Pura Vida, Month #2

Today, February 18th, marks two months since I stopped, dropped, and rolled out of employment. On December 18th, I finished my last day of work in a hurry and without goodbyes after receiving word that my father’s business had caught fire and burned to the ground. Two days later I loaded my car with as much as I could and left Austin for the last time as a resident. Two weeks later I totaled said car and two weeks after that I said see ya later to New York too. I guess you could say I was shedding some layers, making some space. A lot of people will look at this life and say that I am lucky. And I am, for so many things. I’m lucky that my family didn’t suffer a more tragic loss when the Dairy Supply burned. I’m lucky that no one was hurt when I wrecked my car. I’m lucky for all of the love and support I have received with each decision I make. Most of all, I am lucky to have embraced the many opportunities to learn from my obstacles. Luck did not bring me here, my learning opportunities did.

The five weeks I spent at Rancho Margot were full of learning, internal and otherwise. As a yoga teacher, I had a pretty wonderful routine. My responsibility was the yoga space- creating it, cleaning it, opening it to the guests. I was given all the time and room I needed to practice, meditate, and prepare for public classes with few other duties. When I wasn’t teaching, I was finding new places to hang my hammock to read, journal, and ponder. I taught my first real yin class…and then I taught one every evening, sometimes followed by yoga nidra or meditation. By the time I left, even my vinyasa classes were starting to feel fairly yin-y, a fairly new and welcomed concept for me. Each day started before six in the shala, and each night saw me asleep before nine. My belly seldom saw sugar or meat, and processed foods dropped out of recognition. I often visited with guests, volunteers, and staff to soak up a bit of their story. Days off were spent hiking, riding horses, and adventuring in the jungle. It was lovely and it was quiet and it was simple- exactly what I wanted. Despite all of this perfection, I spent a lot of time feeling lousy.

I want to make it abundantly clear that the experience I have had thus far is unequivocally, deeply positive; Positive in that I have found a deeper understanding of meaningful living; Positive in that I have experienced a wide variety of emotions, including the unattractive ones; Positive in that I have found and lost and found inspiration. It is wildly complex and wonderfully beautiful. So when I say that I was feeling lousy, please don’t assume I wanted it any other way. It is all part of this process of learning, of understanding, of self-discovery. Its so easy to get swept up with the highlights, the story of the girl that quit the rat race to teach yoga in the jungle with her lover. I think it is important to share the less glamorous stories too, because in a lot of ways, a lack of ugliness in our collective story leads to our own increasingly negative feelings about our situation. It’s easy to think that if you do what others do, you’ll feel the as happy as they look. And then when you get there and you feel lousy, you think something is wrong with you. The problem isn’t you, it’s the us, collectively. In refusing to feel the backswing of the pendulum- the ugly, the dark, the negative- we are limiting our ability to feel the contrary- the thrill, the high, the elation- drawing us into a stale and unseasoned existence that we then dull with distraction.

 

Now that I am reflecting on my first good chunk of time out here, it is clear that some of the lousiness I felt stemmed from my own expectations. Out of nothing but naiveté, I assumed that the time and space awarded to me by this expedition would make clear what I was wanting- time to think about life and really just figure it out (in a matter of weeks). I craved the courage other travelers had, with their steadfast commitment to the lifestyle and fearlessness of the future. My expectation was to gain a bit of this simply by doing it too. I forgot that I am still me, and before I can emulate that same courage, confidence, and fearlessness, I need to spend some of the hard, ugly, dark times with myself to uncover my own needs. In my two months of liberation, I’ve boiled those needs down to the following:

