Metaphor for Change

If you know me well you have probably heard me say “yoga could help with that” more than once. You might even be one of the people that has rolled your eyes at me when I’ve said it because I talk about yoga like its magic. I could hear any random issue that someone is looking to change in their life and one of the first 3 things I think of as a solution is yoga; be it physical, emotional, mental – yoga. Why? Because yoga is a walking metaphor for life. It can be utilized in so many different ways, and it yields profound results when practiced consistently.

I realize the reasons I get eye rolls is because a lot of people have not experienced yoga in this way before. Even if you’ve been in one of my classes you may not have had a profound emotional or mental breakthrough. However, if you come to your mat with those things in mind it is incredible the kinds of breakthroughs and clarity that come come though. Yoga can be a huge catalyze for change. It creates space. Clearing out old, stuck places, aches, pains, ways of thinking, and holding patterns, provides room to let in the new.

There’s a Zen saying – you can’t fill a glass that is already full. We often want new things in our life but we are so attached to what we already have or too fearful to let what we have go that we aren’t open or available to new opportunities. This is something you can bring to your yoga mat.

“Before you can create a change, you need a true determination of where you are, what feelings it creates, and what choices you’re making as a consquence.” – Tony Robbins

Something I have been focusing on in my classes over the last year is to become aware of what is unarguably true in your body. Sensations, not the stories that you attach to them. When you can break something down to the truth of the matter, the sensation that arises, you can then look at the feelings that come with them with more discernment, and then you can make a choice of how to move forward from that space. You can dismantle the armor around yourself. It weakens you much like shoes weaken your feet; put in place with the best of intentions, but causing damage that may be hard to see. Breaking that armor is how you create space in your body, mind, practice, and life. You can then fill that space with the new things that you want and you choose.

Naturally this is a challenging process. Creating lasting change takes discipline and deep desire. It takes getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It challenges beliefs and stories that you may have had for years. It takes support. It takes willingness to fall apart so that you can put yourself back together…

So, stay in the pose, breathe, feel, and let the yoga work it’s magic.

in humaness with you,
Nicole

Open the Door to Presence

the door into presence is always open. the goddess breathes her sweet breath from inside this door saying, “come. come closer, come closer.” the door she is opening for you is in the experience you are having right now.

pay close attention.

notice the sensations in your chest, in your pelvis, in your hands. feel the flavor of your emotions, the rhythm of your thoughts, the subtle details of your experience. this is your door in. it’s up to you to enter it – or not.

– chameli devi ardagh

When I read the quote I have shared above I think of my yoga practice. It has been a gift in my life – my door into presence.. I also get flashes of different times that students or potential students have tried to explain to me why they can’t/won’t do yoga. Their words usually form sentences along the lines of, “not flexible enough, not strong enough, no balance, I couldn’t do the pose we tried last week.” However, the feeling behind those words is that they are uncomfortable, and don’t know how to sit within that space. They are choosing to not enter that door… We can tend to seek familiarity in life, in our relationships, in our bodies. Even when that familiar feeling is the opposite of our said desire, or even destructive. Pushing outside of that comfort zone and into new territory can be scary. Especially when you think every other person in the room has their shit together, and knows what to do.

All of this is true even outside of yoga, but as a teacher of yoga there is something that I always hope to get across in my teachings. Which is that your experience of yoga is the right experience. The sensations that you feel in your body during a pose is the truth of the matter; its not that a pose should make you feel certain sensations. When you play in poses with curiosity, verses judgement, you get a chance to learn about a piece of yourself. Yes it might be intense, or challenging – physically or mentally – but your response to that is where the experience lies; that your door to presence. Yoga is not about nailing the pose, or which poses you can or can’t do. It’s about embodiment. It’s about embracing each sacred piece of yourself – because all of your pieces are sacred. It’s called a practice because you get better at it the more you do it. Not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Personally, I don’t practice yoga to become enlightened. I practice yoga to love my humanness. To realize the strength my humanness gives me. To recognize my weaknesses so that I know when to get support. To become resilient. I practice to be present with what it is.

