This is one of the quotes that really stands out to me from my most recent adventure: Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training.
Wow. What a wild ride. For the past 12 days I have been soaking up everything I can... so much knowledge about pregnancy, labour, birth, and motherhood. I've learned about vaginal birth and cesarean births, home births and hospital births, births with doctors, mid-wives, doulas, and births in the water and births with music, and so so so much more.
But I've also learned more than I ever could have thought possible, in an experiential way, about the power of community and connection - of being accepted exactly as you are in a circle of women that is healing and supportive and full of admiration, respect and reverence.
I've made lifelong friends - of that I am sure.
I've come away not only with knowledge of yoga poses and alignment and making the physical practice of Yoga safe for pregnant mammas, but I've learned how to offer tools to pregnant women that will help them in their labour, their birth - and beyond: tools to empower women to trust themselves, to accept their own power, to embrace and trust their innate intuition and inner authority and to have a pregnancy, labour, and birth experience that will be meaningful for them for the long term.
I've seen (and experienced), first hand what happens when women claim their power, when they stand up and say YES, I can do this. YES, I deserve unconditional love and acceptance. YES, I can be fierce. YES, I can forge my own path even when surrounded by dozens of people telling me how I should experience my life. And these are the tools I am excited to offer - not only to pregnant mammas in the prenatal yoga I will offer at the studio, but with all the people I teach.
I know that these past 12 days have not only changed my teaching, but also my life.
Yes, when women embrace their power - their innate inner wisdom - they are amazing to behold. And wow - what they can accomplish. I am moved and I am humbled and I am in awe and deeply, deeply grateful.
Lately, I feel as though I've been talking about things like fear and courage an awful lot.
This isn't an accident. These themes are very present in my life right now.
When I walked away from the day job to pursue my Yoga Teaching dream, I had no idea how terrifying it would be. Well, actually, I take that back. I was terrified even then. The reality is that in a million (zillion?) years, I never would have thought that I would become an entrepeneur of any variety, let alone a Yoga teacher. And yet, that's what I decided to do. Talk about facing my fears head on! Since making the decision to see how far this dream can take me, though, I've had no regrets.
To be afraid, terrified even - but still know that what you're doing is exactly what you're supposed to be doing? That's heady stuff.
But something amazing keeps happening...
Just when I am most afraid or nervous or feeling the most like a big fraud, one of my students will say something to me that will completely blow me away. I had a moment like this during my last Sunday class. One of my students got into a pose that I'm sure she never thought she could or would. It made me want to cry (happy tears) to see the huge grin on her face. I know she surprised herself in the most awesome way! All I could think about was how inspiring the whole class had been - how great it had felt to lead these powerful, beautiful women in practice. It felt like such a gift. But after the class, she gave me the greatest gift of all. She told me that one of the things she loves the most is that just when things seem really hard, she just has to look at the big smile on my face and it doesn't feel so hard any more.
It wasn't the fact that she complimented me that blew me away. It was the simple truth of her words that brought home WHY doing this is so important to me, why I am so passionate about it.
I see my students the way I want to be seen. I see them for their power and their struggles and their beauty and their triumphs and even their sorrows. I see their vulnerability and their grief and I see their fear and all of it is reflected in my own life, my own journey and I like to think that the way I teach Yoga is the way I love to feel: like a big ol' genuine affectionate hug and a whisper in your ear "You can do it. I believe in you. You're amazing!"
I worry sometimes that my random squeals of delight and pride halfway through my class might put people off. That when I stop and clap my hands and excitedly say "LOOK AT YOU! This is AWESOME!" that maybe it's not quite the "yoga vibe" that people expect... But it's who I am.
And as the quote above so eloquently says... it is not my job to worry whether people like me or not. It is my job to be there for them. For you. For the people who are coming to me for whatever it is they get from the class. Whether it's physical, spiritual, emotional, more, or all of the above.
And no matter how scared I get. It is those moments that I absolutely live and breathe this Yoga for. The moments when I am reminded that somehow, in some small way, I can make a difference. I can make someone feel seen... heard... accepted.... even loved.
That is what makes it easy to face any fear that may come up, any insecurity. You. All of you. Thank you for being so freaking amazing.
See you on the mat!
Earlier this week, I got into an argument with one of my man-children, Steven.
We're at this interesting stage where he is an adult, still living at home, and I am now home a lot more than I used to be. So there is the usual head-butting that goes on at this time in his life but it's combined with some pretty big changes in the day to day living dynamics at home. Among these is the fact that we're spending a lot more time together than we were used to.
The thing is, that no matter how well you get along with someone, normally, sometimes life circumstances really just mess with that. Steven and I normally get along pretty well, especially for a 19 year old man-kid and his step-mother! But, we also have a heck of a lot in common. Among the traits we seem to share is stubbornness.
I'm sure you can imagine, then, that when we both get our stubborn faces on and dig in our heels, things can get interesting.
I don't even really remember what started this argument except that we were both convinced we were right and the other person was wrong. Isn't that how most arguments begin?