  • Food Autonomy. I like to choose my food, cook my food, and I like to decide when and how to eat it. When I am given food, though I am immensely grateful, I feel powerless and a lack of control over a very big part of me.
  • Variable Work. When my days are filled with the exact same activities or a lot of free time, I get lethargic and deeply uninspired. Routine isn’t the problem per se, as long as I have different things to do each day. I have always been this way, but never realized why. I spend a lot of time thinking that my exhaustion was coming from taking too many classes in school or having too many jobs. I am starting to see that this variability actually gives me energy. Now the task is to find the path that benefits from this quality without abusing it.
  • Stimulus. I am a slow mover, and without stimulation, can get stuck in a low place. I enjoy doing things that force me to come out of that low place and get active early on. Once moving, I can keep the fire burning and the upward cycle begins.
  • Learning. I am most stimulated and inspired when I am in the learning process- whether it’s learning about someone, something, or somewhere, I crave it and it feeds me.
  • Alone time…together. I am very sensitive to the needs of others, and will often fall into the patterns described by the martyr archetype by sacrificing my needs to meet theirs, even if (and especially when) their needs are figments of my imagination. Spending time with my guy helps me work through this tendency and cultivate a healthier empathy that protects against emotional burnout. I am forever grateful for his ability to ground this heart- a process I find to be one of the most important qualities we can foster in each other, especially those working in emotionally charged jobs. After five weeks without any real alone time together, I found myself completely burned out and unable to listen empathetically. I was short tempered, irritable, and fiery as hell. Big thanks to my main squeeze for always supporting me, even in that.

As I begin to identify these needs, I feel that I am tending to my seeds of growth and transformation. I can feel a weight lift as I name each one, but also the burden of releasing that blissful ignorance. The biggest learning opportunity of all is the one you take to understand your needs. Now the real work begins. I cannot simply identify my needs and then ignore the situations that come up when I deny myself of them. It is now my responsibility to make sure my needs are met, and to take action when they are not. It is empowering and intimidating, but I intend to continue identifying and working to balance each and every one so that I may be forever cultivating, transforming, and honoring my very best self. Pura Vida, Month #2.

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Private Yoga?

Is private yoga a thing for normal people? Like, people who have kids and watch too many cat videos and forget their coffee on the roof of the car people? Yes! Private classes are a fantastic way to begin or deepen your practice, and a safe place for connection with the undivided attention of your teacher. Private classes are like a mini yoga teacher training without the hefty investment; it is an chance to examine your practice, increase body awareness, and understand how the words of a teacher translate to your breath and movement. In this setting, you’ll have the opportunity to pick your teachers brain, learn about yourself, and develop the confidence and skills to truly listen to your the innate wisdom of your own body.

Learn the Basics

For most, access to classes is not the main barrier to entry. Yoga has exploded in popularity across the country and throughout the internet community. A quick google search delivers endless results of local gyms, studios, and online platforms offering yoga to the masses. But that’s just it- masses of people are turning out, and that can be intimidating for anyone first attempt to jump in. As with any new practice, a lack of familiarity with the ‘norms’ and ‘culture’ is a strong deterrent. Add Insta-famous yogis and expensive gear to the mix and you’ve got a perfect storm of NOPE.

Here’s the secret though- all of those barriers are usually (never say never) just preconceived notions created by our own fears of looking silly. Yoga is for everyone (more here), but it’s easy to see why a public class can be intimidating. Taking a few private classes is a fantastic way to increase your awareness of the practice, it’s benefits, and what the heck to do when you get to a public class. In the safety of a one-on-one setting, you’ll gain the confidence you need to ask questions as they come up and geek out about the changes you feel (or don’t!). In building a strong relationship with your teacher, you will be emboldened to unlock the teacher within.

Every Body’s Different

As a bodyworker, this is a biggie for me. Every body is so very different! You don’t have to be a beginner to benefit from a private yoga class here and there. Teaching public classes means you teach to the average body- there are certain tried and true cues that most teachers will default to, taking time to problem solve as they can, but ultimately doing what they can to keep everyone as safe as possible. Private classes give you the opportunity to figure out why that Warrior One never quite feels right, or what it means to “isometrically pull your hipbone into it’s socket” (whut?). There are just some postures that can be workshopped and adjusted so that you reap the same benefits without putting your musculature at risk. Remember, flexibility is not mobility, and vice versa. There are some body structures that will not take traditional postures, and that’s okay. A skilled teacher can identify and modify for those unique variations in a private setting, empowering you to do the same in a public class.

