Doing Your Work.

“How we feel about ourselves, whether we respect ourselves, determines the quality of our life – our capacity to succeed in relationships, healing, intuitive skills and business. Self-understanding and acceptance, the bond we form with ourselves, is in many ways the most crucial spiritual challenge we face. In truth, if we do not like ourselves, we will be incapable of making healthy decisions. Instead, we will direct all of our personal power for decision-making into the hands of someone else: someone whom we want to impress, or someone before whom we think we must weaken ourselves to gain physical security.” ~ Caroline Myss (thanks to Vivette Jeffries-Logan for sharing this on Facebook today and inspiring this theme).

In my classes this week: Wednesday 7/29 and Saturday 8/1.

“It is better to die doing your svadharma [life’s work] imperfectly, than to live forever doing someone else’s perfectly.” –The Bhagavad Gita

It sounds intense, right: must you die in the process of doing your work? But think about the bigger picture behind the message: your invitation in this life is to be your best self, to create the fullest expression of your pose on the mat—and the fullest expression of your life in the world. This also means letting others do the same for themselves as well.

The message is ultimately freeing. It frees you from the confines of other people’s definitions of success, of other people’s expectations of how you should live your life. It also frees you from spending your time and energy attempting to “help” others in the ways you think they need.

While you might not consciously be living your life by someone else’s rules, you may ask yourself if you are consciously living by your own. Whose dreams are you working to create? Whose healing are you trying to facilitate? Whose freedom are you working towards? In whom are you investing the potent energy of your life? If you are not at the center of your work, then who is?

Finding and pursuing your svadharma—your unique life’s work, that path which the Universe created you to traverse—is the most liberating practice there is.  It is listening to the song of your heart—composed by the Universe and infused into you—and letting that song inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

This is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and the world: to know yourself deeply and honor yourself fully enough to embody your heart’s song, which is the will of the Universe. By honoring your deepest desires you are contributing to more freedom, fullness, and beauty in the world.

You are, after all, the only one who can do it—the only one who can offer the fullest expression of your heart’s desire to the world. And when you honor yourself by following your path and not someone else’s, you give the rest of the world the space and freedom to do so as well.

From http://tressafanoe.com

The Gift of Letting Go

In my class tonight Wednesday 7/22
Reminder: This Saturday at Align and Shine, we’ll finish The Gifts of Imperfect with Guidepost #10.

I sit here today a blank slate. Our series on Wholehearted Living has ended, and now I must practice radical listening again. I must tune in to the song of my heart, to discern what to teach on tonight.

As is often the case, there are many things that I am sitting with these days. Rounding the bend on my last month of summer, I am sitting with some anxiety about gearing up again for another wild ride. Those days are so full and full of demands. And so exhausting.

I am also sitting with some very personal things around grief and letting go. As you might know, I have recently gotten engaged to my sweetheart, and we are very excitedly preparing to move in together and start this next chapter of our journey. While this stage of the journey holds so much joy, gratitude and celebration, there is also a lot of grief. There is a sadness to saying goodbye to my old life and my old self. There is a definite desire to cling to some aspects of who I am now, of who I used to be, in order to preserve some sense of continuity and autonomy. It is a bittersweet reality. Not just Objectively Good or Objectively Sad. It is all of this. And more.

Of course, I am still here. I haven’t gone anywhere. The beauty of this love is that I do get to be wholly and fully myself while also being someone more in this relationship.

But there is a gift in letting go. There is an opening that comes with allowing myself to be completely transformed by this new stage. There is an undeniable power in saying a wholehearted, complete “yes” to what is to come. I am finding that it is not really about saying goodbye to my old self, as if I am going away never to return. It is more about saying goodbye to my illusions of myself, and my attachments to things as they were. I am having to embrace in a very real way this idea that I must let go of who I am in order to become who I’m meant to be.

I am doing this all the time. We are doing this all the time. Or at least, we are offered the possibility to do so. There are tiny deaths and rebirths happening all the time. We are constantly being given opportunities to let go and let Grace guide us into some newer, fuller, more expansive, more authentic version of ourselves.

It can be terrifying. And beautiful. It can be lonely. And liberating. It is all of this. And more.

Join me tonight as we sit with the all that can come when we gracefully accept the gift of letting go.

Join me tonight as we sit with the all that can come when we gracefully accept the gift of letting go.

Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance – Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

“Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone.” – Brene Brown, TGOI

In my classes this week: Wednesday 7/15 and next week Saturday 7/25.
(I have a sub this Saturday, the indescribably amazing Mira Shani. Please join her for class!  She’ll be doing her own thing, theme-wise, and we’ll wrap up with Guidepost #10 of Wholehearted Living on Saturday 7/25).

mind heals

Darlings, I cannot believe we have rounded home on our exploration of Wholehearted Living.  When we started, Spring had barely sprung…and now we are deeply in the midst of Summer in all its glory.

In this final guidepost, Brene ends on a lighthearted note, which I think is appropriate.  After the heavy-hitting reminders about authenticity, meaningful work, rest and play, intuition and faith…we have this chapter on laughter, song, and dance to remind us that, in the end, these are the most visceral, universal, and primordial forms of connection and healing.

