LOVE it and LEAVE it.

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away...and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust....and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Damn. I asked for this.

I said “Yes” to healing.

I said “Yes” to growth.

I said “Yes” to risking it all.

And here I am, alone and uncertain.  But I asked for this.

What is resonant and tragic about Rilke’s words, is acknowledging what is lost along the way. The past, the people, the parts of ourselves that die away in the transition towards birth. For so long I refused this part of the practice. I thought that I could have it all. I could hold on and let go. I could grow out and stay put. That I could be vulnerable to a point.

“Be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend”

OUCH. I was convinced that the practice was finding our way back to one another amidst the growth, the change, the going deeper, the daring. But that wasn’t it at all.

Love is what is left over when you let it go.

I did not realize when I stepped onto this path that I could not take anything with me. That I would be a solitary traveler without luggage or companions. All i would have is what is right in front of me in every moment. I refused this aspect of the practice. I fought it. I bypassed it. Until it became too heavy to bear. All the work of holding it up and holding it together for the both of us. That wasn't love at all. 

And so I think, in this solitude, I am only now learning about love. You look for love, you practice love, until you realize you are love. It is “a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

“Do not feel lonely. The entire universe is inside of you”. RUMI 

Going in.

 

ON THE MAT

Find a space to be by yourself for a while, with no distractions.  Get comfortable in your seat or on your back. And just settle in. At first, your attention will hover at the surface…your senses gripping onto to everything around you. Just keep breathing. And with each breath, give yourself permission to drop down, layer by layer. Notice what is there, in every layer of your being. Pay attention to each level as if you were exploring the rooms of your own inner castle. You will notice, that as you get deeper, the space around you gets more vast. Allow for that. See if you can be with the space and the solitude. As discomfort arises, just come back to your breath and know that it always there keeping you tethered to the outside world. Keep moving towards the space. It’s not a withdrawing, but rather an all-inclusive being-with. The space around you is not nothing but everything. See if you can stay there. In the space of possibility. In the space of infinite love. In the space of all of you.

OFF THE MAT

As we cultivate our practice and our inner world expands, it can sometimes feel like there is too much space, too much solitude. I know for me, this is new territory. Learning how to be alone for the first time in my adult life. So I give myself permission to practice. That means letting it be uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable. So can you commit some time today or this week to practice solitude and build up the vast reservoir of love within yourself?

THIS. period.

I woke up this morning with these words on my mind and I can't seem to shake them. This poem has settled in like this storm. Like the endless rain outside that is washing away everything to reveal only the truth. And while I keep reading it over and over again to try and spark that thing I am meant to write about, I just don't know.

So I am just going to share and let you have your way with it.  Tomorrow, I will blog about my thoughts on solitude. Today, I will just sit with it.  

Read THIS. 

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

F#&* Mercury

M E R C U R Y I S I N R E T R O G R A D E

OK. I don’t know much about Mercury and retrogrades and stars. But I know this. I feel this one. Big time. (Case in note: see corresponding picture of me losing my mind).

I felt it in the way in which this week has brought some of the greatest creative highs and some of the deepest, darkest lows. How is that possible?

Well according to Chani*, the stars make is so. “If there is a planet in a sign that can both inspire the visions of our greatest artists meanwhile eroding the very ground we stand on leaving one feeling lost at sea; adrift in a world of phantoms, failures, losses, grief and sorrow it’s this one.” For real?

And if I have learned anything recently, it is that the more you practice, the harder and more complicated this journey gets. The “graduate” level practice challenges us to hold contradiction. To allow for the creativity and humanity at the same time. To experience our brilliance and beauty alongside our struggle and our shadow. I have come to know this over the last year in the way in which I’ve experience the deepest grief over my breakup AND the most beautiful, unexpected awakening. How are we supposed to make sense of this?

Chani goes on to say “…we cannot divorce the creative experience from the lived one. To bring something in to creation is to birth something into being. Anyone who has given birth will tell you that the former self is left in ruins on the floor. We are never the same, but hopefully we eventually emerge as another version of ourselves; one a little truer, sharper and more alive.” Good lord.

