Monday, February 28, 2011

As on the mat, as in life...

If you practice yoga, I'm sure you have heard someone, maybe a teacher, talk about how what you do on the mat relates to what you do in life. The idea behind it being that what happens on the mat on which you practice is simply a metaphor for your life- how you show up for yourself and others, how you breathe and deal with things when they become difficult, how you treat yourself and others, what your thought patterns are like, etc. (For those of you non-yogi's, maybe you have heard the comparable phrase, "how you do one thing is how you do everything.") I have always understood this concept on a mental level, but to be completely honest, never really thought it was A) very relevant or B) applicable to me!  Well, actually, that's not completely true..... I thought it was relevant and applied to me until I came up against an "issue" of mine, that I didn't want to or wasn't ready to move past, and then it became irrelevant and un-applicable to me. Which is the entire point of the concept. Ha. I totally could see that I could practice the concept of Ahimsa, or non violence, by not pushing too hard, not beating myself up if I couldn't do a pose, not comparing myself to others, etc, but when it came to pushing myself past certain boundaries, I froze. In the moments of not wanting to see how my yoga practice was mirroring my life, instead of accepting the concept and growing from it, I dismissed it and decided that it was pretty silly. I would stand on my mat and think to myself "the fact that I don't want to try and pike into handstand does not prove anything about my life!"

Well, after taking a few steps back and being very open with myself, I've decided that yes, yes, it does. WHY don't I want to try it? In the moment, it's usually because I just don't want to. And the underlying reason that makes me not want to do it is because I'm either scared, I don't know how to do it, I don't want to do it just because the teacher wants me to, or I just am too lazy to try. Lovely. If the reason were because it hurts me, or because I've tried and tried and it just isn't right for my body, then fine; those are acceptable reasons and I would respect myself for listening to my body. And if once in awhile, I am scared, lazy, defiant or uneducated, then that's ok too. I am human. But every time I am presented with  this challenge, I react in the same way. I am not allowing myself to grow, or even to attempt to grow. I wonder how often I do this in life?? How often do I turn my back to something because of the reasons listed above? Probably kind of often, to be honest! This isn't something I'm proud of, but I'm also not judging it either. I'm simply noticing it and consciously choosing to shift it, both on and off my mat.

I tend to do this with ab work (really not very fun for me!!!) as well, and in the past, with not wanting to hold a pose and only wanting to flow. Well, let me tell you, holding a pose is much harder and more intimate than flowing quickly through poses, never stopping to truly get in deep. With holding poses and really working your alignment, you get to see the beauty in the details, learn how to focus your mind and breathe through the sensations, and oddly enough, feel very alive. Flowing through things and not digging in is also something I have been doing over the past few years in my everyday life... And it is something that is changing in the tangible day to day as I have begun to change my practice.

There are other things that have been brought to my awareness about how I act on the mat and how it mirrors how I act in life, and I am grateful for all of these revelations; I am choosing to be completely honest with myself in service to my growth both on and off the mat. What about you?? If you practice yoga, what challenges do you find on the mat and how do you think it is showing you a challenge off of the mat? If you don't do yoga, how do you react to certain things that you might not really enjoy? I would love to hear your opinions and personal journeys if you would like to share!!

Thanks for being a part of my journey, and I am grateful to be a part of yours. As on the mat... As in life :)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's not a mistake, it's a course correction!

I used to be very afraid of making the "wrong" choice. "What if I don't do something and I miss out? What if I'm 'supposed' to be somewhere and I miss an opportunity? What if I hate what I pick?," my mind would scream. My what ifs went on and on and on. I was so disempowered by all of these what ifs and the questions I kept coming up with that it was very hard to identify and trust my intuition. If I felt like I was leaning towards one choice by checking in with myself, I would immediately negate it by all of the questions. I didn't see the bigger picture: that any and every choice is "right," and opportunities can't be missed because that's not how God or the Universe works. You don't make a "wrong" choice, miss an opportunity, and then God says "Well, that's it- you had your chance. Nevermind!!" Life doesn't work that way. And thank God for that! Pun intended. I forgot that there are no mistakes, only opportunities for the Universe to guide us in a new direction, and that if we veer off course, that's all that will happen. My amazing life coach calls it "course correction."

