You Belong Here

“There is nothing to fix. Each one of us is made to fit our lives. Precisely. The measurements are exact. The tailoring is to a tee. The height. The width. The depth. It’s perfect. We need not ever struggle to fit into the fabric of ourselves…”

My favorite astrologist, Chani Nicholas, beautifully integrates her advanced wisdom of constellations and universal constructs to bring a meaningful voice to the motion of the cosmos. Another Full Moon. What can it really mean? Regardless of the literal efficacy of horoscopes, there is meaning, inspiration, motivation and strength to be derived from knowing that we are but one small piece of this world, and we are not alone.

This week, Chani divulges on the Full Moon in Virgo, as each full and new moon presents an important variable for the most subtle aspects of our world – including and especially our moods, our thought fluctuations, our consciousness. She brings simple awareness to the fact that we are all connected, and important. I find myself taking her words to heart each week, and hope you might find they fill your heart during this Full Moon as well…

You Belong Here

There is nothing to fix. Each one of us is made to fit our lives. Precisely. The measurements are exact. The tailoring is to a tee. The height. The width. The depth. It’s perfect. We need not ever struggle to fit into the fabric of ourselves.

We are all complex, paradoxical, flawed. As we fumble, topple and blunder our way out of the messy cocoon of unconsciousness (an ever-evolving, never-ceasing emergence), we do so perfectly also.

But we worry that we are wrong.

We fear we are ill-shaped. We fret that we were a mistake. We wake in night sweats, covered in panic’s perspiration. We question the meaning that makes us. We second guess our nature. We refuse our resplendency. We want to be another. We are taught to be other. We want to be in accordance with life, but we tend to attack our own.

Not fitting is excruciating. It’s excruciating as long as we try to fit. Or fix. Or make different our distinct markings. If we added up the hours spent counting the things”wrong” with us, we would be buried under a heap of lost time. What could we do with the energy otherwise? What life can we steal back from what the internal naysayers took? What will we do when we discover that we are as we were meant to be.

Have you ever felt this way? Lost, lonely, lacking. I know I have, more than once…and regardless of the “truth” it’s safe to say that believing that you already fit, and that you’re already perfect will bring much more happiness and bliss than you could hope to find any other way. When I practice believing in my own perfection, I find that I am perfect – there is no more pressure to change. But, when I do get lost in what others say or think about what I should be, should say, or should look like, I find I drop deeper and deeper into my own confusion and withdrawal. I get tired, quiet, and frustrated. I feel sorry for myself.

What I’ve found is that being yourself is liberating. Believing in your own innate goodness, believing that you don’t have to change for anyone, is a gift that no one can take away from you. And it’s a gift that only you can give yourself. Try it. Live yourself, love yourself and be free from outside perception. When you forget or begin to waver – as is human nature – come back to your own perfection. I hope you might find that loving your own unaltered integrity is the satisfaction and belonging that we’re all really searching for. Inner peace. Liberation. Acceptance.

Time and time again, I forget I have nothing to prove. But thanks to Chani’s words this week, I remember, and can strive to come back to this place time and time again.

It’s already in you.

Happy Full Moon! May you find peace and blessings in every corner you explore in the coming month and always.

// Find more and/or sign up for weekly (free!) horoscopes from Chani at her website: http://chaninicholas.com/

No Escaping It: "I Am That"

Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

There’s no escaping it. I write and I write and I write. My fingers on the right start to feel crippled and numb, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m not sure what drives me. I’ve been after that answer for years. But, I know that my heart aches to know it. That my mind dreams about it. And that by giving my full self into everything I do, fostering love in myself and striving to understand the incomprehensible – this fills my heart and gives me more wealth and fulfillment than I’ve ever known.


2015-09-17 15.50.25-1
“I am THAT!” – Instagram
Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

“I am That” will sometimes pop into my mind while catching a glimpse of my own reflection. It’s a phrase often referenced in classical theological discourse and is even alluded to in the popular Hindi mantra: Om Namah Shivaya. I like its simplicity, and its resonance on some unknowable level. And so it’s stuck.

“I am That” has become an unexpected reassurance that I have not, until now, fully acknowledged. It arises from a place in me where I guess that intuition, pre-cognitive dreams, and strange meditative experiences come from. It’s not posed as a suggestion when it pops into my brain, but as a forceful assurance. There is no reason to worry. “I am That.”

I am so blessed – with education, good health, family and friends; I am so lucky to be born into a wonderful family who taught me how to be authentic in life above all else; I am so powerful for having made it this far, for having chased a dream and allowed myself to find love and be loved along the way. “I am That,” and that is ever changing. But, there are also parts of me that have never changed and will never change – and from that place, I’m glad to have a reminder that I am here, present, and ever-evolving. This means forgiving yourself, enjoying every moment, and loving with every ounce of yourself while you have the time, the energy, and the power to give. “I am That.” Something pure and forgiven. Innocent and all knowing. I am that.

It sounds crazy, like something you’d overhear two old ladies discuss after church. But really it just means allowing yourself to move on, rather than clinging and obsessing over past mistakes, embarrassing moments, or bad interviews. It means having the courage to be authentic, to wear what you want when you want, to go where you want when you want (if I hear one more person say: “I’m too fat for yoga”…) , to live compassionately, to always give the benefit of the doubt, to welcome your neighbors and befriend your enemies, to life in a way that represents you, that you’re proud of, and that enables you to give your time, resources or energy back to those in need.

