This My Shit

My yoga teacher shared her experience attending a new (to her) class.  The unfamiliar instructor opened by sharing a vulnerability – then labeled it her “s.h.i.t.”  Throughout the session she invited everyone to observe if their practice was bringing up their own “bleep.”

My teacher was struck by her resistance to this perspective.  Why label a vulnerability as our bleep?  Certainly we have “sticky spots” – limitations.  Being vulnerable isn’t necessarily bad – isn’t bleep.  It just is.  We were encouraged throughout class to simply be with our vulnerability – see it; rest with it on the mat.  Let it be; hold it – allow it to teach us.

All the stories we tell about ourselves are what Pema Chodron calls a “fixed identity” in her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.  We hold onto this identity as a safety net.  It allows us to accept how uncomfortable it is not knowing what’s around the corner in our lives.  We cling to what we know “for sure” – even when we don’t know jack.  Pema says this identity is:

“— a fixed view we have of ourselves as good or bad, worthy or unworthy, this or that.  With a fixed identity, we have to busy ourselves with tying to rearrange reality, because reality doesn’t always conform to our view.” 

We label ourselves – meeting the world armed with stories and identities.  Pema says:

“In Buddhism we call the notion of a fixed identity ‘ego clinging.’  It’s how we try to put solid ground under our feet in an ever-shifting world.  Meditation practice starts to erode that fixed identity.”

Meditation – sitting with my vulnerability on the yoga mat; allowing this discomfort; physical, mental, emotional, be my teacher.

“The purpose of the spiritual path is to unmask, to take off our armor.  When that happens, it feels like a crisis because it is a crisis—a fixed identity crisis.  The Buddha taught that the fixed identity is the cause of our suffering.”

Being in crisis is unsettling.  No wonder we cling to who we think we are – repeating those stories, cementing old habits.  Pema said that according to the brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor:  “the physiological mechanism behind emotion … lasts about ninety seconds from the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course.”  If we let it run longer it’s because we choose to keep up the dialog.  To stop that chatter Pema suggests we:

     “Acknowledge the feeling, give it your full, compassionate, even welcoming attention, and even if it’s only for a few seconds, drop the story line about the feeling.  This allows you to have a direct experience of it, free of interpretation.  Don’t fuel it with concepts or opinions about whether it’s good or bad.  Just be present with the sensation.  Where is it located in your body?  Does it remain the same for very long?  Does it shift and change?”

Pema and my yoga teacher tell me to let these feelings be guides; my “gateway to liberation.”  Easier said than done.  But when I try . . . I do feel better.


“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.  The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.  The artist never entirely knows.  We guess.  We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.” – Agnes de Mille


Accept . . . Then Act

Meditation & Yoga practice started today with our teacher sharing her lessons on “having to be right” that sometimes shows up as the “need to be understood.”  Both can interfere with the acceptance of what is.  This set the stage for our intention to live in the moment – breathing and doing yoga.

Letting go . . . accepting what is; not my strong suit.

Thirty years ago I started applying techniques not exactly consistent with acceptance.  The philosophies behind these techniques, they’re everywhere.

  • If you want to accomplish something – write it down. Yes; put those goals on paper.  Being a Psych and Self Help aficionado – this advice is ubiquitous.
  • Visualize the result – it will materialize.  Every New Age enthusiast and reader of The Secret knows this!
  • The power of positive thinking – thank you Norman Vincent Peale.
  • Think it – say it – do it . . .  or as my bestie says:  thought – word – deed

The power of these concepts rests in the strength of our belief.  Some of it is just how our brain works.  Negative people see crappy shit.  Positive people see the good around them.  Our brains focus on what we look for, filtering out everything else.  Takes a nice knock on the head to thump us out of our rut.

After thirty years of writing down my “wants” – creating vision boards, scrap books, life goal lists – how do I turn that off?  Should I?  What is real and when do I follow my bliss?  Can I know when I’ve crossed the line to “magical thinking?”

I’m not opposed to holding contradictory beliefs – we all do to some extent.  A juicy paradox can be so appealing.  It can also make me crazy.

Letting go . . . of things, people and situations.  Not easy, but possibly a key to happiness.  Marie Kondo, in her “Tidying Up” book says I should release anything that doesn’t bring me joy.  Let me live without a bunch of “stuff” that I don’t even use; let toxic people exit my universe; leave a bad … whatever; could mean peace – and yes, joy!

So why do we hold onto every damn thing?  According to Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, we all have a serious aversion to loss.  We “attach values to gains and losses rather than to wealth.”   We’ve grown up with the proverb “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” – so we see the risk as too much.

