It’s When You’re Safe At Home

 

It was the Spring of 2015 and I’d just discovered Jen Pastiloff on Facebook. I’m not even sure exactly how I came across her or why I decided to listen to her video when it was not in my nature to do so. I was deeply unhappy with myself and my life and Facebook, like television and romance books, was one of the ways I sought escape. It was starting to dawn on me that I could “design” my newsfeed with positive uplifting or good-natured sarcastic messages and images. Perhaps with this developing mindset, I was willing to hear what this woman had to say. This was before writing and yoga came into my life and quickly became lifelines. Getting back to Jen Pastiloff, her messages about being human, not being an asshole and saying the word “fuck” a lot hooked me from the start. There were authenticity and bravery in her willingness to share her growing deafness, her past struggle with an eating disorder, her current struggle with depression, and embrace her imperfections! I gobbled up her videos with my eyes, my ears, and my starving, undernourished spirit as soon as she posted them. I would view and read with longing about her workshops and retreats all over the world. Her uplifting message asking what were we saying “yes” to in our lives, filled me with hope and a bit of despair because I didn’t feel there was much to say yes to in my life at the time.

Uncomfortably snuggled in my day-to-day dysfunction and dissatisfaction at home, stressed out and drowning with an overburdened workload at my job, I wished with all my being to experience the adventure of Jen’s magic firsthand. Near the end of August 2015, Jen announced she was going to have an essay contest for her followers and the winner would get a full scholarship for her retreat in Vermont in October. I’d just begun blogging about my life under my personal blog titled Build Your Own Brave and I thought maybe I had a chance if I could write an essay good enough to win. I turned in an essay just before the deadline of September 9, 2015. By then, some of her other generous followers had donated two more scholarships so now there were three chances! After the deadline, Jen announced there were 70 essays that she and the editors from her Manifest Station site needed to read and choose winners from. Three days later Jen contacted me via private message on Facebook to tell me that she thought my essay was phenomenal and she wanted to offer me a scholarship to her New Year’s Manifestation Retreat in Ojai, CA. She knew it would be more affordable for me to drive there from San Diego than to come up with the money for a plane ticket to Vermont in October since the scholarship contest was always clear that the cost of transportation was not included.

Oh boy! My wish had come true and when the time came I drove to Ojai for her retreat. The reality was exhilarating and frightening. I was grateful for the four-hour drive since driving and listening to music are both soothing to me. When I pulled up to the retreat facility I didn’t know anyone but Jen and I didn’t really know her; except I did. It was a 3-day magical, manifesting, soul-stirring, paradigm-altering adventure! I thought I knew what her workshops and retreats would be like based on the pictures and small videos on Facebook and her website. However, it doesn’t begin to encompass the scope of the inward journey that is intimately linked with 30 odd strangers that became spiritual kin by the end. I opened myself in ways I didn’t know I was capable of, and at that time I had 19 years of spiritual/personal sobriety growth under my belt. This was sweating physically and shedding fears with abandon because I was connected and safe to do so. I was emboldened and impassioned to do so! I was doing strenuous yoga to release emotions, then alchemizing the emotion into boldness, fierce listening and empathy. I slept in a yurt quite a distance from the main house and yoga studio. I had to use an outdoor compost toilet for the first time ever. I had Jen literally sit in front of me to question me and encourage me to read to the group what I’d read when we stopped to dive into those released emotions. There was no hiding in plain sight allowed around this gorgeous, magical sorceress. And yet, in the midst of all of that, there were many moments when I longed for the familiar comforts. and safety of my couch, my television, my romance books. This adventure, which was filled with real magic, was changing and expanding me from the inside out and a small part of me was afraid of never being able to go back to myself again.

I believe that is the crux of my duality with the safety of home versus the freedom of adventure and wishing for the opposite while experiencing each. You see, I am my own True North, my own home and each time I step out into adventure it facilitates growth and expansion. With that is the fear while I’m out there adventuring that I won’t be able to go home again to who and what I was before. Except by then, it’s already too late and that’s more than okay. The sacred truth I learn again and again is I can return home changed and expanded and remain safe.

 

Worthy Woman, Worthy Girl

Isn’t it funny how the simplest of things can blindside or trigger you? For the past 15 days, I’d been participating in an online writing workshop where the theme is Home and I’ve been delving into my childhood and early home life. This is writing that is deeper and more personal than even what I put on my blog and it seems to have made me ripe for triggering.

What I’m about to tell you is a quality First World problem to have. I already know this, okay?

I took my car, a 2014 Mazda 3, into a collision repair shop because something flew up on the freeway Monday morning and caused damage to my right front bumper and fender. I had an appointment set for 8:15 a.m. Wednesday morning and Enterprise Rental was also onsite once I’d turned my car over to the appraiser. The Enterprise representative and I were walking out to the parking lot to get me in my rental of $27.99 a day plus tax. He says to me casually, “That’s your Mazda right?” and I said yes. He said, “Ok great, well we have a Mercedes here for you”, as he points to a silver car I parked next to when I pulled into the parking lot but never even paid attention to. I literally paused in my next step, thinking he must surely be joking. A goddamn Mercedes??? I asked him if he was serious and he said yes. I continued walking towards the car, but I was not happy. Literally, my stomach clenched as I continued forward. I asked him if this was the only thing left on the lot and he said pretty much. So I was stuck with it. The last thing I wanted was to be responsible for a high-end luxury vehicle. He showed me the bells & whistles on it and how to operate enough of them to get me off the lot.