I’m not reading from a textbook or quoting last night’s lecture. There is no specific way of going and no certain outcome. Each path is unique, and after a five year journey from Copley Square Bikram to LMU, I have learned that I know very, very little; except that: “I am That.” And, since life is so short, I strive to live as fully and as best as I can.

I am thankful to yoga for giving me many paths to choose – different schools, ideas, and ways of thinking to explore – and for giving me many tools – mantra, yoga /asana, meditation, mala beads, freeform expression. Some I learned through reading, but others through exploring and moving within my personal practice. Thank you for the ability to practice as I please, to move freely, and to eventually gain the power stop judging myself.

This is what it means to live in yoga (to me). Without any assignment to religious denomination, political party or economic status; anyone can be healthy, engaged, and happy – but it comes with a price. It demands opening your mind and giving in, or rather seriously “letting go.”

When I moved to Los Angeles two years ago, I had a strong ego and a very specific list of priorities. (And I was fucking killing it, if I do say so myself…) But, sometimes, when we allow things to ruin our plans the best things can finally happen to us.

******************************************

Today, I’m also pleased to launch AYearInYoga.com!!! Be sure to check out my new and improved (inter)face 😉

I have a while to go before I get it where I want it to be – including more classes, workshops, and events scheduled, and videos, techniques and practices to share! I am so appreciative of having you along for the journey! It inspires me to know that there are other strong, intelligent, courageous people (particularly women, woo woo!) who are willing to learn, strive and expand in the name of yoga. In the meantime, don’t forget to bookmark me, share with loved ones & friends, and check in every now and again to see what I’m up to!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Stay tuned! Sending love always,

xx Amy

// Photo Cred: Thank you Matt Annese for capturing so many amazing photo ops! @ Big Sur, Halloween 2015

No Escaping It: “I Am That”

Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

There’s no escaping it. I write and I write and I write. My fingers on the right start to feel crippled and numb, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m not sure what drives me. I’ve been after that answer for years. But, I know that my heart aches to know it. That my mind dreams about it. And that by giving my full self into everything I do, fostering love in myself and striving to understand the incomprehensible – this fills my heart and gives me more wealth and fulfillment than I’ve ever known.


2015-09-17 15.50.25-1
“I am THAT!” – Instagram
Looking into the mirror at myself just earlier, I gasped aloud. Large black smudges under both eyes, stringy and frazzled hair, tired eyes and skin imperfections. But, before I knew it the girl in the mirror was smiling at me, and I felt the tension in my body let go. It was okay. I know her…

“I am That” will sometimes pop into my mind while catching a glimpse of my own reflection. It’s a phrase often referenced in classical theological discourse and is even alluded to in the popular Hindi mantra: Om Namah Shivaya. I like its simplicity, and its resonance on some unknowable level. And so it’s stuck.

“I am That” has become an unexpected reassurance that I have not, until now, fully acknowledged. It arises from a place in me where I guess that intuition, pre-cognitive dreams, and strange meditative experiences come from. It’s not posed as a suggestion when it pops into my brain, but as a forceful assurance. There is no reason to worry. “I am That.”

I am so blessed – with education, good health, family and friends; I am so lucky to be born into a wonderful family who taught me how to be authentic in life above all else; I am so powerful for having made it this far, for having chased a dream and allowed myself to find love and be loved along the way. “I am That,” and that is ever changing. But, there are also parts of me that have never changed and will never change – and from that place, I’m glad to have a reminder that I am here, present, and ever-evolving. This means forgiving yourself, enjoying every moment, and loving with every ounce of yourself while you have the time, the energy, and the power to give. “I am That.” Something pure and forgiven. Innocent and all knowing. I am that.

It sounds crazy, like something you’d overhear two old ladies discuss after church. But really it just means allowing yourself to move on, rather than clinging and obsessing over past mistakes, embarrassing moments, or bad interviews. It means having the courage to be authentic, to wear what you want when you want, to go where you want when you want (if I hear one more person say: “I’m too fat for yoga”…) , to live compassionately, to always give the benefit of the doubt, to welcome your neighbors and befriend your enemies, to life in a way that represents you, that you’re proud of, and that enables you to give your time, resources or energy back to those in need.

I’m not reading from a textbook or quoting last night’s lecture. There is no specific way of going and no certain outcome. Each path is unique, and after a five year journey from Copley Square Bikram to LMU, I have learned that I know very, very little; except that: “I am That.” And, since life is so short, I strive to live as fully and as best as I can.

I am thankful to yoga for giving me many paths to choose – different schools, ideas, and ways of thinking to explore – and for giving me many tools – mantra, yoga /asana, meditation, mala beads, freeform expression. Some I learned through reading, but others through exploring and moving within my personal practice. Thank you for the ability to practice as I please, to move freely, and to eventually gain the power stop judging myself.

This is what it means to live in yoga (to me). Without any assignment to religious denomination, political party or economic status; anyone can be healthy, engaged, and happy – but it comes with a price. It demands opening your mind and giving in, or rather seriously “letting go.”

When I moved to Los Angeles two years ago, I had a strong ego and a very specific list of priorities. (And I was fucking killing it, if I do say so myself…) But, sometimes, when we allow things to ruin our plans the best things can finally happen to us.