Well, Thoreau did say that  “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Could be they’d rather live with the devil they know.  Ouch.  Let me give risk a try.



“Accept – then act.  Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.  Always work with it, not against it.  Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy.  This will miraculously transform your whole life.” ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now


Carry On

From Paulo Coelho – Warrior of the Light  (p103)

“Jesus said: “Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay.”  When the Warrior takes on a commitment, he keeps his word. 

Those who make promises they do not keep lose their self-respect and feel ashamed of their actions.  These people spend their lives in constant flight; they expend far more energy on coming up with a series of excuses to take back what they said than the Warrior of the Light does in honoring his commitments.

Sometimes he too takes on a foolish commitment which will in some way harm him.  He does not repeat this mistake, but he nevertheless keeps his word and pays the price for his own impulsiveness.”

I said I’d do it; so now I carry on.

When there’s no physical danger, no emotional threat; and the pledge remains intact . . . this is my best choice.  How many times do we “take on a foolish commitment” – only to regret it moments, a week, a month – years later?  I grew up in a throw-away society . . . where commitments seem easy to discard.  The damage this does to our psyche may be more than we realize.  Maybe repeating mistakes is connected somehow to our honor and our commitments.

“No” – a perfectly acceptable; sometimes preferable response.

“The river adapts itself to whatever route proves possible…” ― Paulo Coelho


Let’s Get Radical

Speaking up, dissenting; taking a stand – not my ambition as a youngster.  My objective then, like many girls of my generation was to be liked, to fit in; be popular.  Regrettably for that youthful goal, my edges were a bit too frayed and my opinions decidedly peculiar – finding me channeling the rebel; mouthy and belligerent.

Still, this eccentric girl learned the fine art of camouflage; it took me far and served me well – until it didn’t.  My edges, they’re still ragged; those opinions – quirkier.  The desire to fit in?  Living (dang it!), but mercifully gasping for air.

The need to placate is fading.  Biting my tongue so I don’t “offend” gets harder every day.  My habits may be entrenched; my brain may fight to keep it that way, but the balance of my dueling needs are shifting.  Gloria Steinem once said “Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.” I’m banking on it.

My feminist inclinations clashed with the world I was born to.  I chafed at the roles available to me; finding them limited and restricting.  But to fit in – I shoved my square self into those round holes; carving off bits and pieces of myself.  Still, my 24 YO self was compelled to whack a guy over the head with a menu when he challenged my opinion that the Equal Rights Amendment should have passed.  His argument?  I couldn’t quote the damn thing.

Lesson learned.  Now, when professing to believe something, I’m well informed on that professed belief.  And I get it; women are held to different standards.  So …

Equal Rights Amendment:  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” – Wikipedia

How hard is it to agree with this?  Apparently pretty hard. The ERA died in 1982 – three states short of ratification.

So mouth – get flappin’ … speak up; Resist.  Being liked .. Hmpf; it’s not always what it’s’ cracked up to be.


“…her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.” ― Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex


Rewards for Perseverance

The last time I read The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel, mom was diagnosed with brain cancer – then two months later a workplace reorganization relieved me of my management responsibilities.  First my heart was broken, then my ego crushed.  A definite low point.

The strength of character Ayla reveals in the Earth’s Children series inspires me.  When I read about her struggles, her flaws, her strength; my convictions are reinforced.  Don’t know how many times I’ve read these books, but I’m drawn in and captivated every time.  Amazing how a fictional character can do that.

Reflections on destiny and free will – on perseverance, grit and its reward fascinate me.  I look for signs, internal and external, indicating I’m on the right path.  Prayer and meditation remind me of my values and motivate me to carry on.

The loss of my mother was devastating; she was a remarkable woman.  Today I’m grateful for the time we did have.  Without her in my life things would’ve been very different.  Loss of my Boss title brought new insights – took me to places I didn’t expect.  The ego can be a brutal taskmaster – learning that humility doesn’t mean humiliation is a tricky thing.  Getting to the other side of pain brings strength.

A melancholy infected me recently.  Not the familiar personal struggle to overcome in private – but a more existential communal misery.  I’m reaching for familiar tools – strong friendships, long talks; helping others, caring for animals; exercise and involvement.

Having a surprisingly hard time with meditation and prayer – guess I’m feeling betrayed by faith.  Once again I picked up Jean Auel’s books, and again I’m encouraged.  Knowing the future is impossible – trusting its outcome is exhausting without faith.  So I’ll plug along – reminded that belief sometimes follows action – so I “Act as if.”


“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” – Viktor E. Frankl