Accountability

Let’s face it- everyone wants to be reliable. When your name is marked down in someone else’s planner, you’re more likely to follow through with that commitment. Working in a private setting will hold you more accountable to your practice and help protect the space you’ve dedicated to achieve your goals. Blowing off the internet lady is easy, but skipping out on an hour with that super enthusiastic teacher down the road? Not so much! In being accountable to each other, we learn to be accountable to the practice too!

It all comes back to the relationship you forge with your teacher; a private practice will help you gain skills and familiarity with the physical practice, but on top of that you’ll also find that you’ve gained a teacher that supports you, motivates you, and has your back when Life things happen. We all come to yoga for different reasons, but there is typically an underlying theme of desire for change, and change doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. In cultivating a practice, we upgrade our toolbox of ways to spin lemons into lemonade.  A private teacher is there to remind you why you want the changes that brought you to the mat, and hold you to that commitment as you bust through your boundaries.

Build a Home Practice

For many of us, routinely making it to a studio isn’t the most efficient way to get on the mat. A home practice gives you more autonomy over your schedule, especially if you travel a ton, have little ones to think about, or simply don’t live near a studio that inspires you. Luckily, the internet was invented and anyone with a decent wifi connection has on-demand access to world-class teachers for about as much as a Netflix subscription. While it’s great to have someone to virtually guide you through their sequence, it is very much a one-sided conversation without space for dialogue.  A regular private session is a wonderful supplement to your home practice, giving you the opportunity to play an active role in the conversation- What do you like? What doesn’t feel good in your body? How can you safely build up to the more advanced options? Private sessions are tailored to your needs, body mechanics, and goals. Your teacher can point you in the direction while you do the work in your home practice.

Deepen Your Practice- without the extras

I can’t stress it enough- everyone comes to yoga for different reasons. Someone looking to yoga as a form of physical exercise will have preferences vastly different from their spiritually-motivated neighbor. For some of us, yoga is the way to kickstart the day and add a fire to our bellies. Others use the space as a way to find peace, quiet, and inspiration. Most commonly, it’s a bit of each. Whatever the reason, dropping in on a public offering can be a crap shoot. In a private session, you get to define what the practice looks like. Enjoy astrological anecdotes? Say so. Hate hearing Rumi quotes? Say so. Prefer to classic rock over Native American Flute music? Say so. Want to know about the mythology behind the postures? You guessed it…SAY SO! Yoga is always your practice, but a private setting give you the power to mix and match exactly which ingredients go in to your particular brand of practice. Finding this secret recipe sows the seeds of a deeper practice- somewhere you actually want to go. As you dive deeper, you may find that the original reason you came around starts to change- and your teacher is there to accompany you in that new space.

 

All in all, yoga is a massive topic that can be broken down into infinite pieces marinated in “shoulds” and “coulds” and sprinkled with “do’s” and “don’ts.”  At the end of the day, you are the gatekeeper to your own practice, and all of this mumbo jumbo is simply a suggestion to chew on. Unlocking the split between mind and body can help bring you to your own conclusion, and it never hurts to try something new! If you’re on the fence about entering a yoga class at your local studio or have found the internet community as less than motivating, try a private class on for size. If it doesn’t fit…on to the next. ❤

