peace begins here

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It's a heavy time for hearts. I'm struggling to remain hopeful; any actions I take seem insignificant as the world crumbles beneath our feet. Every time I look at the news, it seems greed, hatred and violence are winning. It is so easy to react to the news of the world with hatred and fear and hopelessness. It is so easy to point fingers and take no blame for the problems of our world.

We have to be intentional as to not give up and live tunnel-visioned and only concerned with our own lives, worries and concerns. In this state of near hopelessness, I've started to ask myself the question, "what if the same evil that is out there is also within me?"  After all, in one way or another, we are all struggling with the same disease of the ego. We all crave, hunger and strive for external approval, relying upon others to tell us that we are enough. One moment we're judging others and the next we're striving to be them. We have platforms to plaster to the world about how interesting our lives are, and within seconds we flip between loving ourselves and hating ourselves.

Within each of us, decay and vibrancy live alongside one another. And this is nothing to be ashamed about. It's merely human. And yet the dark within is difficult to confront. I know I'd much rather sweep my faults under the rug and never see them again. But like Carl Jung said, "whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as a monster." And our world is not short on monsters.

There is a dark side to every light side, and we have a choice to can either detest and ignore our personal darkness, letting it fester and lash out, or we can confront our fears, feelings of inadequacy, tendencies to gossip, and urges to react to violence with more violence. We have to be brave enough to sit with our dark, and invite tenderness there. We have to trust that all of us belongs, that even our ugly has its own lessons to offer. We have to remember to love and to trust and we have to have the strength and courage to make that choice again and again and again.

This past week, it has been my yoga students who have repeatedly given me hope. They remind me that there are so many people who are truly committed to peace. They are willing to confront their depths and come out on the other side. This choice does not mean that all hurt and suffering will vanish; after all, the world is full of heartbreak. But it is a reminder that we are not alone. So, hold yourself in tenderness. Love your faults. Love the part of you that hates your faults. Journal. Meditate. Write affirmations. Develop practices of softening. And keep in mind that some darkness is too precarious to traverse on your own; there is great strength in seeking help. Find a therapist. Bolster yourself with community. Confront the dark so you can come out to the light.

In loving yourself, you'll be more forgiving with yourself. In being more forgiving of yourself, you'll be more forgiving of others. While fear and hatred is contagious, so is love. True transformation takes time. It begins slowly, but it has real and lasting effects. Roll out your mat, sit on your cushion. Look inwards. Shine light on the dark. These grassroots efforts have the power for change.

Peace begins in our hearts. It begins right here and now.

Everyday Grounding

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As the world's news and seasonal shift causes us to lose our footing, it's best to set up camp and quite literally ground ourselves down.

We can all take a trick out of restorative yoga's book and pile on the blankets! It's the perfect time of year to get snugly. In addition to all the cozy warm feelings it brings us, the weight actually indicates to our nervous systems that we're supported. Our muscles stop trying to resist the forces of gravity and instead succumb, letting us release the stress and breathe a little bit deeper. It's so simple and so profound. And it doesn't cost a thing.

Want more of this goodness? Add in restorative yoga - check out my class at Namaskar on Wednesday's at 11:00 and Bottom Line Yoga on Monday's at 1:00 p.m. I'll tuck you in just like mom used to do.

Begin Anywhere

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With the beginning of the school year eternally rooted in my body, fall still feels like a season of beginnings. Even more than New Years or even Springtime, it is the fresh, crisp autumn air that signals a stirring. And as I prepare to step into the upper 20s with both feet, the opportunities I’ve let pass me and lives I could-have-lived start to weigh more heavily in my mind. The pressure to ‘do more’ and ‘be more’ becomes more pervasive and the inevitable to do list grows alongside the gnawing in my chest.

Depressing and exaggerated, perhaps. But I know I’m not the only millennial who feels this way. In a time with so many options and everyone posting about all the adventures they’re getting into, it’s next to impossible to not have some aching for more: an itch to travel more and date more. To make more and help more. To rest more and explore more. To DIY more and paint more. I’m left wanting more boundaries and paradoxically yearning for more freedom. Heck, some days I even want a puppy and a baby and a fancy plate of cupcakes.

This desire to have it all, however, while exacerbated with the pervasiveness of social media, is nothing new. Nor is the yearning for life to be different than it is.

I was out with my dad and a friend of his from high school earlier this week when they realized that this upcoming May marked 50 years from their grade school graduation. I could not have been more content than I was sitting in the dimly lit tavern, listening to the stories they exchanged of old friends and earlier times. They reflected on both the good and bad, and before the night was out, Phil lamented, “the regrets only continue to collect.” We stayed for a few hours, watching the sky mark the visual passing of time, fading from pink to purple to deep blue.

On the cusp of 28, I’m not married, engaged or anywhere near the sort. My passport stamps and bank accounts are way more sparse than I’d like them to be. My regrets are already collecting. Not only the choices I’ve made or not made, but also the hand that life has dealt me, by no fault - or earning - of my own. With the fear of regrets grows the heaviness, the state where it is just as impossible to act as it is not to act.

Ganesha, one of the most beloved Hindu gods - the god of beginnings - reminds us that it is in this place, in the middle of things, where lies the infinite possibilities of rebirth. He does not describe the how or why we got where we are now, but instead tells us that it isn’t important; it doesn’t matter if we’d rather be somewhere else. What does matter is what we decide to do next. It is in the space between here and there- deep in the thick of it all- that he invites us to begin anew.

