In The Midst of Change-Again

I’ve been traveling the last few weeks and loving every second of it. I’ve seen old friends, clients and students. I’ve taught in familiar places and some new places. I’ve searched out my old haunts and just taken some time to be quiet and breathe.

The last six months has been a privilege in that I’ve had a lot of time to breathe and be quiet. To think about breathing and being quiet, even. It’s been six months of reflection and introspection. My friends call it my sabbatical from life. I’ve parented minimally, lived with friends, read, watched way too much Netflix and indulged in my yoga and meditation practices. But it started with pain. It was the privilege of healing in peace after my life flew apart. It has been six months of change, growth, respite and now in the Spring it has been a time of love, happiness and blossoming.

Yesterday in the air over the Midwest I read Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully and when she described ego clinging I was struck by how she was describing me. Now, I’ve worked on ego a lot and if you ask me I would say I’m a kind and open person. I go with the flow easily and I don’t hang on to any idea too tightly. Except when I do.

My biggest struggle is the idea of One Day. I’m not materialistic enough to believe that One Day I’ll have the perfect car/house/timeshare and life will be perfect and I’m not vain enough to believe when I hit the magic numbers on the scale One Day, life will be perfect. I do, however, hold on to the idea that One Day I will have it all together.

I’ve had this notion forever. I can’t remember not thinking it. When I was a kid, it was when I’m a teenager everything will be perfect. As a teenager I thought if I could just make it out of my parents home and on to college everything would be great. In my 20s I thought life would come together in my 30s and I would know the magic answers and when they didn’t come I just happened to see an Oprah show where famously successful women recounted how things jelled for them in their forties. So I waited. And here I am almost halfway through and I’m still not sure what together is.

So slowly I’m learning to accept that there is no One Day. There’s just now. Logically I’ve known this for years, but to feel it deeply and surely is work. Over the last few years I’ve also learned that what looks like chaos from in here probably looks together to someone out there. So I can at least enjoy the facade, but from in here there’s always going to be uncertainty. There’s always going to be doubt and second guessing and trouble with self-love and forgiveness. Because that’s who Melissa is.

This quiet time the last few months has taught me a little bit about embracing the uncertainty and slowly learning to appreciate it. Maybe even have a little gratitude for it. Cause wouldn’t life be boring if I knew for certain what the next five years looked like? Or even worse the next 20 or 40 years?  I’d just lie down right now and give up.

The toughest part for me is to be still in the moment. Outside of my meditation practice just being still mentally, physically, emotionally is tough.  So often I’m planning, planning, planning. I take a walk so I’ll feel alert later and maybe my new dress will fit better later. I’m thinking about my mental state, my health, my life in the future. I’m doing things now for later. These last six months I’ve accepted what is here right now just for the sake of this moment. It’s made me appreciate my life and also realize how delicate and precious what I have in this moment is. Six months ago I thought I knew where I stood and where I was going. It was gone in a second.

And that’s ok. Really, the universe knew so much better than I did. The universe gave me this gift of complete upheaval and the parts that I’ve put back together are wondrous in comparison. And somewhere in the dusty corners of my mind I know that’s the point. It’s the stuff of miracles. It’s not about planning and making sure and feeling in control. It’s about the magic, the surprises, the happenstance that make our lives wondrous.

Steve Jobs says that things lead you to a place, but you can’t possibly connect the dots of the events of your life until you look back. The thing that I keep seeing is a field of dots and 100s or possibly 1000s  of different connections creating different paths.

This Melissa has been here some 40 years and none of it has been static and very little of has been known in advance. I’m always, always developing, learning, changing. I sometimes hate to do it publicly and I fear that changing often makes me appear flighty. Today I can embrace that it just makes me human.

So with my new found respect for not knowing and accepting change and uncertainty I’m again changing the blog. I’m posting here very little these days because I’ve been working on the new blog. It’s my attempt at making my work, teachings, writing, ramblings more cohesive It will be about more than just yoga off the mat. This blog will stay live, but I won’t be posting from here. Please please come on over. We’re going to practice poses, cook some yummies, drink some tea, meditate, breathe and have fun doing it! Comment, share and enjoy. See you there.

