The Skin You’re In

The relationship I developed with my body as a young girl was confusing and tumultuous at best; appalling and shameful at worst. It all started out well enough. I didn’t even consider gender or body image or definitions of ‘good or bad’ when it came to my own form until I was about eight years old, and then one day, I looked down at my bare thighs spread wide against the seat of the car and gasped at how…big they looked. I vowed never to allow my thighs to rest against the seat like that again; instead, I would delicately sit with my thighs elevated above the seat just enough so the flesh could hang off my bones, and maintain the slim appearance that I considered acceptable. I have no idea why I considered slim to be more acceptable. Maybe I had fallen victim to the media that surrounded me; maybe I had overheard negative remarks at school; maybe it’s because I didn’t want to take up so much space….who knows how it started. It just did.

This skin I’m living in has been through a lot, and it’s likely that the skin you’re living in has been through a lot, too.

It has likely been stretched, pulled, belittled, reprimanded, ridiculed, covered, shamed, ashamed, disregarded, used, abused…sometimes perhaps by others, sometimes perhaps by you.

And yet…it survives, thrives, rejoices, celebrates, dances, moves, holds, beholds, and most importantly, loves.

And I don’t know why we, as a society don’t talk about the beautiful parts of ourselves, as if it is shameful to even admit that you’re okay with how you look and okay with who you are, but I hope that the conversation might change—that we might not only talk about being okay with who we are as individuals, but to celebrate acceptance, innate beauty and the unique differences that make you, you.

Even as I write, I find a bit of hesitation to admit it—but I can finally say that I love the skin I’m in.

I love the bumps, lumps, lines and wrinkles.
I love the parts that change and the parts that stay the same.
I love that my hands look like my Grandmother’s and my nose looks like my Dad’s.
I love that there is an old photo of my Mother that could be me.
I love that there is herstory and history in my bones; and that I carry the stardust of my ancestors beneath my skin.

I love that I can finally look in the mirror and smile instead of scowl at what I see.

This love did not come through external influences;
There have been no dramatic changes to the shape of my body;
or outside sources declaring my worth and beauty;
I didn’t suddenly get prettier or thinner or stronger….
No, this love did not come through outside influences;

This love came from within.

It came because I was tired of wasting energy on not liking the skin I’m in.

It came through quiet moments of early meditation; sitting in the dark; squaring off with my demons; and discovering that inner truth and peace were never lost; they’ve been here all along, just waiting to be seen.

It came through hours upon hours of focused movement: updog, downdog, forward bend, repeat….movement that would peel away the layers of armor that held me from myself. This movement—sometimes slow and sweet, and sometimes difficult and strong—shook it off, bit by bit, breath by breath. It made me soft enough to feel and strong enough to grow.

It came through constant introspection; policing my own mind; noticing the cruel words; the loud voice; the demeaning demands; sorting out the truth from lies; questioning their validation, and ultimately finding the discipline to drop the things that kept me small and weak…

It came through looking in the mirror, and instead of focusing on my flaws; I declared my own beauty to myself, even when it felt awkward, strange and uncomfortable. I said it anyway; I spoke kind words until it felt real; until it felt true; until it became real and became true.

It came through miles and miles of running that helped to flush out stuck emotions; to process; to breathe deep enough to pull it from the darkest depths, and free it out to dissolve with the heat of my breath as it mingled with the crisp morning air.

It came through writing—sloppy, incoherent, rambling—a dumping ground of words and ideas that had to be released; cleaning out the wounds so they could heal.

It came through cleansing tears.
It came through clearing the air.
It came through forgiveness.
It came through trust.
It came through faith.
It came through each and every moment of my life that begged me to stop resisting and start loving.

It came.

And just because I’ve made peace with myself, doesn’t mean I can stop working at it; the work for acceptance is ongoing—up and down, in and out, with constant reminders and practice, practice, practice.

But the return for my dedication toward acceptance is that I can love and celebrate my body for the beautiful instrument that it is.

I live free.
I share.
I give.
I create.
I love.

Finally, finally,

I am no longer weighed down.
I am no longer ashamed;
I’m not ashamed of my body, and I’m not ashamed to love it, either.
I am no longer holding my thighs above the seat so that my flesh can hang from my bones to maintain a slim appearance.

Finally, finally,

I am in love with the skin I’m in.

And my hope is that you will be, too. That you’ll start with wherever you are by accepting this moment with all of its flaws and all of its imperfections and unknown mysteries and realize that all of that is perfect, too.

That you are perfect.

And that realizing the truth about yourself isn’t about searching somewhere else. It’s about releasing the barriers that hold you back from recognizing your own beautiful image in the mirror.

I hope you’ll fall in love with the skin you’re in;

as it is, right now.

Because, it’s time.

Finally, finally.

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You Are Everything

One of the most unexpected benefits of being a yoga teacher is that, over the past ten years of observing my students—observing their movement as they expand, contract, close, open, stretch and strengthen—I have fallen completely in love with the human body. And not just the physical form, but everything it contains—the beauty within—the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects as they are reflected in physical form.

It doesn’t matter how it moves or how it doesn’t move; it doesn’t matter if it is young or old; graceful or awkward; strong or weak; tight or open. It doesn’t matter what it can or cannot do, or how it compares to societal standards.

