A Botched Open Heart

I failed. Really failed. I was recently presented an opportunity to open my heart, to live fully, to be in the embarrassedmoment and let go of my fears. Boy, did I fail. I was full of fear, denial and if I’d been able to run I probably would have. Luckily, it was late and I didn’t have a car. It’s been a cold winter, running would have been even more stupid than being afraid.

So I failed for about ten minutes. Then I realized that everything that was happening was what I really really wanted deep in my heart. I’d love to say that for that ten minutes I didn’t do anything stupid. How I wish that I was just silent and processed, but no that’s not what happened. I was openly fearful and reacted badly. So, there’s that. I least I was honest about my first feelings.  I recovered. Slowly. And I apologized and it got examined and talked about. We’ll see the cost.

Here’s where I am a few days later, though. I am in the process, much through writing, of forgiving myself. There’s a part of me that’s been through a lot of therapy that says of course you reacted badly, you were raised to duck, hide and pretend. There’s another part of me that says, you’ve done a lot of work and you’re an adult now and that’s your past. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

My first instinct is to be in that place of fear. Getting what my heart truly desires terrifies me. As a kid getting what I really really wanted was scary because it was so often stripped from me in a second, either in anger or punishment. Punishment in my home was random and really was thinly veiled anger, not really about correcting behavior.

As an adult I still can be in that place of fear about what I really really want. Not only have I conditioned myself not to want too much and often mask it through being a mother and a partner, but I put other people’s needs in front of my own and even got to a place in life where I really didn’t know who I was.

So it’s progress. I’m willing to recognize my fear and be present with it. I’m willing to let my past be my past and most importantly I’m willing to be uncomfortable to get what I really really want. Writing that makes my heart skip a beat, but as I wrote earlier this week I’m finally in this really great place in my life with great people, liking who I am. I’m not willing to go back. I’ll be unhappy again in life, it’s bound to happen (I’m working on not attaching to being happy), but my unhappiness will come because life will shift and change not because I’m full of fear.

With My Whole Heart

I’ve had a bit of a block lately. My life has been in transition and I’ve been struggling to decide how to put the pieces together. And here’s the kicker, I have very few restraints. Perhaps, that’s why I’m feeling so guilty. I’m almost paralyzed by guilt.

For years I had all the excuses in the world to not have the life I truly wanted. I was in a crappy marriage and then in a crappy relationship. I lived in a tiny, rural town in the middle of nowhere. I had a small child-at two different periods of my life.  I had excuse after excuse and now? All those excuses are gone. Every single one of them.

I live in a new, exciting metropolitan area. My crappy relationships are behind me and I’m even spending time with someone new and wonderful. My children are older and for a short time living across the country with their father. I am older, wiser and more experienced. I even have a small reputation for being good at what I do.

I’m paralyzed and I’m not sure it’s all guilt.

This morning someone tweeted, “Have the courage to be happy.”- Steve Maraboli. And it kinda stuck in my head through making the coffee, feeding the cats and emptying the dishwasher.

I remembered what I learned last year about courage from Brene Brown. Courage is different than being brave. Courage comes from the Latin for heart. The original meaning is to live with your whole heart.

Sometimes the lessons come so long after we are initially introduced to them, don’t they?

Have the courage to be happy.

Live with your whole heart and be happy. Well, now that makes sense, doesn’t it?

I’ve been so scared so often in my life. I’ve been so lost and afraid. The biggest thing my fear has done? It’s helped me build a protective wall around my heart. Like the henna heart there’s stuff around my heart that takes awhile to wade through. Then when you get there, there’s a door. Don’t get Heartme wrong,  I open it occasionally and I even let a few select people in. And at the same time I feel my heart open to complete strangers, on the street, on television, that I read about. I would say that I’m an open-hearted person and that I have love and compassion for everyone.  Yet, I guess to be honest I would say that most of the time my heart is open when I can stand back. I guess I would say, there this wall and I stand at the door guarding the entrance.