 

An Open and Broken Heart

lotus2I opened my heart. I was vulnerable and okay with the fear and it really did take me to a different place. I was safe and it felt good to trust. There was rosiness. ROSINESS! And I didn’t feel quite so broken and my heart felt full. I cried happy tears and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

And then the next morning the universe rewarded me with breaking my open heart. In a completely different, but somewhat related area, my life shifted. An area that has been rocky and challenging for all of my adult life fell apart/shattered/exploded. It was shocking but not unexpected, and a very long time coming.

And I get the lesson, I really do, but it doesn’t make the hurt easier. Once I could be truly open and trusting it was time to let go of what was no longer serving me. And it was in that moment that I could open my heart to something new and scary that the old truly, completely, no-doubt-about-it didn’t serve me anymore. I did think I would get a little more time, though. The next morning, really?  It hadn’t served me in years, but it was comfortable and known. I knew it like a grungy bathrobe with holes and rips. It was an easy place to be in its own way.

So here I am with an open and broken heart and I’m raw and feeling like the world is a big and scary place and I’m not driving I’m just riding and I believe in sitting with the pain and I’m wishing with everything that I’ve got that I can just crawl under the covers, or under the bed and hide and maybe numb my pain. But I believe in telling my story with my whole heart and I believe that the uncomfortable place is where the growth begins and I believe in continually growing and in spiritual maturity. My pain tells me that spiritual maturity sucks and growth is hugely over-rated. But here I am and I have a choice. And then I remember that it probably doesn’t matter which branch of the twisty path I take because they’re all going to get me to the same place and then I remember that the only driving I get to do is to decide do I want the road to be bumpy and full of potholes or would I rather take the smoother, possibly more direct path. That’s it. The universe decides where I’m going, I just get to choose how I’d like to get there.

And maybe it shouldn’t be and maybe it wouldn’t have been last year, but right now in this moment it’s comforting and I feel safe again.It’s a weird place for me, but I’m going to  accept it and see what the next bend in the road looks like.

Dress it up! homemade salad dressings

Chef in disguise

For March’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings, letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

I LOVE making my own salad dressings! if you have not tried that before, believe me, you are missing out!A  few  simple ingredients and some imagination and you can turn your salads from boring to mouthwatering in a matter of minutes.

Salad dressing ingredients

The idea of making your own salad dressings may sound intimidating at first but in reality it is easier,cheaper, healthier and the taste is phenomenally better than the over-priced, preservative filled dressing you buy at the store.

For this month we chose to challenge the daring cooks to go beyond the dressings in a jar .The challenge was an invitation  to dive into the vast and wonderful world of homemade…

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It’s Just Sensation Darling

I thought by the end of February I’d be done with thinking about open hearts, but it seems to pop up everywhere lately. The most recent challenge has been coming for a few months.

2013 was a tough year for most of my friends. It was tough for me. Everyone had a relationship end, lost a job, had a friend/parent/loved one die. People had big moves and big changes. Everyone had something big and ugly in 2013.

Eventually it started to trigger me. I started waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept wondering if my explosive breakup was going to be it or what the hell else could go wrong.  If my mother called unexpectedly I knew she was calling with bad news. If my kids’ father didn’t return my call immediately,

buddhaI was sure it was because my son was in the emergency room. It was hard to stay in the moment and hard to keep my heart open.

2014 has been infinitely better. There’s still stuff going on, but I’ve been less triggered, more grounded and more open.

I have to admit, though, it’s getting harder to be grounded and open.  A few weeks ago a friend I’m not close with, but am extremely fond of and have known for 20+ years had open heart surgery. Then someone I’m getting very close to had a relative die and last week a close friend had a biopsy and is fine and another friend had a biopsy and her cancer is back. And it feels like the world has gone crazy. It feels like my life as I know can slip away in a blink. And it feels like I’m not mature enough to deal with this. When did I get this to be such a grown-up?

I’m trying to stay present with what is and not let my brain go crazy. I’m sitting with the fact that I am almost 45 and there will be more and more months like this where friends are diagnosed with heartbreaking things and have dangerous surgeries and some won’t survive. And just writing that hurts my heart.

It took me so long to get here. So long to get to a place where I have a fantastic group of people who love and support me, so long to find my groove again after babies and divorce and bad relationships. So long to like my life and who I am in it.

I recently read an article about 91 year old, Ruth Denison, Buddhist teacher. She is contemplating her death, is terrified and struggling to stay balanced.  The article struck me. It hit me on the head and stayed there all week.  “It’s just sensation darling. The pain is just sensation.” she teaches a woman struggling with accepting her cancer. It stuck with me all week.

