I’ve been here before

it’s funny that at a certain point in time we often think about how much better things would be if something were different. I have been having many of these moments recently – not of present moments but of past moments, and how much simpler things were – in some ways. This evening, I fell upon an email I had written years ago while I was a second language teacher in northern Quebec. I read the email and it felt like I had been transported in time. I remember the email clearly, I also remember the time. Back then if someone were to ask me if I’d ever look back at this time with fondness, I would have vowed to never reminisce on that time in my future – I would have sworn that once I left this place I would be so much happier.

And now, whenever I speak of yoga I thank that period of my life because if it weren’t for hitting rock bottom I would have never gotten on my mat in the first place. If it weren’t for that period in my life, maybe now I would not be where I am today – maybe I wouldn’t be who I am today.

But this email also made me realize how lucky I was to have found that job in Northern Quebec. Trust me I am not discounting the hardship – a year and a half of being told I was unemployable, working my ass off to get the hours in order to obtain a position on base where the pay was better and the work more steady. But I did it, and in a matter of a year after finding my first teaching gig in Saguenay I was working full-time, on base, killing the belief that anglophones (english speakers) could not make it in the deep french north.

And if you were to ask me then, how I would feel when I finally returned to Canada (more specifically the Canada I knew) I would have told you it would be fabulous, I would be working full-time, we’d have our own house, and things would be just perfect. But life is never perfect. Actually scratch that life is ALWAYS perfect. We just don’t see it until later. Because tonight as I reminisced of the days in which I worked full time and was super busy – it seemed perfect in my memory. Perfect, because now I do find myself in the Canada I know but am not working full time. I am struggling with french (I am ashamed to admit it and am taking courses to rectify that) and thinking of that time brings nostalgia – trust me when I tell you I never thought I would ever think of my time in Saguenay with fondness. Trust me when I tell you I counted the days to leave and when we did move (to Belgium) I was more than thrilled. But it is where it all started. It is the place where I was forced to strip away the labels I had defined myself with and figure out who I was underneath all of the labels. I was forced to face various demons in my life there – and I was asked to show up 100% or get eaten up by depression and anxiety – and I did show up 100% every single day – starting every morning on my mat no fucking questions asked.

I need that girl now. I need that woman to slap me in the face and remind me to wake the fuck up. She had guts. Man did she have fucking guts. She had tenacity and spunk. She had hard -ass fucking balls that never let go. She got up every damn day in the dreary, smelly, racist (sorry Quebec but seriously fucking racist) place and held her fucking head high. And when people dared to question her presence or dared to ask her where she was from because she looked different or spoke different she screamed. Ok seriously I don’t miss the rage (yoga remember) but I do miss her inability to  give up.

I honestly think I was meant to see that email tonight to remind me of who I am. I’ve been hiding out of fear of being rejected and for fucks sake I got rejected almost every single day living in Saguenay. If it wasn’t a store clerk who refused to understand my then PERFECT french, it was so many other things. I was rejected so many times – yet every damn day I got out of bed and unrolled that mat. Every day I met myself on that mat and I dared myself to smile and to be happy. To let go of control and find what I could do in the now. And I killed it. I fucking killed it over and over again.

So no I am not going to give up. I will continue to kill it even if it means that I first have to pick myself off of the floor. I got this. Somewhere inside me lies that warrior goddess that once upon a time dared yoga to change her life and what she found was that yoga taught her that she needed nothing all that she needed was already there she just needed to start screaming and make shit happen. And she did.

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A lesson in Humility and Grace

I was supposed to be blissed out. I had a vision that my first yoga festival would bring out the best in me. It would all be flawless and perfect – I would be flawless and perfect. For months I had been envisioning this. But as we all know – and as I teach almost every week – life is not about flawless and perfect – in fact most our important moments – moments that define us – are far from flawless and perfect.

This is what I went into with,  driving to my first yoga festival:  Exhaustion – exhausted of trying to find a full-time job; burn-out due to a job that is demanding and pays far too little for what we do everyday; feeling lost in my own life – I imagined this period in my life would be more simple. I have my degree, we have a house – I find myself more and more confused.

Right before leaving for the festival on Friday I voiced a thought that had been on my mind for quite some time – one of the only things in my life that is going flawlessly is yoga – maybe I should just quit this social work thing and focus on that – what that THAT looked like I had no idea because I am not financially ready. Then I had the voice well what does that mean financially ready anyway? Back and forth, back and forth – this has been my life for quite some time now. A teeter-totter. I went to my first festival with a knot in my stomach and tears in my throat.

What we found was bliss. I loved it. That first day we set up our tent, I sang and danced. I wore my Sattva t-shirt and hat proudly – we gotta represent! I was having so much fun it was almost unbearable fun. I didn’t even care that we were caught up in torrential rains. I thought what a wonderful way for mother nature to greet us especially since my theme was the fierce feminine – with the rain my theme blossomed from a phrase to an idea. Change is near. Mother Nature is calling to us to embrace our fierce feminine within. It was all so perfect.

