We all have certain times in our lives where we feel stuck and can’t seem to find our way out. In fact, those experiences, especially when they last a while, can take us into a feeling of hopelessness. We wonder if we will ever find our way out. Pema Chodren speaks so beautifully to this from a buddhist point of view. She says in Tibetan, there is an interesting word ye tang che which translates to “totally tired out” or “totally fed up”. In my personal life, I have experienced this a lot over the last 3 years.

When we are in pain, we often want to run towards pleasure. For me, living in Boulder, Colorado, I was able to hide from a lot of the pain and suffering I had inside. I hid behind the facade of being healthy, eating organic food, practicing yoga, having a sweet home, starting a family and living a social. When a health crisis hit in my family and my life began to “fall apart”, I realized I was using all of it to run from all the pain that was underneath. I was ye tang che….,exhausted!!!!

When I became aware enough to understand that this feeling of hopelessness was actually the beginning of the beginning, as Pema puts it, I started trusting that I could rise out of this chaos that kept playing out in my life and relax into where I was. I could see the great teaching that was in front of me and that I no longer had to play out these patterns. The choice was mine and it was a moment of truth I will never forget. I realized that my perception was everything and that I could always shift my view point in every situation.

It’s a daily practice and I still going into places of feeling hopeless, especially when it impacts my personal life, but it’s less and less as time goes on. I understand what I have control over and what I don’t. I spent far more time in grief and suffering than one needs to and learned the hard way that there is always choice. I am now way more compassionate towards myself and others and am capable of rising out of the suffering when I choose to. As Buddha so beautifully taught, “Life is Suffering” and the sooner we can accept this truth, the more we can live in peace, joy and freedom.

I’ve been intoxicated by so much beauty down here on retreat in New Mexico these past few days and simultaneously, watching, as our world reveals so much injustice and violence. As a white privileged woman, I’ve been, quieting and tuning into what is coming up for me and how I am to take a stand without reacting from my old patterns that I know, may not serve in the highest.

Since I’ve been here I’ve observed the heavy and violent hail storms and rains coming through, that seem necessary at times, for purifying and nourishing the fertile land, feeding it with brilliant shades of green and full, flowing rivers. These last few years of my personal life have been similar. I chose my path of purifying a lot of rage and anger that was conditioned and patterned in my lineage. Initially my yoga practice is what showed me and gave me the tools to begin to heal this pattern with consciousness and love. I was aware how this unconscious pattern was bringing a lot of toxicity to me and my family and was affecting how I showed up in my world.

My white privileged upbringing, conditioned me to stay in my pride and to look the other way when things got ugly. I was never taught how to take accountability until the yoga of my relationship so clearly mirrored to me where I wasn’t doing that. I got to a place where it became more painful to keep turning away than to look the tiger in the eye. Once I did, even though it took a lot of courage, it wasn’t so bad. It reminds me of that moment in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ where Belle was able to see beyond the ugly face and into the true nature of the Beast where she finds true love and beauty.

It’s humbling without a doubt to look inside our own psyche and see the beast but it’s absolutely necessary if any of us want to shift what is happening on the outer. Through the conscious expression of rage and anger, I have been able to connect with more beauty and authenticity in myself and others. It still shows it’s ugly face but not nearly as often and I am able to move through it with much more ease and grace. Each time I face into the hurt and pain with compassion, I am given the opportunity to experience more joy and beauty in my life. What a paradox life is!! The outer is always a reflection of our inner states so when we witness what we are now in the outer, it’s truly an opportunity to have the courage to look at our disowned parts and own them so we can move beyond them.

For what it’s worth coming from a middle aged, privileged, white woman, I urge you to please, at least be open to look into the Beast of your own self as Belle finally did in the end. Look at where you carry shame and guilt around privilege. It’s okay to feel it just don’t hang out there too long. Take accountability for your part and take the action necessary to change your state from shame and guilt to love and kindness. If we are to heal the deeper wounds that are showing their ugly faces, it is the necessary path in move forward and creating a new, more evolved society.

True commitment requires us to go within and ask ourselves what matters and what are we willing to do about it?? These are warrior times we are living in, requiring us to know who we are like never before. We have to take a good, hard look at our ugly and disowned parts and to take accountability for all of it. No one wants to do this because it is downright hard. It requires an unwavering commitment and dedication to something so much bigger than. No one can do it for us and no one can do it alone. We have to stop leading from our heads and take the initiative to lead from our hearts. These times are inviting us to take a good look at what matters and drop the rest. Of course, that is much easier said than done because it requires a massive shift in consciousness. It requires a dedication to love and a longing to merge with the Beloved.