Once again I find myself in a place of fear. I want to scream. If you’ve read even two of my posts you know that fear is my go-to emotion. I did SO much work  last year and STILL fear is my go-to emotion. Granted, I’m far less triggered than I was two years ago. I don’t have panic attacks or even highly agitated states anymore. My drama is all in my head now cause I don’t let it leak out into my relationships or day to day life. But really?

“It’s just sensation darling.” And if a 91 year old master has to work to stay balanced in her fear and uncertainty than I should probably cut myself some slack.

I’m reminded that this really is just a journey. There’s never a place where I should expect the work to be done. There’s that word again, expect. I think I’m pretty good at letting go of expectations or at least recognizing quickly that I’m having one.  Yet, I’ve suffered with my own pain for weeks, my brain has been topsy turvy  since I heard that my friend was in the hospital awaiting heart surgery. I consistently think I’m so on top of this journey and then I have to remind myself to truly embrace the journey. “It’s just sensation darling.”

The Greatest Yoga Lesson

I came to yoga out of curiosity. I was one of those five-day-a-week step class women in the mid 90s. My gym offered a few yoga classes as a tester-to see if the community would take to yoga.

Now, this is weird. Even though I’d never taken a yoga class, I’d thought for years that being a yoga teacher would be an amazing job. Little did I know that winter day in 94 that it would only be 5 years till I taught my first class.

The first time I pressed up into downward dog felt like coming home. I was instantly at comfortable in the practice and it’s whe

re I’ve stayed for almost 20 years. To this day being on the mat is where I’m most Melissa.

I loved the way I felt while I practiced yoga. I loved the buzz of energy combined with the grounded, centered feeling that I got after class. I loved how the effects lasted and lasted. I got to a place where yoga deeply changed me. If I thought about skipping a class my husband would push me out  the door with a kiss because he liked the person I was when I practiced consistently. I did too.

Over the years the lessons deepened and expanded. The practice was about so much more than physical or even mental. I learned to be open to myself. The practice helped me quiet the self-critical loop that ran through my head. I slept better, had less worrisome thoughts, but most importantly I learned a tiny bit of acceptance. I learned to accept who Melissa really is, not who I thought she should be. I learned to accept my limitations. I learned to stay on my own mat and accept my own pace as 

acceptancebeing exactly how fast I was supposed to be progressing. I learned that it’s not all about progressing and that staying in exactly the same place is okay, even good sometimes.

My real lessons began when I became a teacher. I saw my students struggles and their humanity was beautiful to me.  I aspired to be like them; vulnerable, fearless, willing to learn and to try new things. When they relaxed into restorative poses I marveled at their beauty. I felt connected. I felt connected because I accepted them completely and wholeheartedly. And it began to open my heart just a tiny bit more to me.

Over the years I’ve watched my students with awe and love.  I notice that they consistently learn acceptance faster than any other lesson in yoga. They are okay with not being strong enough to do an arm balance the first time, they learn to celebrate a stranger’s victory, they revel in their own successes. Because it’s about being on your own mat. It’s about not comparing yourself, or even caring what’s happening in any other part of the studio. “Yoga is a gift you give yourself.” my teacher used to say as we lay in savasana heavy and empty like a corpse.

I learned that acceptance isn’t about not caring. It’s not about giving up. It’s about letting go of results. It’s about detaching from the endgame.

My practice taught me to let go. It taught me to honor my own experiences. And it taught me not to have expectations about my experience or about my healing or about anything.

And I learned to trust. If I can just be open and willing to be vulnerable the work on the mat always gets me somewhere. If I keep working on headstand, I will eventually get there. If I keep practicing my headstand it will get more solid and I will get the full benefits. If I allow myself to relax into my headstand I will learn that letting go always makes the pose more enjoyable and I will one day get to a place where I can’t imagine not being able to do a headstand.

The key is acceptance. Acceptance makes the work doable. It makes the trust reasonable. It makes the practice enjoyable no matter what happens that day.

The funniest thing about acceptance is that you never graduate. The beauty of acceptance is that it keeps growing and shifting and allowing you to be more and better. It opens you in ways that you never imagine. It’s not easy work. It’s hard to let go of our expectations and our plans and our ideas about the future.

The pay off is huge. Learning to accept puts you right here in the now. It allows you to deal with life on life terms. It allows you to live with your whole heart. Today, that’s the journey.