******************************************

Today, I’m also pleased to launch AYearInYoga.com!!! Be sure to check out my new and improved (inter)face 😉

I have a while to go before I get it where I want it to be – including more classes, workshops, and events scheduled, and videos, techniques and practices to share! I am so appreciative of having you along for the journey! It inspires me to know that there are other strong, intelligent, courageous people (particularly women, woo woo!) who are willing to learn, strive and expand in the name of yoga. In the meantime, don’t forget to bookmark me, share with loved ones & friends, and check in every now and again to see what I’m up to!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Stay tuned! Sending love always,

xx Amy

// Photo Cred: Thank you Matt Annese for capturing so many amazing photo ops! @ Big Sur, Halloween 2015

To India…

On Monday, I’m off to India (for the month of July!).

I’m sorry it’s been a while – too long – since I’ve written. If you can believe it, I’ve had more stories and ideas to share than ever; but somehow I’ve lacked the right words, and the clarity. Not much has changed since then, except now I’m off to India! Despite the obvious excitement of my impending adventure, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so raw, so humbled, or so small – even defeated – before in my life. Of course, I know every experience serves you. In some way, I even wonder if there’s no such thing as wasted time, or bad decisions; but just time, and decisions. And, as we accumulate experiences, we grow and form as a result of these experiences and our own personal reactions out in the big, big world. Well, either way, my world is about the get a lot bigger.

But for now I’m here, currently in Weymouth, Massachusetts with my best girl friends from college – laughing, drinking wine, and catching up on old and new times. On Monday I will board a plane and soon find myself in the over-crowded, noisy, chaotic streets of New Delhi, sharing the road with sweaty cows, mopeds and taxi cabs. Wednesday morning, my first in India, I’ll join classmates on the rooftop of our temporary home, a Jainist monastery, for pre-dawn asana, hopefully as we allow the thick grey smog to kiss our skin with warm embrace. Because, we’re in India. And as for all of India’s other crazy, challenging, unpredictable surprises, oh I know you’re coming. And I’m ready for you.

Too many guilty-pleasure readings of “Eat, Pray, Love” have taught me:

India doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you need.

This was my source of reflection this morning when I was finally able to find the time (and energy) to practice for the first time in weeks. [It’s amazing how tight your hips become after two months of travel and no asana.
Remember to keep your Pigeon Pose on hand! (Also note to self)]

From my practice this morning, with a bit of irony and a lot of surrender: 

To India, I go with little time to think – post-finals and a busy wedding season – I’m jumping in with both feet.

To India, because there’s no real choice, but most of all because there could be no other answer.

To India: please treat me well and share all of your richness. I am open, and ready as ever to receive all I have to learn.

I plan to dive into India as a course of study in Jainism (a sect of Buddhism known for its commitment to ahimsa, or universal non-violence), but also as a self-retreat. I surrender to indulge in asana, meditation and mantra; immerse myself in lecture and reading; and lose myself in ancient temples, Puja ceremonies, and the loving company of my cohort. I hope my trip will also include luscious afternoon sessions of day dreaming, journal writing and blog posting, but I’ll make no promises. Ultimately, India gives us what we need anyway. So, who am I to get in the way?

Friends and family on the East Coast: Thank you all so much for the unconditional welcome and warmth over the past few months. On my journey through graduate school – as well as through much, much more – our time together has meant the world. You all serve as a reminder of my roots, but also of who and what I aspire to become. I have so much gratitude for having so many smart, courageous, thoughtful and humble people in my life. Thanks for all you do, and you have my permission to show yourself a little love in my absence. (Had my first massage yesterday – Thanks Jill! – and I’m not looking back!) I’ll be sending more love your way!

To all: There will always be more to come, as long as you’ll have me. In the meantime, make a few moments to get your yoga on! (Or guided meditation, mantra, surf, or creative outlet of your choice) 😉

Bon Voyage,

Amy

Living your Truth (the true grassroots movement)

Every conversation, and every challenge brings us clarity. In our individual process, our unique life, we’re all creating our own story. And at times, I know I get all too anxious to know how the story ends…

But, of course, this is just wishing time away. Valuable, irretrievable time, which in culmination builds our lives. And I imagine one day, not too far away, I’ll be wishing for more.

This insight drives me to incorporate, but not always rely on my heart, as well as my head in decision-making. Because, if we’re only here a short time, it’s reasonable to hope that we make the most of it. So we can look back at our lives lived, our own story, with a full heart – and no regrets.

There are many ways to go about this, and no wrong way. But, there is your way. A concept I’m particularly interested in – which is a theme of the ancient texts and textbooks we’ve been reading in school – is that of individual “duty,” or as I’ve come to understand it as, one’s unique “purpose.”

In Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita (written in approximately 300 C.E), Krishna (the eighth worldly incarnation of the god, Vishnu) imparts to the great warrior Arjuna before he enters into battle: “Now, if you will not undertake/ This righteous war,/ Thereupon, having avoided your own duty and glory,/ You shall incur evil…Your right is to action [duty] alone.”

Many centuries later, in the 19th century C.E. Ralph Waldo Emerson (a Harvard graduate) founded the Transcendentalist movement here In the United States. In his ground breaking essay, Self Reliance, he belabors the significance of individual authenticity for the benefit of society, to evoke and unleash one’s own genius (more here); ultimately, in my favorite line he states simply: “But do your work and I shall know you.”