A Sufi poet once said, “Life means longing. Progress is only possible through Longing. As the Path of Progress is Infinite, there should be infinite longing. Thus Longing becomes itself, a form of the Infinite, to be desired for its own sake. The other name for Longing is Love.”

In Yoga we call this the Iccha Shakti, the power of our will to evolve, to grow and to merge with the divine.

Try this simple 10 minute Practice to Cultivate the Commitment for Transformation:

Breath of Fire

Sit comfortably in a chair or cushion. Rest the hands on the thighs or extend the arms out in a V shape. Take some deep Ujayyi breaths. Then begin breath of fire pumping the naval in on each exhale. Cultivate energy in the solar plexus and focus you intention on that area of the body. Do 2 rounds, 2 minutes each.

Tree Pose

Stand on one leg and bring the opposite foot to the inner calf or inner thigh if possible. Root down through the standing leg. Bring the hands into prayer in front of the heart or arms over head. Hold for at least 2 minutes on each side and focus on your hearts longing. Stand for what’s important to you on the inner level. Breathe and Embody your power and commitment!!!!

Warrior 2

Stand with feet one leg length apart. Turn one foot straight out and leave the back foot parallel to the back edge of the mat. Bend the front knee to a ninety degree angle, arms extend out from the sides. Stay for 2 minutes each side. Commit to standing strong with an open heart. Be unwavering in your stand and do it for love…as love!

Meditate

Sit for 3 minutes meditating on what your deepest desire is in your heart.

Join us for healing retreats in beautiful New Mexico, the land of enchantment.

Dates TBA

It’s my birthday today.  I am 52 and just this year, I am learning how to grow up.  It sounds funny to be this age and to finally be growing up but I am grateful that I even have that opportunity in this life.  To learn how to take accountability for myself on every level.  Many people never do. My mother never got that opportunity.  She died of cancer when I was 21 with I believe, a lot of regrets around this. 

Last summer I came the the point where I felt like I had had enough. I was done living inside of patterns that kept repeating themselves in my life. I was working on and committed to some personal development with a teacher and became radically clear that I was no longer willing tolerate the feelings of anger and disappointment that I felt inside.  They were running the show and my life was showing me where it was time to take accountability for my actions and start cleaning ups my messes.  It was hard.  Really hard.  I wanted to blame my husband, my kids…anything but myself.  I wanted to feel sorry for my situation and pout with my bottom lip way out.  How could I be where I was. But that never seemed to work out in the past.  The only choice was to take a good hard look at where I was stuck and to give that immature, little angry bitch a voice.  To express with a full on fit, screaming and yelling at the world, how life had wronged me. How could I be here after all the “spiritual work” I have done was the big question? I was a good person I thought.  Well, through the guidance of some very wise teachers I was able to see it all.  None of the downward dogs or chanting or mediating or praying to the Goddess was ever going to get me out of this one.  I had to get down on my knees and do the dirty work of looking at where I was deferring accountability over and over and over again.  Running from one thing to the next seeking some kind of refuge outside myself but not dealing with the feelings I had inside of pain, rage and injustice.

Today I am 52 years old.  I am waking up to myself, and all that I am now.  Yes I am kind, compassionate, loving and innocent. I also have anger, doubt and fear. I am human after all. Today I am more authentic and real about who I am and it feels really good. I’m a little bruised and tender but none the less, waking up. Sometimes I do feel like a newborn in this adult body. I am learning what it means to be a woman not just a little girl in a woman’s body.  Growing up is not what I thought it would be.  I never had many roles models for that in my life.  Not even many of my “spiritual” teachers.  Many of them are showing where they are just human too. Most of us are taught that being a grown up looks like being successful, owning a house, having children and starting a family or simply having some authority over something or someone.  It is all that but the part we forget about is learning how to grow up emotionally and take responsibility for how we feel, what we say, how we treat others, the actions we take or don’t take that create the outcomes in our lives. 

Yes I know, it’s all in there in the spiritual teachings.  Be kind to others and speak with integrity.  Blah, blah, blah. I was a master at spiritual bypassing.  It all sounds beautiful and blissful until you actually take the teachings and apply them to your everyday life, especially to the people that trigger you the most.  That is the real work. We all have our blind spots. Mine was big and that is why I’m convinced we need accountability people in our lives. People who can call us out and show us where we are not taking accountability. Those are true friends and allies.