Then we went back to our tent. Everything – EVERYTHING – was drenched. Apparently three years in Europe and no camping led to our tent being ruined, our mattress limp, and our things just drenched. SO and I looked at each other for a long time silently – me hoping he had a solution and he looking very worried. He finally said – we should go home. I knew right away that was the wrong choice. He had another mattress at home, we should go home and sleep and I should drive back with the new mattress. He wanted me to have a bed to sleep on the night before I taught at my first festival. I said no. I told him you go home – you don’t need this right now – I am sleeping in my car. He again looked worried. I demanded this is how it will be, I will figure out a way because I knew if I went home the knot in my stomach and the tears in my throat would grab hold of me and I would never return.

He frantically looked in his car for a sweater for me to sleep in. He gave me towels, jackets – anything he could find – for me to stay warm. I told him not to worry and watched as my anchor drove away in his car.

I have been alone many times in my life. I walked away from an abusive relationship in Greece in my early 20s and lived alone for a year before heading back to the sanity of Canada. I lived alone once back in Canada. Hell, most of my childhood I was alone. But that night in my car – I have never felt so alone in my entire life. The knot in my stomach and the tears in my throat gripped me like a beast. I wanted to desperately run and hide. I didn’t want to be in the woods, in my car, uncomfortable as hell anymore. I didn’t want to be with people. I resented them for their carefree nature in the rain. I resented them for their dry tents. I was so angry and sad in that car I thought the night would never end. Two hours of this. After the two hours still wide-eyed I heard drumming and realized this drumming had been in the background the entire time. I remembered that at night there would be a bonfire. My heart whispered to me you should go my head demanded I stay entangled in the beast. My bladder told me I had to go to the bathroom. My bladder won. I reasoned with my mind if I am going to the bathroom I might as well go to the bonfire as well since it is moments away from the toilets. I made my way down and stood a bit away from the  crowd. I swayed with the music – but didn’t feel as elated as I had been earlier in the evening. The beast still had it’s claws in me.

A lull in the singing, a friend began singing a song I will love you forever. Out of the corner of my eye I felt her gaze at me, but each time I looked towards her she was clearly immersed in her song not looking my way at all – but I felt the song penetrate my heart. Somehow her soul knew my soul needed to hear these words. I moved a little closer to the gathering. I began to sing her song as tears fell down my face. After the song she called to me to come sit down on her mat, she had a bit of space. I sat we talked, we sang. I began smiling. I realized sleeping in my car wasn’t all that bad. It was ok that SO was gone. Tomorrow I was going to have fun.

I didn’t sleep – well maybe two hours. It was extremely uncomfortable (I have a very small car). But I woke up in the morning happy and ready for the day. I bought some yummy oatmeal for breakfast, took a few classes before my scheduled class mid-afternoon. I talked to a few people, bought a beautifully painted stone from my friend (the girl at the camp fire) with the gayatri mantra for my alter at home. It was wonderful. The whole time I gazed at the class tent and noticed all of the classes were good enough sizes, people were as interested in the yoga as they were in the music. This put my nervousness at ease.

There was a charismatic fellow of a certain lineage (I will not say as I think the lineage is amazing and don’t want it to be associated with this experience in your mind) that taught 2 hours before me. I took the class, as what he offered interests me. He was done at 12:30, I taught at 2:30. 1:30 I began preparing myself in the class tent. At 2:00 his assistant came and asked me when I taught, I let her know, and five minutes later this professional got a hold of his portable mike and announced to all of the festival that he would be doing a  presentation of his craft in fifteen minutes (remember he had already presented his craft) his booth was right beside the class tent. In minutes he had quite a large gathering. The class tent was empty. I was obviously worried.

No mike in hand, music would only save me. I had brought my portable speaker and had some music playing quietly. I decided to turn it up. And while I worried – I knew in my heart people would come. I was going to Sattva this place up and I was going to do it with power and grace. I began. First kriya: Sattva Kriya 1 – people started gathering around the tent. Sitting down on mats or on the grass if they didn’t have their mats handy. Second kriya: Shiva Shakti – everyone could hear us calling the names the sound was magnificent. By the time we came to our peak kriya the tent was overflowing with people. We shook the earth with Nara Simha. We tore away our ignorance and connected to our fierceness – our power. I was engulfed in the energy. Never had a I felt the energy a group of people can create like this before – not as a teacher anyway. I felt a deep knowing that I was no longer leading the energy – the land had taken over. Santanai (the name of the land) had taken us all over and we were a part of that energy now. It was magnificent. I have no idea what the other dude who tried to steal my show was doing, nor did I care. I came in to rock this place and what I found was this place was waiting for something like this – and we fucking delivered. It was magnificent.