In the 20th century, Mahatma Ghandi (or the “great soul” in Sanskrit) had the courage to voice his beliefs and to publicly advocate for the liberation of India from British rule. He is credited with the nation’s success, and yet the U.S. – not India – was the first to recognize his honor and integrity as an individual force for empowerment. Ghandi credits his courage to God (or his higher power), and simply shared with all who inquired that it was his duty, his purpose on this Earth to serve out this work. (Bob Dylan used the same allusion to “duty” to describe his experience as a musician and songwriter, as that of a conduit; receiving messages to share with the world from and as part of something bigger.) Ghandi read the 2nd chapter of the Bhagavad Gita every morning, and cited it for motivating his voice and leading his service for the sake of humanity throughout his life.

Not long after, Martin Luther King Jr. led the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. Today, we celebrate his work annually, and recognize his name as synonymous with efforts for justice and peace. MLK too read Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita regularly, and specifically revered it as his source of inspiration, in conjunction with the Bible, in motivating his work.

Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first black chief executive (President) and first democratically elected individual in the early 1990’s. Prior, he served 27 years in prison for standing up for his beliefs to end the apartheid and embrace racial equality, justice and peace. Mandela also credited the Bhagavad Gita for inspiring and motivating his service throughout his life, and up until his recent passing in 2013.

Well, maybe it’s our turn…to believe in something bigger.

I have a dream that yoga as a philosophy and a worldview is a source for empowerment. That it is undeniably and inextricably connected to individual, societal and global politics as a vested belief system and lifestyle (with a physical practice to aid in this process), representative at its core of truth, justice and peace; that it has the power to inspire people to their fullest potential by motivating them to speak and live by their own Truth (and thereby, also enjoy life more fully). Inspired by a higher purpose, if not a higher power, yoga is nondenominational and nontheistic. It doesn’t require prescribing to Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, or any religion at all. For instance, my higher power is the Universe: a force I believe to be greater than myself, which – as the sun and the moon guide our existence – provides comfort, predictability, and an opportunity for fulfillment of purpose for each and every creature that lives within it.

Purpose, truth, duty. It’s heavy, for sure. But yet, we see the Earth degrading beneath and around us, and the large majority of the world’s population suffering in ways we in the U.S. could never imagine, if only in our worst nightmares. This is life. This is it. And, we create it – past and future. We are responsible for it, and for how our individual behaviors impact the greater whole, the entirety of the human race, and the world around us.

This realization is scary, and perhaps the most daunting task that can and will ever be set before us. (And so, we see many of today’s politicians turning a blind eye.) But again, what’s most important to recognize is: we create it. We control it; what will remain for future generations and the course of our own lives. All we need to do, as individuals (perhaps the best and greatest grassroots movement) is to live truthfully and cultivate a real personal sense of compassion and peace; and others (even the most unlikely among us) will follow. According to a December 2012 study, over 20 million Americans practice yoga regularly – and the number continues to grow. What if all of these people united their practice* as a way to explore and ultimately live out their Truth, their “duty” – while losing weight and reducing stress at the same time. [Rupert Murdoch and Oprah Winfrey reportedly meditate every day…anything is possible.] * (yoga = “yoke” or “union”)

I still strive for clarity of my own purpose, my own duty. And I understand this is a life long journey, and that we may never fully realize the fruits of our labor during our time on Earth (but we can plant the seeds…) The biggest, and most challenging part of this process is trust. To trust that if you are a good person and you are open to new possibilities, that the right one’s will find you, and soon you will see clearly your purpose, and your duty – for your own happiness, for the prosperity of those you love, and thereby for the betterment of the greater whole, the human race, and Mother Earth.

I believe it, because great men (and unspoken women) before me believed it. And through this belief, they accomplished what no one else before them was able to do. By simply changing their own lives, they changed their nation and the world.

Trust. For the betterment of our nation, for the safety and prosperity of future generations, for the love of life and in gratitude for all we’ve been given, I urge you to listen and trust in your own authenticity. (That voice inside you that tells you what’s right and what’s wrong – even if it goes against what other people are doing, or thinking, or even saying…) We all innately want to be great: Mahatma, “great souls.” All we need to do is stay open and trust (according to the great’s before us, practicing yoga regularly makes this much easier, even effortless and blissful); because the world is broken, and every voice can and should be a voice of reason, a role model to bring about hope in our own small way. By always learning, growing, and living our own Truth –  we can all be that voice.

With love and in honor of those who paved the path before us, to venture into our own authenticity and our own genius. There is always a light.

I hope you might join me (in your own way) in committing to using your lifetime to explore and relinquish your own: Let your light shine!

Namaste,
Amy

Photo Credit: Alex’s Photo Blog from Jama Masjid, Old Delhi, India (2011)

No Regrets: A Guide to Managing the Chaos

I’ve experienced quite a shift in the past few weeks. And from what I’ve heard from family, and especially friends – going through the same grad school grind or 40-hour funk – the feeling is mutual. Perhaps the New Year holiday isn’t such a pointless occasion. Maybe, something actually does happen worth celebrating; a shift into greater consciousness. Or, as it’s more likely be familiar as, a new perspective. Suddenly, we’re all asking: Where am I going? What am I doing this for? Is this really where I want to be?

A new year will do that to you. Just when you think you have it all figured out, and you’re in full-out holiday 2014 turn up mode. Routine strikes again, and we find ourselves asking: Why? Why do I do the things I do? Is this really what I want?

