What about the Dark Side? 5/28/16

darkness

I’m exhausted, and in no way do I feel like I can pull the “so grateful for the lessons” card. Life is fucking hard sometimes. Truth.

Recently I’m asking the question: Where is God? Even though I have all my basic necessities met, which is more than most of the population of this planet can say, I feel like I’m being dragged through the rubble, muck and debris of a soul being torn to pieces. My only hope is there is a re-assemble phase somewhere in the (near) future.

And right now, I’m not even sure who will read this raw and un-optimistic spilling of my heart and soul. I’m not even sure how many people have read the posts I’ve written over the last several months. I know some of my closest friends don’t even read them, and sometimes I bet my mom is even to busy.

I’m tired of technology taking over our lives. Put away your damn phone while I’m gushing my heart to you. Stop pretending you can really listen, and check your email or facebook feed at the same time.  Not only did I “release” old, non-authentic parts of my self…I ripped their controlling, clingy paws off of my True me and threw them to the floor, hoping they smash into infinite little pieces that can never crawl back together and try to attach to my True me. I can’t live any other way.

As someone who had a large capacity to “look on the bright side” I’m now in the underbelly. What about the Dark Side? It has its place just as much as the bright and shiny does. The grit of reality, over time, slowly chips away at our ideas of ourselves, until what is left is no idea at all, simply Being.

I struggle with the “Spiritual Community” particularly as I visit yoga studios decked out in mass produced furniture that has no “high vibe” feeling to it at all. I’m deeply saddened by the popularity that can come into the yoga world; where the studio is a place to “see and be seen” and not in the sense that my True Self can walk in swollen eyed and all from crying more tears than I thought my little eyes could hold, and fall onto my mat in a place of protection. Some of these spiritual places become a place to show off the coolest new clothes or your perfect hair-do. I want people to walk in wearing the things they only wear at home, make-up be gone, stained shirts and ripped sweats and get on the damn mat and let all your shit fall away as you breathe and move.

Yoga is not about me. Yoga is about releasing the idea of Me, and stepping into the part of me that will never die, to connect with the part of you that will never die. That is where Connection lives, outside of personality and story and always-smiles. Connection is the raw and real. The place of true empathy, where I feel your pain so deeply that it becomes my own, and I can mourn your loss and sorrow with you.

I’m tired of words not being enough to express my feelings, and they are the only “acceptable” way to share Truth. Fuck language and explanation! I want to roar out my anger and sadness, and be witnessed for that truth. It’s not scary. Being un-authentic is fucking scary, because it’s not real. Roar with me in your anguish and sorrow. It’s as beautiful as the moments of joy and celebration. The underbelly reminds me there is no escape. It is all life, and I refuse to put on a happy face and stride through, when sometimes I can barely lift my feet to walk. One. Step. At. A. Time.

The Darkness reminds me that it is All Love. And love isn’t flowers and kisses and happy feelings. Love is all the parts between grief and pain, and joy and face-numbing happiness. Loving what is means being in the pain and letting it crack you open, one breath at a time; and celebrating the moments of happiness.

I can choose Love. And sometimes it won’t be what society tells me is “love.” Love can be crying near the ocean and remembering my tears are made of the same thing as its vastness. Love is forgiving humans for being human, because I’m a human too.

If anyone reads this, I hope you remember to be gracious while in your rage, disappointment and emptiness. The Container is love, not what is inside the container. Empty or full, it’s all life. And like the tide, it fills and empties. And Life goes on.

Passionately Meet Mystery – 5/16/16

I recently finished reading a marvelous book Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life by Gregg Levoy (Do yourself a favor and read it if you ever get a chance!). It reminded me of the exquisite beauty of a non-ordinary life, and the reminder that we all have the choice to do so. You don’t have to fall in love, quit your job, move away from your Home-base and travel to live an extraordinary life. Although it doesn’t hurt. There are tiny moments every day to choose to recognize the miracle of our existence. At the end of the book the author talks about the chance of life happening on Earth is as good as a hurricane rolling through a wreckage yard and leaving a complete 747 in it’s wake. A Miracle.

In the time since our last post, we went to Austin, Texas to visit friends. A childhood friend of James was generous to fly us out with abundant frequent flier miles, and share a car with us while there. In the week we were in the Lone Star State, I learned as much as I have in a month (although I feel like growth amplifies growth, the more I dive into the learning, the more I get, and the more learning opportunities arise).