After my class I began not feeling well. The thought of once again sleeping in my car and not feeling good on top of that didn’t sound very good. I stayed as long as I could afterwards, and the oncoming torrential rains once again was my sign to head back home. My body was done. As I unloaded my car once home I began to cry – a big cry. Out of nowhere. Grabbing a bag and going to the garage the tears started to pour. Hard tears. A deep pain I could not describe. I realized that I had been carrying this pain for quite some time. I also realized that I was crying the tears that  mother nature had also shed on us during the festival. What I was feeling was a mixture of a collective pain and my own confusion in life right now the knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat were finally being released through these tears. So I marched on unloading my car and crying at the same time. I let it all go. And once it was done – it was done – like the rain. A lesson in humility and grace.

I wouldn’t have imagined this weekend the way it turned out – but it turned out the way it was supposed to. I turned a new leaf this weekend. The quiet girl that mostly stood on the outside and watched – roared when she taught at Bhakti in the Woods. It was all so perfect in it’s imperfection. Humility and grace. Om Namaha Shivaya.

Mindfulness

Being present in our life – what does this actually mean. I find this concept is much more difficult to understand nowadays with all of the destractions available. A lot of the time it’s hard to decipher what is our life – actual vital aspects of our life and what is not. For example I often set out to sit with my cats to play or to sit and just enjoy their praesnece and notice that somehow in the middle of this I’ve found myself on Facebook – it’s not a conscious decision, just a habit. No decision was made, no debate on whether this would be a good use of my time. Just like breathing – it just happens.

So being present in our life, in other words mindfulness, is noticing how we are not present, hopefully eventually noticing while falling into a habitual pattern, and ideally stopping it before it even happens. But this takes practice, and I believe it’s a life practice, it’s not something we perfect then let go of. Mindfulness is something we continue to practice throughout our life. 

We have misconceptions of what this means. Pictures on social media couple mindfulness with serene backgrounds, a very happy and relaxed person. Out in nature, doing nothing at all. And while some of life can be this way, it is not the entirety of life. So, a mindfulness practice, will not be just this. Mindfulness includes all of life, so it includes our dreaded chores (well for me they can be dreaded – when I’m not being mindful that is). Mindfulness includes the part of ourselves we like, it also includes the parts of ourselves we might not always like. 

I remind students often that if they are finding a part of my class difficult emotionally, mentally, or physically that they are doing it right. I remind them that we often have a misconception of yoga – which is a form of mindfulness (when it’s actually yogaand doesn’t   include beer, drugs, goats or whatever the new fad is). We imagine yoga to be serene and calm and we will be the humble heroof the piece. When in reality yoga is the oposite. It’s hard, just breathing can be a challenge at times. Often we will have storms brewing inside, and I for sure don’t feel like a humble hero a lot of the time during my practice. 

But at the same time it is beautiful and raw. It reminds us of the entirety of our life – something we often distract ourselves from. And the more we come to our practice the more we are able to catch our mindless habits before they take over our moments. Yoga does this by allowing us to become aware of subtle energy changes which translate into sensations within the body. The slightest change will bring us inward wondering what is going on to make us feel this way. And the more we are able to identify these sensations, the more we are able to name their source and create real change in our life. And that ther folks, is mindfulness.

I will end by saying something I often say to newcomers in my class. Whoever told you yoga was easy, obviously has never done yoga. 

At first it won’t  be easy, it will require will power and compassion. But then you’ll go back into your life and something will have changed. You won’t be able to name it. Maybe you’ll just feel lighter but it will be there and you’ll know something amazing came out of that yoga experience. Yourself. In your life with the pleasant and unpleasant as well. And suddenly you’ll recognize yourself as the humble hero of your life.

Restless stirrings of the Warrior Goddesss within

I am feeling a transition coming. I am feeling restless, out of place. I question every role I play in my life. I have been here before, I have faced her before. I know what it is, yet my mind has a grip on wanting to fix this.

This is something many people struggle with. My teacher described these feelings as bubbles – we mistake them for anxiety, but really they are much more than that they are opportunities to transcend. We just need to learn to sit in the discomfort. We desperately want to avoid it – that is what I attempted to do most of this evening – avoid the discomfort. But nothing has worked. It was temporary, the moment my mind was not entertained the bubbles of restlessness would resume. I finally decided to give up on trying to avoid it and accepted that I needed to be here in this moment.

Where the restlessness is coming from I do not know. Where it will lead I also do not know. My only task is to sit in this discomfort –  but what does this mean?

I recently watched a wisdom talk given by my teacher in which he explained that a woman’s power lies in her cycle. My first reaction to this was – he has never had a period what does he know. But the monkey mind was silenced by a deep stillness – a knowing – that this was true. I began to think about what this could possibly mean. I thought about what I went through during my cycle and when I really looked at it I realized all that makes me vulnerable is increased during this time. And I thought about that and what my vulnerability meant.

To be vulnerable, to be open, to not hide behind armour but instead to show your truth – is the definition of a warrior. And when in our cycles, well we are vulnerable, but in that vulnerability lies strength – if harnessed correctly. What I usually do during my cycle is I avoid the discomfort as much as I can. And only recently have I began to accept it as not a curse but as a gift. Because during this time – I have begun to realize – my vulnerability – the part of me that makes me – me – shines. I only have to accept the cycle and I will flourish within it.

