SDC10767 I let my yoga practice drop over a year ago now. I’ve felt bad about it because: 1. my body + mind + soul missed it, and 2. I had gotten pretty good at it. Running replaced my time on the mat. It provided me with just enough endorphin release to push forward with all the changes of these past months. But, every now and then, a little voice wondered: when are you gonna get back into it?

Well, the time has come. I may have made my travel more cumbersome, but I carried around my yoga mat with me throughout my 3 week Greece trip. The sun, the sea, the easy pace of life gently nudged me back into a practice I have loved and treasured for some time.

In this journey back to yoga, I’ve new-found gratitude…for the power of intention that surfaces before a practice, for the gift of the learned poses given to me my patient and soulful teacher, for the union my spirit finds with the body that holds it.

There’s a pose at the end of the primary series, right before sinking into restful Shavasana called उत्प्लुतिः  Utplutiḥ, meaning “lift”…also known as Tolasana. In lotus position, spine lengthened and hands placed on the mat, you lift your legs and butt off the mat balancing and holding for 5 breaths. After having done a challenging practice of many poses already, for me it takes every last bit of strength left to hold. To enhance the experience, my teacher would always instruct: ok, lift and breathe…don’t forget to smile. I always wondered if the smiling was part of the pose. When asked, he simply said: Nope, I just add that in. Makes the pose easier, lighter.

It’s true.

A great lesson in a simple act. When life has got you exhausted, stretched, challenged to the point of giving up, the slightest shift (movement, mood, perspective…smile) can really be the lift needed to keep on.

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“I think you just have to go through it. And I think that if rather than sort of squeeze your eyes shut, you decide that there’s something interesting about it, if only in the kind of spiritual life cycle sense of the word. But also, — you find out what you’re made of if you weren’t already sure you knew the answer to that.” -Jane Gross

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36 boxes stacked strategically in the dark, small, storage space. Black marker scribbled on the sides in large letters, Mrs. Christine. The men from the Vientiane packing company assumed our home’s possessions were all mine, that I was in charge, so they deemed the boxes mine as well. At the time, the logistics were simple. We were parting ways. I was taking the things.

To be fair, I had been the one to accumulate. The rugs from Tunisia, the framed mola from Colombia, the wooden Buddha from Cambodia, the antique console from Korea…each piece marked a time and place we had been and shared, and I treasure them all.

Inside taped up cardboard structures, that life was hushed in paper and bubble wrap. Standing in the hot Hayward sun, many, many months later, I wondered how I would reconcile ownership, what my present self would be able to release. I won’t lie. There was a part of me that wanted to drizzle gasoline over the whole thing and ignite it into the atmosphere. But, the sentimental girl who saved yearbooks and love letters, duplicate photographs (in case I wanted to mail the other to a friend) and tattered journals, felt more like sitting in the middle of a pool of them to conjure up a flood of memories.

Things like art I had no wall space for or lamps that operated on a different voltage…some of those things were easier to let go of. But, things like the photographs that adorned our walls for years or the cigar boxes that stored his coins, the bottles of the Saharan desert we kept as if it were powdered gold, the wedding albums we had tucked away on bookshelves, and the CDs we made with each other in mind…these, these things bore deep holes in my heart.

It’s crazy how quickly an object can send you into a spiral of thoughts:

Riding on the back of his motorcycle in the hills of Medellin. That kid who toured us on his father’s tobacco plantation in Cuba. Having summer backyard dinners eating Bill’s grilled salmon. Getting stuck in Miami before embarking on our Tunisia journey because I let my passport expire. India, visiting India. Sunday walks on along the river in Seoul for our seared tuna dinner. Creating a yoga studio in a Buddhist wat in Luang Prabang. Walking in la ciudad antigua on Cartagena evenings.

Overwhelming.
Could I really do this?
I hated and loved going through those boxes. But, they are me. The journeys, the joys, the changes. They are what I’m made of.

There was a moment when making a trip to the large garbage bin where a warm breeze blew much of the Saharan sand that had piled up at the bottom of a box. So fine, it moved like waves across the sweltering concrete until it totally dispersed.
In ways, this image felt like our story, rolling up and down, moving farther in distance until the grains land in other formations someplace else.

In this process of this separation, I’ve felt like crying my insides out, like I’ve been punched in the stomach, like I’ve been the source of a ruthless self-inquisition, like I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and make it all go away.