My dear friend and teacher, Suzanne Sterling, always says that on this spiritual path, the challenges just keep getting bigger, wilder and more difficult. But it is because you are building a capacity and a resiliency to hold the complexity of it. And know this…the universe will never give you anything you can’t handle.

We are being prepared for something. Buckle up.

 ON THE MAT

Start with a meditation. Notice what feels good. Notice what feels bad. (These things are always happening at the same time). Can you hold both experiences in equal relationship? Can you respect the parts of you that are resistant as much as you appreciate the parts of you that are cooperative?

What is the pose you love and hate at the same time? For me it is Gomukasana (knee pile/cow facing pose). Something about this pose makes me crazy. It is uncomfortable, awkward and constricting. But something about it also hits the spot. As if it gets into the grooves of my body in the perfect way. My practice is to honor the sensation fully (not to bypass it) and to open up to the often-unexpected experience of release.

OFF THE MAT

Chani encourages us to beware of the reductive stories we tell ourselves that keep us in safe and closed off. “I am making up a story about______ right now and I have no idea if it’s true.” Sit with what is real, not convenient. And while it may not be the more simple, beautiful knowing…acknowledging what is true is the very thing that will set you free and release you from the suffering. This is a good time to “come clean”, reveal feelings, apologize and absolve us of anything that is in the way of our showing up fully. 

*I feel compelled to say that I have no idea who this Chani person is. But this blog met me at the perfect moment this week and hit the spot. So, I felt moved to share. here

IMG_3967.JPG

IF YOU CAN’T PLAY NICE, ROLLER DERBY.

OK. Not really. But kind of. 

One of the things I am most proud of at The Catalyst Collective is our commitment to collaboration. This agency is a collective by design because we believe that all of our efforts, contributions, voices are amplified when we come together. But it’s not just about collaboration and sharing power.  

The kind of relationship we are talking about is one where we call one another up to our best selves. Where we create space for everyone to be a chief contributor. Where we celebrate one another’s unique gifts as a necessary and valuable part of the whole.

And it is not easy to hold that practice in our culture. It requires a strong belief that there is enough to go around. That there is space for everybody to be great. That allowing one another to shine does not take away, it ADDS.

Brene Brown calls scarcity “our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress”.  Scarcity comes from shame, comparison and disengagement and plays out in competition, criticism and dominance. And while it is a belief perpetuated by society, it originates within us all. 

We need to push back on the culture of fear and combat it with fearless connection. We need to reclaim our belief that WE ARE ENOUGH so that we can operate from that place in the world. We need to learn how to “play nice” again and not knock each other down in the derby. We need to fight with love. That will do it.   

ON THE MAT

Go to a group class today to explore what it is to be a part of something bigger than yourself. As you assess how you are arriving at the beginning of class, notice how you meet yourself. Are you welcoming yourself with acceptance? Are you making space for your whole, honest experience? Or is your inner critic getting the best of you?  Your inner critic is the one that picks apart every little thing that is not perfect or expected. The one that can’t tolerate discomfort and vulnerability. Can you acknowledge that part of you and politely ask it to take a back seat? Then (and this part is hard, I know), be kind and inclusive of all of the ways you are showing up. Your relationship to YOU is the very thing that is going to inform your relationship to everything around you. 

Next, pay attention to your relationship to others.  How much do you look around? How much do you check people out? How much do you compare body shapes, performance, appearance, pacing, depth, etc? Can you see that comparing is the same as judgement? It says ”you are more or less than me”.  It doesn’t feel good for anyone and it is simply not true. But what it perpetuates is worse- a disengagement from one another, suffering and the belief that we are alone. Yuk. 

Repeat after me: “My practice is perfect the way it is and so is everyone else’s”. Didn’t that feel better? Now, believe it. 

OFF THE MAT

Off the mat, it’s the same thing. Pay attention to how you interact with others today.  The practice of including and not comparing requires the following: 

1 Know thyself: What is your secret sauce? What makes you uniquely YOU? Can you know your gifts and the ways you add value to the team?  

2 Self-Responsibility: How are you participating in this cycle of scarcity?  How can you own your vulnerabilities AND gifts so that you can make space for others? 

