Awareness IS enough, And so am I.

Many times in yoga classes I tell people that my job is to help guide them to their own awareness, to their own experience and feeling. It is my job to provide a safe space for them to unwind, and an environment conducive to exploration, curiosity, mindfulness and care.

Sometimes students will ask well what do I do once I become aware of that some ‘thing’??? A few examples of ‘things’ that have happened in recent sessions to help clarify: Student awareness quote Linzrealized when they transition from one pose to the next that they hold their breath; another noticed they use their abs to hold themselves up while doing a lunge; and another became aware of their tendency to use their brain to ‘think’ the movement into reality.

So, when practitioners ask me what to do with their awareness, sometimes I will have an answer for them, and sometimes I will just let them be, and hold space for them to grapple with the question for a while. I have wrestled with this question myself many times you see, and I have had moments where I have chased my awareness; wanted an answer in it; wanted some resolution or confirmation of the next move. Although each moment of awareness WILL yield an answer, it’s one of those things where the harder you look for the answer the more it eludes you. Awareness is always moving, it’s like water in a stream, flowing over rocks, around branches and tree stumps, boulders and riverbanks; the path of awareness is shaped by what shows up along the way, and more importantly, by your ability to allow it to move it’s way through.

For me, when I become aware of that ‘thing’ for the first time, I try to adopt a sense of curiosity, almost like when I meet someone initially and I want to get to know them: I ask questions, I take note of the person’s preferences and sensitivities, I listen to them and receive who they are. Likewise in a moment of awareness of a new pattern in my mind, or compensation in movement or breath, I get curious and engage in some inquiry with it.

Gently at first I begin to observe, simply bearing witness to this ‘thing’ as I get acquainted with it. When I am able to really allow this process to unfold while I am on my mat, there is a peacefulness that arises, an ability to accept what is happening moment to moment and to be open to the response that I have to it as well. What I have recognized is that this openness to the response, is actually TRUST. Like I can trust the conversation happening between my body, my mind, my emotions AND my awareness. Trust for me begins to feel like there is inclusivity inside, a conversation made available between what I know to be true and that which I question; as though the answer lies in the curiosity and sitting in the uncertainty of it all. The more I allow the ‘I don’t know’ to exist, the more I feel answers rising up and I am led to feeling safe in my body again and again. This builds Trust that I am able to really be with what is showing up, all the ‘things’ I am noticing/feeling; and that NOTHING is actually wrong with me. (CONFESSION: I have spent most of my life believing that something was very wrong with me; I didn’t trust; didn’t know this experience of assurance and inclusion inside, and the result was always a sense that I somehow ‘missed the boat’, would never get it right and would never belong. I didn’t know that it was Trust I was missing until recent times, and as my ability to feel and hold space for my experience IN MY body emerges, so grows my capacity for inner big T Trust.)

So what does Trust actually FEEL like? For me, it is my feet on the ground, connected to the earth. Simultaneously, a lightness from my feet to my pelvis that is integrated, steady, strong. A sensation of fluidity in my pelvis, between hip bones through to pubic bone; I can feel my anchor there. When I first began to feel it, it felt like I was ‘inside’ my legs for the first time. My bones felt perfectly stacked, floating in the sockets and the muscles providing a hub of support at my centre. Standing felt proud, tall, effortless and light. My head and shoulders felt more connected to heaven than earth but yet my feet could stomp heavy and rooted into the ground. There was a firmness in my mind, and yet everything felt flexible. A powerful sensation and one I am committed to cultivating more and more.

I suppose this sensation might be connected to my root chakra being open and flowing, the place where our innate sense of safety, security and survival reside. For most of my life this has been very held, restricted, and energetically-inclined folks might say this chakra was ‘blocked’ in my body. Trust is felt for me in the opening of this space and an ability to stand firm in my choices. To feel confident that my decisions are right for me, gentle in how I approach the world, and soft in approaching the heart (whether my own or another).

savasanaThere is a tenderness to self-Trust, a rawness that allows for great exposure but the risk doesn’t feel so great. A willingness to be held by my body, my friends, my family, the universe: a great surrender. I have been playing with this great surrender in Savasana (The final resting pose at the end of yoga practice for those who don’t know, where you lay in ‘stillness’ for some time to rest and integrate the practice.), and seeing how much Trust can come into the space for me. It’s hard to let go into Trust like this: eyes closed, body open and receiving, falling into mother earth’s palm. I watch people in classes coming and going from that surrender, learning Trust, in every class. It takes practice.