It seems oddly strange to sit down and try to write a reflection whose goal is to encourage you to value laughter, song, and dance.  Is that really necessary? Do I really need to wax poetic about the healing and deeply spiritual powers of these practices? Sad, but true, I think it *is* necessary – it was important enough in Brene’s work on shame resilience for her to devote a whole chapter to it.  And, like many (most? all?) of these Guideposts, it focuses on the simple but profound powers of everyday acts infused with intention.

When was the last time you cut loose on the dance floor or in the kitchen? Burst into song while showering, gardening, or commuting? Given yourself over to a good, solid belly laugh? If you can’t remember, that is a problem.  In fact, if you haven’t done any of these in the very recent past, I would argue you’re at critical mass.  In much the same way that meditation is this eminently available practice that we can literally do anywhere at anytime with no special equipment required, laughter, song and dance offer us this same level of accessibility.  But we get so busy, so obsessed with “being cool” and “in control” (or trying our damnedest to appear as such) that we don’t take the time.  At least, I’ll speak for myself.  I am definitely feeling a deficiency in these right now.

I’m not quite sure yet how we’ll incorporate laughter, song, and dance into class, but I know that I’m feeling inspired to shake some things up.  Especially after reading this week’s VirgoMagic, which illuminates the cosmic forces which are inviting me to double-down on my efforts to cultivate nurturing and nourishing practices. Will you join me in exploring how to promote healing, vitality and connection through these fundamental of human expressions?

ALSO You can get your laughter, song and dance on for a VERY IMPORTANT cause this Friday, at the Party Illegal Benefit for Spirithouse.  Spirithouse‘s work has been crucial to helping challenge the culture of violence in Durham, and is the group responsible for the Citywide book studies which have helped Durham residents engage in meaningful conversation about mass incarceration, gentrification, and more.  Go build some community, support important local work, and get your booty-shake on!

Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”

Early in this research, it was clear to me that living a Wholehearted life included engaging in what many people called meaningful work. Others spoke of having a calling. And some simply described feeling a tremendous sense of accomplishment and purpose from their work. —The Gifts of Imperfection

In my classes this week: Wednesday 7/8 and Saturday 7/11.

live up to the spiritAs we move through these guideposts, I feel like each one hits heavier than the one before. In recent weeks we’ve looked at creativity, play and rest, and calm and stillness – each one has contributed significantly to the overall message of this book: the rat race is killing us! It is preventing us from living full lives, from opening our hearts and connecting, from having fun and doing what we love. It is taking years off our lives! This has gotta stop.

As we saw in the chapter on cultivating authenticity (way back in early May),

Everyone has a potential, a svadharma–one’s unique life’s work. My Ayurvedic mentor once told me that in order to be truly happy, each person must realize that potential. Our authentic selves do not go away just because we choose not to express them; there will be costs to leading an inauthentic life.

And, just in time for the realization of the toll that inauthentic living can take, we arrive to the chapter on meaningful work. What is meaningful work? It is something I’ve been thinking incessantly about these past few…well, forever. I have always and eternally been absorbed with the question of meaningful work. What do I do with my life? How do I put my unique set of skills and gifts to service? How do I cultivate work that is life-giving and truly sustainable? How do I live into my values…and keep living…in this socio-cultural-political-economic context?

Brené points out the many important lessons she learned about meaningful work in the course of her research, one which echoes the lessons from authenticity. One I’d like to highlight is the following:

Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivating meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.

No conversation on this topic would be complete without acknowledging the context in which it is happening: monopoly capitalism, a paradigm characterized by real and perceived scarcity, a global race to the bottom for employment, wages and working conditions, and heightening environmental degradation, among many other horrors. Further, here in North Carolina we are in a “right to work” state which has become one of the most regressive in terms of nearly every social/political indicator. There are lots of reasons to clamp down and take as few risks as possible…lots of reasons to choose the practical and pragmatic when it comes to work.

And, furthermore, the luxury of choosing our work (or even choosing to work) is not one that is available to everyone. Even the choice to engage in discernment – to ask the questions about meaningful work and engage in existential exploration – is an absolute privilege. I know this is true. I also know that privilege is not something we can give away; we can use it for good, for transformation, for liberation and justice and equity…or not. But we cannot give it away. Those of us who are in a position to sit with the question of meaningful work and act on the wisdom that emerges…I believe we have to do so. And I believe that doing so makes the way safe for others to do the same. And moves us towards a world of justice and liberation.

A life of purpose is a life of service. And a life of service is a life of purpose.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”   -Theologian Howard Thurman

See you on the mat.

Tomorrow: Celebrate True Freedom!

TrueFreedomLoves,

Join me and Mira Shani (of Durham Yoga and 108 Asanas Yoga Flashcards Fame) for a special, all-levels workshop to help you CELEBRATE TRUE FREEDOM…the freedom that comes from knowing and being devoted to yourself…to singing the song of your heart with your whole being…to cultivating authentic connection with yourself and others.

Join us! We LOVE it when you pre-register – it makes everything easier.  Just a few clicks and you’re good to go!

Note: I will not be teaching my normal 10:30-12 class – this is the ONLY class we’re offering at Durham Yoga tomorrow.  As this is an all-levels class, we encourage you to bring your friends and family to join in!

PS. Remember to pre-register.  Once you do, upon arrival just check in personally with the reception staff and you’re good to go!