Stoking the embers: an ode to growth

Inspiration is often fleeting.

Sometimes it floats in on a bright morning breath, trickles down the spine like wildfire, ignites to the very core. It gets hot, burns through doubts and worries, elates the soul, energizes the body.

But then that heat starts to fade. It’s too hot to handle, we need it to cool. And as it cools, our spirits fade too and we open the doors once again to doubt, worry, fear. The hows, the whys, weigh heavy as they climb each vertebrae, shrinking stealthily over the shoulders, and pulling down the collarbones, curling the head to hover over the heart in protection. And before we know it, we’re clawing our fingernails against the earth, longing for change but immobilized by fear of it.

We go through this process time and time again- sometimes the cycle is complete in a few hours or days, sometimes longer. The higher we get, the deeper the lull appears. We sabotage the high in fear and dread of the lull. Worst yet, we get stuck in the cycles spinning round and round until we lose orientation and start digging down when we mean to go up, losing ourselves in the pit. Our experience in the pit is a powerful one, and those embers of inspiration have trouble catching fire when smothered by the weight of a heavy heart. Subsequent experiences begin to grow their vines around the heart and the lungs, gently and consistently tightening their hold on our creativity, our air, our life. Each strand stronger than the last, we give in, allow them to victimize us, pushing us deeper into the pit- so deep that the flight of inspiration, of freedom, appears to be available only to other beings, and we watch them too. We watch through the peephole of our pit, gazing up, allowing the elations of others to increase the space between us.  We watch the waves of inspiration passing us over time and time again on the winds of change that no longer graze the surface of our skin. We watch ourselves settle, again stuck in the intensity of a craving and filling it with tastes that don’t satiate the palate. Tastes that are ‘safe.’ Tastes like job security. Tastes like a mortgage payment. Tastes like routine, and chores. We continue filling our plate with these monotonous, bland tastes, becoming a slave to them, replacing them with more bland, monotonous tastes the moment we finish so as not to leave any blank space, any inkling of a home for something ostentatious and sweet like creativity or spontaneity, though on some level we are aware that we ache for it.

Fear not the pit, because the deeper we dig down into the earth of the soul, the more fertile the soil for even the smallest seeds. The deeper the darkness, the brighter our smallest ember of inspiration can shine, grabbing our attention and commanding our focus. If we have a breath left beneath the weight on the chest, we have enough oxygen to fan our small embers to flames. These flames are flames of transformation, transmuting that which no longer serves. The fire revolves in the darkness, evolving the dormant edges of the body, asking us to move, to go, to do. Our task is to be open to these flames of initiation, our work is to allow it to move us. It matters little what we do with it; what matters is simply that we do. We follow the illumination of the flame to see through the darkness. We go. We Allow. We accept the cycles and seasons of our spirit and know that the dark is not a place to be ashamed of, it is a place to visit frequently for a humble reminder of the grounds of our soul, those spaces waiting patiently for the light. Each time we visit, a new evolution can begin, setting the next cycle into motion as we break outdated agreements and burn down the walls of restrictions, deepening our roots and expanding through our flaming branches. When we go through the painful, cracking, messy process with patience, peace, and love in our heart, we are growth embodied. Fear not the pit. Fear not the process. Stoke the embers and watch your innate, awesome power move. 

Warning: This is a Rant. But I’d love for you to read it.

I’m upset.  My stomach is turning and words are stumbling out of my fingers wondering how far I’ll go before deleting this entire post and continuing on with my day.  As you may or may not have noticed from the lack of posts over the last 6, 8, 12 months…I’ve got shit to do today, I don’t have time to write.  But I think this is important.  So here it goes.

In light of recent events, there is a lot to be upset about.  Listening to the media would have you feeling like society as we know it is crumbling down to the ground one shot at a time. I’ve spent a good chunk of my time just wondering how much time I should spend thinking about my role in this- what should I think, how should I act; do I go about my day like nothing happened and keep high spirits?  Do I reach out to friends and followers on social media, expelling opinions like I’m turning a profit on them?  Times like these challenge our civility and beg the question: How do I Be?

Today was different.  I woke up to another report of a sickened individual with a vengeance grown on pure hatred and fear, hunting and haunting another group of innocent people.  Most alarmingly, my first thought was not what happened, but when will this happen next…and to whom?  I’ve come to realize that I no longer feel shocked by the radical actions of the chronically fearful, but instead I myself feel fear for when these same individuals forcefully enter my personal circle.  Fear.  The same emotion I’ve been unpacking since starting this blog.  Fear and all its friends.