I was reminded, and James learned, we are not city people. They have their place, and are great for certain types of people, but the biggest city (or town depending on who you ask) I’ve lived in was La Crosse, Wisconsin, when I was in college, with a whooping 60,000 people. I grew up in the country, surrounded by trees and the quiet buzz of wild-life around me. Spending a week in a city that is growing by 1,000 people a week (we were told) is not my idea of rest. That being said, we were grateful for the numerous parks and outdoor recreation areas Austin has that we took great joy in exploring and experiencing. We also delighted in the numerous food trucks that spot the city, and ate very well. Staying with friends allowed me to have a kitchen, and I was immensely grateful to make food that nourishes us, and to share it with friends. For those who love a good beer and live music, please visit Austin!

I was grateful to connect with an old friend who I studied abroad in Italy with, and I hadn’t seen in 3 1/2 years. I celebrate the connections that are truly timeless, even though we don’t stay in contact much, I could drop in with this lovely woman and share where I am right now, and be heard for it. I have great respect for the authenticity of individuals I gravitate towards, and who gravitate to me. We saw old friends that had new lives, and the lesson I take away from Austin is: listen to Truth, which resides within. When we are connected to our own truth-intuition-we feel when a person, relationship or environment is in alignment, or when it is not. It doesn’t mean one is wrong, or better than the other, it just means I feel most me in the presence of Truth. And I want to feel in alignment as often as possible.

We saw the way relationships can influence people (particularly romantic partnership); relationship is the opportunity to be a mirror for someone, to choose to see ourselves through the lens of someone we trust and respect, and to refine who we are, to become more our True selves. On the flip-side of the spectrum, relationships can also enable us to stay who we were when we met that person, which inevitably, we won’t. I’m inspired to allow myself and my relationships to be living entities, to be malleable, flexible and transformational. This personal growth stuff is no cake walk, and, I didn’t sign up to breeze through life and play it safe. Another lesson from Vital Signs: risk is a necessary ingredient to living a passionate life. Risk requires accepting fear, and going for it anyway, and the result is that we are alive, fully. Safety is nice, and maybe convenient, but it’s also just that, safe. It’s the known, the comfortable, the expected. It’s what I call living “a life half lived” and that is not what I came here to do. I came to live this life like the wild ride it is, to scrap my knees climbing trees, to feel cold water on my skin, to taste foods my tastebuds don’t already have an opinion about.

When I chose to give up the comforts of a house to go home to, I didn’t realize how much I was also choosing to walk hand-in-hand with the Unknown, the Great Mystery. As I walk in the Mystery, I also see the bounty with which Spirit provides. I’ve had a bed to sleep in and food to eat every day.

We returned from Texas to more yoga magic. A Yin Yoga for Spring class; Compassion in Action: Assisting Yin Yoga (an 8 hour workshop on assisting, massage, and the importance and power of healing touch and space holding), shared at Body Yoga-Roseville, whose owner and community we adore. We taught Yin-troduction to Transformation at Bikram Yoga Natomas, where we were greeted by 20+ kind, compassionate and inspired souls, desiring a more Yin way of being. I see how the practice is an example of how many people want to be throughout their days, not just on their mat. Yin yoga is one of the most potent self-care, self-healing practices I believe is available. And you need nothing more than some quiet time to yourself to enjoy the benefits. I invite us all to do less, to feel more, to live this precious life and continuously ask yourself “what is important to me?”. And we know the answer is not a bigger car, or more clothes, or the right hair-cut. My answer: Connection, to myself, to community, to nature, to Spirit. Connection costs nothing, and is available any moment you choose to feel how connected you already are.

Surrender isn’t defeat, it’s allowance. ~James Kapicka

Creating a Culture of Affection & Connection – 2/16/2016

James and I had a busy, and incredibly inspiring weekend in Ashland. Saturday night we participated in an event called Love: Exposed, a collaboration between Love Revolution and ScienceWorks. The evening highlighted the science behind love and human relationships with activities including vibrator races, making Valentine’s cards, karaoke, a DJ, and a mixologist making delicious cocktails. There were multiple presenters each giving a 20 minute talk on topics including The Myth of The One, Pheromones & Intimacy, Orgasm, The Pleasure of Pain, and Arousal. James & I gave a Talk about Touch, emphasizing the power of healing touch. Touch, for me, is one of the most potent avenues to being Present. Because the sensations of the body only exist in the present moment, truly experiencing them brings us to presence.