It’s the same thing with the bubbles of restelessness. They are there to tell us something important. They are revealing our vulnerability to this moment, to the unkown, to change. And if we learn to sit within this restlessnes without trying to analyze it or avoid it, we will transcend whatever it is that no longer serves us, and that spark – that warrior goddess will shine a little brighter because of it.

So for the next few days, I am going to sit here in my bubbles. I am no longer going to try to avoid them or change them. I will tap into what lies beyond the bubbles. I have been here before. I have met her. I often forget her. But she is asking me to listen and that is precisely what I will do.

Meditation: Welcoming Resistance

I have wanted to write about mediation for some time now, but the words weren’t coming out. It’s rather an interesting story, you see. I didn’t always like meditation, in fact there was a time when the last thing I would write about, talk about, or even practice was meditation. Until I went to India for my 300 hr teacher training. I went there thinking it would be a piece of cake, since I had done it once before, in India as well. I had even dabbled into meditation at that point, so when I saw that our daily itinerary included an hour meditation every morning I thought nothing of it, I figured if I could do a guided meditation for a half hour how much more difficult will another half hour be, surrounded by the Hymilayan mountains under the sun?

Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t simple. For about a week and a half the first hour of the day was met with heart wrenching, hair pulling frustration – what I like to call resistance to what is. I couldn’t sit still. My hips were bugging me, the sounds of nature suddenly didn’t seem so  calming, even the river got on my god damn nerves. Every morning I was met with a side of myself that I wasn’t very proud of, and every morning I wanted more than anything to be anywhere else but within my body.

Resistance.

It’s funny, today my post just fell out of the sky as I was teaching my fourth and fifth classes in a span of three days. I was subbing for another teacher, so right away as I entered the room, I was met with – you got it – resistance. As I set up my area, two men were talking very loudly, so as I always do, I went over to them and gently advised them if they would like to chat to take it outside as this is the practice space. I was met with a force of frustration – this one man replied ‘yea yea yea’ and rolled his eyes. I gently walked away and smiled at myself. I began teaching, and the whole way through this man, who was right in front of me, glared at me – movements were quick and without gusto, as if he was trying to tell me something. I had chosen the theme of resistance today before I had even walked into the room – and so I gently reminded the class, without pointing him out, that if they meet resistance to come back to their centre and breathe. He continued to show his frustration – at who knows – but at the moment whatever it was that frustrated him was showing up as a revolt against me – the teacher – which is ok – I get it. I was a sub and I was leading them through kriyas most people would find a lot of resistance in that.

So why do I tell you this story of the frustrated french man (as I named him in my head as I taught). Because THAT is precisely what yoga is. I didn’t get that at first when I began my training in India. I WAS that french man, frustrated each and every day, fantasizing in my meditation of throwing my mediation pillows at my teacher and running away for dear life. That fantasy was the only thing that got me through on some days. And then, a week and a half later, I sat to meditate once again, and suddenly that resistance was gone. I had let it go. Through the practice, connecting with myself and nature, and continuously coming back to my meditation each and every day, I had pushed against the resistance until I finally got to the other side.

Now, this does not mean I do not face resistance now, I definitely do. Some days my meditation is a war with myself, other days I am blissed-out. And others it’s just ok. Even today, as I experienced that frustration pouring out of the frustrated french man, I felt resistance and for a moment I let it take over – worrying about my sequence and if people liked it. Then I remembered what I was there to do. I was not there to win a popularity constest, I was there to help people work through whatever it is they need to work through. And a frustrated french man is not going to change that. I might not be the most popular yoga teacher there, but I will help you come to an amazing place within yourself.

The resistance we feel is the tantrum of the ego mind. I like to call it a trantum because any time we change a pattern in our life or our habits the ego mind will show up and throw a tantrum. What we are doing is coming face to face with our samskaras/habitual patterns, and in doing so pressing the walls of our comfort zone. We could fight it and let the ego mind win, as I could have done in India by running away from the discomfort, or we could face it head on, coming back to our trusty tool – our breathe and our practice – to anchor us down – just like the frustrated french man did today. He didn’t give up. He didn’t yell at me, or run out of the room, he practiced, and yest at times he did half-ass it – and yes he was clearly frustrated about something – but he stayed and he got through – and in the end he, the frustrated french man – was smiling.

That is meditation. It is sitting with yourself day in and day out and facing the amazing, the tranformative, the beautiful, the ugly, and the difficult aspects of ourselves. Each moment learning something new about the mind and our infinite potential. Facing that resistance like a warrior each and every day and sitting with whatever meets us there in every moment.

Eventually, if we sit long enough, we transcend the resistnace, come to a place of calm and understadning. But the samskaras run deep, each time we transcend is an opportunity to learn something even more deep and ingrained about ourselves. So we meet resistance once again. It will come back with with the force of the worst temper trantum imaginable sometimes – but we have our tool – our breath – and we have the knowledge of having been here before. And so we welcome it, come back to the breath and lean on that wall once again.

Resistance. I see you. I feel you. I send you love and we can move on from there.