Doubts inevitably start sweeping in. And then you have a choice – continue doing what you’re doing, or change it. Well, unfortunately I’ve (pretty much always) opted for the path of most resistance. Change it. Or change something. Because, if you’re noticing there’s an issue – how can you go forward with it any other way?

After spending a good part of my holiday ‘break’ formulating my plan for change, I realized that all of my commitments (work, school, research) are important to me, and worth going after. There’s nothing I want to, or can change, at this point in time. And, I’ve also learned bailing isn’t always the answer. There’s always something to be learned and gained, even from the most difficult situations. Then, I came to an interesting thought: You can’t muscle through it. You can only breath through it.

I’d been pushing and pushing, and putting my head down and hoping for ‘the end.’ (Whatever that means…) I was muscling through it, and hoping that would be enough. But of course, my strategy didn’t sustain and despite my efforts, I couldn’t see the end of the tunnel. But, even in the worst situations, there’s always a light; a way to make it better for yourself. I’d been trying to muscle through it when I really needed to just stop and breath.

Distinguishing these moments, when you’re running out of gas and it’s time to switch gears, is the secret. It’s everything. Because, if you can keep your self in tact, you can do anything you want to do without feeling mysteriously (and overwhelmingly) exhausted, or stressed, or angry. For me, allowing myself to have downtime; to take care of myself (who knew a home manicure could feel so amazing?) and in turn, devoting myself back to the hustle; to stay true to the commitments I’ve already made, and be present to all the things I’m looking forward to this year. It’s an ongoing balance and it takes work. But, most importantly, this means ‘checking in’ (or as somatic psychologists call it: a body scan) – every day, as often as you can. How am I feeling? Am I thirsty or hungry? Tired or getting sick? Am I agitated or stressed? Am I angry or irritable? What can I do to take care of myself right now?

We’re used to – and good at – putting things off. Especially, when it comes to self-care. The last priority on our “To Do lists,” often are the items that involve taking care of ourselves. But, what good are we really after we reach our breaking point? I know when I was working a corporate job, this came before lunchtime. Last semester, it came even sooner. So naturally, you start to wonder: Why am I doing this?

I found it helpful to consider why I’d started instead. School or work is tough sometimes, sure. But it must be that the reasons why we’re there in the first place are far more worthy of consideration – the long-term vision, rather than the day-to-day grind. Now that the honeymoon period has ended, what’s your motivation?

Only you can answer that, and it’s for no one else to judge. It’s your life, and you should make it yours. No matter what position you find yourself in, there can always be a reason to get you through (especially, the tougher times) – be it personal, professional; trials, tribulations; learning, growing, sharing. If you allow yourself to believe there is a purpose for this place in this time, then you allow a feeling of forward movement and fulfillment to supersede. And if you check in with yourself, and put yourself first (for the benefit of everything and everyone that comes after), there’s only joy.

Whether you decide to muscle through it, or breath through it – only an attitude, a perspective changes simply by changing your focus. And, you control it. (Imagine that, in this crazy, scary world of ours…You ultimately have control.)

Like many I know, I’m off to a very busy and daunting 2015; but I’m optimistic. I’m taking one day at a time, and trying my best to be present when and where I am, in each moment. If these events, and people, jobs and classes are important enough to be part of my life, then I owe it to myself to be present for them. (Also, you can be sure this way: you’ll have no regrets.) We can choose when and how, and if we want to change. But ultimately, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Wishing you all the very best things a new year can bring, and all the joy that can possibly come along with it.

No Regrets,

Amy

Personal Photo: Meditation Retreat @ Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, CA (January 17, 2015)

Give in to Comfort (+ Recipe)

O’ tidings of comfort and joy! Comfort and joy… I’ve never stopped to consider these lyrics before, but giving a nod to a holiday classic, I’d have to say that word choice here is key. Tidings of comfort can allude to many things, such as that of family, of warmth – both physical (hanging fireside with hot cocoa) and emotional (open hearts and widespread generosity), of abundant food and ideally of relaxation. To feed yourself [and others], to love yourself [and others], to celebrate love, life and gratitude for all that you have. For an old church hymn, they’ve covered a lot of ground. (Good work, ye merry gentlemen!)

Of course, like any good celebration, the holidays come with their fair share of temptations and frustrations (and did I mention, expectations?). So, if you’re like me, the pre-Thanksgiving time is marked by a bit of anxiety. Excitement for a season of family and friends [with their respective social outings and get togethers], and a looming hope that you don’t get too carried away – with your holiday shopping, long-nights out and working overtime, heated dinner-table discussions with relatives, or double chocolate fudge [martini] indulgence. How do we walk the fine line between indulging in the comfort of the season and not over-indulging? It’s a difficult balance made much simpler by approaching the season with mindfulness – remembering that indulgence foremost means caring for yourself.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look forward to the comfort and joy of the holiday season! (And to relieve any lingering anxiety over all the goodness yet to come…)

Bubble baths. To me, bubble baths are the ultimate form of indulgence. For you, it may be something else – perhaps reading a book or having a glass of wine by the fireplace (actually, I change my answer…) Take time during your time off this holiday season to indulge the way you want to. Too often in the past, I’ve felt the holidays have come and gone without allowing myself any time to relax. But I’m giving you permission – you can even put it in your calendar! – to make time for yourself, as often as you can, to indulge this holiday. (I’m talking bubble baths, candles, home facials and red wine…) You’ll be just as grateful come January, when you return to your routine feeling rested and rejuvenated 😉

