My Inner Mystic

reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3

Category Archives: words

How has yoga impacted your life?

Today is the birthday of one of my yoga teachers and peer, Erin.

Erin has made a very simple birthday wish, or goal.  Her birthday wish is to receive 50 comments in answer to her question: “how has yoga impacted your life?”

In her birthday blog post, “The Best Birthday Present Ever,” Erin invites readers to share one sentence (or even one word) to characterize how yoga has impacted their lives.

courtesy of "Awakened Heart Yoga"

courtesy of “Awakened Heart Yoga”

Erin’s birthday wish for people to share the positive benefits of yoga in their lives grows out of her desire to foster a “more enlightened community” through her blog.  Erin blogs daily at Awakened Heart Yoga where she often speaks from her own experience of coming out of the darkness and into the light, encouraging and inspiring others to discover the light as well.

Please join me in celebrating Erin’s birthday and helping to make her birthday wish come true by sharing how yoga has impacted YOUR life.

To share, simply click here:  “The Best Birthday Present Ever

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What did “My Inner Mystic” come up with for a word or words?

The first word that came to mind was “stronger.”  Because of yoga I am stronger in my body, my mind, my heart/emotional center, and my spirit.

Other words that came to me upon deeper reflection are “richer,” “integrated,” and “aligned.”

Celebrate! Words of the Season

words in the sand

Several weeks ago one of my yoga teachers announced the she was offering a 7 week “holiday bliss” yoga nidra series, with each week, or practice, focusing on one of the seven chakras.   Forever full of ideas and one who loves to plant seeds, I asked my teacher if she was also planning to pick a holiday word for each practice.

A woman in the class poo-pooed my idea.  I don’t remember her exact words, but whatever she said was very bah humbug, along the lines of “why celebrate the season?” Perhaps she was feeling put off by the commercialism of the season and how manufactured the holidays can feel.  Perhaps she was trying to articulate that not everyone celebrates the holidays.  Or perhaps she was speaking from a place of pain.  For many, the holidays can be a difficult time of year.  Wounds around loss are triggered. Whatever this woman was feeling on the inside, I get where she’s coming from.  I’ve been there.

A few months after my relationship ended, the holiday season arrived.  I wasn’t ready to celebrate.  It was much too painful.  I avoided all things holiday.  No tree, no presents, no cards, no cookies, no holiday music, no parties or celebrations.  I don’t remember why, but I found myself in the decorations aisle at a store a few weeks before Christmas and the pain was heart wrenching.  Cards, trees, ornaments, presents…all of this was a painful reminder of all the Christmases I had celebrated with “my person,” of how fun and special Christmas had been, and how that tradition had been “taken away” from me.  Looking back, I see that my words and feeling that something was “taken away” very clearly illustrates how victimized I felt.  But it’s ok that I felt that way.  I was in a lot of pain.  I was grieving.  I lost something and someone that was a huge part of my life and I needed to experience the fullness of that loss before I could start to heal and move forward into my new life.

A little over three years later (this is Christmas number four post ka-boom) and I still haven’t hauled out the ornaments and put up a tree.  (Putting a tree in a tree stand by oneself is a pretty difficult undertaking and I take such care in hanging ornaments that decorating the tree becomes quite a project).  I still haven’t sent out cards and I still haven’t done any gift giving, other than a few little things where I felt “obligated” to give gifts.  This year I *might* make some cookies.  That first Christmas post ka-boom I decided I wouldn’t celebrate Christmas again until I had a reason to celebrate.  And now I’ve sort of decided that I want to wait until I have someone special in my life with whom to share this season before I once again immerse myself in Christmas traditions and when I do, it might look different than my old life.

Honestly, it’s been good to have some time away from the holidays to get perspective and insight.  I’m not sad that I’m not immersed in the flurry.  For many, this season is a very stressful time of year and for me it’s nice to not have the extra stress of setting up and taking down a tree, shopping for gifts among the crowds, getting cards and packages sent off in the mail, all the parties, family gatherings, preparing holiday meals, and so on.  So much gets packed in within a span of a few weeks that there isn’t much time to relax and reflect and absorb the season and prepare oneself for the New Year.

My second Christmas after my relationship ended I began a new holiday tradition, a tradition of gift giving to oneself, of practicing self care.  I took myself to Costa Rica for a week long New Year’s yoga retreat.  Last year I returned, arriving on Christmas day.  I planned it that way.  I wanted to begin experiencing my Christmas present to myself on Christmas day.  I was greeted and welcomed with many a “Feliz Navidad.”  The simplicity of the expression and greeting was very meaningful, a true gift.  Oh, and the “Christmas” tree I discovered on the beach that was made of drift wood was pretty special too.