As with the act of smearing paint on a canvas to break the daunting, unbroken, indecisive white, we too, must begin anywhere. We must break from the unrealistic expectations, comparisons, and dread that threaten our important next step. Regrets, like all things in life, ebb and flow. While they may be deafening with their high-pitched screaming now, wait it out and they will start to fade into the distant beating of drums in the far distance. Yoga and art alike remind us that no matter where we begin, we are going to confront challenges along the way. We are going to overcome our follies, learn about ourselves, and succeed - only to lose ourselves all over again. Life is a process of folding and unfolding. Even when the past and the present seem unbearable, you may just be in the preparation, in the act of tilling the soil to ready yourself for planting the seeds for the next chapter of your life. Yoga and art remind us that no matter where we begin, we will become.

It doesn’t matter where you are or how you decide to take your next move. All that matters is that you begin.

Using yoga to engage with the world around us

On some rare days, I find my yoga practice to be easy. I jump out of bed and onto my mat. I am in the flow, letting each breath guide me from pose to pose, from moment to moment. I taste the subtitles of every posture and end my practice in a sweet and savored silence. On these days, I embody the yoga; I radiate strength and presence and joy, and it ripples outward into the world.

On the days when life is easy, the yoga is easy.

But most days, my practice is a little more difficult.  It begins with slower, creakier and more unstable footing. I feel the chaos in the world and within myself, and it seeps onto my mat, where I become distracted and aloof. I find myself more concerned by the time on the clock, the to do list in the other room, or my neighbor’s super cute yoga pants -and where can I get them?- than I am about being engaged in my mindful movement. My thoughts and actions lose intention and become lazy and reactionary.

It is on these days when the last thing I want to do is be mindfully engaged.  These are the days when I’d much rather stay at home, hiding the ugly parts of myself under my covers away from anyone to ever see. These are the times where it is easier to not think about how my actions affect those around me. But it is on these dreary days when it is absolutely essential to roll out of bed and step on the mat; it is on these days when the practice of yoga begins.

Yoga means to yoke or to unite. It is the joining of all our parts that make us whole. Yoga is the union between intentions and actions, body and mind, thoughts and words, effort and ease. It is the harmony between who we are and who we want to be. It is the delicate symbiosis of taking action while allowing things to be.

The time we spend in the studio, after all, is not really even about the poses.  Yoga is not just the handstand, the warrior series, or even the final resting pose.  Our time on the mat is about the residue each pose impresses upon us: whether it be about seeing with a new perspective, realizing our strength, or honoring our need for rest and reflection. Our yoga practice is about developing the skills it takes to be flexible enough to allow the rigidity of discipline while fostering the fluidity of patience and forgiveness.

When we step on our mat, we take the first step to return back to our wholeness. And it is from this state of union that we are able to engage more fully with the world; it is here where we pick up our practices of self-growth and reflection and carry them with us off the mat and into the world.

Say yes to your yoga; say yes to your life. I’ll see you in the studio.

(originally posted on Bottom Line Yoga's blog)

for the searching souls

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[insert your name here],

I just left your car and walked into my house, subconsciously thinking my dog would greet me at the door. It broke my heart to realize that the expectation is still there, and she is not.

I have a yoga teacher who said her favorite emotion is experiencing happiness and sadness at the same time. What a beautiful challenge it is to sit in a space and hold both the joys and sorrows of living close to your heart.

She also said, "dogs are just people in dog suits," so I trust her insight.

With such sadness in the world - not just with the political climate and so much hate to go around, but even just seeing the world change, my dog die, and my parents age all while I still haven't quite figured out my path yet- life is getting more and more real.

It's difficult to sit with the grief of living, and I think we're all running away from something in one way or another- be it the change of seasons or the habits we hate about ourselves. I can't blame anyone for wanting to hone in and push onward: to be reminded of newness rather than reflect on time passing and the impending realness that awaits just around the corner. I can't blame anyone for wanting the sweet without the bitter; sitting with the unknown is much harder, but also more telling of a seasoned soul.

I've come to find that growing up isn't about having your shit together, getting married, or having a job. I've come to realize that the process of growing is learning to watch the passing of the seasons, to see all the shit you're carrying around, and loving yourself anyway. It's acknowledging that some days, you're a pretty terrible friend and you've done things you can't undo, but on other days, you're damn near the greatest. It's realizing that it isn't your job to be perfect and stop making mistakes; growing up is just about getting better at fucking up - realizing missteps when they happen, the lesson rooted in them, and moving on. And hopefully learning to forgive yourself, somewhere along the way.

You're a far cry from perfect, and thank god. That's what I love about you. But for someone who values being real so much, you sure do hold yourself to unrealistic heights of perfection.

Yoga means to yolk, or to unite; hatha means sun and moon. Yoga is about uniting opposites. It is about strength and flexibility, effort and ease, being and doing. It is about holding deep and raw sadness alongside life-altering joy in your pocket together at the same time.

Do all of humanity a favor and be kinder to yourself. Our world has so much hate already, and its only hope of finding peace begins with us first finding it within ourselves. Continue to carry that fierce love and hope and passion of yours alongside your heaviness. Find your own yoga, that which keeps you whole and grounded when everything in life falls apart. Let yourself hurt and heal, and take the time you need to do so.

This is not to discredit your feelings of fear or self-doubt; they have every right to be there if you want them to be. Hate yourself as much as you need to, but then love yourself more.

I see your greatness even - especially - when you don't. I know deep in my heart that once you see it yourself, nothing, and I mean nothing, will stop you.

All my love,

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