I had this thought today of giving away all my yoga and self help books, my buddhas and dieties and letting go of all my stones and crystals.  It’s still just an idea. I’m not sure I’d actually do it. They have all been great teachers for me and yet, I don’t feel the need for them in the same way anymore.  I trust they are all within me and always will be. 

It’s my birthday today.  I am 52 and just this year, I am learning how to grow up.  It sounds funny to be this age and to finally be growing up but I am grateful that I even have that opportunity in this life.  To learn how to take accountability for myself on every level.  Many people never do. My mother never got that opportunity.  She died of cancer when I was 21 with I believe, a lot of regrets around this. 

Last summer I came the the point where I felt like I had had enough. I was done living inside of patterns that kept repeating themselves in my life. I was working on and committed to some personal development with a teacher and became radically clear that I was no longer willing tolerate the feelings of anger and disappointment that I felt inside.  They were running the show and my life was showing me where it was time to take accountability for my actions and start cleaning ups my messes.  It was hard.  Really hard.  I wanted to blame my husband, my kids…anything but myself.  I wanted to feel sorry for my situation and pout with my bottom lip way out.  How could I be where I was. But that never seemed to work out in the past.  The only choice was to take a good hard look at where I was stuck and to give that immature, little angry bitch a voice.  To express with a full on fit, screaming and yelling at the world, how life had wronged me. How could I be here after all the “spiritual work” I have done was the big question? I was a good person I thought.  Well, through the guidance of some very wise teachers I was able to see it all.  None of the downward dogs or chanting or mediating or praying to the Goddess was ever going to get me out of this one.  I had to get down on my knees and do the dirty work of looking at where I was deferring accountability over and over and over again.  Running from one thing to the next seeking some kind of refuge outside myself but not dealing with the feelings I had inside of pain, rage and injustice.

Today I am 52 years old.  I am waking up to myself, and all that I am.  Yes I am kind, compassionate and innocent. I have also had these feelings of anger, doubt and fear running in the background. Today I am more authentic and real and it feels darn good. I’m a little bruised and tender but none the less, waking up. Sometimes I do feel like a newborn in this adult body. I am learning what it means to be a woman not a little girl.  Growing up is not what I thought it would be.  I never really had any roles models for that in my life.  Not even many of my teachers.  Most of us are taught that being a grown up looks like being successful, owning a house, having children and starting a family.  It is all that but the part we forget about is learning how to grow up emotionally and take responsibility for how we feel, what we say, how we treat others, the actions we take or don’t take that create outcomes in our lives. 

Yes I know, it’s all in there in the spiritual teachings.  Be kind to others and speak with integrity.  Blah, blah, blah. I was a master at spiritual bypassing.  It all sounds beautiful and blissful until you actually take the teachings and apply them to your everyday life, especially to the people that trigger you the most.  We all have our blind spots. Mine was big and that is why I’m convinced we need accountability people in our lives. People who can call us out and show us where we are not taking accountability. I am kind of terrified of my teacher on may levels cause I know he sees it all.  But as they say when the students is ready, the teacher appears.  I also consider my closest girlfriends, my husband and my kids my teachers. And of course the teacher within us all.

I had this thought today of giving away all my yoga and self help books, my buddhas and dieties and letting go of all my stones and crystals.  It’s still just an idea. I’m not sure I’d actually do it. They have all been great teachers for me and yet, I don’t feel the need for them in the same way anymore.  I trust they are all within me. 

I would start to fill my home with gorgeous flowers and beautiful art that speaks to my life today. I would write and sing with my true voice and create my life from this moment on.  And so it is!!

Interestingly, I love change and transitions. I always feel a sense of release and flow when there is change in the air. As old structures both in myself and on a bigger scale die away, there is a sense of free falling. I’m not an adrenaline junkie by any means but I do love the aspect of freedom from conditioned ways of being.

A friend of mine recently shared this Trungpa Rinpoche quote:

“The bad news is, you are falling. The good news is, there is nowhere to land.”

In my experience, when I dive deeper into the practice of letting go of old patterns and structures, the fear of free falling does arise. Scary as it may seem, I have found it is where the juice is. It’s the place that is full of choice and possibility. Let’s be real here. Old structures are dissolving all over the place. Personally,

I am hearing an inner voice is surging out and shouting to me loud and clear, “It’s time to come out and play Alison; Dance, sing, write and voice all the creativity you’ve been stuffing. You know, the stuff that brings you alive, that feeds your souls journey to evolve. Try something radically new and different!”

I know it well because when I’m in the flow of it, my whole body radiates with life force.

