Where do we go from here?

You know, I feel I’ve been writing an awful lot but it hasn’t be here. And it’s time to connect what I’m exploring with who I am, which is what I believe this blog to be. Me, in words.

Whenever I travel, I meet people who are above me and below me on the social totem pole. I meet people who have more and less than me, who understand more or less than me, who feel more or less the same way that I do. It’s a new experience on this trip to San Antonio that I look forward to the responses of others, the interactions of others, to shed light on and make sense of the life I live. For a long time I lived ignorantly in the reality that I already knew all that I needed to know. That I was always right. That I could trust myself, and perhaps no one else. While the latter statement may still be true, the others have met their demise. I have risen out of my graduate program (as I hope many others do) realizing that I know nothing. That I am rarely “right.” That I have so much more to learn that I cannot possibly learn in one lifetime. In fact, I have come to believe that the most dangerous people on Earth are those who believe they have nothing left to learn. Those who believe that they have all the answers.

Particularly in light of the past week and “he who shall not be named” (a fond title I borrow from a past lecturer), we confront a reality that I have not yet know within my lifetime. One of explicit racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and simple injustice. And yet, I feel surrounded by hundreds, thousands, even millions of Americans who are likeminded in their beliefs, values and compassion for all others. This weekend, at a Global Religions conference in San Antonio, TX, I leave not necessarily optimistic, but hopeful. And I understand that although the state of our world is in peril, that we are in good company. I was reminded by fellow yogis that relying solely on our intellect will surely kill us (from the inside, out). Living in a linear world of “this, then this, then this,” shows us the way to self-destruction and climate debacle. While living in a world of intuition, of feeling, of compassion, even of fantasy – of heart and consciousness – allows us to live happily (not ignorantly) but positively contributing to a society we can never save, but still save ourselves. This way isn’t isolationist, in fact it’s quite the opposite; it’s all embracing.

I gladly take on those who tell me I live in a fantasy world, that “when I grow up” and shake off my rose tainted glasses, I will see how foolish I was all these years. To them, I can only say that I hope to God (whomever she may be) that this is never the case. That I believe the only contribution I can give to the world is my ability to see beyond the struggle. To offer hope, and love and compassion, even in our darkest days. And if the horrors are all true, if we are facing a decline in civility of humanity, bring it on. Because I know that, until the day I die, I will stand in my truth – which only means that I am full of love. And I will love everyone I can wrap my arms around as long as I am able. Why? Because what service is there in doing anything else? Hate, violence, skepticism, doubt, and fear are only signs there is more work to be done inside. And once we figure out our own selves, work our own shit out, through yoga – learn to love the face, the body, the being we see in our reflection in the mirror – then and only then can we move forth and see the beauty in the outside world, in Nature (most fully) and see all others as this same absence or fulfillment of love.

Start by confronting those feelings and thoughts inside that you don’t want to deal with. This is our work. Our “dharma” in Eastern tradition, our purpose. This is our work. And, it is work. It takes months, even years to face. But know that when we raise out of this hell (which may in fact be the “hell” referenced in Christian Scripture) there is only joy, praise, love and heaven on earth. Seek community in yoga, in Buddhism, in Christianity, in business partners, or whatever your community might be. Seek community and know you are not alone.

If you ask me: Are you religious? I am not. If you ask me: Are you spiritual? I am. If you ask me (as many have) under what lineage? I say: many. I see the truth in every system of beliefs. And to those I may not yet fully understand, I embrace with welcome inquiry. I want to understand. There is not a single person on Earth who does not live and die with the same aspirations for love, prosperity, family, and kinship as his/her neighbor. Only cultural ideals and misinformation divide us. Don’t confront your enemy with hate but kill them with kindness. I have no regrets living this way. And intend to continue living the same. Because, I can’t see any other way.

Love, love, love.

A

My Year in Yoga

Sometimes following your dream means going down the unpaved road. The challenge is to trust that what awaits you at the end of the road is far beyond your wildest expectations. From a fellow traveler, do trust. You won’t be disappointed.

Those who know me well are well aware that the past year has been a little bit – or, a lot a bit – out of the ordinary. Moving to California was one thing, but forfeiting my career in government affairs, vowing to take up Yoga Studies, and accepting a graduate assistantship in religion and ecology – I think it’s safe to say I may have lost a few people along the way. But that’s okay, because my new venture is all about awareness. My love affair with yoga has thus far centered around my own growth and discernment, facing the harsh realities of post-college life and working them out on my mat. Through my five years of regular asana practice (or the physical practice of sequenced yoga postures as we all know them) I’ve found more self-confidence, focus and ambition than I ever imagined possible. In short, I believe my regular yoga practice has put me on the fast-track to becoming the best version of myself, and with this comes an overwhelming sense of contentment, and happiness. Goodbye fears, insecurities, and anxiety! Hello fabulous and all authentic me! It takes consistency, but pays off 100 fold. I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I’m pursuing my dreams in a way I never could have imagined: by obtaining a Masters of Arts in Yoga Studies degree from Loyola Marymount University (LMU).

Now I want to give a disclaimer, because I realize in my very introduction I’ve painted myself as an over-enthusiastic (perhaps unstable), yoga obsessed 25-year old – nothing too original about that. But what is unique is that my journey in Yoga Studies has begun, and will continue, in unadulterated openness. I was drawn to the M.A. of Yoga Studies program and to LMU for their explicit over-arching mission for universal acceptance. If you don’t already know, LMU is a very catholic university. But the mission of this program is to explore commonalities of diverse religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity – to uncover the historical emergence, and contemporary significance of yoga. I don’t think there’s one way to find happiness, contentment, and a trim physique in this life. There are many. And people are unique, and deserve infinite opportunities to explore themselves and their interests to find their own path to obtaining these things. I do believe, however, that yoga is a powerful tool in this pursuit; the actual benefits of which have yet to be thoroughly researched and documented under the scrutiny of Western culture. While mainstream society begins to embrace the proven health benefits of yoga in hospitals and doctor’s offices throughout the country (woop, woop!), there is still more. I believe yoga has extensive socio-economic benefits through which yoga can fundamentally empower and transform individuals to do better for themselves and their families, despite perceived limitations of background or circumstance. This means: raising families above the poverty line, rehabilitating troubled or imprisoned youth, eliminating social side effects of mental illness, inspiring decision-makers to better serve the public and our environment, increasing the number of minorities in public office, and the list goes on…At a time when our country and our world are imploding with violence and chaos, and our leaders have proven ineffective to assuage the storm, I believe this awareness holds the key to restoring individual contentment and promoting universal acceptance in the U.S. and across the globe.

So, here I am, a part French-Canadian/part English/all-American Westerner devoting my life to Yoga Studies to explore just that. I want to give you the proof you’re looking for, that yoga is valuable to you and the people you love, beyond a 60-minute destress session and the potentiality for six-pack abs (although these aren’t bad side effects either). Armed with a B.A. in Public Advocacy, several years of government affairs work in the public and private sector, a published manuscript on the socio-economics of gender disparity, and a new endeavor as Assistant Editor for an academic journal in global religions and social ecology, I won’t let you down. (And I hope you’ll check back for small bits of enlightenment I discover along the way.) Challenge accepted.

I look forward to sharing and always appreciate your thoughts and reflections.

Keep on flowing xx

Amy