What if Brene Brown is right? What if the answer is to use my whole heart? What would that look like? What would that feel like?

As with so many times when I learn a life lesson, I find that I’ve already been teaching it. I teach heart openers and believe in the health benefits, mental and physical, of having an open heart. I tell clients to look into the places where the heart is resisting. I believe in living more in the heart and less in the brain. I practice heart openers.  And yet again I find myself laughing at my own limitations.

I guess being able to laugh at myself is good.

So here’s what I’ve been doing that so many of us do. I open little parts of my heart, for limited amounts of time. I’ve been thinking that maybe, just maybe I can widen my door and put in a gate. Cause gates are see through. You can even reach through a gate, both from the inside and the outside.

Maybe just maybe I can leave the gate open for longer periods of time and for more people.

So, I tried that this weekend. (Sometimes posts take me several days to write.) I opened and I was happy. I was really happy.

And then I freaked out. I got panicky. My heart started racing. My breath got short.  I picked up the phone. I called three different friends and left long messages. I talked myself through it. I told them I just needed to talk, even on vm, and it was what I needed cause I got over it and I even went back and opened my heart again.

I teach in class that poses aren’t going to feel comfortable right away. I tell my students to be in the pose, to stop thinking about how it’s supposed to look and focus on how it feels. Breathe in the pose. Breathe out from the pose. Find the softer place, the place where comfort might have some space.

That’s what I’m doing. Cause that second time, when I went back and opened my heart again, it was better. It still takes my breath away. I’m walking through it.  I’m breathing and softening and looking for the place where it feels comfortable to live with my whole heart.

Courage isn’t a destination. It’s a space. I am being courageous. I may not be a pro, yet, but I am choosing to live with my whole heart.

If I don’t pass out from the fear I’ll write more about it soon.

Self-care-or cutting myself some slack

I’ve been taking it easy lately. I’ve been defiant about it, too. I’ve been eating food I don’t normally let my kids eat.

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Comfort food. Frozen food. Food which normally makes me cringe and for which I judge other people when I see it in their shopping carts. And I’ve been loving it. I’ve been loving my over-processed, heavy with sodium and preservatives diet. 

Well, mentally I love it, but I have to be honest physically I’m not at my best.

Also, I’ve been sleeping in, which normally makes me anxious. In my normal life 10am rolls around and I feel like I’m behind. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been up since five and have been working straight for five hours. I usually feel anxious. These days, I’m still war ravaged from my 20 year battle with insomnia,  but instead of feeling virtuous by only getting three hours of sleep,  I now take a Benedryl and roll over. Some days I’m in bed till 10am. 

I’m not sure what’s happening. I have a hunch though. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. And I just had my 44th birthday.  

 

I teach people about self-care. I scold my clients and students for pushing themselves too hard. I push myself too hard. Unfortunately, I think my shift to taking it down a notch is a mixture of mid-life realization that I’m not actually immortal and pure mid-life exhaustion. Most of us wait till we’re in a health crisis or think we’re retiring to slow down and take care of ourselves.

Somehow my shift has happened slowly and naturally. A long time ago I was someone who chastised myself for every unhealthy bite I took. I weighed

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myself constantly and my internal commentary was harsh and critical.

I used to cringe if I didn’t seem to get ten hours smashed into eight. I sewed my daughter’s Halloween costumes, while making all-natural, from scratch meals and supervising Halloween crafts, ditto for every other holiday including St. Patrick’s Day and Sweetest Day.  I was a warrior.

I made homemade pizza sauce and froze it, I grew vegetables and pureed my kids’ non preservative, all-natural baby food.

Self-care only meant swiping the razor over my legs once in awhile and occasionally taking off the chipping, fading toe nail polish I’d put on while my daughter napped six weeks earlier. Self-care was a concept in my professional life only.