But before I realized all of these things, I was in the midst of making a pretty big choice about where to attend school for my master's in nutrition. A very prestigious (and expensive) school in Seattle had been in my mind for some time, mostly because it was touted as the Harvard of natural medicine, and that definitely interested me. (I have a BFA in musical theatre, aka a pointless degree to most of the world, so it excited me that I would have such a great credential). I also liked the emphasis on whole foods nutrition as opposed to the food pyramid crap. But, from day one of finding out about the school, there was this doubt in my mind about it being right for me, almost like a heaviness that I felt about it. I didn't really know what that feeling was about exactly, but even though I knew it wasn't a feeling of "yes, this is right for me!" I chose to try and ignore it; after months of deliberating and probably boring my life coach and anyone else who would listen to tears with my confusion of where to go, I chose to go to the school and move to Seattle. So, on September 15th, I packed up my apartment and moved 20 hours up the West coast, despite a total breakdown the previous night about leaving. But at that point, in the eleventh hour, I couldn't distinguish between intuition and fear- so to get myself out the door, I told myself that I didn't need to stay if I didn't like it. Which is exactly what ended up happening. The moment I stepped into the school to attend orientation, I knew it wasn't for me. It sounds dramatic, but there was just this pit in my stomach, not from nerves, but from a feeling (my inner knowing) that was just screaming, "this isn't right for you!!!!"You know how you just get a good feeling about something, and other things not so much? Well, that is exactly what happened. But I told myself, "Erinn, you chose this, and you need to stick with it. It will get better."

So, I basically checked out for the next three and a half weeks because that was the only way I could stay in the program, knowing so clearly that it wasn't right for me. This period felt very inauthentic to me. I studied all of the time because I had to keep my mind busy and not focused on the fact that I didn't feel right about what I was doing. I had a beer or two (at least it was gluten free, ha) almost every night to not think so much, and I just felt like I was in a fog. I didn't feel like myself and I didn't feel present or grounded. Not only that, but I also discovered that the program wasn't as great as it was displayed as being. The teachers weren't great and the curriculum left a lot to be desired. I found that I already knew a ton of information and already had so many skills that I hadn't given myself credit for; I didn't need this specific so called amazing program in order to become a great nutritionist and counselor.

I made the choice, with the support of my counselor and some friends to leave the school. You think this would have been easy knowing what I now knew, but I kept saying "who leaves a prestigious master's program?" and "what will people think?" Ugh! I was forcing myself to stay in a situation that wasn't right for me just because I was afraid that others would judge me. What was that??? I also grew up with the mentality that you don't just quit things; you finish what you started and push through simply because you started! Well, I decided it was time to throw all of these things out of the window because life is too short to be miserable because of silly fears, judgements and beliefs. I was so clear in my choice that after I reminded myself that it didn't matter what others thought, and that it was completely in my power to leave, that's exactly what I did. I left and came back home to California. And I'm so incredibly happy about my choice. I'm so incredibly happy that all of this happened, actually, because I learned so much from this experience and have grown on the learning line in so many ways.

Some might call this a mistake, but this was not a "mistake" at all, but simply a long, slightly inconvenient course correction. I veered in a direction that wasn't serving me, and I was re-directed. And in the process I learned incredible lessons that I wouldn't have learned if I had chosen to stay right from the beginning. I learned very clearly how my intuition speaks to me, I learned (in an experiential way) that it truly doesn't matter what anyone else thinks if me when I am clear about something, I learned to trust myself deeply, I learned that I have the strength to pick up and move somewhere even if I don't stay there, I learned that if I make what some might call a "mistake," that it's ok- I just choose a different path, and I learned that I have so much more knowledge and skills than I thought! Above all, I gained a sense of freedom that I didn't have before making the move and then choosing to leave and move back; a sense of freedom in making choices that I feel safe to do so now- I don't feel so paralyzed when faced with a decision. Sometimes you just need to take a leap just to do it, whether you fall or not because you will learn a whole lot in the process.