Still, this isn’t what I’m here for.  It was a later news report that finally tipped the scales.  Enter the newly passed GOP Platform. Yes, it’s getting political.  Feel free to jump off the ship now if you want, no questions asked.  The GOP Platform, amidst the chaos that surrounds this obsessively publicized campaign, has decided to move to the right of DONALD TRUMP when it comes to LGBT issues.  As in, stamping a big exclamation point on the otherwise fading ultra-conservative subgroup of constituents.  As in, including language that is specifically symbolic in nature to further solidify the party’s efforts to marginalize a community just as it grasps its first glimpse of equality along the horizon.  As in, forcing an ill-equipped and abused teenage girl into become a parent while legislating away the right of a loving couple to provide a safe home to a child.  As in, alienating an entire community from the conservative ballot and consequently invigorating partisan extremism.  As in, planting a nearly identical seed of the institutionalized inequality- and subsequent fear/hate therein- that has driven us to this point in the first place; at the risk of overusing a cliche, history unlearned is doomed to repeat itself.  There are countless incomprehensible prime-time news stories today that will become the incomprehensible histories for future generations to examine…but this is something we are actively choosing to allow by passively refusing to take control.

When it comes to the tragedies and the travesties that have thrust their way into our daily experience at increasing frequencies, I am at a loss for answers.  We cannot change the demented crusade that has berated our society, we can only learn from it.  Our individual lessons will not be duplicated, but they will lend meaningful action to the collective conversation when transmitted from the heart.  My lesson: do not draw lines between what someone can and cannot do because of an arbitrary category that the disembodied voice of the masses has created.  Do not cheapen the experience of another because you have not shared in it- they are not wrong for the lessons life has passed to them and not you.  Do not give in to the fear of an ego that accepts only sameness in others.  Celebrate the differences, show love to a stranger, and treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.  Spill out the courage and impartiality from your heart to drown the flames of hatred rather than feeding them with fear.  Find the little cracks that YOU can change- be it a targeted joke, throwing fair and informed punches in constructive arguments, or simply letting that car merge on the freeway- and patch them before they split wide open in a cataclysmic debasement of Us.  I could care less who you are voting for in November so long as you know what you are supporting.  The history books are counting on you.

Good Morning, Sunshine: 10 Ways to Make Sure You Kick Ass Today

This one has been on my mind for a while now, and it’s time to share.  Mornings are lovely and exciting times for everyone; the sun opens its warm shiny rays upon us, birds are singing, animals frolicking- the world is waking and YOU get to witness it!  Unless you are not a Morning Person…in which case mornings are your sworn enemy- a time when you are rudely robbed of your right to bask in the glorious cloud of dreamland.  If you hit snooze multiple times on your several alarms, rush out the door, and hope to someone there is coffee in the office, READ ON.  We’re going to take this slow, and we’re going to do this together.

Daily Disclaimer:  I am not naturally a Morning Person, so I (absolutely) do not do all of these things every day.  Some days it is difficult to drag myself out of bed and I have to eat my words for breakfast.  One thing is for sure, on the mornings that I hit the most of these targets, I have the very best days.  Think of this as a menu of options for your own daily dose.  And then expand. Grow.  Brush your Teeth.  Call your mom.  Okay, I’m done.

1.  Stop Pressing Snooze

This may seem obvious, but it is important to be honest with yourself the night before.  A good morning routine starts before you even get into bed.  Take a moment at the end of the day to rehash your experience.  Do this OUT of bed so that you don’t carry along as an obstacle to sleep.  Set your alarm clock for a reasonable (and achievable) time to wake up, not a reasonable time to start pressing snooze.  Give yourself a little pep talk about that time, and mentally set your body clock for the same time.  By eliminating the unpredictability of when you will wake, you increase your chances of a more meaningful sleep.  The simple act of anticipating a good night’s sleep actually increases the chances of it occurring.

2.  Move

An important first step to your morning routine is simply taking one.  Or maybe a few.  Go for a walk until your eyes open.  Focus on open-chain movements and calisthenics, finding rhythm in your mind, body, and breath.  Yes, I know that you don’t have time to exercise/go to yoga/run 5 miles…save the excuses and make time for just five minutes of movement.  Although I love to work my way through 30 minutes of the Ashtanga Primary Series followed by a solid savasana, there are (many) days when I don’t have time.  My favorite alternative is to take a walk while shuffling my legs like a Olympic hurdler and moving my arms like a crazy person pretending to swim along the sidewalk.  Bonus points if it’s raining.