Feliz Navidad - Playa Guiones, Costa Rica

Feliz Navidad – Playa Guiones, Costa Rica

What a JOY to be re-united with yogis with whom I shared New Year’s the previous year.  In the beach community of Nosara, Costa Rica I found a new place to go “Home for the Holidays” and in the yoga community, I discovered a new family.  This year I’m headed to Mexico for the New Year to CELEBRATE with a new yoga family and experience the wonder of a new “home.”

In my time off from Christmas, I’ve re-invented the holidays for myself.  For me, this time of year has become an opportunity to give a very meaningful gift to myself – to be in community with like minded souls and develop new friendships, to clear my mind and rejuvenate, and to discover and set intentions for the upcoming year.  The holidays have become less about the hubbub and flurry of Christmas and more about the transition into the New Year, saying good-bye to the previous year and opening myself up to the New Year and all that awaits, allowing the momentum of the retreat experience to carry into the New Year.

To date my holiday retreats have been near the equator along the warm beaches of the Pacific Ocean and I’ve discovered that the sand is a great canvas for discovering what’s in my heart and the qualities and states of being I want to cultivate and manifest in my life.

2012 intentions

Looking back I see that for the last two years I captured words and images in the sand that are often associated with the holiday season.  Yet these words are not exclusive to Christmas or New Year’s.  These are powerful, affirming words that can be intentions we set and manifest in our lives every day of the year.  And if we make a practice of cultivating these qualities and states of being in our lives, we will transform our hearts and our lives and inspire the lives of those around us.  And isn’t that the most beautiful, empowering, and inspiring gift we can give ourselves and to others? to transform our hearts, allowing our being to be filled with pure, limitless LOVE that we can give to ourselves and to others?  I BELIEVE it is and so this holiday season I am gifting myself once again with a gift that will keep on giving.

CELEBRATE with me words of ALL seasons!

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HOPE photo provided courtesy of my friend and member of my Costa Rica yoga family, Heather.

Staying Present in Switzerland

When I was planning my visit to Switzerland, I had visions of cloudless blue skies, wildflowers carpeting the valleys and hillsides, vistas of the Swiss Alps.

I traveled to Switzerland after spending just over one week in warm, sunny, and dry Provence, France, which to me was divine.  I enjoyed a picturesque train ride showcasing the many peaks and green valleys and hillsides of Switzerland.  The closer I got to my destination, the darker and more ominous the skies above.

When I stepped off the cable car in Gimmelwald, the air was warm, but it was overcast and the mountain peaks were obscured.  The friendly Barnaby from England checked me in to Pension Gimmelwald and I remember asking him, “is the weather usually like this?”  He said, “yesterday, we were melting up here.”  I prodded, “do the clouds usually clear?”  I don’t remember his answer or if he had one, but that evening it did clear up, which was very exciting to me.

Gimmelwald – after the clearing

When I went to bed, the skies were clear.  A waxing and almost full moon rose just over the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.  Sometime around 5:00 am I woke to the sounds of booming thunder and pouring rain.  I slept a few more hours, hoping it might clear.

The weather was ok after breakfast – cloudy, but not ominous; decent enough visibility so I could see across the valley and make out some rugged formations below the cloud ceiling.  I enjoyed a cloudy, yet thankfully rain free, hike from Gimmelwald to Chilchbalm, a dramatic glacier bowl.  The clouds started to stir and at one point, the clouds lifted just enough so I could momentarily begin to make out the peaks above the glacier bowl.  As I headed back, it started to sprinkle.  During lunch the rain set in.  I stayed inside the rest of the day.

As expected, according to the weather forecast from the friendly pension staff, things were still gloomy the next day.  My trusty travel guide writer, Rick Steves, recommended if it were a cloudy day, to head down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley to take in all the waterfalls.  I did just that.  I call this valley the Yosemite of Switzerland.  It is a giant U-shaped valley carved out by a massive glacier during one of the ice ages and a multitude of waterfalls cascade down the valley walls.

Clouds hugged the valley walls, but the scenery was still very majestic.  I was aware that I felt disappointment that the scenery was obscured by the clouds, but I paused and mindfully chose to stay present, to allow my experience to be moment by moment and let got of expectation.

present moment: finding a 4 leaf clover

I felt a sense of gratitude that I had a mindfulness practice that enabled me to be with and embrace what is, to more deeply appreciate the beauty of each moment.  As I made my way down the valley, the clouds grew darker and started to express themselves:  rain.