But I could never shut my eyes for long. For one thing, it gets too dark. And for another, the curiosity for what life holds is far too great.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetA little while ago a friend posed this question: How do you want to feel in life? 

She’d just answered it for herself and came up with an acronym as a reminder of the distinct qualities that would provide her joy and satisfaction in her daily actions.  I admired her practice and felt compelled to do the same. In times where life shifts for you or you do the shifting, it’s a great question to visit.

My acronym is IFCA (it’s the best I could do with those letters).

In life, I want to feel…

INSPIRED: by nature, people, art, beauty, compassion, words. I want to see something around me, have my spirit lifted, and be moved to act.

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FREEDOM: as if my heart and soul have wings, encouraged to take flight to wherever I am guided. I want feel free to explore, free to love, free to share, free to show myself.

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CREATIVE: to be the source of original manifestation of human experience through art whatever that may be.

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ABUNDANT: to stop living in fear of scarcity, asking will there be enough love, health, money, time? No more asking “am I enough?” These thought patterns are paralyzing and inhibit all of the above.

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How do you want to feel?

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My wedding dress and shoes sat waiting for me on my porch today. I’d asked my mother-in-law to send them since they’ve been in her closet in Canada for years. Wrapped in brown paper with her handwritten letters on the front, a familiar knot rose up to my throat.

This stuff is hard.

For months, there’s been a tug-of-war going on inside. On one side: strong pulling of nostalgia and sentiment that leave blisters on the palms, the grip is so tight. On the other side: new found strength stemming from time, self-acceptance, and loving support.

No side has slipped over the line. No side has won.

With the exception of moments that offer a little give, the tension across these sides is pretty constant.

To add to matters, during this time, the words have gone into hiding. I yell for them to come back, to emerge from the shadows, only to hear my echoing plea. Aside from feebly comparing a marriage separation to the pulling of a taut rope, similes escape me. There is little to liken this experience to and no former lesson to draw from. This is the hard stuff. The life altering stuff.

I used to write quite regularly here, back when there seemed to be a new experience every new day I opened my eyes. After all, this blog was inspired by the decision to make a large life change. It stemmed from the curiosity of chronicling the events that led us to Laos where we departed from the comfortable teaching lives we knew. In a way, it was intentional impermanence. And, in that brief chapter of life, I had a lot to say about the matter.

Thing is, the impermanence maintained even after the experiment. These months of being back in the states has proven to be of the  Year of the Unexpected. Even with such experiences, I fall short of expression.

How does one define the empty space left from 11 years of partnership? What words are used to share the process of re defining the self? How are the heights and depths told in a way that makes sense?

That brown wrapped box has been tucked away in a hidden corner of my closet. I am not ready to open it yet.

That rope connecting confusing sides of emotion is still pulled pretty tightly. I have not released my grip yet.

The time will come though, I know it, when letting go is the experience, when resistance no longer serves and release feels so much better.  I suspect, when that happens, the words will rush in.

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In life, there is always pain. But, you don’t have to suffer.

A woman walked into the shop the other day. Only, she wasn’t just a woman. She was an oracle, a messenger, an angel. She was Light walking around in a 70 year old body, Wisdom wearing a sweet hat and smile.

I don’t know what nudged me to ask if the elephant earrings she was admiring were something more. But I did, and this resulted in the gift of surprising openness and vulnerability. Her stories trailed one another in a long ribbon of knots, each distinct in their impact on her life’s direction and purpose, all colorfully connected indicating the distance she had gone. And, although some parts touched on sad moments and disappointments, there was a grace in her delivery, gentle instruction in her voice.

It was in all this sharing that the words came:
“You know, because in life, there will always be pain. But, you don’t have to suffer.”

Emotion rose to my eyes. She saw it and smiled knowingly. I needed to hear that.

It’s the most simple concept, isn’t it?

One thing we can count on in life is that we will experience pain. Even the tiniest of creatures do. But, like everything, it comes and goes. If only that could be embraced more…not just acknowledged but hugged tight.

The difference seems subtle, yet it’s incredibly large.

To be refused the job you wanted is pain. To tell yourself you weren’t good enough for it is suffering.
To experience illness that shifts your daily habits is pain. To close off to all beauty because of the illness is suffering.
To have a relationship end is pain. To hold onto the past while asking why is suffering.