I was tense driving all the way to work and I could not relax. I announced to my co-workers that Enterprise gave me a Mercedes for a rental. They all exclaimed at once since we are all auto insurance claims adjusters. Most of them were worried that the cost of the rental was extra. I assured them it wasn’t. I lamented to them and a few of my other work friends throughout the day. I’m a Mazda kind of girl, not a Mercedes or BMW or Lexus kind of girl!  In the afternoon I got an alert from the collision shop to tell me the repairs would take an additional seven days. This meant another week in the damn car! When I complained about that, they mostly laughed at me, amused at my perceived dilemma so I stopped talking about it. As I said, I know its a quality First World problem. At the end of the workday, I walked out across the empty parking lot toward my luxury rental. It’s really lovely and simple, not too big and certainly not the fancier more expensive E-class or S-class. I got in and tried to familiarize myself with the bells & whistles I knew how to use. I found the outlet to plug in my cell phone charger and tried to sync the car’s Bluetooth to my Samsung Galaxy S8 but it wasn’t having it no matter what I tried. I finally pushed the button to start it and began the completely smooth, badass ride home. I have a 50-minute commute and I relaxed after the first ten so that left time to think about just why I was so against driving a vehicle like this for a little while.

I began to think and realize I already felt raw emotionally from all the personal writing I’d been doing about my childhood of late. Reliving the loneliness I felt as a dark-skinned homely little girl when such things mattered and weren’t considered good. I’d also been stressed out about an increase in our workload in my department and how demoralizing it felt to fall behind with my work. I remembered someone told me earlier that they’d never driven a Mercedes before. I realized I hadn’t either and I’m at the ripe old age of 50. It hit me after I’d relaxed and started to enjoy the ride that all the resistance to the Mercedes was because I didn’t feel worthy to drive such a car. When I said I’m a Mazda kind of girl, what I meant was I didn’t deserve a luxury vehicle. Which made me sad and upset. Sad because I deserve anything that God or Life sees fit to put into it or in front of me, including a Mercedes C300 for eight days. Mad because this world already has so many systems in place to make me feel small, but here I was making myself feel small and unworthy as well. I couldn’t believe this was underneath all my gruff, resentful dismay at having the use of a luxury car! It’s started me thinking of other ways I tend to make myself small and feel unworthy such as my writing and my yoga. I’m a writer, but am I good enough to do what I want with it or where God and Life will lead me with it? I’m a yoga teacher but will I be good enough to do what I want with it?

Goddamn, there’s always more to uncover and work on isn’t there? All this over a damn rental car! Despite what I may feel, I’ve worked hard over the years. I’ve worked hard on my self, my life, my writing and my yoga. All of which leads me to an essential truth. I am enough, in any given situation, no matter the circumstance.

I am worthy; A worthy woman today with a worthy little girl growing up inside her.

 

This entry was posted on November 4, 2017. 1 Comment

I’ll Take Progress Over Perfection Any Day

Today I could have been finishing up preparation for a workshop I was asked to help facilitate in part with my yoga and writing. Some of you might have seen the beautiful flyer advertising it. However, due to low attendance/interest, it has been canceled, for now. The woman leading the workshop has a wonderful agenda worked out with good people on board and helpful, healing tools to pass along when it comes to fruition. She’s worked very hard to put this all together and I’ve worked on my part. We will regroup because we already have some idea on how to proceed with a future workshop.

By now I hope most of you have seen and liked my new Facebook page Ever Inward. It has my professional designations and pricing as a yoga teacher and writer with inspirational, uplifting posts as well as some concerning social justice. It was one of the three assignments given to me by my cousin and new accountability partner. The other two were a professional resume specifically for my yoga and writing skills, and to contact WordPress about getting administrative access to my blog. You see when this blog was set up by a great friend with double BS degrees in Computer Science but not much experience with blog site implementation. Bless him, he was a trooper and stuck with it until he had the basics in place for me. My computer has an automatic sign-in to the blog site where I can write, edit and post a blog. But I don’t know much else about administrating it and I don’t have an administrator. I’d like to change that, in fact, I’ve been wanting to do that for a while now. As for the resume? I have a few bios with my picture floating around on Bright Yoga’s website and on the 5 Senses workshop flyer. I’m still working on the last two because the Facebook page took a lot of energy and effort to set up and maintain. There are two more opportunities coming up. One is an online writing workshop I signed up for with a talented, published author and editor which starts in less than two weeks. The other is a possible speaking engagement about either trauma-sensitive yoga or writing at an educational conference next month. That one is definitely up in the air and I haven’t been able to meet with my contact about it yet. So that opportunity may not actually happen. At least not next month, we’ll see.