Listening to the Warrior Goddess within

Before I write my post, I know – life is busy. I know – we can’t fit in everything we need to do in a day. I know these things. I get caught up in them often as well. I make excuses that I don’t have time. But what are we saying when we say we don’t have time for anything other than errands and work? What are we rejecting?

Yesterday, for the first time since moving back to Canada I connected with like-minded people, not as a teacher to students,, but as a student on her journey. This had been something I have wanted to do for a long time – ever since I experienced what a community of like-minded people can do together in both of my teacher trainings. Both revealed to me something special: I wasn’t alone on this journey. These strangers from all over the world had been walking alongside me all along, and when we came together during those specific times it was as if we were saying hello to old friends – my soul knew them. This is not something I can describe very well in words, it is only something you can experience – it’s beyond the mind’s comprehension – and I sincerely hope, if you haven’t already, that you will give yourself the chance to experience this in this lifetime.

Yesterday, and the days before yesterday, I was trying very hard to  convince myself not to go to this event – a chant-a-thon – so a day full of chanting. I made as many excuses as my mind could think of – but all the while my heart persisted – begging me not to change my mind. My mind, my ego, almost won – it was so close to winning. I almost stayed home. But after coming home from my morning yoga classes I teach on Saturdays, I knew – my heart had won. I would go. I would go because my heart and my soul needed to be there. So I jumped in my car and went.

As I walked into the space, the first thing that  I felt was a recognition – all of the faces were new to me, I knew no one there. But my soul knew them. Usually a person who likes to sit in the corner of the room and observe, I went straight into the centre found a cusion and sat myself down  and began to chant – no apprehension, no hesitation, no mind-stuff – just my energy.

I told myself as I drove there that I wouldn’t stay very long, I didn’t pay for the dinner right away just in case I needed to sneak out. I even put my phone number on the items I bid for in the silent auction just in case I was not there when they announed the winners. But I stayed. My soul craved every sound, every moment of connection with like-minded people, every chant stirred me from deep within. I didn’t want it to end.

As we closed the last chant, and the prizes had been given out, my mind knew I was free to leave and it wanted to go, but I didn’t. I surprisingly found myself staying and meeting people, making connections, sharing stories, even making plans for future events. The stirrings of my soul had been awakened and there was no way she was going to sit silent any longer. My warrior goddess, the queen that resides within was standing tall, dancing just like she was in India, dancing and laughing, and living every moment. She would not be silenced again. And so I stayed.

As I left, when the event did eventually end, I realized how much I had been craving this, how much I had managed to silence my soul. It is surprisingly easy to do so. All we need to do is get caught up in the errands and work, and BOOM she sleeps again. Whispering, praying that you will hear her call.

What I realized yesterday, is that it might be easy to put her back to sleep again, and it might even be easy to ignore her whispers until they are no more. But it is just as easy to wake her up. It takes one step – one defiant step away from the chores, the errands, the invisible chain we have to our work – one defiant step away from our routine and she wakes up roaring in delight that you finally heard her call.

So I ask you once again:

what are YOU saying when YOU say YOU don’t have time for anything other than errands and work? What are YOU rejecting?

And I will add:

What is it that your warrior goddess is whispering to YOU? And why aren’t you listening to her call?

Bondage into freedom

This week the theme I presented at the beginning of each class I taught was the space between the moment of disturbance and reaction. The moment of disturbance is the moment the energetic field changes, for example our layout of the day becomes interrupted by a traffic jam, or we wake up in the morning to the fifth day of constant rain. We have a brief moment where we notice the energetic field has been interrupted – our focus has been interrupted – and in that moment we often don’t realize we can choose to react, or we can choose to remain still and observe where the reaction is coming from. This is the basis of what I like to call the bondage of the mind and the freedom of the spirit.

The bondage of the mind is our all to familiar habitual patterms – things we do without even  noticing – for example the all to often excuse I hear “I don’t usually complain BUT this weather sucks” and so many others. We don’t notice these things, and most of you are probably thinking right now – it isn’t so bad to comment on the weather she’s being a little bit too nit  picky – or whatever else you might be thinking. I hear you. But we also often don’t realize what these comments do to our energy. It’s a small thing to complain about the fifth day of rain compared to let’s say declaring life sucks every time something doesn’t go your way – YES – but – how often do we complain about the weather, or traffic, or whatever else you can think of – in general we as humans complain a whole lot. Now think about this, each time we react to things around us our energetic field is disturbed, and each time we complain, or gossip, or lie our energetic field becomes a little bit more scattered, leaving us feeling a little bit more depleted of energy. Now, ask yourself, how often in a day do you react – by complaining, judging, gossiping, lying (all lies not just the big nasty ones but even  the small fibs, even the ones we don’t dare face because they frame who we want to be) I want you to be completely honest with yourself, look in the mirror of your soul and really answer the question: how often do I react to the disturbance of energy around me?