3. Think

The same way you did last night before bed, take a moment to set an intention for your day.  That Morning Person I mentioned in the intro loves mornings because they serve as one a beautiful backdrop emanating a delicate balance of peace and energy that is marvelous in the truest sense of the word.  So do it; marvel at it.  Sit and listen to your body and the way your breath naturally dances with the nature around you.  Things are coming to life, and  you are lucky enough to bear witness to it.  Let it inspire you to be just as amazing throughout the day.

4. Drink

Don’t forget to hydrate for your day.  You’ve been sleeping for the last few hours and your body has been working hard.  Fill that gas tank!  Schlepping down some agua first thing in the morning will do wonders for the cells in your body and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  Personally, I think it helps fend off the impending coffee jitters though I have no scientific proof of the relationship.  I’m chronically on the verge of dehydration because I get too distracted to listen to my thirst siren, but starting my day with a big Spring water has helped me stay privy to my needs.

5. Cold Showers

This one took me a long time to embrace, but I promise it is worth it- especially on those days that I only have time for one or two morning activities.  There are plenty of gnarly dudes in the Cold Thermogenesis field worth giving a look and listen, and finding your own way to incorporate it into your routine is key.  My quick tips?  Pay attention to your breath and your shoulders, make plenty of noises.  If you are holding your breath, your shoulders are raised- both no no’s in the stress-release world.  Once you mentally prepare yourself to hop in, continue breathing controlled, smooth breaths.  You’ll never need coffee again (stay tuned).

6.  Stay Naked

Who says you have to put clothes on the moment you dry off?  One of my favorite taboos on my To Tackle List is Nakedness.  The only way to get over your own aversion to it is to practice it.  Stay naked for as long as you can, wherever you can.  If you are lucky enough to get some sun on those buns, do it!  Pay attention to the way being naked makes you feel.  Does it feel wrong?  Sexual?  Embarrassing? Do you feel that your body is connected to your mind at all?  The art of being naked in non-sexual situations is incredibly energizing and equally intriguing if you take the time to analyze your feelings about it.

7.  Unplug.

Notice the punctuation here.  There is no question mark, and no room for ‘unless’es and ‘until’s.  Put the phone down.  If you are in a profession that requires you to be accessible, keep the volume on but seriously just put it down.  Emails can wait.  Texts can wait.  Facebook can absolutely wait.  If someone needs you as badly as you think they do, they can call you.  The only person able to enforce the work-life balance is one that makes a promise to their self about boundaries and enforces it.  No one else is going to do it for you.  If you want to fully dedicate yourself to your profession, make sure you have the best self to give.  Take your naked morning coffee moment and savor that shit.

8. Create

Make something.  Let your inherent ingenuity out of its cage.  You don’t have to paint a masterpiece or make a spectacularly crafted meal (but if you do, c’mon over to my house).  It can be as simple as making your bed.  Do anything that is a small accomplishment that you can take a bit of pride in.  It’s the proverbial “step in the right direction” that can set the tone for the rest of your day.

9. Learn

Spend a little time educating yourself about something you are interested in.  Read a book or newspaper.  Get those neurons firing about something that excites you.  Start thinking critically and write down ideas that pop up.  Clearing the fog in your brain before you get to work is an essential ingredient to the “How is she always so on?!” reaction.  Plus, you get to learn stuff!  Stuff and things (ie: passions) are good for keeping in touch with your youness and the world you plan to interact with today.

10. Protect

This one is admittedly general, but make your morning your thing and guard that bubble of gold to the death.  Stop telling yourself that you don’t have time for you.  I get it; I’m not a mother, I’m not an executive, I’m not responsible for your typically defined “high stakes” anything, but I am happy.  I work hard in an emotionally demanding industry, and I’m able to give myself to my work each and every day…Just don’t expect me to drop my morning for you (okay well once and a while, sure…but I’ll be sure to accomplish at least a few things first).  I’ve made this clear to those that depend on me, and I set that alarm early enough to be ready to answer their calls when they need me.  So yes, this may sound naive, but what if it’s not?  I dare you to try.