The point of all of these opportunities and assignments? They moved me along and progressed me beyond where I previously was. Those opportunities found me because I kept showing up for my life and the paths that opened up or revealed themselves to me. And of course, I posted about it on Facebook because its one of the ways I show up in the world and for my life. When I first got a Facebook page in 2009, my sister, Michelle, set it up for me and I almost never went on it for the first three years. About five years ago, I started showing up and I worked hard, on and off Facebook, to make my life what it is today. An authentic life of progress and motion.

So tomorrow I won’t be helping with a workshop as scheduled. The amazing thing is someone tapped me to be a part of it and every step of the way, I showed up and did my part. This made me see and become ready for the possibilities of my gifts. My page Ever Inward and this blog, Build Your Own Brave will evolve, as I have and continue to do. I plan to contact WordPress and GoDaddy after I edit and post this. If evolve isn’t another word or form of progress, then what is? Whatever it is, I’ll take it, just like the title says.

Woman On The Verge or On A Ledge?

I came back from The Big Island Writers Retreat in Hawai’i feeling more confident and solid than ever in my journey and purpose. I got to do two things I’ve come to love and which fuel my soul. I taught yoga and I wrote a lot, both in the retreat setting and on Facebook documenting my experience! It was all very well received and flowed quite naturally after a rocky start. However, in the months leading up to the retreat, I did not feel confident or solid. I was frightened and insecure about the retreat and an upcoming workshop 2 weeks after that. I hadn’t taught a yoga class outside of my studio since I became certified in February of this year and then I’d only taught 12-step friends or students at the studio. I desperately did not want to disappoint or fail the retreat facilitator Beth Bornstein-Dunnington. She had such faith in me, without having been in a class taught by me! And the fear of living up to quality writing in a retreat setting, a 3-day retreat was just too huge to acknowledge.

In fact, in the months leading up to the retreat, I spent a great deal of time and energy avoiding that fear by shutting down. What does that look like for me? Well, it involves feeding my feelings with a lot of junk food, lots of zoning out watching television, lots of not showing up for yoga classes except the one I taught on Sunday mornings, and missing a lot of 12-step meetings. Before long, I started gaining weight from all the eating and inactivity, and I started feeling like shit, physically and spiritually. On a deeper level, I knew what I was doing. The truth is I’d gotten good at shutting down without most of my inner circle picking up on it because they are busy with their own lives. Of course, I was still seeing my kick-ass therapist and I’d talk about what was going on with me in pieces. Our sessions are every other week so I was willing to look at the things I was doing one by one. Talking with my therapist coupled with the urge to get my shit together fueled a willingness to pull my head out of my ass. What does that look like for me? Pretty much the opposite of shutting down. I started going back to the yoga classes I attended before, 2 at my studio and 1 at my job that they offer on Thursdays during lunch. I’m back to attending at least two 12-step meetings a week and of course, talking to my sponsor/spiritual advisor every week that we are both in town. As for feeding my feelings, I lost the urge to constantly eat junk. I attended a Big Island Writer’s workshop in Los Angeles the first weekend of August and rediscovered the love of writing my stories.

So the retreat in Hawai’i was both a huge boost and a deep grounding in all the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of myself. I carried home the chill vibe of Hawai’i along with the courage of my convictions as a yoga teacher and writer intact. I wrote a blog the night I returned from the retreat and committed to posting a new blog once a week. Shortly after that, as God would have it, a cousin of mine who is a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur launched a consulting business. She is willing to consult or partner with small businesses, budding entrepreneurs or even people who were still in the development stages of their ideas. She sent me a Facebook invite to like her page and a day or two later the page launched a soft advertisement that included a survey, which I filled out because I do want to start to build my yoga and writing business over the next five years. She responded a couple of days later with a phone appointment for Saturday afternoon. The phone call was amazing! She was proud of me and so excited about my ideas, goals, and accomplishments. She is so perceptive and smart about the mental and emotional aspects of getting started. She gave me three assignments geared towards putting myself out there, like now!

Of course, these assignments and latest developments have pushed me to a new level of excitement, vulnerability, and expansion. I’m not kidding. I am stretching beyond my capabilities and experience… The truth is it’s all necessary and required in order to grow into who God is calling me to be. As for the blog title, who’s to say there is much of a difference between being on the verge or on a ledge?

This entry was posted on September 27, 2017. 4 Comments

Laugh, Cry, Feast: The Alchemy & Evolution of Writing in the Rain Forest

What’s the biggest thing I took away from my time in the Hawaiian rainforest of Volcano? It’s the question I’ve been asked the most, in one form or another, since I returned. Many who follow me on Facebook got a taste of the experience as I tried to take you along with me as much as possible. I’m not sure there are enough words to truly convey what the trip was like but let’s look at the definitions of alchemy and evolution first.

al·che·my: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.
This entry was posted on September 20, 2017. 10 Comments