Some of you might not be able to even see the magnitude of how often this happens, some of you might even think what I am saying is ridiculous, and haven’t even asked yourself these questions – that’s ok. It took a self-retreat for me to really see how often I did these things, a lot of writing, contemplating, silence, reflection, and a lot of hard looks into my soul to see that I was trapped not just in a jail cell in the mind, but trapped in a well I didn’t know how to get out of. It took a lot of self-reflection – actually IT IS TAKING a lot of self reflection because the study of the self is not a week-long retreat or a teacher training, hell even two teacher trainings, the study of the self is a life-long journey.

However, in order to tranform the bondage into freedom, we must face it, over and over again. Today, I asked my students to notice the moments where they felt they needed to react (a sigh after a pose, the need to fix hair, clothing, look around, make a face, get angry, frustrated in class) and I asked them to try and refrain from reacting, instead tuning back into the energy we had begun to expand, come to stillness, follow the breath – and see what would happen if they didn’t react. What  does happen, is we tap into our tapas, our firey energy. It  is quite powerful to tap into, the moment you choose not to react but remain still you choose yourself. Instead of giving away your energy and your power, you are instead waking up to your inifnite potential. You see this firey energy, it is the essence of who you are. It is your gusto, your determination, your will – reacting strips this away slowly – it strips your power, your essence away. I gave  many opportunities through out class to come to stillness and notice the need of the mind, but be led by the spirit instead, be led by stillness – and from where I was standing it seemed as if people were beginning to understand. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to witness someone’s realization of their own infinite potential.

But noticing this in a 75 minute class does not make one an expert at transforming bondage into freedom, being a teacher of yoga also doesn’t make one an expert at transforming bondage into freedom. This is a life-long process. My hope for my students is that at some point in their day when they are about to react that they remember the expansiveness and power that comes with not reacting. That they at least once today or tomorrow or in their future practice this. It honestly takes one moment, it is so miniscule but when we tap into it, it holds infinite potential. Infinite potential: the truth of who you are.

 

 

I choose real life

About fifty days ago now I decided to take a break from things that were taking up too much energy and time from my real life, mainly facebook. Forty days I would not go on, except for five minutes on sunday’s to check out family and friends pics from far away, other than those five minutes facebook was non existant in my life – and it was glorious. I suddenly had so much time on my hands to read, go for walks, talk to my SigO., play with my cats – and you know live life. But the forty days ended and I thought I wanted it back, I figured I’d go back to facebook, and I did. At times noticing that too much time had passed, noticing that increasingly I’d spend my bus ride home not looking out the window as I was accustomed to, but increasingly becoming the people I couldn’t undersand – the people that contracted and over stretched their throat and neck for way too long a period of time. So often when I noticed this I had to hold back the urge to talk to them about what they were doing to their spine, their posture, their chakras – it hurt to watch. I was increasingly becoming one of them. I tried to deny it, but this weekend it became all too clear. Too much time was spent on facebook, and so once again I am stepping away – this time for good. Why am I writing this?

Today in the classes I taught, I used the theme of rejuvination linking it to the wonderful weather we have had – the beginning of spring – and the Easter long weekend we are enjoying. As I introduced the theme today I used the example of stagnant energy, and through our kriyas and asanas releasing that energy into something new. And I believe a lot of what we consider life these days is stagnant energy – like spending our time scrolling through facebook. We spend so much of our time focused on stagnant energy that eventually we become stagnant energy. That is exactly how it feels every time I spend too much time on facebook. I feel stagnant, stuck, sometimes so stuck that even though I want to shut it down – I don’t – I get stuck in the pattern joining the people on the bus that are damaging so much of their body just to read people’s mindless and most of the time mundane posts on facebook.

I choose to live. I choose to actively make a choice to live my life in active energetic pursuits in activities that work my mind, my body, activities that help me grow as a person. I choose to lift my chin away from my chest and stretch my spine every fucking chance I get. I choose to look out the window and notice the wonders that is the natural world. I choose to be a human a part of this earth, not mindlessly allowing it to pass by me unoticed, unexperienced. I choose to tune into my energy and allowing the lessons I learn from the natural world to rejuvinate me in a way staring at a screen all day just will never ever  do.

I choose REAL LIFE for goodness sakes I hope you do too.

Open to Grace

It’s starting to hit me now. My physical body is beyond tired. At the moment I just got home and am tidying up, keeping my eyes open is a struggle, but I am determined to stay awake and relish in the moment. I am done. It’s really hard to believe, I would say that about 70% of my being still hasn’t caught on yet, that I did it, I completed what eight months ago I thought was the impossible. After eight years out of the program – and a lifetime of events in that time – I have finally completed my Social Work degree.

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, emotions, stress, and work – a lot of work. I had two major projects to complete, something I had been putting off – plus working – or  more technically my practicum – but let’s be real here – I was working for free. I almost lost it for awhile there trying to complete these projects in time and work and you know – be an adult about it all. Each day was a struggle, I was so tired. Actually, for the first time in a very very long time I struggled getting to my practice in the morning, because I desperately wanted to escape what the day would bring – more work. But I went, every morning – to my mat – fighting myself most days, other days thankful for my practice. And this week as I look back at those moments, so many moments throughout this year, I realize how grateful I am for my practice – it got me through – well my smarts had something to do with it – but really my practice kept me going when my mind believed I just couldn’t do anymore.