“[Life’s] about peeling away the prince’s armor and loving the human down below. It’s about wiping off the princess’s make-up and loving her divine humaness. It’s about finding romance in the naked fires of daily life. When our masks and disguises fall away, real love can reveal itself. Forget fair tales – the human tale is much more satisfying. We just have to learn how to get turned on by humanness.” (Unknown)

The door is always open. I made the choice many years ago to enter it. So, now it’s up to you…

In humaness with you,
Nicole

The Hunt for Truth

A couple weeks ago in class I randomly started talking about using my practice for seeking truth. I had no intention whatsoever to theme my class this way, it was just one of those moments where humble brilliance hit me and I ran with it. I went home that night and tried desperately to remember a few of my one liners, but no luck. I have learned that inspiration is fleeting, so this really came to no surprise; however, I couldn’t shake the concept.

So naturally, I started to explore it more at home. I used to have a teacher that talked about truth seeking in class, and I always found those particular classes profound, yet it was an idea that I hadn’t really thought of, at least consciously, in years. I say I haven’t thought of it consciously, because I quickly realized during this exploration just how rooted this concept is in my personal practice. I’ve had at least 3 different teachers drive this home for me in their own ways. It’s become automatic for me to work this way now – which was the goal; at least for me it was. The yoga did (and still does) it’s work on me. It’s lovely.

Asana provides an endless amount of metaphors for life, which is one reason its so powerful in creating change beyond just the physical aspect. Sure, your asana practice can easily be just a workout, a sweat, or a stretch, but it can also be a mirror, a teacher, a tool. It can show you the stories you make up in your head about yourself. It can guide you through the places where your triggers hide. When used effectively, it offers a playground to learn, understand, and even change the way we respond to ourselves, to others, and to life.

I should mention, you have to be willing. Showing up is half the battle, and sometimes the hardest part, however, truth seeking takes more. Truth seeking requires you to acknowledge what is. To hear the story, yes, but then kindly toss it aside because you recognize that it is just a story. There’s no staying power in blaming yourself, or others. No more excuses. Now is the time for forgiveness and personal freedom. Truth seeking asks you to rise up, to let pettiness and fear fall below you. To expand into your vastness, your limitless marrow, your quintessence!

Perhaps I should also mention, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Getting down to the truth of a matter means removing layers, shields, protection. It means there will be times that it gets uncomfortable, and downright scary. It’s a pilgrimage; and on going at that. But if you persist; if you stay the course – what a relief it will be. Because in truth you find love, lightness, tenderness, fondness. It feels like coming home. Like a soft exhale. Like watching a sunset. or a sunrise, if your into that whole early morning thing… My point is truth has a special kind of magic and authenticity to it; so make the choice to seek yours.

Be love and be loved; this is truth at its core. The rest is just a story.

lovingly,
Nicole

Liberation or Stamina?

In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. It will be a permanent self, rooted in awareness and creativity. Once you have captured this, you have captured the world. -Deepak Chopra

The first sentence of Deepak’s quote brings up all sorts of feelings in me; here’s why: He speaks to the idea of liberation; I am fond of this idea. I don’t find myself to be attached to many things anymore. I say this generally because there are still things I do have deep attachments to, and there are days when I tend to hold on to things I normally wouldn’t due to my current life situation on that given day. Still, overall I have released many of the attachments I used to hold onto in my life, say 7+ years ago. I have people in my life that have even told me I have an unhealthy detachment to certain things; I disagree of course, but I understand their reality. I started evaluating my attachments back when I read The Four Agreements; the tag line of the book, “a practical guide to personal freedom” became reality for me. My yoga practice carried it a step further, giving me tools to release past events that were holding on to me. I think this is one of the reasons the first line of his quote strikes me the way it does; because I know it to be true. Another reason it strikes me is because knowing it to be true doesn’t always make it any easier to accomplish.

When you let go of things, you lose things. You may lose relationships. You may lose belief systems. You may lose opportunities. You may lose lots of things, some life changing, some on a much smaller scale. But, these things you’ve started thinking about while you read this, are they flowing with you as you move through life? If they were flowing with you would they have popped into your head while reading about letting go? And if they aren’t flowing with you then that means you are carrying them, or worse dragging them… Man, you are strong! Just look at all of that stuff you carry with you. Carrying an extra load sure takes stamina. You’ve built so much of an endurance around it you may not even notice the extra weight. You may not even remember a time when you weren’t carrying it; it feels like part of you now.