Taste everything. As I’ve said before: Food is love! And you deserve only the best. But, of course, the best includes Gramma’s seasonal batch of double chocolate fudge and late-night pizza with high school friends. Don’t deny yourself a single thing this holiday, but do allow yourself [in most cases] just a taste. (Don’t panic – for me, this translates as one piece of fudge or 1-2 slices of pizza. Make it as realistic as it is delicious.) Ultimately, you have control over how much of what ends up on your plate. Start off with a taste of everything you want – one or two spoonfuls (use your judgment) – and then pick the thing (or two) you liked the most and go back for more! For dessert, go for that big ol’ slice of pie – but be kind to your body, pick just one (big) or two (small) things. And if you’re feeling bummed about missing out on a second piece of pie or that other tasty treat in the back, take one home for tomorrow or split with a friend. (I sometimes have to remind myself, there will be many more chocolate chip cookies in my future. No need to eat them all now!) Allow yourself to indulge in all the comfort of the season, while remembering to care for yourself foremost. This is key to avoiding next-day belly aches and painful hangovers at the holidays – and throughout the year, tried and true!

Stay Well. A lot goes on during the holiday season, you could even say it’s gained a reputation for stirring the pot. High emotions – of grief and loss, of being over-worked and exhausted, of frustration and anger, of fears and expectations for the coming year – often associated with the season are compounded by high stress, a natural derivative of the holidays. Acknowledge this, and even excuse yourself in advance. If and when things do come up, let them and then let them go. Take care of yourself and care for others. Greet stress  with as much compassion as you can muster. Remember that over-indulging in one thing, won’t relieve the burden of another. Give yourself the courtesy of acknowledging what you’re feeling as it comes up, and then take a step back and check out the big picture (“I’m really exhausted from being so busy.” Or, “I just miss my family, a lot.”) Then, from that place, decide how you’ll react. Take a nap, cook dinner for a friend, call a loved one, or hit a yoga class; indulge in a way that’s constructive and that won’t further aggravate yourself or others. Give yourself some love, and stay well.

Coincidently, these three are also a recipe for joy. I didn’t fully understand the meaning of joy, nor did I take much interest, until I challenged myself to follow these steps to the best of my ability, everyday (about a year ago this holiday). Since then, my constant belly aches have gone away, stress has become more manageable, I get sick less, I feel better, and I eat everything I want (but usually, just a taste). Caring for yourself is foremost. Once you can sustain a healthy balance of giving unto others (i.e. work, friends & family) and giving in to comfort – there is only joy. (Although, I’ll be the first to say this is an ongoing process, it’s certainly a commitment worth making to yourself, and for others.)

Live well and be well! ‘Tis the season of comfort & joy! I’m looking forward to spending quality time with friends and family in the coming weeks and wish you all of the comfort and joy that this season brings!

————————————————————————————————————

As the weather gets cooler – and the urge to curl up on the couch gets stronger – I thought I’d share a recipe to put aside for your next night at home. Just keep a box of Annie’s handy and add other goodies as you see fit! Bon appetit…

This is a favorite variation to spruce up my favorite comfort food. I encourage you to add, subtract and modify to make it as delectable for you.

Veggie Bomb [Buffalo] Mac n’ Cheese
(Makes enough for two, or one with leftovers!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese (I love the “white shells,” but you can use any brand or variety you like. I’d recommend sticking with organic or whole wheat, if possible.)
  • Buffalo Sauce (Franks or any variety. Hot sauce works, too!)
  • Almond milk (or soy or organic dairy. I wouldn’t recommend using coconut milk here, as it’s consistency isn’t ideal for the “n’ cheese” to follow)
  • Kale and/or Spinach (or any dark leafy green in your fridge)
  • Celery, 4 stalks chopped
  • Consider adding: chopped tomato, red, green or hot peppers, onion or broccoli, as desired

Protein, optional:

  • Tofu (firm, cut into cubes), boneless chicken (thin tenders are easiest) or chicken sausage

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to box. Chop celery and put aside.
  • In a frying pan, layer the bottom with buffalo sauce (no oil necessary, but optional) and allow protein to cook in sauce. Tofu can be heated 5-10 minutes; chicken may take longer or can be pre-cooked. Add celery to frying pan and let simmer.
  • Once pasta is cooked to taste and before draining water, turn off stove and stir in leafy greens as desired. (The hot water in the pot will cook up the greens without overcooking the pasta. If you forget and drain accidentally, that’s all right – just add greens to frying pan with celery.)
  • Drain water, add milk n’ cheese, stir and let sit a minute or two for sauce to thicken.
  • Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Also – if you’re in need of any ideas for your Thanksgiving potluck, I’ll be cooking up some California Oatmeal Cookies with cranberries and dark chocolate chips 😉

Stay Well ❤

Amy

Personal Photo: Santa Monica Pier summer concert series, circa 2013

It's Your Year

Last week, I discussed yoga as a process of becoming.

This past weekend, I was exposed to exactly the sort of setting where you would expect the winds of change to come sweeping through: Off the Mat, Into the World’s 4-Day Advanced Leadership Training in Ojai, CA – of all places, my favorite place.