I’ve been writing a lot about opening the heart and focusing on living with your whole heart. A Yogi Kitchen  has more about heart opening poses and meditations and more about acceptance.

Slowly, ever slowly yoga is teaching my heart to be more whole. One day I’ll learn to use all of it.

Fennel, mint and pea salad

If you’re as tired as winter as I am this light and refreshing salad might be the antidote to the winter doldrums. Enjoy!

Chef in disguise

It is time for our secret recipe club reveal and for this month I was assigned Leigh’ s blog  Chit chat chomp.  Leigh lives in  Melbourne and she describes herself as being” in love with pots of tea, farmers markets, French jazz and fresh flowers.  Winters spent rugged up under blankets.It’s the little things in life that make me smile.”

fennel salad

I couldn’t agree with her more!The most beautiful things in life are indeed the simplest ones. Like going on a long awaited trip back home. Cutting lemons off the last few trees of your grandparents orchard , being enveloped by their enchanting smell, that transforms you back to your childhood in a heart beat. Now just looking at the pictures, makes you smile.

lemon

On her blog leigh shares beautiful French recipes,she has a cookbook challenge in which she chooses recipes from her collection of cookbooks and features them.I…

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My Own Way

I had another one of those knocks from the universe yesterday. By the way, the universe is being much kinder to me these days. The knocks are gentle. I’m able to keep my balance. I’m able to see the wisdom pretty quickly and I’m immediately grateful. Not like last Imageyear. Last year was the land on my ass and wallow kind of year. Last year was the can I really take one more thing kind of year. Last year was too much to bear. I have happily said goodbye to 2013.

You’re thinking the year is only 21 days old, right? I know, but I’m hopeful. And don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot last year. I learned that I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I would have guessed. I can take a lot. I also learned that sometimes just giving up isn’t such a bad answer, that lying down and letting it wash over you is sometimes as effective as fighting. I learned that I don’t have to take all the crap that comes my way. I learned to stop giving away my heart and hoping that everyone else will treat it better that I treat it myself. I learned to manage. I don’t have to bounce from wave to wave, I can manage my own movement and momentum.

So yesterday I had a gentle knock from the universe. I texted a friend that I talk or text almost every day. I didn’t hear back. My mind went into a tailspin. Now, to clarify and continue showing how much more mature I am than last year, I didn’t go into a full whirling dervish spin thinking everyone hates me and no one ever calls me or texts me. I didn’t check my phone incessantly. But after a few hours I started to wonder if I’d offended in some way. I started to question my ability to be around other people without obsessing. I started to doubt crazy, unrelated parts of my life. Then I phoned a friend. A different friend. I left a message, telling her I was thinking of breaking off this new friendship, that i was too crazy and in my head. I told her I’d had a fight with my ex-husband the night before and I was now in the crazy place where I was starting to believe the nasty things he can say to me.  I said it all in humor and with lightness to my voice. And because she’s a friend she knew that there was truth and hurt and pain beneath my flippancy.

And then the first friend called. He’d texted, but I’d never received it. And the sun shone again and I was smiling and it was all good.

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I can slip into my toddler self so easily, can’t I?. 

And then the second friend phoned. And we laughed. But here’s what she reminded me and this is why I love her, she always celebrates the small victories and is quick to point out what I can’t see.

She reminded me that I didn’t go into full-tilt whirling dervish. I had a few moments of uncertainty, a vast improvement over last year. I took responsibility for myself and my emotions. Not once did I call my non-responsive friend an ass or lay any blame. On the contrary, I knew I was being over-the-top, but I also didn’t invalidate my feelings. I gave them a voice in a safe place and at the end I came up with the conclusion that I have so many times before, but so much faster.

And I thought about all that and voiced my conclusion to her. When I think about my past and try to assign past hurts to a present situation, I drive myself crazy. When I’m in the future wondering what might happen, I drive myself crazy. For me, this is where self-sabotage comes in. I start to think that the job/friend/trip isn’t worth worrying about because it’s doomed. I convince myself I should just walk away and not worry about it. Now, in my head I say this is non-attachment, I’m surrendering. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. And then I’m not driving myself crazy, I’m there. I’m pulling into the parking space and getting ready to unload my luggage.