We have been taught in so many ways to find stability, safety and some idea certainty that makes us feel okay. We try to create stability structures even in our minds. Though it makes us feel safe, it also makes us stuck and very limited.

A teacher of mine, Douglas Brooks, once stated and I know it to be true for me, “the only certainty we really know is death, the rest is possibility.” If we can embrace uncertainty, we are not stuck. We can live in a world of opportunity and how we chose to engage is up to us. Bummer is, we don’t get off easy here as humans. We have to work with the challenge, the rubbing, churning and shedding of old ways that bring us to a new way of being.

This is why I love yoga so much. It takes us to our edges and rubs the places we are stuck. Now, we can get in out yoga patterns too and get stuck there which is why I love to mix things up. Lately I have been going to Kundalini classes as well as Yin, rather than my usual Vinyasa/Ashtanga practice. It gives me new perpectives, opens different channels of possibility.

I love to play with choosing to let go of the way I clutch and cling to safety and welcome a new way. I feel as through I’m continuously opening to this sense of free falling to what’s next and seeing there is always more and nothing all at once. It feels like the truest sense of the word freedom embodied. Every moment becomes a choice to cling or let go. Some moments require tremendous courage and power, others are asking for softening and surrender.

So as humans, how do we keep letting go of that which we cling to? How can you lean into the place that scares you straight and feel the darkness of the unknown holding you at the boundary of your own freedom. For me it’s to keep leaning into my body, into my yoga as I walk on the earth, feeling and sensing gravity. It’s in the beautiful and challenging moments of mothering my kids and the tending to love in all of my relationships. How do we let go and free fall into our pain and discomfort, our emotions including anger and frustration only to find it is all just energy and it’s the clinging to the story that sticks us.

If you want to take your yoga practice to a deeper level or any spiritual practice, play with reaching into that discomfort, the very place in which you come face to face with you’re edges and become fully aware.

In that very moment, choose something different—anything—and just see what happens.

In my own experience this is the free falling, where the most profound transformation occurs and we each have the power within us to make that choice.

Even now, after 30 years of yoga practice, as I write this article I realize the impact that a scarcity mindset and shame have had on my life. Questions swirl in my mind like… Am I good enough? Are people going to like me? Am I going to be criticized or judged for my work and what I have to say?

 

For a long time, I kept the shame safe and hidden… and as far out of sight of the public eye as possible. My logic was that if I hide and keep myself composed, I’ll be safer and won’t have to deal with the pain of being judged. Hiding, however, ultimately caused me more pain and suffering. Why? The short answer is that I wasn’t living authentically. I was cutting a part of myself off and therefore, wasn’t being real with myself or anyone else. How I started to feel on the inside began to reflect my outer circumstances. Less people showed up for my yoga classes. My private client work felt flat and my world starting to cave in on me. All of my old tactics of staying strong forced me to look deeper. What I saw was painful, ugly and hard to swallow but my practice gave me the courage to go inside and deal.

 

What shifted? I got tired of listening to the voice that didn’t align with who I was choosing to be NOW. One of the big things that has helped me come to this new place has been to know that I’m not alone. We all have an inner critic that comes up at times in our life to help us grow. I was at a talk last week with Lynn Twist, Author of “The Soul of Money”, and she spoke of the scarcity mindset that is embedded in our western culture. This belief that we are not enough is woven into the very fabric of who we are and, even though it is not true, we all have work to do around this issue.

 

How does this play out in our daily lives? We wake up with not enough sleep, jacking our bodies with caffeine and rushing around as if we don’t have enough time. We create stress around not having enough money to buy all the things we think we need in order to feel like we are enough. We’ve ultimately been conditioned to live from a deeply un-resourced place and to feel like there is never enough. As a result, we have created all kinds of money issues, body image issues, addiction, anxiety and depression to try and fill that place that can’t seem to get enough.

 

I grew up in a white, upper middle class family in Westchester, New York. One would think as a privileged white girl, I would be have a good sense of myself and yet I entered my teenage years, feeling like I wasn’t enough. I had many of the typical challenges of a young teenage girl—I didn’t feel smart enough, pretty enough or thin enough— I compared myself to others and found my value in how I looked rather than how I felt. I learned how to put up masks and walls and repress my feelings and emotions so I didn’t have to feel what was under the surface; unworthiness.

 

 

At age 21, however, I lost my mother to cancer and everything changed… just a few months later I found yoga and it was a blessing that altered my life. Practicing daily and getting in touch with my body allowed me to begin the process of feeling who I was, possibly for the first time. Over the years, being more and more present in my body and with my emotions helped me move from self-judgment and low self-worth to appreciating and understanding my humanness. It also allowed me to connect to a bigger source outside of myself giving me the understanding that I was not separate.