Let’s try something, do this step by step, give yourself time to experience each answer.
Allow yourself to feel the weight of those things you carry.
What is the weight of each one?
How much of your energy do you spend holding them?
Do you notice that mass of these things makes you feel weak?
Or exhausted?
Inadequate?
Something else?
Under this weight, are you able to feel your strength?
Are you able to express your desires and aspirations?
Take a moment to ponder on how you feel about your answers.

You are strong enough to keep holding on to anything you choose to. You are. You will adapt. You will juggle. You will figure it out until it kills you. You are human; that’s what humans do. You will reiterate to yourself all of the reasons, obligations, perks, and responsibilities you have, over and over. And you may choose to listen to those stories.
-or-
You may choose to reevaluate those stories. You many choose to lose those things, or set them down. You may choose liberation. You may choose to take all of that energy and strength you’ve built from carrying those things and use it in a new way. You may reclaim that power of choice. Because you do have a choice… Liberation or stamina?

I’m going to paraphrase Jack Kornfield here… The knowledge and memories of your past stay with you. Letting go does not mean you lose the experience. When you let go you release the images and emotions, the story, of the experience. You release the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind your spirit.
This is liberation.

When Good Intentions Are Just That

Through this idea of the letting go process I’ve been told multiple times over the years to set intentions around it. I’ve heard several different approaches… the intention focuses on the act of actually letting the thing go, or it focuses on the what you want in the future after you’ve let the thing go. So over the past two weeks I’ve been digging into intentions more. What is an intention, really?

in-ten-tion |inˈten ch ən|
noun
1 a thing intended; an aim or plan : she was full of good intentions |

A desire. A focus. A plan. A plan… I don’t know about you, but I can plan with the best of them. I LOVE planning and then daydreaming about the plans I’ve made. All of those plans start with an intention of sorts. They are beneficial; they give us a defined direction, like a destination on a map. But what is a destination without the directions on how to get there? Living a life full of good intentions does not equate to living a fulfilling life; it is only a piece of the whole. Don’t get me wrong – living with intention is a powerful practice. I’ve seen it change lives, mine included. Yet, there is so much more to it than just setting an intention for your practice, day, or your life. You can set the best of intentions and then still end up numbing out to your life experiences, and staying stuck in patterns.
You can say you are going to be more active, but then decide to go grab a drink instead.
You can say you are going to read that book that’s been sitting on your dresser, but then decide to watch your favorite TV show.
You can say that you are going to eat better, but then decide to grab the quick & easy thing as you run out the door.
Having the intent to do something, and doing it are two different things; both have ramifications.

Creating an intention is significant because it brings things into your awareness. Awareness sounds empowering, doesn’t it? However, without the desire or mapped route toward that intention, your awareness can have a dark side. Have you ever become aware of something that was hurting you, or someone else, but you didn’t know how to fix or shift it? How did that make you feel? Or realized your dream and purpose, but it feels more pretend than real? You have this knowing that you should be “there”, but no clue on how to leave “here”. It brings up all kinds of possible feelings! You might feel helpless, sad, frozen, overwhelmed, or even ashamed… all because you are aware with no map. This is when that choice to numb out comes into play. It may not even feel like a choice at the time. The good news is that it IS a choice, and the awareness is your call to action!

As you read above, an intention is an aim or plan, like the big picture. Avoiding the dark side means turning that big picture into actionable steps toward each and every desire that you’ve cultivated for yourself. Its the breakdown of why you have this desire; what is the passion or driving force behind it? That way when you start to set up your actionables, you have a very clear purpose to keep you motivated. With these smaller actionable steps, your big picture awareness does not seem overwhelming. Learning how to create the actionable steps is a whole other post, instead I am here to share with you that setting an intention is not where your work ends. A good intention without any action behind it, is just that, an intention. You must make steps. You must believe in your intention. You must believe you are worth taking the steps for. And you are.

So tomorrow, you and I, hand in hand, are going to take a small step together toward the intentions we have set for ourselves; I will not be eating bread and butter for dinner as I run out the door… what small actionable will you take?