The solution? It’s what I teach, what I know and what I come back to again and again. A little faster this time, but so rarely while I’m flappable, vulnerable and needy.  If I can just be quiet and let the present moment be, I am ALWAYS okay. Being present with what is and letting go of what I’d like it to be makes everything okay. Letting go of the ego’s need to say how things should be is truly surrendering, is true non-attachment.

I know it’s only three weeks into the new year. I know I will be hurt in 2014, I will feel pain and it might get hard. I will struggle as we all do. We’re human.  I also have hopes that this is the year-not the year that I lose the weight, or make a million, or fall in love or finally work out every single day. I have hope that this is the year that I finally learn to get out of my own way. 

 

Starting Over

I’ve been playing with this idea of starting over. Six weeks ago my life flew apart. I had some decisions to make. Things were changing. Can you really start over at 44? Can I begin again with kids, exes and a truckload of baggage? While my kids ground me, they also anchor me to relationships that sometimes I’d rather not have. Mother-in-law.

So I’ve struggled with this idea of starting over. It terrifies me. I’ve been frozen in indecision. I suppose I could be looking at it like it’s freeing. I’ve tried, believe me. I would love to feel free instead of feel fearful.

So, after struggling for awhile I finally looked to my yoga practice. Yes, it should be simple and automatic to fall easily into my teachings. Some of them I do. I know to get on the mat. I know to listen deeply. I’ve learned to lean into the pain. I eat well, I dress comfortably, I believe in my body’s wisdom. And yet, I often find the need to  struggle, be uncomfortable, resist and wallow before I look deeply into my practice.In this way I accept my humanness.

So today while reading and meditating I remembered two things about the teachings. First, that yoga is transformation. Transformation is always happening. So while I may like the grand title of Starting Over this is no grand experience. Rather, we are constantly changing and transforming. Hollywood likes to glorify it, Think; Eat, Love, Pray, The Holiday, Pretty Woman, Sweet Home Alabama, even Gone With The Wind. Don’t we just love Scarlett, standing in the dregs, declaring that “tomorrow is another day.”? We believe in the power of the new day. We love thinking each of us has within our power to wake up and turn it around. We love to watch women struggle and turn their lives around. We love to feel good about it. We love the happy, feel good ending. What we don’t like to focus on is the fear.

The fear can be huge. The fear can be debilitating. The fear is uncomfortable, messy and yucky. Yoga has taught me that being messy is good. Not something just to tolerate, but something that we want to run into. Big thinkers like Seth Godin and Brene Brown remind me that messiness is where we’re productive, where we’re creative and we’re innovative. Am I going to change the world because I’m scared? Maybe. But undoubtedly I am innovative in my own life when I’m terrified.

So the answer? Am I Starting Over? I’m not completely sure. This I know.

I will survive this difficult time. I most likely will have a better life because of it. I will lean into the fear and feel the now of the moment, cause there’s nothing like fear to bring you into the present. Change is inevitable and constant. It’s the willingness and openness to do something different that connects us to our higher good.

Probably the biggest thing yoga has taught me is to do what I know. Every day that I feel lost or scared I know to meditate, to connect, to get on the mat. Every day that I sit in meditation, every day that I get on the mat I’m a little bit different. I come to the practice with beginner’s mind. With the same earnestness I approach transformation with beginner’s mind. So, I guess in a way I really am starting over.

Right Now, I’m Okay.

I was checking my blog, from your point of view and reread the quote at the top of the page. Do not dwell in the past….oh, yeah. Do not dream of the future….oh, yeah. Be present….oh, yeah. It’s silly the things we forget, isn’t it. It’s silly how often I have to remind myself to just be present.

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So while I’ve felt this underlying thread of fear during the last month, I look around and I realize that actually in this moment I’m okay. The past few months have been scary for many reasons, the near future is scary because it’s an open road and that’s uncomfortable for me. But right now, as I sit on my messy bed with too much coffee eating my belly and my 7 year old playing Star Wars on the floor everything is okay. I don’t fear for my safety or my sanity in this moment. I’m not worried about what might happen in a few hours. I’m not even worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow. Thanks to good friends and family my immediate future is pretty secure.

Ask me about next month? I’m terrified. However, I can take a deep breath and come back to the moment. Right now I’m okay. The breath can only be in the present. Anytime I choose to practice focusing on the breath, I can only be right here, right now. Next month will come soon enough and if I can string together enough right here, right nows I can get to next month feeling okay. And when I get there that moment will be okay too.

So for right now, I’m okay.