Both of my practicums were challenging in their own ways. My first practicum was a challenge becuase it had been eight years since I had had to think like a social worker, but thankfully I was a part of a great and understanding team that let me take my time to ease into things. They saw potential where I only saw doubt. And I owe them for the confidence they gave me, because right before Christmas vacation, in the midst of my mid-term projects, I had to find a new placement. This was the first time this year where I very much doubted whether seeing the end of this adventure would actually happen. I was sure I wouldn’t find a placement. I was completely new to Ottawa, and only found the first placement because it was related to the military community – that was my in, otherwise I was virtually unkown to anyone in Ottawa. So here I was, mid December, with no placement for January. Days away before people would begin taking their Christmas vacations. There was a moment where I sat in my office at home, in the corner, crying because I was sure I would have to drop out of school – my worst nightmare coming true before my eyes – that I would never complete this degree – the ego mind – my negative thinking that I just wasn’t good enough would win.

It took a real hard lecture from my SO to get me off of that floor and ready to move forward. I sat down and made a spectacular resume selling myself as what I was, and headed out the next day to go visit agencies – begging them  to take me on as a student. That day ended with one title – sent to my by text by a fellow social worker I had worked under in my first practicum: The Well.

I looked it up and fell in love right away. But I was sure that they would have the same answer as everywhere I visited that day: we already have students. I emailed, got an appointment for five days later. In that time I got four more interviews to various agencies all guarnteeing that they’d take me. But I waited. I wanted to see The Well. A risk, since my interview was set for the 21st of December, and offices would be closing on the 23rd.

Five days later I walked into the basement of a church in downtown Ottawa. A church I used to pass every morning when we first moved to Ottawa, and I fell in love. A drop-in centre for women – it felt like I had walked home. By the end of my interview I had convinced the social worker to take me on as a student – even though she already had two other students. Magic happened that day. I went from sitting with knees in my chest on the floor of my office crying, to confidentally selling myself as perfect for the agency.

The best way to describe it is, I felt as if I had left my body , or rather, my ego had been silenced, and instead I spoke directly from my heart. No doubt, no planning, I just talked about my goals and my dreams – and well it worked.

Three months later, and not only did I have an awesome placement but I have been hired to work there now that I have completed my degree. I led a spectacular yoga workshop – spectacular because the women taught me so much – SO MUCH – I can’t even begin to describe all that they taught me. Everyday this job humbles me, every day these women inspire me. In the course of one day I feel pain, laughter, joy, love, distress, community – it’s challenging beyond words – but it is so incredibly rewarding.

Yesterday as I transitioned from student to staff, my supervisor thought it would be great if she announced the news at lunch on a Wednesday – our busiest day as Wednesday afternoon is bingo. I stood as she announed my transition to staff and watched as a room full of beautiful goddesses welcomed me into their home. I could hear them whisper about me as I walked around during bingo – that I was the yoga teacher, I had just been hired from student to staff – and I couldn’t help smiling because the reality is – The Well is not ours the staff’s – it is theirs – the women’s. From day one I knew that if I was going to be hired it wouldn’t be the staff’s decision, it would be the women’s – I knew very well that my boss’s boss would conisder the women’s evaluation of me before she conisdered the staff’s. And I get it. We are to provide a safe place for these women – and if they feel unsafe – this magnificent place just couldn’t be what it is.

So here I am. My dreams falling out of the sky. They didn’t just fall out of the sky and they did. I worked damn hard for where I am. But at the same time, I didn’t force any of this. I had no idea where this year would take me – I made it my mission to not even try to create it, but to allow it to be created. I had faith that it would all work out – yes I had my doubts – but overall beneath that doubt – to the core of who I am – I knew – it would work out. I just needed to have faith and go where my intuition led me.

It was the same with the yoga workshop. I didn’t teach what I wanted – I went in there with so many ideas – but right away I realized my ideas would not work. I instead listened to the women’s bodies, their energy, the space, their stories and let that lead me to a wonderful workshop of self-exploration through the chakras. I had moments where I doubted my ability, but in the end I realized it wasn’t about me at all. I was looking at this all wrong – it was about the women. As long as I showed up ready to hold space – they would too – and they did, so many of them did. For some it took a long time to come into the room, for others they are still coming to the door and only watching – but as I told the women that do come we are here for ourselves but also for every woman that is at The Well today – our practice not only transfroms us but through our ineractions, our collective energy we will tranform everyone we connect with. And we did. Suddenly the women at The Well are talking about their energy, even the words chakras has come up as I walk around – it’s awesome what we can do when we practice together.

As I look at all of this now, there is one theme that comes through. Energy. Life force. Grace. The times I moved from grace were the times that I understood deeply what it was that I needed to do for my journey but also for those that I am helping.