Are there any choices in your life that you are having difficulty with because you are afraid of making a "mistake?" Remind yourself that there is no such thing and that you have all of the answers you need. Then just take a step and I guarantee the Universe will guide you. You just have to take that first step.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The L word

Nope, not that L word! This L word is Loss. Loss is something everyone experiences, no matter how old or young you are, where you come from, how much money you have or don't have, what your upbringing was, etc. Loss is a part of life, as much a part of life as joy is. There are small losses and there are large losses, and there are just as many responses to loss as there are ways of losing. I am beginning to learn that how we deal and cope with loss is SO very important, on so many levels. Loss is a part of one's spiritual journey, and in my case, the catalyst for it. And even though I continue on my spiritual path and continue to raise in consciousness, I must admit that coping with loss seems to be my ultimate challenge. I am (up to this point) not very good at it! I won't lie. I like to think that I am, but I'm not. Especially when the loss is traumatic and life changing.

Grief is defined as the emotional response to loss. I began my journey with grief almost 9 years ago, when my mom died. Actually, probably way before that, as grief isn't experienced only with death, but with any loss that has an impact on you- abandonment, loss of job, divorce, loss of pet, moving away, or even something such as a loss of status. But the grief that still lingers with me is the grief due to the loss of my mom. And though it has been almost 9 years (I can't even believe that), sometimes the pain is a fresh as I remember it being when I was 19. 

Psychologists and other professionals have gone further to classify grief due to loss through death as bereavement. When I look up bereavement (which brings to mind pictures of old, sad and wrinkly ladies wearing black veils over their faces while huddled in the rain), I am met with many different definitions, symptoms and "cures" for this state. Most of the information is very clinical, and in my experience with it, not very helpful. In looking it up online, one site looks at it like a disease, with symptoms, treatment plans and timelines ("some milder symptoms may last for a year or longer," which makes it seem like it's chicken pox and eventually it will "clear up"). Ha. Another site clearly defines bereavement, it's many forms, and what one can do for help, and yet another talks about the ramifications on the body and mind if one stays in a state of prolonged grief, and the reasons why one might stay in this state.

As I read all of this information, a part of me wants to throw something at the computer, another part of me wants to cry, and another part of me worries that I will never "get over this" because I have, and continue to do, all of the things that are suggested. And I'm still struggling. Granted, I have come SO far, and healed many things around my grief, but at the end of the day, it still seems to come down to the fact that my mom is not alive. I know that everyone's experience is different, so I'm trying not to judge mine, but it isn't always easy. I don't know if I am holding onto my grief because it connects me to my mom, or  bc there is something that I just haven't tapped into that needs to be healed and released. I often feel very isolated bc the death of a mom isn't something that is fun to discuss, isn't as socially acceptable to talk about as say, breaking up with a boyfriend, and a topic that (gratefully) most of my friends and family don't understand. The support available to me, in the form of information (such as Kubler-Ross' and others' writings) and emotional support from my amazing life coach, have helped me so much. And from a spiritual point of view, I have been told to meditate, Gestalt (a form of therapy) with my mom' soul, reframe my judgements and the way I hold my mom's death, and realize that the love I had with my mom doesn't ever go away, and that it's not attached to her, it comes from me. And that is all wonderful. But there is still a piece of all this that is missing. It has been suggested to me that the issue might lie in me judging losing my mom as a "bad" thing, and I would very much like to stop viewing it as such. But I don't think I am that spiritually evolved yet!

I am on this journey of discovering ways to truly heal from a very deep loss, and though there are wonderful tools out there, sometimes I feel like I am paving my own path through the dense jungle with my machete. I hope to find ways new ways to help myself through the grieving process, so that I can help others as well. Or maybe my opinion of the process will change, and I will see it for what it is: a process. One day is up, another day is down, and that's all ok.

How do you deal with loss and/or grief, in any form? What helps you? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks for reading!