Time gauges which is which. Pain prolonged is suffering. Sometimes the length of the experience is out of our control. Sometimes it’s not, and we have the chance to answer the question a good friend recently posed:

Are you living YOUR life or just surviving the pain of your struggle?

Could be just me…
… but there’s no way I’m here to just survive.

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I’ve always been afraid of earthquakes. This is a rational fear. As a Californian, the experience is inevitable. No matter how well you prepare, even with so many childhood school drills…you never feel quite ready.

Likely because earthquakes are largely unpredictable.

Sure, there are studies showing patterns and trends that give some level of predictability… like looking at the history of movement in a region, detecting where pressure is building along fault lines.

But we never really KNOW when the ground beneath us will decide to shake.

I guess my biggest fear is that it will happen while I am alone. Currently living on my own for the first time in my life, the chances of this fear realizing have increased. There are moments at night in between dreams that it grips me. What would I do if “The Big One” hit? What would be my route of escape? Would I have enough food/water? If trapped, would I have the courage and strength that survivor stories are made of?

Panicked, the scenario continues to expand beyond my walls:

When will it be enough? How will I pay all these bills? Where is home really? Will I ever be a mom? How can I take care of my parents later?  Are soul-mates found or created? Am I doing any of this right?

Tremors build into quakes, full-on quakes. Rolling and rumbling, uprooting some things and bringing others down… to pieces.

There may be some indicators. Perhaps with more mindfulness, the climbing pressure could be sensed, diffused in some way. The ground could remain steadied for some time longer.

But, with time, the floor beneath our feet will do what it needs to. And, when it does, what is there to do?

Nothing more than this: find sturdy support for protection, have a small prayer on the lips, and just ride it out.

[image: Caltech, Pasadena]

Christine40thBirthday_0067This was written to present to my guests at my recent 40th. Such a memorable occasion this party was, that I had to share it here:

My 30s started much like this. Theme party. A mix of 80s music and salsa. Contagious positive energy.

Throughout the decade, life shared it’s sense of fun and mystery, wonder and risk, gasps and cheers. Pulled in from the audience, I was no longer a spectator, watching safely from my seat, sipping on soda whispering opinionated comments to companions. I was an animated participant , taking on varying roles when called to.

The tight rope walker steadies herself in intention. The rules are simple. 1. Make it across to point B. 2. Do not stop for too long. 3. Do NOT look down. There’s no other course of action, really. No other choice. It’s a matter of focus and determination to get an end result. If doubt enters, she feels it in the rope. Slight trembles can shift into rapid shakes. This can make for a graceless performance. People will hold their breath. People will stare. It’s ok. She takes a moment to fix her gaze, to relax into her path. She will get there.

Upon first glance, no one knows the extreme pliability of the contortionist. Just like everyone, she stands in line, maneuvers through crowded streets, sits in cafes with friends. It is in moments of tough choice, moments of compromise and negotiation that she twists herself, one limb at a time until the upright body distorts into something unrecognizable. Only while maintaining the form of her soul, is her flexible nature beautiful.

The magician is a master of illusion and surprise. In playful spirit, she keeps people guessing ; wondering what else can be pulled out of that hat. At times, the enchantment disguises other things: self-doubt, loneliness, fear. At times, there is nothing left up her sleeves. Standing there vulnerably, palms open, the tricks disappear. What you see is what you get.

Possibly the most valiant performer is the lion tamer. Poised and commanding, she looks at the beast in the eye. Sure, there are traces of fear in her as she walks forward; it growling, intimidating. In a last ditch attempt to put her in her place, it bares it’s sharp teeth wide. The struggle is inward and for a moment, she stops to take a deep breath. Then, with new found conviction, she raises her voice above its noise that sharply quiets into a softened purr.

The clown is the comic relief. She’s a reminder that throughout this string of acts there’s humor to release suspense, to tame fears. She embraces the ridiuclous and encourages belly laughter. While juggling many things, she maintains a smile, knowing all too well that this thing can’t be taken too seriously. She is the wild color that brightens the show.

I suppose the inspiration for this party was a mix of things: the artsy venue, an excuse to dress up, my love of Natalie Merchant…
It all just made sense to me. That, while these last couple of years, in particular have been topsy-turvy, unexpectected, and a bit of a spectacle…life is strangely wonderful. I expect my 40s to be no less of the greatest show on earth.

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