“That’s how it is: when you are vulnerable, you feel stronger, not weaker. And if you are stronger, you will feel vulnerable, for vulnerability is an opening, and a strong person is open to all: open to death, open to all kinds of winds, open to light and darkness, to the friend and to the foe.

A strong man is open, vulnerable, and a vulnerable man is strong. If vulnerability brings the idea of weakness, then it is not vulnerability. They look alike but they are not the same, for a weak person cannot be vulnerable- they cannot afford it.

{This is why it is a great luxury to be vulnerable.}

As your strength grows, so will your vulnerability; as your vulnerability grows so will your strength.

At the highest peak of strength one is like a child…delicate, like a rose that opens. Like the water, that is fluid.

You are not afraid because you are feeling delicate and vulnerable, you are afraid because you are feeling strong — when you feel strong, fear arises because you feel power, and you know not what you will do with such power. Because to live in power, is to live with risk, and this incites fear.

…Often, because they are afraid, people decide to live at the minimum so there is no risk, and therefore no power.

But your fear is not of vulnerability; your fear is of the strength, the power, that you feel arising.

The snake is uncoiling and you do not know what to do with such power.”

-Osho, Believing the Impossible Before Breakfast

…Do not fear it. This is your vast expansion.

There is great strength, and great power, in vulnerability. And when you step into that space, you are no longer vulnerable as you once were. This balance is the tricky paradox. This balance is what I am working on.

xo
-el

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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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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.

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.

Be Bold

“Sin boldly,” wrote Martin Luther, the German priest and theologian that is the namesake of the Lutheran denomination.

How confusing this quote seems at first glance. How confusing it is that a priest, a man of God, would instruct Christians to sin and to do so with abandon. Yet, when this quote is brought back into the context from which it was taken, it makes a bit more sense. After announcing that Christians should sin, and that they should sin boldly, Luther then instructs them to have an even bolder faith in Christ, rejoicing that these sinners shall be saved.

Being the non-traditional spiritual being that I am, however, my interpretation of this quote is a bit different. Instead of only believing that I should sin boldly, that I should have blind faith, I believe that I should live my whole life boldly. That I should live the life that brings me peace, fulfillment, and happiness.

And I think that you, my daring birds, should live boldly too.

…Take just a moment and reflect on what that means to you. When you think of living a bold life, what do you think of? Do you think of living a life that is free of fear, doubt, and apprehension? A life that is full of adventure, that is action-packed? Do you think of living life only for yourself, without any regard for others? Perhaps you think of living life as an outsider, as a rebel, a rogue. A bold sinner, even, in the words of Martin Luther.

Or perhaps living boldly means none of these things to you. Perhaps, when you think of living a bold life, you do not think of danger, adrenaline, and rebellion. Perhaps instead, you think of doing what you love, making time for play and self-care, and prioritizing your loved ones. Perhaps you think of having sound values, beliefs, and conviction. Of standing up for yourself, for others, and for what you believe in. Maybe living boldly to you means living with integrity, capability, perseverance, and grit. Of speaking your mind, expressing your feelings, and saying exactly what you mean, and meaning exactly what you say. Perhaps it means fostering meaningful relationships, with yourself and with others. It could even involve refraining from judgment, pessimism, and encouraging compassion, forgiveness, and lovingkindness. A life that keeps your heart and your mind open to new ideas, growth, awareness, and insight. Of realizing your goals, and chasing your dreams. Perhaps a bold life is one that is liberated, courageous, and genuine. A life that allows you to be free to be exactly who you want to be.

I encourage you to consider what it means to you to live boldly. Reflect on who you are and how you express yourself to the world through word and deed. Think, for a moment, about how true you are to yourself. Ask yourself what it would take for someone to water you down. How easily you can be reined in. How boldly you live your life. Perhaps, a bold life means that you are in agreement with Martin Luther, and you fully intend to sin boldly and have bold trust in your faith. Or, perhaps it means that you intend to live boldly, trusting in yourself that the life you are living is the life that is for you.

No matter what this bold and brazen life looks like to you, however, I ask you to indulge yourself. Go ahead and life the life of your dreams, and do so with courage and valor of heart. Do not apologize or excuse the person you are or who you are not. Instead, revel in your uniquebeauty and enjoy exactly who you are at this moment, in this lifetime.

Live boldly in this lifetime, for any other option is not truly living. Spread your wings as you embrace yourself. Chase your dreams, be true to yourself, and feel yourself come alive.

The Core

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In yogic terms, the body’s core is defined as the workings of the entire torso.  This includes the major and minor, inner and outer muscle groups, the stabilizer muscles, the connective tissues, organs, and energetic bodies of the entire midsection.  According to a yogic definition, the core is not just a body part, rather it is an entire system that is to be incorporated, at least in some way, during almost any and all yogic practices.