Later that afternoon the weather shifted:  the clouds broke, the vast blue sky emerged, and the radiant sun dried things out.  Of all my moments in Switzerland, this may have been my hallelujah moment.  I was sitting under cover of the eave of the town church when the sun broke through the clouds.

hallelujah! here comes the light

I bolted out into the light.  As I took in and was warmed by the bright light filling the valley, I could practically hear angels singing “hallelujah” from the heavens.

hallelujah moment – Lauterbrunnen Valley

In a moment of inspiration, I took a cable car up to the west rim of the valley for a gentle hike back to Gimmelwald.  Though still somewhat obstructed by clouds, the views of the mountain peaks across the valley were exciting and energizing.  But…it didn’t last.  About 20 minutes into my 1.5 hour hike, the clouds closed up and drew in and it started to rain.

As I walked with my head down, eyes focused on the path that I strained to make out in the dense clouds, a voice from my past played in my mind, “I’ll never be good enough for you.”  I knew this voice.  I remembered when these words were spoken to me.  This was one of the many incredibly hurtful things said to me by “my person” at the end of our relationship, when he finally, after 10 years, decided to “get real.”  Something about being in less than perfect conditions, on a vacation dreamt up from hope and expectation, brought this memory from the deep recesses of my mind.

After I got back to Seattle and my mind cleared and I transitioned out of travel mode, I was able to take a closer look at this moment and dig deeper into the issue that surfaced:  perfection.  I was triggered by a less than perfect, less than ideal situation which brought up a memory of a time where the words spoken made me feel that anything that is less than perfect is not good enough for me.  I am sensitive to this notion of “perfection” because I have high standards and strive for excellence and have a tendency to influence outcomes instead of letting things emerge.

Even though I had enough presence of mind and spirit to recognize I was in less than ideal weather conditions and instead chose to practice mindfulness, I clearly was not immune to the “imperfections” of wet, gloomy weather and cloudy skies when my heart desired sweeping vistas and hallelujah moments.

I think everyone can identify things in their lives that they want to be perfect:  a new purchase, a dinner prepared for special guests, our hair for a special occasion, the family holiday photo, a party that we host, the restaurant chosen for our birthday dinner, the colors we are painting in our new house, the weather on a special day, our vacation.  Where does our need, or more specifically our propensity, for perfection come from?  Some of it is rooted in a desire for excellence.  This can be a positive thing.  It keeps us striving to do better, to improve, to grow.  Some of our desire for perfection is fed by the idealism created through culture and media.  This can set us up for disappoint.

Much of our compulsion toward perfection comes from a place of inflexibility within us.  We have a tendency to hold on to an ideal or expectation and have an inability or a difficult time letting go and adapting to unforeseen or unimagined circumstances, to unexpected outcomes.  We have a difficult time accepting and feeling contented with things just as they are and this leaves us feeling let down, disappointed, disgruntled.  We see what is not perfect.   We do not feel happy or content with what is.

I pondered this:  Why is it that some people see more perfection and beauty and some people see more imperfection or flaws?  I believe that the lens through which we see and experience the world is shaped by our life experiences, by how light or heavy those experiences.  If we had loving, nurturing parents and a childhood of stability, we probably see our experiences through a brighter lens.  If we had a tumultuous childhood filled with strife and instability, we probably see the world through a darker lens.  Our experiences shape our pattern of thinking.  I believe this “not good enough” mentality is rooted in hard wired negative thoughts patterns which develop during difficult times or unhealthy situations or relationships.  Without the ability or mindfulness it takes to begin to rewire our thought patterns (our neural pathways) and let more light and beauty filter in through our lens, we get stuck seeing imperfection where in fact so much perfection exists.

As one who has lived through heavy and painful experiences and had a very tumultuous childhood, I know how hard it can be to let the light come in, to see the vast beauty and perfection that surrounds us.  How do we do it?  We cultivate.  We get out our gardening tools and plant seeds. We plant gratitude, peace, love.  We nurture new growth.  We begin to see the blossoms of contentment, happiness, joy emerge in our lives and fill our being.  We become less rigid and more flexible.  We soften.  We begin to feel and see the love and beauty that exist all around us and in us all the time.

