personal growth, yoga

Why Falling On Your Face Is Good For You

This evening, I fell on my face. That isn’t a metaphor: I literally came crashing to earth. On. My. Face.

I consider myself lucky to still have front teeth, but it’s all good. Trust me.

How, you may ask, is falling on your face a good thing? And what was I doing to fall in the first place? Easy answer first: I was doing a handstand – sort of – not very well. That’s where the falling part came in. In my future-version-of-Amanda-awesomeness I look like this:

20121001-212255.jpg

And as much as I’d like “future Amanda” and “current Amanda” to be the same entity, they’re really quite different. Current Amanda has been practicing headstands for a year and tentatively creeping more weight into her arms in forward bends, stepping onto tippy-toes, leaning forward and hovering with her face above the ground for milliseconds at a time. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating. It’s not even close.

But there’s the rub. Maybe it is close. Maybe I’m closer than I know. The only way to find out was to lift my feet up and see what I could do.

I found out I can fall.

Even more importantly, I can fall and get back up. I can land on my face, a humility I haven’t experienced since childhood, and then turn around and laugh. Because you know what? It’s only scary until you do it. Once you fall or nail it or stumble or whatever…you’ve faced the fear and moved into new territory. Unfortunately, I’m not in the new territory of looking badass while doing a handstand. I’m still working on doing a handstand. But I’m working with a little more know-how than I had before. I’m a little braver than I was before I tried and that counts for a lot.

You see, I don’t think it really matters what you can do. Truly great things don’t happen by staying in your comfort zone. It’s scary to go for the things you want, but your mother and teachers and even Nike were right: Just Do It. Try. Practice. There’s no other way to the awesome. There’s no other way to find out exactly how powerful, creative, inspired or beautiful you can be without risk. If there was another, easier way, everyone would do it.

Look around. How many people are truly fulfilled, striving, following a dream? Enough, but not most. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of life do you want to live?

Everyone has pain in their future. Everyone has bumps and bruises and scary things waiting to happen. Want to know a secret? You can’t avoid it. But you can choose the path you’ll be on when the inevitable growing pains and falls of life happen. You can set your compass.

That way, you’ll be your own definition of awesome when you reach the other side.

Namaste.

Standard
Uncategorized

Doing the Splits (and Other Ways to Grow)

The other day, I did full splits in yoga class. My outfit wasn’t as snazzy as the woman’s in the picture above and I didn’t have the benefit of a pagoda to pose on but….I felt like that picture. Yes. Yoga is all kinds of awesome.

However, this particular brand of awesome came as a complete surprise. It wasn’t like I thought I’d never do full splits. The idea simply never occurred to me. In hindsight, however, I’ve been preparing for them for over six months – I just didn’t realize they were right around the corner.

I‘ve been doing deep stretches for quite a while. These are the same poses that, when I first started yoga, made my mental demons rage. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but the intense physical discomfort seemed to trigger some sort of fight or flight response in me. It took everything in my power to stay on my mat and in the poses. Often every part of me wanted to quit except a brave voice inside that said “you can do this.” I don’t know where that voice came from because in the past it always tried to get me to go eat some ice cream and run away from scary things. But every time I showed up on my mat, the brave voice got a little braver and the crowd of scared voices seemed to thin. 

Can I tell you a secret? The poses still feel really uncomfortable, but I have a smile on my face while I do them. I’ve talked about thresholds before. But I love how yoga pushes not only my physical boundaries, but my emotional and mental ones, too. It allows me to “stretch” in all areas of my life. It reminds me of how life works, how you don’t even realize you’re setting yourself up for a breakthrough, building the stamina or insight or sheer strength to push forward towards the next Big Thing. Until you’ve done it. 

Then you find the next threshold. 

That’s the most important thing I’ve learned in all of this: there are always new ways to grow and learn and love the world. The minute you say “I can’t go any further,” you can’t. But when you say, “this is difficult and confusing and I’m not going to run away,” you will surprise yourself at how far you can grow.

You’ll be doing something you never even thought was possible, caught up in all kinds of awesome.

Namaste

Standard
personal growth

What The Children Have Taught Me

It might sound strange, but as a teacher I’ve “learned” more than I’ve “taught.” The children at my preschool have taught me about respect and curiosity and beauty. They’ve shown me how to love big and embrace each day for its own sake. They instruct, through their very essence, the inexplicable dance of being vulnerable and strong all at the same time. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from the children. But there is one lesson I want to share in depth, because it has changed my life.