As I teach, I often hear myself repeating such phrases as, “engage and activate the core”, “lift from the core”, “draw from the core”, “deepen the core” and so on…

And as I listen to myself describe these body movements, I cannot help but to draw a parallel to what it is like to live from our core in a subtle and figurative sense of the same verbiage.  For, as I have said many times, in yoga, we can emphasize one part of our being, but we cannot completely isolate it.  Therefore, when we engage, activate and draw from our core in asana, we do the same from within, but this time, from the core of our very being that has nothing to do with our physical bodies.

If you think about that for a moment, I think that you will find it to be true.  For when we live from the core of our truest selves, draw strength and direction from our core values, and live in accordance with the deepest aspects of who we are within, and we are aligned with our core, we are at our very best.  And we know this to be true, because we feel our inner strength, we are in tune with our source, and we are able to draw from within and live according to this reservoir within.

So while we may be able to emphasize our core physically in asana, we really are doing much deeper work than we may realize at the moment… and THIS, this is yoga.  And this is a beautiful thing.

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.

Laugh and the World Laughs With You

Most of us are well-acquainted with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And of course, this is an excellent rule to follow, as it offers us sound advice as we navigate our way through life. But how many of us are familiar with Rule Number Six? If you are not yet familiar with this rule, consider the following story:

“Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing the affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts through the door in a fury, shouting and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister quietly looks up says to the young man, “Peter, kindly remember Rule Number Six.” Instantly, Peter regains his composure, restores to complete calm, apologizes for the interruption, and leaves the room.

The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again by a hysterical woman, sobbing uncontrollably and gesturing wildly. Again the host prime minister quietly says, “Marie, please remember Rule Number Six.” Much like the gentleman before her, Marie calms down, apologizes, and exits the room.

When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister says, “My good friend, I have seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Pray tell, what is this Rule Number Six?” “Very simple,” the host prime minister replies. “Rule Number Six is ‘Don’t take yourself so damned seriously.’” After pondering this rule for just a moment, the visiting prime minister asks, “And what are the other rules?”

The host’s reply? “There aren’t any.”

As most of you well know, life can be pretty heavy sometimes. Our families and friends, our work, even our own well-being require constant and attention and care. And not only do these aspects of our lives require us to tend to them, but we also need to take them seriously in order to do so. Most simply said, sometimes life is no laughing matter. And yet while it is important to take our lives seriously, it can also be to our detriment to take things too seriously, all the time. Doing so can lead to burdens or problems that may not otherwise exists, a skewed or negative outlook, and undue stress and anxiety.

Because of this, it can be to our advantage to know when to lighten up bit. Whether that means making time for play, enjoying your loved ones, or finding the humor in life, enjoying the lighter side of life encourages us to make the most of we have. It can even help us put life into a healthier perspective as we focus on what is most important, letting go of what is not, and leaving time and energy for the things that matter most, such as our loved ones and our interests and passions.

Today, I encourage you to embrace the lighter side of life. Keep in perspective your responsibilities, your stressors, and the bumps in the road. Remember all that you have to enjoy in life. And maintain your sense of humor, as it is a strength beyond measure to laugh with others and appreciate what there is to love about your surroundings.

The Practice

{Sthira sukham asanam}  : Strength and ease within the pose

Sthira:  This word translates as firm, stable, resolute, changeless. Sthira speaks not only of challenge, strength, endurance and fortitude, but also vigilance, the ability to pay attention, and to be present. It is the opposite of agitation and refers to both physical and mental stillness: a controlled, fully engaged body and a focused mind.

Sukha:  This word translates as pleasurable, joyful, agreeable, easy, comfortable, happy, prosperous, relaxed. It is the opposite of discomfort, suffering or pain, or resistance.  This also ahimsa, or non-violence and self-acceptance and the nurturing of the self.

Asana:  This word translates as position, posture, seat, or a way of sitting that prepares the body for seated meditation. In the more expanded view of yoga, asana occurs not just on the mat or in meditation, but it is also the foundation from which we act in daily life, which means that we as we live life, we are present in the body, in existing, inhabiting and living fully.

…In yoga, we create unity of all things, including the above terms, for Yoga means “to yoke” or to “create union”.  This the MindBodySpirit connection that is yoga.

It is the ritual of entering and holding the posture without interruption for a period of time, being fully present with all the details, sensations, and experiences that occur in the body/mind. It is the qualities of engagement and letting go, the balance between tension and relaxation, effort and ease.  It is a state of equilibrium that is without agitation or inertia.  It is the marriage of the body, the mind, the spirit, and  all else.

…And as teachers and students, this does not stop here, and it goes much deeper and becomes much more personalized with practice, driving deeper into the heart and soul of the practitioner.  Because this, THIS, is where philosophy meets and unifies with practice.   And THIS is what is yoga.

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