What is perhaps most illuminating about my hallelujah moment, when I stepped out from under the eave of the church in Switzerland, is that the Universe gave me this very important message:  come out of the darkness and into the light; let the light fill your heart and warm your spirit, allow yourself to feel love, allow yourself to be love and you will see clearly and without obstruction, the infinite beauty that surrounds you in all its perfection.

PRESENT MOMENTS

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Merry Christmas to me! (and Happy New Year!)

Sometimes images are more powerful than words.  And so I share a visual story of my holiday trip to Costa Rica.  The written reflection of my experiences and the gifts I received and brought home with me, as well as the insights and moments of clarity I experienced, will come later.  Still processing…  Enjoy the pictures!

feliz navidad, playa guiones

hammock time

jungle breakfast

chicas ride on horseback to a secret waterfall

so many fun insects in Costa Rica

and interesting mammals, like this “Pizote”

lots of time to play at the beach and what a beautiful backdrop for side plank (Vasisthasana)

“mommy, what does this say?” said the girl, as she stopped to look at my word in the sand

“5000 colones” – celebrating new year’s eve

celebrating the 1st day of 2012 on a canopy tour!

lots of internal recitations “breathe…trust…relax” on the first of many L O N G lines (13 total!)

new year’s sunset exhalation

my Costa Rican amigo, Herbe (Air-Bay)

celebrating a glorious sunrise with HANDSTAND

commemorating a tradition I started last year, I wrote intentions and affirmations in the sand

the most beautiful sunset of my ENTIRE life; it felt like God was speaking from the heavens, or it might have been Horton saying “hellooooh….”

rappelling down a 200 foot waterfall!

oh..my..goodness (actually, that was fun! not nearly as scary as it looked from the platform)

come on volcano, show yourself, I came all this way to see you!

laguna in the crater of a dormant volcano; no views today, instead I had to embrace the cloud forest

but I did get to see these copulating frogs

and I did capture a shot of this hummingbird!!

Costa Rica yoga family

…there’s no place like OM (for the holidays)

Home for the Holidays

The pumpkins are out in all their orange glory.  The leaves are losing their green and taking on new hues, new colors.  The days are getting shorter.  We are entering the holiday season, the “most wonderful time of the year.”

When you have a relationship ka-boom in your life, the traditions that became a part of your life are taken away, lost, changed.  Instead of the holiday season being the most wonderful time of year, it is a very painful time of year, especially the first holiday season post ka-boom.  For that season in my life, I gave myself permission to not participate in holiday traditions – no tree, no decorations, no presents, no cards, no cooking, no baking, no holiday music.  I decided to stop celebrating Christmas until I had a reason to celebrate again.

This year I am going home for the holidays.  For me, going “home for the holidays” is complicated.  I often say that I have relatives but not a family.  My family relationships are strained, weakened, non-existent.  I do not feel emotionally supported by my family.  Many of my immediate family members have passed.  All of my grandparents, my father, and my brother have passed.  There is no anchor that grounds my family or brings us together.  And the family around which I became rooted in my previous life was broken, shattered…ka-boom.  I’m going “home for the holidays,” but am I going HOME?  Where is home, when I’ve so clearly described a home that is broken, a home that does not exist?

I am going to a new home I’ve created for myself, embracing new traditions, creating new memories.  I am going to COSTA RICA!!  I am returning to the place where I said good-bye to 2010 and welcomed in 2011, to the beach community of Nosara, a place I call a yoga mecca.  And…I have a reason to celebrate again:  ME!  I am gifting myself with a holiday yoga retreat, with peace and relaxation, fun and adventure, with travel, with the promise of a new family.

Part of what makes Nosara feel like “home” is that it is a familiar place, with familiar faces.  Tamika, of DevaTree, a familiar face and one of the nurturing yogis who took care of me last year, is organizing our holiday yoga retreat.  She says that the gift actually begins the moment we start dreaming about it and preparing for the journey.  So here I am, a few months before we are truly immersed in the holiday season, beginning my celebrations, beginning my holiday preparations, feeling the joy and excitement of what is to come.

In my joy and excitement I thought, “I’m going to write a blog about going home for the holidays.”  This prompted me to reflect on the concept of HOME.  What makes a place home?  Where is home, the destination to which one can go for the holidays?  Here is one way to think about this:  the earth is our home; our bodies are our home; our spirits, our heart centers, are our home.  If our bodies, our hearts, and our spirits are our home, then isn’t home with us everywhere and aren’t we always at home, so long as we are present?  Wouldn’t this mean that we could take our home with us anywhere on this earth?  And speaking of EARTH, isn’t the earth our mother?  Isn’t she the giver and sustain-er of life?  She holds us and supports us, she nurtures us, she grounds us.  She is our anchor, she brings us together.  We are her children.  The bodies she gave us allow us to experience our lives, to breathe, to feel, to be present, to just BE.