I have made progress and getting older has helped a bit. I’m a bit more mellow than I used to be. I have some health issues that make demands of my diet so usually I’m fairly conscious of that. But the last few weeks have been almost hedonistic.

Now, I’m not going to argue that eating frozen burritos is self-care, far from it. But for me, it’s the concept of letting myself be human  that’s revolutionary. Cutting myself some slack is novel. It’s a new form of self-care. It’s very different than taking six cardio classes a week, like I used to in my 20s.  I’m allowed to have lazy days, I’m allowed to indulge, be silly just for the sake of being silly. 

Self-care is a big buzz word these days. We’re killing ourselves and I’m no exception. The cost of stress, insomnia, constant motion and over-thinking are high. But the highest cost of my hectic lifestyle and incessant self-berating is what I’m teaching my children.

So, while I’m proud of myself for letting go of my negative self-talk and overly demanding ways, it’s time to get back to who I really am. I’m a diabetic, gluten-sensative yogini who believes in whole, unprocessed, all-natural, made from scratch meals, slowing down and taking care of myself body, mind and spirit.

Today I pledge to walk cause it’s a nice day, not just because I put sugar in my morning coffee. I promise myself to just sit in the silence because it’s pleasant, not just because I need to model behavior for my clients.  I allow myself long, lazy yoga practices where I sink into poses and relax onto bolsters because they feel good, not just so I can prep for my next client or class. But most of all I vow to myself to just let myself be me.

3 ways to ease anxiety with yoga

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This post is from the archives.

I was in Boston the day of the bombing. I stayed an extra week to work with people healing from stress, anxiety, trauma and PTSD. While I was there I really didn’t write. Well, I wrote, but I didn’t post. I wasn’t ready. I needed to digest what was happening, what happened. Between the bombings, the unease during the week, the lockdown and the eventual capture of white hat it was a lot to digest. This was one of the first things I wrote after. Enjoy.

My first yoga experience was a coming home. Yoga had called me for years. Even teaching yoga seemed like the dream job. Somehow I knew that it was a practice that would change my life.And it has. I would not be the woman I am without yoga. I’ve been a yogini for almost 20 years. Some of my most profound lessons weren’t on the mat, but in my everyday life. Yoga has opened me, calmed me, made me more compassionate and loving, made me more tolerant and most importantly, yoga has healed me. And that’s why I started teaching.

Early in my yoga life I was a mess. And I’ve been an occasional mess since, but those early days I didn’t have anywhere to turn. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. I was depressed, anxious, lonely, despite being married to my best friend and suffering from undiagnosed PTSD.

Later I would be a mess, but I would have yoga. And if I could just remember to get on the mat or sit in silence I would start the healing practice and everything would be okay. Continue reading

5 Steps to Intention Setting

ParkYoga2At the end of yoga class when my students are open and have worked out the kinks and unblocked energy and are feeling good, I invite them to set an intention. It’s a great time because they’re also lying in a quiet position and all the creative juices are flowing.

I invite them to think about their week, their day or the time until they’re on the mat again and set an intention. How do you want to walk through this time?

Intentions are not about setting goals. Not necessarily. I prefer intention setting to be a time when I think about who I want to be and how I want to walk through this life. Intention setting can help me accomplish my goals. Continue reading

From the Archive…It’s Not an Easy Day

peaceIt’s another hard day. My hands are shaky. I’ve had one cup of coffee and no sugar today. My head hurts and my chest feels….well, it’s hard to explain. It feels shallow. It feels like a deep breath is impossible. It doesn’t hurt to breathe like it sometimes can. And I feel like crying. All the time.

It’s been 3 weeks since the Boston bombings. I’m sitting in a café in Kansas, 1600 miles away. I’m safe. It’s not even about laying out the facts to convince myself. I don’t feel threatened. And yet I’m terrified. To everyone around me I probably look fine. I’m dressed appropriately. I act appropriately. But I don’t feel right. Continue reading