But, as is often the case with arguments - it got out of hand. Pretty soon, I was trying to make him listen to me no matter what as I explained (a bit TOO thoroughly) why I was right. And this led to some inevitable frustration and he ended up losing his temper and yelling at me.
Fast forward about ten minutes and we were BOTH in tears and feeling like it was all our fault. Because another trait we have in common is our tendency to self-blame.
Thankfully, my wife was able to offer us both some much needed perspective. She wisely reminded us both that everyone has things about themselves - habits, patterns, and general "stuff" that comes up sometimes when we get disconnected during an argument. She validated us both by reminding us that we're allowed to be angry. Sure, we could have both handled our frustration and anger better but the feelings were valid.
This is still something I'm really working on... the idea that it's okay to be angry.
Whenever I get frustrated or angry, there is a degree of anxiety - partly because it doesn't feel like it's allowed. This adds a whole new level of tension to the experience of being angry.
One of the things I've been working on is the process of allowing or surrendering to the feeling of being angry. Not necessarily acting on it but, in a way, revelling in it. Because when I embrace the feeling of anger (or frustration, disappointment, or sadness), I find that the feeling only lasts a few minutes.
I read somewhere once, a long time ago, that our emotions are like clouds in the sky. The natural state of our mind and emotions is calm and clear but over top of that are the clouds of our feelings and emotions. But the interesting thing about clouds is that they are never still. They are always on the move. If you lie on your back and stare up at a blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, you'll notice that the clouds you're gazing at twenty minutes from when you begin are totally different ones!
Why is that so significant?
Because, it means that no matter how angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed, or upset you feel right now, that feeling is already in the process of moving along in the sky of your mind. If you resist it, pretend it's not there, or try to stuff it down it's more likely to stick around longer. But if you allow the cloud to float across the sky at it's normal pace, you'll find it gone before you know it.
This isn't just woo-woo stuff, you guys, I promise! I've done this and it does work. I remember one time I experimented with this very much on purpose. My wife, Peggy, had done something to annoy me and I got mad. But instead of trying to fix it or address it or make it go away the "traditional" way, I just dove directly into the anger (silently). As we went about our grocery shopping, I intentionally focused on HOW mad I was at her. I let the anger just fill me right up. It must have been less than five minutes later when no matter how hard I tried, the anger was still dissipating. In fact, it became so hard to hold onto that letting it go was the only option available to me.
Afterwards, I felt great because instead of telling myself I wasn't allowed to feel that way or, perhaps worse, projecting my feelings onto my wife, I allowed my feelings to be there - to be accepted.
Now, don't get me wrong. It's way easier said than done. But it's a practice I am definitely continuing to work on because it makes such a huge difference in how I'm able to handle difficult situations when they arise. In the recent argument with my son, I didn't dive into the feelings - instead I tried to force a resolution which resulted in an unpleasant outcome. But afterwards, Steven and I were both able to admit that we could have handled things better while still validating each other's right to feel the way we felt.
Everyone gets angry. We're all entitled to our feelings. Sometimes giving ourselves the permission to FEEL our feelings is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
So often, we go through this world hearing, seeing, and believing the messages other people or entities tell us about ourselves. Sometimes we get so lost in this fog of perception that we can’t see through it to what is real and true for ourselves.
I recently had the great privilege of working with a student who had never done Yoga before and wasn’t sure she could. But, she was willing to try anyway. Well, willing isn’t the right word exactly. She was actually EXCITED to try. That, alone, was pretty amazing if you ask me.
The entire practice we did together was beautiful and inspiring from the very first moment until the very last.
But, it wasn’t that she could do the Yoga that was inspiring and moving – I never had the slightest doubt that she could do it. Everyone can! The Yoga you do may look a little different from the Yoga I do which may look a little different than the Yoga my next door neighbor does – but it’s all Yoga and neither is better or worse or more or less real.
So it was not watching her flow easily into every pose that was so inspiring. What moved me almost to tears was how she gave herself over completely to the experience in a completely open-hearted way.
I’m not saying she wasn’t nervous or afraid or resistant or hesitant. She may have been some or all of those things. But if she was, she did not let any of those feelings get in the way of her having a complete experience.
That was what was so powerful about working with her.
So many times in my life, I have found myself hesitating or avoiding doing something that I know I would enjoy because I wasn’t sure I could. And each time I have pushed past that moment, I’ve been totally amazed by the results. But sometimes my fear or hesitancy or resistance interferes with my ability to reap the most possible benefit from these moments. When I try something the first time in a cautious, careful manner – I'm not quite fully committing to the entire experience. I'm robbing myself of some of the joy and wonder I might find in it.
Once again, in another way, I am taught that with the biggest risks, with the most vulnerability, with the greatest openness, we receive the greatest gifts, the biggest ah ha moments, the most sensational wows. These are the moments we can be truly amazed by ourselves.
That’s what’s available to you, if you can look past the fear and hesitancy, the self-judgment and doubt!
Here’s your challenge: Take some time this week, and find a way that you can do this… that you can open up more fully to a new experience. Give yourself the gift of being totally amazed by yourself. Don't forget to report back in the comments about what you did to totally wow yourself!