We share this earth, our lives and our experiences, with many living beings, with other human souls.  We all have the same earth mother, therefore we are one big giant family, right?  Family units as we know them are microcosms, smaller community or relational networks, rather than a giant earthly family.  A family is tied together by its bonds, relationships, intimate connections, and histories.  So I’m taking my body to Costa Rica, a place I can call home because I’ll be present in body and spirit, experiencing richly and deeply in my heart, but what about a family?  Well…I will be sharing the holiday season with my yoga family.

A yoga community, or Kula, is a family.  In Sanskrit the word “Kula” means family, clan, or community of the heart.  A yogi is always at home in the community of the heart – welcomed, embraced, accepted.  The yoga community offers love, support, and encouragement.  Yogis give and receive. If you are practicing Urdhva Dhanurasana, or wheel pose, your community is there to support you in body and spirit.  You will feel the hands of your family holding and supporting your body as your back bends, as your heart lifts and opens, encouraging you in your efforts.  If you are practicing your Pincha, or feathered peacock pose, your family will be there to hold or steady your hips, helping to stabilize your center.  You will feel the OMs of your family vibrating, in unison, around you and in your heart.

Sharing a holiday retreat with a yoga Kula provides a special opportunity to create new relationships, to create new bonds, to start new histories.  When members of the Kula show up to celebrate, to participate, to be present, each brings their most beautiful self.  We give and receive many gifts.  One of the most special and unique gifts is something I call mirroring.  In your yoga family’s eyes, you see what others see, you see the best and most beautiful parts of you, what you yourself may have trouble seeing because of a cloudy lens or a blockage in your heart.  How will you see?  Your yoga family will give you a clear and vibrant picture of your beauty freely and without condition.

A yoga retreat experience is a gift that keeps on giving.  Seeing and claiming your beauty will be one of many lasting gifts you receive.  The peace and relaxation of a yoga retreat will live on and shine brightly in our hearts.  We leave with new friendships, a new family, new memories, new experiences filled with joy, fun, and adventure. Our hearts and minds are opened, expanded.  Our joy and growth continues. The gifts continue to be revealed to us after we return home, to the place we experience our day to day lives.

Last year in Costa Rica, on New Year’s Eve day, in a very spontaneous moment, I did something that became one of the most special and lasting gifts of my holiday retreat experience.  I wrote in the sand the words that had been swirling around in my heart, my mind, my body.  I wrote PEACE, JOY, HOPE, LOVE, HAPPINESS, and FREEDOM.  These words were my heart’s deepest desires.

Writing these words in the sand was very profound and meaningful to me.  It was the first time I had expressed or articulated these words.  I discovered the word FREEDOM ends in OM, the sound and vibration of the universe.  In our closing circle, I shared my words and my experience of writing them in the sand with my yoga family.  This was the first time I said the words out loud.  What I shared was so powerful and moving that it brought tears to a fellow yogi’s eyes.

A few weeks after I returned home, to the place I live, I wandered into a neighborhood art studio.  On one of the walls were paintings of words and many of the words were my words.  There were many other beautiful, thought provoking words, like “stretch,” though none of the art pieces felt like my own and some of the words, like “family,” did not resonate in my heart.  The artist, Caitlin Dundon, was in the studio that day observing my fixation with these pieces.  She approached me and told me she did custom work and that if I was interested, we could work together to come up with my own piece.  After weeks of deliberating over words, thinking about colors and mood associated with words, the story I wanted my words to tell, after reviewing colors and fine-tuning hues, I “created” a painting entitled “Expressions of My Heart.”

These words are my desires, my intentions, the qualities I wish to cultivate in my life.  The lasting gift is more than just a colorful art piece that rests on my living room wall.  The real gift is the ways in which these desires and expressions of my heart are manifesting in my life.

This holiday season I will be coming home to the sands of Costa Rica where I wrote out the expressions of my heart, embracing a new tradition:  celebrating ME.  I will be home, I will be present in body and spirit, experiencing and absorbing deep within my core.  I will exchange gifts with my yoga family.  What gifts I will bring home with me and will discover in 2012 have yet to be revealed.