Actions speak louder…#noDAPL

**Edit 11/21/16**

I’ve received a lot of wonderful feedback since this originally posted. Many have messaged me with words of encouragement, supply donations, and general questions. In response to some of the uncertainty surrounding our decision, I wanted to document a few of the events from last night; in many ways it serves as a microcosm of the entire issue. In an effort to connect with other local Austinites looking to send supplies, I came across a Live Facebook feed of a clash on the front lines at Oceti Sakowin- one of the main camps of Water Protectors [given the nature of their presence, they prefer this term rather than ‘protesters’]. The Water Protectors had taken action to move obstacles blocking the major highway used to access Bismark, the closest city. Protectors and police had negotiated the removal of this blockade nearly a month ago, but it still stands- blocking the ability to send and receive emergency assistance. You can read more about the clash here. While watching the Live Feed, it was apparent that the man publishing it was the only person able to cast. People kept approaching him asking how he was able to get a signal- his response was that he was an unaffiliated source, just your average Protector associated with any media outlets. After about two hours (and 50,000+ viewers) of in and out connections, his feed was jammed and cut out completely. He showed the what he described as a “militarized police force” utilizing rubber bullets, water cannons (or firetruck hoses?), tear gas, concussion grenades, and testing a Long-Range Acoustic Device (used to make sounds loud enough to disorient anyone nearby) on unarmed protectors in temperatures below 20 degrees.  The protectors were TRAPPED on the bridge, with no way to retreat unless they trampled each other.  Rather than turning on one another in panic, they stood there and Took It. Over 150 protectors were treated for hypothermia and other injuries resulting from rubber bullets and tear gas. The contrast between the police report included in the article and what I witnessed last night is akin to the majority of soundbites from throughout the conflict. The first bit of advice that my mom gave upon hearing some details back in August was “Oh honey, be cautious of your news sources.” She’s right (as usual). BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU GET YOUR NEWS. In traveling to Standing Rock, I very much hope to be like the de facto broadcaster from last night- I have eyes to see, a voice to use, hands to work, and a fierce desire to paint the full picture so that NO ONE will question the horrific history we are all currently writing. 

Thanksgiving is coming.

As a kid, Thanksgiving was meh. We always did it big for Christmas, so Turkey day was a day that I spent peeling grapes (Waldorf Salad, das you) and carefully selecting clothes that allowed me to eat right up to the verge of bursting. However….as an adult…woooooey I do love my Thanksgiving! I’ve made a lovely life with my very favorite human, and Thanksgiving has been our Thing. Our wine-soaked kitchen prep is always a diligent homage to those foods that we know will make the very best leftover tacos; shit gets real, I promise. However, as we begin to gear up for this year’s (Gluten-Free?) Glutton Fest, I feel nothing but defeat. Drowning in the waves of disappointing and desperate news, I can’t seem to picture what gratitude looks and feels like in the absence of Work. I am the biggest proponent I know for Self-Care, but this just feels like it crosses into the Self-Indulgence territory.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for that too….but right here and right now, there is work to be done.

Who, what, whenwherewhy

Maybe it’s the irony of Thanksgiving, maybe it’s the election…whatever it is, I feel called to stand by the Water Protectors in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. So this Thanksgiving, I am using the time I have away from school and work to travel to the Sacred Stone camp and lend all the hands I have.

I remember the first time I heard about DAPL.  It was sometime in late summer, and Chad told me protests were growing urgent.  A very select group of attentive news sources were broadcasting coverage, and I was horrified.  At the same time, I took comfort knowing that if I know about it, then surely more important people know about it…and if they know, then this is already solved. I had total trust in the fact that as soon as the public heard about this anomaly, They would put an end to it.  Flash forward three months and conditions are not improving. Even worse, there have been widespread social media campaigns and city marches grabbing the attention of the masses when mainstream media passes the bite. People know this is happening, yet actionable support is still just…meh. The mere thought of sitting around a table, eating and drinking in solidarity with the ‘friendship’ forged between pilgrim and indigenous…it simply made me ill.

A big part of this equation is my own feeling of helplessness.  To be blunt, the recent election season (with or without Election Day fallout) has wreaked its havoc through every stratum of my personal and professional life; my friends, colleagues, family, and mentors create an intimate circle of influencers that is very purple. I have a deep respect for each and every one of these people and the experiences that paint their political opinions. I am also in a position that many depend on and from which many actively seek comfort in this uncertainty.  Founded or unfounded, there is a lot of fear going around. In an effort to quell those fears and anxieties, I’ve repeated time and time again that at the very least, we will see an Awakening of the youth and unprecedented civic participation. Despite very passionate opinions on all sides, civic engagement is a good thing for all camps. Leveraging the resources available to me- time and two hands- this is my active practice of wide eyed engagement.

Wrap it up, Laing

Without belaboring this any further, I feel strongly that this is an obvious invitation to Do. My intention is to witness, to learn, and to fight for what I know is right. I believe in the good things coming but I don’t believe it’s a passive operation. I’m here, and I’m ready to put in the work. Wanna help?