This has by far been one of the hardest jobs I have ever had – it continues to challenge me – that is why I accpeted the position because as long as I am challenged I am learning. As long as I am learning I am growing. As long as I am growing I am teaching. And as long as I am teaching I am being challenged. I come to work every day tuned into my energy. Everyday I am faced with opression, abuse, homelessness, adiction, mental illness – and everyday I open my arms and welcome them home – a place they  can feel safe. This to me is the embodiment of being a social worker, and the emodiment of being a true teacher of yoga. Every day I am humbled, every day I look grace in the eyes and weep realizing that grace is within every being I encounter and if I do my job right, they will see their magnificent grace as well.

Are you ready to meet yourself?

My time is almost up. For months now I have been working towards one goal – finish the social work degree I had started eight years ago. I am two weeks away from that being a reality. I am tired but oh so happy to be here. I cannot even begin to describe what this year has been like for me. What I can say is one week after moving into our home I jumped right into my first practicum and two full-year courses. I had no idea what I was doing. It had been eight years since I had opened a text book let alone write an academic paper. It’s been a time of redsicovering myself – a really interesting adventure – sometimes scary, most of the time doubting my capabilities – in the midst of this my anchor – my practice.

It’s funny how at the beginning of this time in my life I was so nervous, and now so much has changed. I realise now I wasn’t nervous of failing, I was nervous of meeting myself because I knew – beyond my mind – that this is where I am – my purpose my gift to share with the world, and the thought of not just talking about it anymore but actually living it – well the universe was bascially telling me to wake up – show up – and well I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face msyelf yet. And a part of my wasn’t. As I look back now I realize that it all worked out the way it was meant to – baby steps at first to jumping into the fire now. Amazing. The whole time a part of me observed understanding that I was here – I had finally begun to get to know myself. Not the first time in my life this has happened – it has been a recurring theme in my journey.

Before my second training I had come to a plateau in my teaching. I had come back from my first training eager to teach – and as I taught I learned –  I grew, but after about a year I hit a plateau where I exhausted all that I knew and felt trapped by myself. I knew there was more to my journey but I couldn’t get passed my insecurities. I used to explain this as when I was teaching I felt connected to myself, to the students, to the energy, to yoga – but outside of the teaching space I felt disconnected from everything. I knew I needed to bring that concentration – an effortless flow of energy – into my life but I didn’t know how. So I decided to go to Inida once  again and learn. I decided if I was going to do this, I would need to find a teacher who would not hesitate to push me off the cliff I was so desperately clinging onto – and I found him and he pushed me off the cliff every single day of my training. After that training everything changed. Everything and nothing at the same time. Nothing had changed because this connection had always been available to me, I was just getting in my own way. Everything had changed because after my training the world expanded before my eyes. Everything looked different, food tasted different, feelings felt different – I could experience it all without any of it defining who I was.

Here’s the thing, this year began with me desperately clinging to a cliff once again. The cliff now being my perception of myself as a yoga teacher. I feared entering the world of social work, coming back ot Canada, that somehow I would lose this. And here’s the cool part, the teacher in this example was not some other person – it was myself. I pushed myself off that cliff every single day. The days I had to do something new I had never done before, the days when I used my skills as a yoga teacher to help explain mindfulness techniques to colleagues, the days before my second placement when I had to convince my current supervisor to take me on – all of these examples (and so much more) are examples of when I went beyond my mind and used my gut feeling to move forward – instinct – insight – deep connection. That is yoga:  the observer becomes the observed, the experience becomes the experiencer. I couldn’t do this without my anchor without my practice.

That is what I am beginning to understand – never in my life have I felt more connected to myself – never have I felt more connected to the people around me – no hesitation – no fear – just jumping off cliffs as much as I can. That is the core principle here – when we find what we are good at – when we find that unique gift that we only possess and we begin to share it with the world around us – the mind patterns, the doubts, the plateaus – they all dissapear and what remains is pure and beautiful free flowing energy. This is what I teach. If you are looking for aerobics or crazy ass pretzel poses well that is just surface stuff – its great in its time – but its not going to bring you bliss. If you want bliss, if you want free flowing energy – look within. You possess all the gifts and all of the knoweldge to bring that into your life right now. And me, well I don’t have the answers for you – no one does – but I can help you navigate your way through – but ultimately it is up to you. You are the answer you have been looking for.

So, are you ready to meet yourself? Are you ready to experience that vastness that is YOU? In a few weeks I will begin an online workshop dedicated to experiencing your energy. The workshops will consist of movements and breathing dedicated to experiencing your energy. They will be approximately 20 minutes long and will be weekly. If this interests you and you would like to be updated PM me either on my facebook page: Maria Sophia Yoga or alternatively you can email me at mariasophiayoga108@gmail.com with the subject line online workshop. Once I have your email I can easily keep you updated on information and dates on the workshop. Your email or information will not be used in any other way other than informing you of dates times pertaining to this workshop.

So I ask you again are you ready to meet yourself? I promise you, you are much more vast, much more beautiful and powerful than your mind can ever imagine! You my friend are a miracle.