Trust is a skill, and like any skill, it builds on itself and grows stamina and strength over time. The refinement of Trust seems to me to bring more clarity around decisions, and a feeling of gratitude when awareness is illuminated.

I suppose some could say it is simply a feeling of balance that I achieve in these trusting moments, but what I am recognizing it as now after having experienced it more regularly is something like an inner faith. A faithfulness to my own being: heart, mind and body. A consideration that all my choices, thoughts, feelings, and actions are just as they should be and that I DO in fact know what’s best for me. Comfort within. The ability to sit back and say aaah, I am okay.

So, it may be helpful to know how am I feeding this inner-faithfulness now, how am I nourishing it?  There are 6 main ways that I do this:

  • Before I ask someone’s advice or their opinion on a decision I am pondering, first I ask myself. I pose it as a question just like I might ask a friend, and then I wait for the answer. I don’t spend time ruminating on it, or analyzing it, just pose the question, then wait for the answer.
  • I ask myself is it ABSOLUTELY true, before I confirm it as my Truth. The work of Byron Katie with this one, it’s pretty plain and simple. If it is true, then it’s in my heart and I work with what is in that place, and if it’s not, then I drop it or move myself through it to find closure with it.
  • I get on my mat everyday. I move, I breathe, I listen, I lay quietly. I move gently, breathe softly, and listen deeply. Repeat. The amount that this informs trust and confirmation of inner faith in myself is something I cannot express enough.
  • I LISTEN to the answers that rise up. There is an inner wisdom inside, a quiet but fierce voice that whispers. I believe she has ALWAYS been there, and the more I get acquainted with her, the more intimately she shares the Truth with me. THIS is a relationship I am interesting in investing in, but it requires that I let my guard down and I really listen with my whole being (body, mind, heart, ego).
  • I DO NOT do things that make me feel a sense of self-betrayal. (e.g.-My body revolts against me, while my mind pushes through and talks smack like, “come on, what’s your problem…don’t be such a wuss!”) I do not invest in experiences that rock me so much that I can’t find my center. I choose to baby step into deeper waters when and only when the answer is yes from deep inside. And when it’s yes, I fall in whole- hearted and it seems to consolidate this skill of self-trust all the more.

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To me, this is the deep practice of yoga: cultivating self trust, self reliance, and a resilience of spirit. It goes well beyond the mat, but the mat is where I realized how lost I was and how absent this big T was in my life. Those who I have looked up to most through my life are people who are firmly rooted in the ability to believe that they are capable, that the decisions they make are the right ones and that they can own every single choice as their life unfolds. There is a profound grace and fierce courage in a person like this, and I aspire to it every day.

In Trust, from my Fierce Heart to yours~

Lindsay

 

Age Is Not the Problem (But Your Attitude Might Be)

I remember when I was a young girl and teenager, how badly I wanted to be older. I sensed even from a young age that there was something magical about the wisdom and strength in being a grown up…’grown ups have all that knowledge’ I remember thinking-and I wanted to be one! I remind myself of this every time I think about how quickly time is ticking; when I feel concerns about time, growing older, and the rapid passing of the years. As a child, this attitude I had of respect and admiration for age is a key reason that I feel more youthful at 34 than I felt at 21. In cultivating this attitude today, and focusing on clarity, health and honesty in my life, I am finding I feel more like a kid each day.

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The experience of getting older really gets a bad rap. We are inundated in our culture (at least in North American culture) to look down on aging, to see it as a weakening of our existence in seemingly every way: strength, mobility, flexibility, mental capacity, memory, and the derogatory list goes on.

It makes me sad to hear people’s resignation with, “It’s just the way it is cuz I am old”;“This is what happens when we get older”;“Nothing to be done but suck it up”; and one I hear the most often I think is, “this getting old business sucks”.

SO, are you ready for this??? I hereby call BULLSHIT on these statements, and I am hear to remind and inform you (kindly and lovingly of course!) that there is another way to age. I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be such a struggle or a downward spiral.