Sunday afternoon we shared our Partner Yin Yoga Massage workshop, an opportunity for couples, or just a couple of friends, to create healing space for touch, applied in yin yoga poses, deepened with elements of Thai Yoga Massage. The room was filled with gooey loving, appreciation, sounds of enjoyment, smiles, laughter and potent presence!

DSC_0007.jpg

I’m truly so grateful for the glimpse into a world of co-creating with my Beloved James, and the healing power of touch! I’m excited for our adventures and our passion to Create a Culture of Affection & Connection!

Here’s a little run down of the science behind touch:

  • The Skin:
    • A waterproof shield, protecting our precious insides from getting burned by the sun, helps to maintain a consistent body temperature through blood flow and perspiration.
    • The only external organ, weights an average of 8 pounds, spread out into a human quilt spans about 22 square feet, and has over 4 million nerve receptors, mostly on the fingers, tongue and lips.
    • Covered in antibacterial cells to ward off harmful viruses or chemicals.
    • Utilizes the power of the sun to create Vitamin D for healthy bones (want strong, healthy bones? Go outside!).
  • Neurochemistry activated by touch:
    • Releases Oxytocin: “the cuddle hormone”helps affirm social relationships and community cooperation, supports a sense of connection.
    • Decreases Cortisol: a stress hormone which narrows the arteries increasing heart rate.
    • Increases Serotonin: balances the internal functions of the body with the external stimuli, involved in eating, sleeping, circadian rhythms and neuroendocrine function.
    • Stimulates the thymus gland, which balances the body’s production of white blood cells, boosting our immune system keeping us healthy!
    • Stimulates the vagus nerve, connected to our parasympathetic nervous system, controlling involuntary functions in the body like heart rate, blood pressure and food digestion~the vagus nerve helps decide if we are in a state of Rest & Digest or Fight or Flight.
  • Stimulates movement of chi or life-force energy, helps to ease muscles and break up stagnant energy in the body.

Dr. Michael Hertenstein, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, has brought the benefits of touch to light. He believes (and we agree), “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting. Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.” The physiological, psychological and emotional benefits of touch are older than the cultural norms we’ve created around it. Clearly the level of affection in a culture is based on norms, not the biology of being human. In my experience of traveling to other parts of the world where affection is abundant and free-flowing, there’s a sense of joyfulness and connection that is up-lifting.

As babies we’re snuggled to be soothed, our hands are held to help us learn to walk, and we’re hugged and kissed as an expression of love. Premature babies who are held gain weight faster than those who aren’t given regular affection and touch. Non-human primates spend 20% of their time grooming each other. Imagine how your life would change if you could safely share touch more often, with more people. Touch with the intention of healing and connection (which can be sexual, but not necessarily), gives opportunities to affirm appreciation and social cooperation, relaxes the body and thus the mind, and allows for sharing intimacy without necessarily needing to verbalize. This video by Dacher Keltner gives a great run-down of the social benefits of touch.

As an Affection Advocate, here are some practical applications to get your Daily Dose of Touch:

  • “Flirting” invites a spark of interest and an opportunity to connect and share touch. Adding a little touch of the arm or back during interactions gives us the flow of happy chemicals, and affirms our social web of connections.
  • Take advantage of opportunities and tune into touch~walk barefoot on the Earth, feel the sun or a cool breeze on your skin, experience your food by eating with your hands, initiate self-massage, trade massages with a friend, notice the sensation of your skin and your breath.
  • Share touch with your pet! There are also many benefits of having a pet, such as decreased stress and anxiety, improved memory, and increased cardiovascular health. We snuggle pretty hard core with our puppy Stitch!

Touch is fundamental to physical health, psychological and emotional well-being, and creating and maintaining connection with community. When we allow expression to be  free-flowing we create more chances for casual, consistent connection, supporting our need for regular touch outside of primary relationships and families, which encourages a tighter and broader web of community. We can become present any moment we choose to pay attention to what we are touching. Reach out and connect more!