It’s called: Use your words. We ask children to “use their words” all the time, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. Their problems seem so simple to us: Who had the spoon first? Who gets to be which character in the game? What game are we going to play? As adults we think “How simple. I wish my problems were this easy.” We wonder what the hair pulling, name calling, and pushing people out of line is all about and how long it will be until they grow out of it.

The formula for “using your words” at our school is pretty straightforward:
1.Each person gets a chance to say what they want.
2.Each person gets to say how they’re feeling about the situation.
3.Everyone involved works together to find a resolution to which they can all agree.

I wish I could tell you that once I learned how to help children resolve their arguments, I immediately saw how applicable the system was to my own life. That would have been the adult thing to do. I’m sorry to tell you that it took many years of encouraging children to “use their words” before I found the courage to use my own. The awareness took me by surprise, one day, when I felt upset with another adult in my life. My mind started spinning about how wrong they were and it began scheming ways to make sure the other person knew how upset I was without, you know, actually having to tell them how upset I was.

Then, an idea hit me like a hula hoop hurtling back to earth: “What if I just tell them what I’m upset about?” On the surface it sounds good. It makes perfect sense. But pretty soon another voice sprang to mind, warning against those words I wanted to use: What if I say what I think and the other person thinks I’m stupid? What if I tell them how I’m feeling and they get angry? The “what ifs” of fear spiraled toward the horizon and I suddenly realized how hard “using your words” actually is in practice. Telling your truth can be terrifying, especially when it causes you to disagree with other people. How many of us try to “suck it up” or keep to ourselves just to make our lives easier? How often do you tell the truth about little things, but hide the things that are really bothering you behind a wall? Do you ever hide those truths from yourself?

It’s not so simple at all. Once I started “using my words” as a practice, not just as a teacher but also as a mother and partner and daughter and friend, I found a new kind of courage. I saw the beauty of people speaking from their unique place. I understood the importance of each person becoming vulnerable enough to reveal their truth so we could all be a little stronger together.

Whenever possible, (i.e. when I find my courage instead of fear) I use my words now. But I’ll never again think “using your words” is a simple activity. It is brave. It is important. And every day I see a child practicing, a little person who just found words a year ago and is already speaking their truth, I grow a little along with them.

And I would like to say “Thank you”.

(This post was excerpted from an article written for the Open Door School newsletter “Open Doorways.”)

Standard
birds

What The Owls Talk About When You’re Talking To Owls

The owls came again last night, talking. Do you want to hear about it? You’ll say yes, but truly, you wish they were talking to you instead of me. I’m here to tell you, dear friend, that they were. Did you hear them?

How do you talk to owls” is a fine question to ask at the start. How don’t you? Find those places, all those civilized bits, and push them as far away as you can, to the periphery of yourself. Only let the wild you free, to roam, to listen. Wild speaks to wild and when you find that part of yourself that understands the birds and the trees and the things that go bump in the night…..then you will hear the message and you will never unhear it again.

You are one of us.

You are wild of us.

You are bigger and smaller than you ever imagined.

They will guide you home.

Standard
Beastybats and Balderdash

Beastybats & Balderdash: Ambassador of Love

Standard
yoga

What I Didn’t Learn At Yoga Class (and Other Humiliations)

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinions;
it is easy in solitude to live after your own; 
but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd
keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I learned something in yoga today. Granted, I’m not exactly sure what it was, so perhaps learn-ed past tense is an inaccurate description. Let me start that sentence over. Yoga tried desperately to teach me something today that I haven’t quite figured out, yet. Emphasis on the yet.

I‘ve been feeling really pulled in different directions lately, like so many people want or need something from me, like I’m not exactly sure what they want but I am the one being asked to deliver. Personally. Professionally. Creatively. Many times over the last week I’ve wanted to go all preschooler on the world – stomp my feet, put my fingers in my ears and scream at the top of my lungs. Throw a temper tantrum. Or hide behind a tree.

I resisted the urge, tried to be pleasant. A urine soaked sheet slapped me across the face. Gross, but I tried to be positive and grateful my mouth was closed. I had to work all last weekend for a Very Important Inspection. Well, I thought, at least I had the weekend to prepare. See? Positive. Not running away. Staying with the discomfort and trying not to dwell in it. Many other things transpired this week, but these are the only examples I feel like sharing. It’s been a touchy sort of week. Emotionally sticky. Mentally draining.