Now I know some of you will say, “But Lindsay you are so young-you have no idea. Just wait until YOU get older, you’ll see.” Well, here is my beef with that. In my life so far, I have experienced my own fair dose of pain, debilitation, reduction in mobility, flexibility and strength-and I have struggled with emotional strife, trauma, anxiety, not to mention my inability to sustain or hold many memories through my life. I am almost 35, and I can say that the growth and wisdom that is coming to me with each passing day is the greatest gift life has to offer me. The opportunity to come into my age every day with the infinite opportunities for learning, knowledge, life experiences and awareness that are presented to me; it just doesn’t seem possible that getting older is at fault for feeling yucky. I felt crappier in many ways at 20 and 30 than I do at 34, and so I just haven’t seen the proof yet to believe aging is the culprit for the misery and suffering.

Perhaps some of you are now thinking you would say to me, “just wait till 40 or 50 Lindsay, then you’ll see”…and to that I say, OKAY I will! You got me there 😀

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There is so much cool stuff that happens as we refine ourselves with age, but the key is, we have to SEE it and FEEL it. As I am getting older, I am given the gift of opportunity; to be present-to really see what life is offering me. I am noticing that it really is all in my attitude how this opportunity unfolds, how I recognize my choices in life. It is exactly as I believe it will be: all of it. If I put my energy and thought into a story that my age dictates what I am capable of, I find that my life offers me just what I need to make that the truth. No surprise of course, this manifestation goes both ways-it can help me, or it can harm me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I recognize there are limitations and changes that do occur as we grow older, and there is loss, sadness, grief, mourning, and a myriad of other emotions that come with this process of growing old in life. I notice that with age there seems to be more loss that comes, as people die and our hair turns grey and the world falls apart (The latter really has been happening for generations it seems, and the perpetual “when I was your age” continues!). It’s easy to focus on this stuff and start to think that it’s all going downhill and so what’s the point of it all?

I often wonder about how these hard and challenging experiences are here to help us remember our humanity, to remember that life is a gift, that it is a privilege to grow old and witness all of this adversity, and to really live it. When we truly recognize this honour, the blessing in our blip of time in this body, it seems to me that this is when age loses its’ negative power over us. People I know in my life who live this truth are NOT old, in fact their hearts are wide open like a child and they are young and alive. They are Alive. They are aware and in direct relationship with their vitality. Maybe this is the core awareness required for the fountain of youth to remain inside of us…a forgotten story about being old and dried up, and instead an ever-emerging and intelligent ‘Peter Pan’ complex, in which we ‘never grow old’: never losing our relationship with curiosity, imagination or appreciation. This intelligence allows us to take the lessons of life and integrate them, rather than separate ourselves from them: We feel it ALL, sorrow and joy, and we fall in love with our lives, in all stages and phases.

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All of our experiences shape us, but I believe it is up to us to decide how we respond to that. With the loss and the pain, there is also the lighter side: the joy, happiness, fun, the spontaneity, the sunrises, patio drinks, the family adventures, new babies, weddings and soulful chats. The dark and the light, the top of the mountain peak and the deep ravine; both have their place in us, and are unavoidable. As the saying goes, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”

So perhaps age really isn’t the problem, but that our personal and cultural attitudes about it are. If you believe that age will define you, limit you and identify you as less than, then it will. The body will follow the mind, and if the mind believes aging is game over, then the body will surely follow.

I was at a yoga retreat a few weeks ago in Sorrento and more than half of the people there were over 50, and some over 60. As the weekend progressed and we moved, connected, reflected, shared, chanted, breathed, and dined together, I watched as everyone started to look more youthful than when they’d arrived. It appeared as though they were actually getting younger as the retreat progressed. They experienced less pain, easier posture, and there was radiance, brightness and a ‘lift’ that started to emerge. We joked at the end that we should have measured ourselves because we all appeared as though we had grown an inch at least and for those of us ladies in the group, it appeared we may have had a boob lift as well! (Yoga Therapy rocks, just sayin’!!) 😀

Everything seemed to be a little more buoyant, a little more supple in all of us, both younger folks and older. This experience was such a glaring example to me that aging is really what you make it. I literally watched the years melt off of my new friends at the retreat, as they took the time to nourish themselves, as they allowed themselves to be supported, as they gave themselves space to emerge, feel and allow. It was cool and lends creedence to this post: Getting older is not a choice we get to make, but how we do it certainly is! My older (and wiser!) friends at the retreat had a few traits in common that allowed youthfulness to emerge and grow in them:

  • they gave themselves permission to be taken care of and took the time to take care of themselves
  • they accepted love and support, and opened to connection with others in a way that felt possible for them
  • they moved their bodies daily in a whole wide range of ways that nourished relaxation, ease, stability, mobility and strength-without pushing into pain, tension or anxst.