3 Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Stand in this knowing of yourself as whole and complete in such a way that you can stand for that in others. Embody it even (especially) if it feels unfamiliar and awkward. After all, we love awkward :-)

And then, maybe, do something radical - celebrate someone else for their greatness. Whoa. 

 

DO/DISRUPT

I woke up this morning totally freaked out. Not because something bad had happened. Quite the contrary. But I awoke to my fear: fear of being seen, fear of being judged, fear of being a failure. Lynne Twist talked about this in her book, The Soul of Money” - “Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we are already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something.”  Yup. That about sums it up.  

And I’m realizing now how much easier it is to stay where you are. To remain in the safe spaces that protect us from exposure.  I want to crawl back into my box and stay put, the same way I want to crawl under the covers right now and go back to bed.

But I have made a conscious commitment to disengage from the part of me that is waiting to be perfect before showing up and just leap. I have learned first hand that the “should” path keeps us on the sidelines and if I want to be a part of making change I need to be on the frontlines. There. I said it. I want to ENGAGE. And if yoga has taught me anything, it’s that when you say “yes” to engagement, you say yes to the whole experience: excitement, fear, joy, disappointment, surprise, etc.  

My favorite definition of disrupt is to “throw into confusion or disorder”. This is torture for a perfectionist. But often, it is the very thing that shakes things up enough to enable a shift. And we all need a shift. Not a gentle shift. But a radical shift. So here goes nothing.

In DO/DISRUPT, Mark Shayler (dear friend, coach and aspiring yogi) says “there is only one thing left. GO AND DO. And may the force be with you.” 

Here I am. GOING AND DOING.

ON THE MAT

What is the pose that scares you?  The one that when the teacher announces it in class, you decide it’s time to go to the bathroom.  Yes, that one. Perhaps you look around the room and admire the other people who are doing that pose. You say with resignation “Oh I can’t do that” and you believe it. 

Go and do THAT pose.  Because not doing it is never knowing. Never knowing how it feels. Never knowing what is possible. You becomes a spectator of your own practice and you miss out. Because no one ever regrets doing something, they regret never trying it.  So in the safe haven that is your yoga practice, GO and DO the thing that scares you and celebrate what it is to be alive. 

OFF THE MAT

Let your mantra today be “If you always do what you’ve already done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” (Amen, Henry Ford). Do something different. Notice the habitual ways you play it safe and chart a new course.  It might be as simple as taking a different route to work or disrupting your day to meditate or confronting that person you have been avoiding or (dare I say it) doing something you LOVE. 

DO Disrupt and BE a catalyst of your own greatness. 

 

[ PS Welcome to our new home ]

catalyst collective logo.jpg

THIS is Awkward.

February 2  2014

Somewhere along the way I learned to avoid awkward at all costs. I got good at being careful and cautious (interestingly, the opposite of awkward is clever). I curated every word, every move for fear of being judged. I clung to a watered-down version of life that enabled me to duck exposure and accountability. But while I often escaped embarrassment, I avoided exceptional. 

In Banks Benitez talk on Embracing Awkwardness he says “Awkwardness is when you show your true self but don’t mean it. How can we go through our lives and not show our true self?!?!?!?!” 

This past year of surviving divorce and starting over has brought awkward back into my life in a big way. Every new experience has had the raw and humiliating essence of my messy and confusing teenage life. Comical at times and excruciating in others, what I find now, however, is a new resiliency to be gentle in those clunky moments. I acknowledge that in so many ways, I am a beginner again. And it is in those spaces of uncomfortable and awkward that we grow.And so for today’s practice, we are going to embrace awkward.

 

ON THE MAT

Come to standing at the top of your mat in mountain pose. And take a deep breath.

Now…forget everything you know about the practice. I mean it. Unlearn right alignment, right thinking. right intention. And just breath. What is brand new about this moment? Can you acknowledge that you have never been here before in this way? What is it like to be a beginner again in your body?