 

Another big turning point for me was when I came across the teachings of Lakshmi through Tantric teachers Douglas Brooks and Sally Kempton. Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of abundance and prosperity. Her mythic story reflects that true character comes not from external beauty but from being willing to take all parts of ourselves, including the dark, shadowy, disowned parts, and churn them through yoga and mantra using the dark stuff as medicine to heal. The first time I heard this, I was blown away. Up until then, my identity was wrapped up in my external beauty and thought that showing pain and vulnerability was associated with weakness.

 

These teachings allowed me to get real with myself and look at the deep shame I was carrying by hiding from my shadow. It was profound how I was able to turn my vulnerable feelings into strength and then be able to help others work through their deepest patterns and triggers.

 

Most of us that live in the western world participate on some level with the “not enough” mindset. If we are willing to look deeper at how we participate in that we can consciously choose to change. Change begins with each of us. When we feel into our inner worthiness we can’t help but to then offer love, kindness and generosity to the world. It literally spills out of us. What we appreciate then appreciates. What we focus on then expands. It’s the real practice of abundance—to cultivate and feel resourced from the inside out.

How do we practice feeling this?? The practices of mindfulness and yoga can give us the tools we need to help us remember our wholeness.

 

Slow down. Feel what’s just under the surface for you. In your busy day, take a few moments and stop what you are doing. Close your eyes and simply receive your breath. Practice the 4 part breath by inhaling and exhaling to the count of 4 with a slight pause between breaths. As you inhale, appreciate the breath filling your lungs with oxygen. As you exhale, let go of unnecessary tension. If you spend time in your car, a great time to practice is while stopped at a red light. Notice any anxiety, fear, anger or any other emotion arise. Simply give it space and then let it go with your out breath. This simple practice teaches us to be present with what is and, ultimately, that’s where we change the stuck patterns in the mind.

 

Practice mantra. If you notice you are comparing yourself to others, catch yourself and then practice focusing on the things you love about yourself and your life. Then try slowly chanting the mantra “Shrim” to invoke Lakshmi’s energy or simply repeat “I am enough!” as you feel your inner being fill up and radiate like the sun. Mantra helps us focus the mind so we can shift the unconscious patterns.

 

 

Spend time in nature. Nature is naturally generous and full of vital life force energy, especially in springtime. It offers an abundance of beauty and nourishment. Take a moment in your day to sit quietly in the sun or by a creek and simply appreciate the beauty and peace being offered.

 

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As you practice these simple things on a daily basis, you will start to notice your energy shift from scarcity to appreciation and gratitude. From that place, we can be a great contribution to each other and the planet!!

 

Namaste,

Alison

 

 

I’m back in Boulder from a 5 month whirlwind of an adventure out to Southern California with my husband and 2 boys. I have not left Boulder for that long since my trip to India back in 1997. When I went to India, I knew what to expect to some degree. All my friends who had gone had shared with me how India will strip you down and crack you open. This trip however was not so predictable. I thought we’d be moving to warm, sunny Malibu for a chill winter by the ocean. It wasn’t quite that. It was rainy, windy, foggy and chilly much of the time. There was failure, disappointment and plenty of chaos. Nothing of what we expected. I had to surrender like never before.

 

Living by the ocean can be tumultuous. Unlike Boulder, everything is always in motion. You have to learn how to surf even if it is just metaphorically. Whenever we tried to find the stable ground it wasn’t there. It was unpredictable, flexing and changing all the time. We hit rock bottom at times, getting caught in the waves, tumbling and scraping along the sandy bottom of the sea. There is a way in which you come out of those moments wasted and tumbled but stronger and more resilient because of it. It reminds me of a line from David Whyte’s poem “Working Together”: “We shape ourselves to fit the world and by the world are shaped again.” My daily practice became about tuning into my inner compass and navigating center amidst the movement.

 

I feel shaped in a beautiful new way. I am more myself than ever. It’s as though the ocean cleared away lifetimes of old patterns that got in the way of being the contribution that I’m here to be. I am no longer running or searching for something else. My life is not perfect but I know my power as a woman on this planet at this time. I have a clear vision of my soul’s purpose. It’s May 18th and it’s snowing outside. Nothing is predictable anymore and there’s nothing to hold onto from the past. On some crazy level I am coming to peace with the uncertainty of life and from there asking the universe, “What do I want to dream in??”