What if you didn’t even know your age, how would you identify yourself? What might you do? Who might you be? Consider that you really aren’t your age, but you are your attitude towards it. Are you choosing to age out or age in to your life?

From my Fierce Heart to yours~
Lindsay ❤

 

Compassion Creed

“May you be content with yourself, just the way you are…”

This line, one of my favourites from a Saint Terese of Liseaux blessing, makes me choke up every time I recite it in class. I am not sure whether it’s because I so deeply wish that those in my life and classes could believe this and feel their wholeness, worth and beauty, or if it’s that I long to believe this myself. A little voice inside tells me it is both, that the longing is in me for all of us to feel whole and complete: to feel like we are enough without needing to do more or become more to justify our existence.

My practice in recent weeks has been to consider that perhaps everything, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, is exactly as it should be. Including me. Nothing to change or improve: simply a practice in accepting and allowing myself to be, well, myself. Man oh man has that been a challenge. My insistence to dissect and analyze is like a bad habit. My addiction to deprecation, as in self-deprecating inner monologue, is surprising me in its compulsion. This practice has swiftly introduced me to my inner bully, the voice of my mind that says never enough, no matter what the outcome or cost. I could be winning a Nobel Prize and my inner bully, also known as IBSC (itty bitty shitty committee) would have some horrid remarks to inflict about my works, and ultimately, how undeserving I am for any recognition. It’s appalling in fact, the things I am willing to say to myself, the abuse I am willing to tolerate between my own two ears.

For those who don’t know, I have ankylosing spondylitis, or spinal arthritis. A long journey got me to this condition, and I will share more on this in another post. Last week, my AS flared up with pain in my body and I watched myself drown in confusion and dissolve into IBSC completely; I lost Lindsay. She was drowning. The doubt drowns me, suffocates me and cuts me off from the truth of my experience. During this unraveling, I tried to repeat my mantra: “I did my best. Everything is just as it should be. I am perfect exactly the way I am.” It was so hard to hear it amidst the violent noise in my head; the practice just didn’t seem viable when I was being bombarded from within. However, something in me knew that this practice was pulling me back from actually drowning in deprecation, and saving me from the psychosomatic breakdown that typically follows it. And so, I felt strangely propelled to continue, choosing to trust and stick with it, albeit desperately.

I suppose it must have helped me because the next day there was a clearing inside, and that space is what led me to write this post…So, here I am, declaring that I would like to oust the IBSC from my house, consider it evicted. I don’t want to spend any more of my time, thoughts and brain power on the confusion of deprecation, worrying, wondering, doubt. I don’t want to expend my energy on inflammatory thoughts that send me reeling into panic, self-conscious over thinking, and inevitably: analysis paralysis.

I want to spend my time on the inquiry- the curiosities that bloom when IBSC isn’t taking up real estate, and I want to pursue these with fierce kindness and compassion at all costs. Even if that cost is not knowing, having NO idea if I can offer what is needed in the situation, or if I will make the right decision. If I truly have compassion towards myself, then there is no danger in the wrong choice, because I will be able to move forward and learn from it no matter what the outcome. If there is no risk of an internal beat down, then I am safe. No one would ever be as cruel to me as I am to myself, so there is nothing to fear.

When I miss out on feeling my heart, when compassion is absent and it’s all harsh and abrasive disappointment, I can’t learn because fear clouds my ability to see myself, and I become overwhelmed with confusion. Confusion is a place of great fear for me. I so deeply long for clarity, for a clear mind, clear heart, clear body. To have this clarity, to me, means peace, and within that so much possibility for fulfillment of my purpose while on the planet.

 

I often teach a class series called Yoga for Calm, Clarity and Strength. That really does sum up who I want to be: Someone who is calm, clear and strong; someone who forgives herself always, and who gives herself the benefit of the doubt. When I dream about the person I want to be, the woman I see is someone who is fiercely resilient. Someone so gracious and compassionate that all you feel in her presence is the strength of her willingness to love you, and herself, no matter what.

I am choosing this to be who I am, today, right now, in this moment. Choosing to love at all costs, to forgive myself no matter what, to surrender judgment and to soften back from analysis when things get tricky. I am choosing to love IBSC too, as she is part of me, and she will continue to show up from time to time, but to let her know that she has served her purpose and her services are no longer required.

The Dalai Lama says that compassion is a deep and kind concern for others. The more we can care for others, even those we don’t know, don’t relate to or don’t understand, the more we can grow a warm heart of compassion. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” And so, there it is. Compassion is my creed. Who is with me?