Draw your right knee in to your chest, hands to your hips and just pay attention to the balance, or rather, the imbalance for a moment. Wobbly, unstable, awkward, yes?  Perfect   Now, open the knee out lateral and bring it into tree pose (foot inside inner thigh or calf). Once you’ve got the shape, start to create a little chaos by swaying your upper body back and forth the way a tree sways in the wind. That’s right. Be willing to be knocked off your center. Be less cautious and more curious. If you are comfortable in your pose, then you are not taking enough of a risk.  Be willing to fall. Be willing to fail.  And then, see what is there for you to learn when you let yourself experience awkward in the safety of your practice.

OFF THE MAT

Be a spectator of your life today.  Notice the places in your life where you are being careful and clever. How might you be avoiding connection by avoiding awkwardness? What are our strategies for hiding our true selves? 

As an experiment, could you go about your day with permission to be unedited? A first version of yourself as you experience the world around you.  Can you tell the whole, awkward truth and nothing but the truth at all times? Can you let yourself be seen as the perfectly imperfect true you?  

In “The Daring Way”, Brene Brown has an awesome practice of issuing permission slips for getting vulnerable. I’m issuing one for YOU. You have permission to be uncool, loud, confused, clumsy, dramatic, silly, wrong, ecstatic and 100% fully alive.  So let’s drop the awkward armor that prevents us from real connection and true revealing and just show up.  

Be awkward. Be awesome. 

 

Lean Back

February 1  2014

Happy New Year and welcome to our community of practice!

Over the next 28 days, we embark on a journey of practice as we kick off the new year with purpose and intention.  These practices are meant to meet you where you are, on or off the mat, so find the expression that works for you.  

This lunar year, the Year of the Horse, has a ton of forward thrust and it is easy to lean into the flow. Which can make for great speed and momentum, but when not focused can lead us down the wrong path, or worse, lead to burn out.  So our practice is vital to steering our path and building capacity for all that we still don't know.

Often at the start of a process or the beginning of a journey, we have a tendency to "lean in".  To set goals, to create expectations of what we want to manifest and how we want it to look and play out. Visioning and planning in this way is not bad, but when not met with a fierce practice of being can distract away from what is already emerging. 

And so while the world is telling us to lean-in in this moment, I am feeling called to a new stance.  As a text-book “doer”, “activator”, “manifestor”, “fixer”, my transformational practice has become to lean-back as I face out on a new path.  While it often feels counter intuitive, it is the very thing that allows for clear seeing, right pacing and faith.  Leaning back in this way also reminds me of everything that is at my back: my history, my lineage and everything that has gotten me to this place in my life.  When I lean back in this way, I am grateful.

So, this is our first practice...to lean-back and look out on the great mystery that is before us with awe and adventure.

ON THE MAT

Come onto your back with either knees in or knees apart in supine butterfly.  Bring you hands onto your belly and just feel your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Let the rocking of your breath cradle into this moment. 

Now bring your attention back and acknowledge your connection to the earth. Notice how you are being supported; how you are not required to hold yourself up or hold it together. Rather lean back into the knowing that you are held and allow your breath to expand into the front body. Continue to drop down into the earth, breath by breath, and consider the things in your life you trust. Take inventory. What do you have already that reminds you that you are safe and supported. Let that give you permission to soften back further.  

Either stay here in this meditation of leaning back. Or move into the following poses.  These poses will serve to calm the nervous system as you wake up your being. They are also really accessible hip and hamstring openers for those of us who have back problems or may have fractured their sacrum.

Supta Badda Konasana 20 breaths 

Supta Pandangustasana 10 breaths each side [A & C]

Supta Matsyandrasana 20 breaths each side 

Savasana 10 minutes

OFF THE MAT

I dare you…make no plans this weekend.  I know, I know. It’s the weekend and you’ve had such a crazy week.  You have things to do. People to see. You mustn’t waste a second. You have to optimize every minute of your “day off” to ensure that you feel complete with your time and space. 

But, what if you leaned back? What if you and your planning got out of the way and let your day unfold on its own?  What if what it has in store for you is beyond your imagination? What if the most amazing experience is not within your conscious grasp but is ready to move in and meet you when the space is made? Can you lean back and make space for the more beautiful thing that you don’t know is possible?