practice, what can we do about the resistance we experience? We can start by being mindful of all the big and little things that distract us and slow us down as we set out to do the things that our hearts are telling us to do. Notice when you procrastinate, when you make excuses, when you are highly defended, and take note of the things that you worry about. Likewise, acknowledge any patterns that you discover, the limitations you perceive, and the strength of your resistance, and remember that most often, the greater the resistance surrounding a particular longing, the more important it likely is.

As you make a habit of examining your resistance and get comfortable with it, you will become increasingly aware and empowered to move beyond these distractions and forge ahead into the creative and authentic territory of your soul. With more and more ease, you will bring your mind, body, and spirit into alignment and make decisions during each and every moment that support your higher purpose.

And ultimately, you will feel at home with yourself as you fly, and live joyful  life of conviction, intention, and peace.

Serenity Prayer

Most of us are familair with the following prayer:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

…Through experience, I have learned that it is not always easy to accept the things in our lives that are not within our control. It can be rather difficult to come to terms with the fact that many things in life are uncontrollable, and perhaps even inevitable. Try as we might, we simply do not have the power to change all things we encounter, be it another individual or a relationship, an event or circumstance, or something different entirely. And this fact seems especially difficult to come to terms with when we are struggling to accept something that we do not like or something that may be particularly uncomfortable or difficult to endure. Especially when these things are what we are most desperately trying to change.

So when we struggle to simply accept these things, how are we supposed to take one step further and do so with serenity? How can we be expected to embrace such things “as is”, maintaining unconditional acceptance, a calm mind, and a peaceful heart? To approach life with a “Que Sera, Sera” attitude can be tricky, indeed.

Perhaps, it is better to remind ourselves not to dwell on such things, and remember that it is better to invest our energies into other things. The things that serve our higher purpose. The things that we can, in fact, influence and change.

Just as the prayer says, it takes wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change. It takes wisdom to recognize what we have the power to influence, and what we must simply accept. And not only does it take wisdom to know the difference between these two things, it also takes courage to change that which is in our power. To adopt a different perspective, transform how we think, feel, and act. It can take courage to change the way that we relate, respond, and interact with the life that we are surrounded by. It takes courage to look at ourselves from a new angle and reflect on what we might do differently. And it especially takes courage to set those changes into motion.

So today, if you find yourself struggling with something in your life, consider this prayer. Ask yourself, what about this is within my control? What must I do to accept this with an open heart and an open mind? Or, how might I begin to let go of this entirely? How may I go about making a change, and, am I willing and able to take those steps? When you ask yourself such questions, you will likely find that as long as you are in control of your thoughts, and subsequently your feelings and your actions, you usually have more control over the “uncontrollable” than you had first realized.