It was there that I felt very aware of a newness to myself, my being. Who is this girl, so lucky to be attending this workshop in this beautiful place? Who has such a strong, intuitive (asana) practice? Who speaks so confidently of her experiences in politics and global affairs, which have prepared her for this discussion in social justice yoga? Sometimes our process of becoming isn’t so pretty – and more likely than not, you won’t even know it’s happening. It’s darkness; it’s bitterness, fear, angst, and frustration. But in the inevitable moments of light that follow, you can look back on yourself and how far you’ve come, and realize gratefully that that whole time, you were just becoming.

Today I changed the name of my blog (and Facebook page) to “A Year in Yoga.” I did this because it’s never really been about “my year,” as I created it of and for all of you. I created this blog as part of a greater vision – for peace (inside and out), for justice (in the form of our own tolerance, acceptance and harmony), for empowerment (in understanding our own unique capabilities, our gifts, and finding the strength to live in that light). I have been so moved and inspired by the many women – and few men – who have reached out in response to my posts over the past three months, and shared a bit of their process with me.

It is important that the name reflects the fullness of this collective effort; to cultivate greater virtue in our lives is “A Year in Yoga.”

I was moved – or rather, moved myself – into the yoga community, in search of conversations surrounding the difficult questions: How do we stop the fighting? The destruction? The war, the hurt, the suffering? If it is innate in us to care for one another, at least when residing in close proximity, how can we work towards extending this sense of responsibility and compassion to the global community? To come from a place of love and to admit you are a work in progress is to live in yoga. No asana required. (Despite our Western spin, yoga is not the same as asana, or physical yoga postures. Simply living life truthfully, with compassion, patience and mindfulness, is living in yoga.)

We are all always in a perpetual state of change, growth and evolution, although we rarely realize. Approaching life with this awareness has its perks. Nonjudgment of yourself and others (ahimsa) is a practice which requires conscious cultivation, but ultimately takes the pressure off; allowing us to be more patient and easy on ourselves, and to have greater empathy toward others in acknowledgement of whatever war they’re fighting (or challenges they’re facing) themselves. This means acknowledging that you and I are both enduring similar, however very distinct, journeys toward becoming whomever or whatever we are intended or going to be. Here, we can relax in knowing that we can’t have all the answers.

Imagine what it would mean for families, for communities, for countries, for the environment, for your children (present or future), if everyone in the world approached life with nonjudgment and compassion toward themselves and others. You and I can’t change the world, but (a much larger, global) we can. We starts in communities, with individuals. All over the world, people are increasing their awareness and acknowledgement of the necessity for sustainability, for the preservation of our Earth, for future generations. Every yoga practitioner, protest attendee, business owner, community leader and politician who supports this cause, is a single “I.” I urge you to consider how you’re contributing to the inevitable change, growth and evolution that is becoming all around us, and in you. It doesn’t have to be here or there, right wing or left wing, working or upper class – you are individual, and your process is different from theirs or mine. But bringing a greater consciousness, or mindfulness to your daily life – to be present in acknowledging the impact of our daily choices and accepting responsibility for the effects of our actions and thoughts – is what the world desperately needs. The world needs you and me, because if not us, then who?

You’ve inspired me with your stories of success and struggle, because however personal and distinct from my own, I too feel the heaviness life sometimes brings and don’t want anyone to ever have to stand in it alone. This is empathy. This is peace, however small. And (despite the cliché), it starts with you. It really does.

I dedicate this venture forward, to you. It’s your year (in yoga, or however you choose to live it). And it’s time to start asking, “Who am I becoming?”

Be present, and you’ll know. I look forward to seeing all that flourishes.

Unconditionally here,

Amy

It’s Your Year

Last week, I discussed yoga as a process of becoming.

This past weekend, I was exposed to exactly the sort of setting where you would expect the winds of change to come sweeping through: Off the Mat, Into the World’s 4-Day Advanced Leadership Training in Ojai, CA – of all places, my favorite place.

It was there that I felt very aware of a newness to myself, my being. Who is this girl, so lucky to be attending this workshop in this beautiful place? Who has such a strong, intuitive (asana) practice? Who speaks so confidently of her experiences in politics and global affairs, which have prepared her for this discussion in social justice yoga? Sometimes our process of becoming isn’t so pretty – and more likely than not, you won’t even know it’s happening. It’s darkness; it’s bitterness, fear, angst, and frustration. But in the inevitable moments of light that follow, you can look back on yourself and how far you’ve come, and realize gratefully that that whole time, you were just becoming.

Today I changed the name of my blog (and Facebook page) to “A Year in Yoga.” I did this because it’s never really been about “my year,” as I created it of and for all of you. I created this blog as part of a greater vision – for peace (inside and out), for justice (in the form of our own tolerance, acceptance and harmony), for empowerment (in understanding our own unique capabilities, our gifts, and finding the strength to live in that light). I have been so moved and inspired by the many women – and few men – who have reached out in response to my posts over the past three months, and shared a bit of their process with me.

It is important that the name reflects the fullness of this collective effort; to cultivate greater virtue in our lives is “A Year in Yoga.”

I was moved – or rather, moved myself – into the yoga community, in search of conversations surrounding the difficult questions: How do we stop the fighting? The destruction? The war, the hurt, the suffering? If it is innate in us to care for one another, at least when residing in close proximity, how can we work towards extending this sense of responsibility and compassion to the global community? To come from a place of love and to admit you are a work in progress is to live in yoga. No asana required. (Despite our Western spin, yoga is not the same as asana, or physical yoga postures. Simply living life truthfully, with compassion, patience and mindfulness, is living in yoga.)