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From my Fierce Heart to yours. I love you.

Xoxoxo Lindsay

The F-Word

Well it is December 31st 2015, and publishing my blog has been on my bucket list for this entire year. Last New Year’s eve I spent the evening creating a Vision Board and on it I declared a goal of launching a blog. That poster board has been on my wall all year, and I look at it every morning. I have accomplished almost everything on it, except this! The reason I hadn’t tackled it until it until now is simply due to a four letter word that I’ve let stand in my way: FEAR. I have been allowing Fear to rule me, providing an easy excuse not to share my stories, feelings, dreams, wisdom and experience; choosing instead to stay safe in the cocoon of my own mind.

Until today! So what differentiates today from all the other 364 days that have gone by since last New Years? Well, I can definitely consider a few factors that have shifted since that time but that is a whole other blog post. Coming soon I promise! Maybe it’s also the fact that I like to follow through on commitments? I have a few sacred friends who are holding me accountable to this 😉

Despite the changes through this year, one thing that still remains inside me as I write this post tonight is’ The Fear’…yup, she’s still there! However, there is also a little more Trust alive inside with yet another year under my belt. I do suspect that Trust is a main ingredient to this blog’s actualization.

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What is it that paralyzes me? Is it the fear of judgment, the worry that no one will read it? Or the concern that it won’t be just right….ah, yes, the preposterous perfectionism that has bullied me throughout much of my life is what emerges from the dark scary corner. What if it’s no good? What if I get kickback from people or questions? What happens if I share my opinions, experience and MY truth with the world??? This last point is a skill I am just getting familiar with doing, and is fast becoming a daily practice for me.

This inspiring quote was read to me by one of my amazing mentors this year, in the spirit of helping me reflect on how small I live at times, how much there is to step ‘IN’ to, and how holding back can actually be a rather selfish place to live from.

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Although I have heard (and LOVED) this quote a million times, it resonated a little differently with me this particular time. Holding oneself hostage, shackled by fear, is a surefire way to never live up to your potential, and certainly won’t allow you to offer your greatest service/talent/skill/heart possible to the world, or the people in your life who might be the most moved by that very potential. I see how living small keeps us disconnected, it keeps us from allowing ourselves to shine and therefore we are unable to see or support others to shine as brightly as they were designed to.

It’s quite liberating to consider that in giving myself permission, I automatically unshackle everyone else too…that is powerful don’t you think? THAT, is what motivates me. The sincere desire burning inside to help others, to provide a flashlight for the dark times, so we may illuminate one another and see more clearly what holds us hostage, what keeps us suffering.

And as I am speaking here about Shining and coming in to our brightest light, don’t misunderstand me, this illumination business puts a sharp spotlight on the darkness too. Our shadowy side, the side that most of us keep hidden from others, (and likely even from ourselves), exists with as much reality as our brightest moments. In my experience, the more we resist this shadowy Self, the more energy is required to Shine, and the authenticity seems to get lost in the mix, although the effort feels so sincere at times.

With that awareness, The Fear gets a great revival. To Shine, we have to acknowledge and get Real with our Shadow. She requires acknowledgment too, and I can feel how my Shadow is so often barricaded by Fear. And yet, the True emergence of her brings relief, vulnerability, rawness- Freedom. I guess that’s why some say “Freedom ain’t free”; for me, the fee is in the Fear.

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I have spent a lot of life working on shining bright. I spent a lot of years developing my ‘positivity’ muscles, and I believed that negative ones were wrong and bad. I even earned myself the nickname ‘Sunshine’ when I worked at my one and only Union job, barf. (Which for the record, I hated.)

In the last year, my understanding of my identity has shifted. My being, and what is important to me has changed significantly for various reasons. What this year has opened up for me is the Truth that for me to really Shine, I have to share myself with the world; not just the nice, fluffy, and light filled parts of me, but the dark, stormy, ucky mucky muddy parts too. I have to Trust that my Whole Self is worth putting on the line, because at the end of it all-We are connected. By giving myself permission to show up, scared and all, I give you ALL permission to do the same. And as I build Trust and Love inwardly in the process, I give it outwardly and honour it all the more.

To me, THAT is worth the shakey quakey feeling in my fingertips as I publish this first post!!

Deep gratitude to You all, and Happy New Year!

From my Fierce Heart to yours~
Lindsay