So I decided to do a little hibernation. Pull back into myself. Get back to my core, my place of respite. And, above all, I decided to go to yoga class. Yoga is one of those things kicked to the back burner while I try to “accomplish” and “manage” so many other things in my life. But I need it. I crave it. I was excited for it and told my teacher as much when I rolled into the studio this afternoon.

I should have seen the lesson coming when my self-designated weekend of solitude landed me in the most packed class I’ve ever attended. Still, I managed to carve out a nice spot for myself right up close to the mirrors. Sometimes I set an intention before my practice and today it was: Focus on myself; don’t get distracted by the other students. You see, I brought the good energy.

Then a man who’s son I used to teach filled in on the row behind me. No problem, I thought. He’s a nice guy. No weird karma there. I’ll pretend I don’t know him for the duration of the class so I can really stay in this focused bubble. Om. Then I noticed the anorexic two mats over from him, exactly diagonal from me in the other direction. To look at her was painful, but I caught myself. You’re not going to be looking at her. You’re focusing on your practice, remember? Right. Om.

Class started. Relaxed. Deep breathing. I heard Shanna say “there are still spots, fill in,” and felt people set up next to me. Really close next to me. Not. A. Problem. Until the man fell into me. Twice. Then he started chastising his wife in Spanish and English, telling her she wasn’t doing the poses right. Um, hello jerk-off. I don’t really think you have room to talk the way you keep running into me and stepping on my mat. And what kind of a misogynist delinquent drags his wife to a class she repeatedly told him she didn’t want to attend and then tells her how badly she’s doing? Crap. I’m not focused again. Breathe. Om. This went on for a while. A long while. Let’s just say, skeleton-girl was the least of my worries. She could’ve had her heart attack and I wouldn’t have noticed.

See how awful I am? This is why I do yoga. My brain chatter is super-powerful. Even when I try to be open and loving and peaceful, I’m still saying really mean things in my head. On the flip side, that’s what I love about yoga. It hasn’t taken away the thoughts, but it’s made me more aware of them which is half the battle. Then I try to change the thoughts or at least decide whether I agree with them or not. Almost right away, I realized douche-bag and his wife presented me with a learning opportunity. I was being given a chance to go deep inside myself and block out distraction, find my solitude for reals, develop a strong inner resolve.

Then, he farted on me. 

We were doing wide-leg forward bend and he just let it rip. Right. In. My. Face.

I wanted to be rescued. I admit it. This strong, powerful, independent woman wanted to be rescued from the hell that the yoga class had become. Or, at the very least, I didn’t want to have to come back out of this pose and swish through the fart-filled air again. I’ll just take Savasana from here, thanks, Shanna. 

But I didn’t. I thanked the universe for my allergies which created a mild-barrier between myself and the odor. I told myself it would all be over, soon. I felt grateful I wasn’t this guy’s wife. Anything to make it better. And it did. A little. And even a little, counts.

The rest of my afternoon continued in the same ridiculous vein of The Universe Tries To Teach Amanda A Lesson. The “dad” talked to me for 30 minutes in the parking lot after class, asking my opinion on all sorts of work-related things. I went to the grocery store for a few items and ran into a bunch of people I know. We chatted. It was pleasant. My solitude bubble hid in the shadows, vowing never to come out again for fear it’ll just get popped. Again. And again. And again. And then someone will fart on it.

So I don’t know how this will end, but I will tell all of you that I’m going to persist in this search for solitude. My book is almost finished. It’s some of the most difficult work I’ve ever done and I realize I’m only about half-over. There is still a second draft to be hashed out, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it and after I take a break at the first draft’s completion. I’ll let you know when that happens. I’m sure I will celebrate in some fashion and appreciate the Congratulations.

But I need to be by myself right now, insomuch as that is possible. Which is, apparently, not so very much. This blog will slumber along with me and revive when I feel like posting and/or when I finish the book, whichever comes first.And I’ll keep you posted about what the lesson actually was of this week. I’d try a little harder to find it right now, but I’m tired. The big world is loud. It’s messy. And it farts a lot.

I‘m going to go read.

Namaste.

Standard