We are all always in a perpetual state of change, growth and evolution, although we rarely realize. Approaching life with this awareness has its perks. Nonjudgment of yourself and others (ahimsa) is a practice which requires conscious cultivation, but ultimately takes the pressure off; allowing us to be more patient and easy on ourselves, and to have greater empathy toward others in acknowledgement of whatever war they’re fighting (or challenges they’re facing) themselves. This means acknowledging that you and I are both enduring similar, however very distinct, journeys toward becoming whomever or whatever we are intended or going to be. Here, we can relax in knowing that we can’t have all the answers.

Imagine what it would mean for families, for communities, for countries, for the environment, for your children (present or future), if everyone in the world approached life with nonjudgment and compassion toward themselves and others. You and I can’t change the world, but (a much larger, global) we can. We starts in communities, with individuals. All over the world, people are increasing their awareness and acknowledgement of the necessity for sustainability, for the preservation of our Earth, for future generations. Every yoga practitioner, protest attendee, business owner, community leader and politician who supports this cause, is a single “I.” I urge you to consider how you’re contributing to the inevitable change, growth and evolution that is becoming all around us, and in you. It doesn’t have to be here or there, right wing or left wing, working or upper class – you are individual, and your process is different from theirs or mine. But bringing a greater consciousness, or mindfulness to your daily life – to be present in acknowledging the impact of our daily choices and accepting responsibility for the effects of our actions and thoughts – is what the world desperately needs. The world needs you and me, because if not us, then who?

You’ve inspired me with your stories of success and struggle, because however personal and distinct from my own, I too feel the heaviness life sometimes brings and don’t want anyone to ever have to stand in it alone. This is empathy. This is peace, however small. And (despite the cliché), it starts with you. It really does.

I dedicate this venture forward, to you. It’s your year (in yoga, or however you choose to live it). And it’s time to start asking, “Who am I becoming?”

Be present, and you’ll know. I look forward to seeing all that flourishes.

Unconditionally here,

Amy

Drop the Baggage

A common theme of my last several posts has been the importance of feeling. And this morning, at a lecture and asana class with founder of Off the Mat and Into the World, Hala Khouri, she emphasized a similar point: “Yoga is a process of becoming – by feeling the sensations in our body.” By this she means feeling in the fullest sense. Yoga is about allowing ourselves to feel the discomfort, fear, anger and anxiety in our lives, of past traumas. Yoga is about letting things come up, feeling them fully for a brief moment and then, letting them go. She followed this idea with, “Of course, if we told people that yoga is all about “exploring your grief and misery,” nobody would come!”

How many people are affected every day by past traumas? We know how past traumas affect us personally, many of us living under the rule: Never make the same mistake twice. You live, you learn. And, like anyone, you pick up (or rather, pack up) a bit of baggage on the way. These past traumas soon surface in other ways. Body aches and physical tightness (muscle tension), depression, social anxiety, binge eating, domestic violence – and school shootings. Undoubtedly, our past shapes who we are in the present. So it stands to reason, that only once we’ve come to terms with the past can we be our happiest and fullest selves, in the present.

This is how yoga is described as a “process of becoming.” It’s about fully realizing your [True] self, or the best version of you. In the science world, yoga as a healing modality is increasingly considered a viable method of somatic psychotherapy. Recently, yoga has begun planting its roots in Western science, working its way into physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, counseling, and even physician’s offices throughout the country.

What happens when we feel? How much better can we be? Hala explained, for her kids feeling means running outside to the trampoline or hitting the punching bag, instead of hitting their brother. Rather, “This is progress.” To recognize a feeling in your body, instead of reacting impulsively or burying it away. To consider the best reaction – whether or not we express that emotion, and how. And to consciously choose a healthy way to release the feeling of tension, distress or anxiety from your body, without harming yourself or others. (Pretty impressive for a six-year-old! And a great example of applying mindfulness.)

To feel something in its fullest expression, to allow yourself to let it out, is to know yourself without the baggage. Whether it’s running over a squirrel (as was Hala’s recent trauma) or the death of a loved one, a car accident or betrayal by a friend – it’s often easier, and cooler, to just put it away. But when we hang on and never allow ourselves to surrender to what we’re feeling about a given situation, it shows up in other places. Insecurities, eating disorders, cheating, anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, perhaps even ADD. How different would our world be, if we were raised to express every feeling – in a safe, deliberate, mindful way?

Yoga is one way, but this kind of yoga is done off the mat. It’s a way of thinking, non-judgmentally and with compassion, patience and mindfulness towards yourself and others. It’s a practice and a process; it helps you let go and be free, to easily become our best [kindest, warmest, loveliest & most lovable, thinnest, trimmest, funniest, happiest, etc.] selves.

Everyone has trauma, small ones and big ones, that they carry with them. What are our real reasons for holding on? What happens when we let go?

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to explore somatic psychotherapy and yoga for trauma from the best in the field. My dream (in its ever-evolving form) is to bring this knowledge to all of you. Because how different, how good could our world be? Could our community be? Could our corporate leaders and politicians be? Could you and I be, if we dropped all the baggage and lived mindfully?

Dare to dream,

Amy
—————

For more on yoga & somatic psychotherapy – an interview with clinical psychologist, Bo Forbes: Narrowing the Gap Between Insight and Change: Yoga, Psychotherapy, and the Body

Photo: Point Dume, Malibu, California