It is all perfection to me.

Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to backpack into a secluded high mountain lake and have nothing else to do for an entire afternoon, except stare at that lake.

It was absolutely mesmerizing.

As I watched, the reflection danced between perfect clarity and distorted images; the water rippled and stilled; ebbed and flowed; and the colors in the sky mingled with shadows and light that displayed an exquisite array of colors—light and dark; dull and vibrant—every color you can imagine. It was like watching a light show on the water. It never stayed the same for more than a breath.

It reminded me of the human body.

Your body, and everything within it, is mesmerizing. Sometimes it reflects back perfect clarity and understanding; sometimes it distorts the reflection. It is movement and stillness, and sometimes both at the same time. Your body passes through moments of light and dark; dull or vibrant—every color you can imagine.

You are absolutely mesmerizing.

Have you ever stared in awe at a newborn baby? The delicate features; the light on their skin; the clarity in their eyes? Would you dare to look at yourself the same way, even if only for a moment?

Could you allow yourself to slip away from the barriers of your mind and the rigid ideas contained there so you can have a love affair with yourself?

To feel your skin, young or old, smooth or rough, and adore it either way?

To appreciate the features of your face—the way they’ve been passed on to you like sacred treasure, holding the history of your family and the generations before you?

To look into your own eyes and see what’s there—the love, the hurt, the pain, the strength, and the deep, deep knowing that you are so much more than what you see?

Could you slip away with yourself, if only for one solitary afternoon, or one deep breath?

Would you give yourself the gift of you?

I hope you’ll see what I see when I look at you.
I hope you’ll see that you are magic; that your body is perfect, in spite of perceived imperfections.
I hope you’ll see that your ‘flaws’ are not flaws at all; that they are what make you unique and special.
I hope you’ll see that you are always and forever changing; that this moment now is already gone.

One brief moment of love for yourself will heal you in ways you could never imagine.
One brief moment of love for yourself will show you the truth;
…that you are more than what you see.

That you are beauty.
Grace.
Light.
Courage.
Strength.
Hope.
Faith.
and
Love.
You are so. much. more. than what you see.

You are everything.

MountainLake

You’re Right Where You Need To Be

There will be moments in your life when you feel stuck.
Moments when you feel left out; lost; alone; forgotten.
Moments when there are no ideas, no direction, and no pathways.

There will be moments when you can’t stand the skin you’re in.
Your life may spread before you like a giant, starless sky…vast, dark and empty.
You will want to expand; explode, or implode…anything other than this.

These moments may frighten you.

They might make you question everything you know.
Burn it up. Tear it down. Start all over. Run away.
Maybe you should. Maybe you shouldn’t.
My challenge for you, when you encounters these moments, is to stay.

Just stay.

Sit in the dark for a while.
Maybe even accept it.
Maybe even find relief in the unknowing.
Breathe it in; breathe it out.

Because even though you might not see it yet, something is happening.
Birth is happening. Life is happening. Death is happening.
You’re like a whole galaxy of stars that glimmer and fade and glimmer again.

We sink into the dark so we can experience the exquisite return of light.
Your job is to allow the experience of it; whatever it may be.

And listen.

Listen carefully to the quiet unknown.
Listen to the dark.
Listen to the silence.
Listen to the feeling of being lost.

If you’re listening, you won’t miss a thing.
You’ll catch the next spark just as its being born.
The light will burst out from within.
And you’ll be graced with a new path; a brilliant idea; a fresh perspective.

And you’ll realize that you were never lost.
You are always right where you need to be…
Right here.
Right now.

RightWhereYouNeedToBe

How to Balance Work and Life and Everything In Between

A few years ago, I found myself without a sitter for my two sons, who were about five and seven at the time. I was scheduled to teach my Yoga class at Utah State University, and I figured I could set them up with a movie in the back of the gym while I taught.

About 35 minutes into a 50 minute class, they began to get a little restless and started to wander around a bit. They didn’t leave the room and they remained silent, so I figured all was well.

A few minutes later, the fire alarm went off.

I immediately scanned the periphery of the space and found my two kiddos, standing stone cold and beet red next to the little red box on the wall. One of my students rushed to the main office to inform them of the false alarm, but it was too late; if there is an alarm, the fire department is required to respond. The building we occupied was huge. Numerous gyms, two swimming pools, locker rooms, offices, classrooms…everyone had to be evacuated, fully dressed or not.

In the end, everything was fine and my boys learned what that little red box was all about.

I learned that sometimes the work-life balance can be….messy.

Messy, but do-able.

It doesn’t matter if you work from home, away from home, or if your primary work is being a stay-home parent. It takes balance to make it all work, and balance is never at a still point. Balance is about shifting, moving and compromising; it’s about the give and take; the picking up and letting go. It’s about knowing how to care for your work and care for others; but also care for yourself.

Here are a few ideas that might help make it easier to juggle it all:

Trust. This is a big one. You’ve got to cultivate the trust that, as a family, you’ll be there for each other. You’ll hold each other up and fill in where there’s a need. Trust that life will support you and things will work out every.single.time. …even if it’s not exactly the way you had imagined or hoped it would. Trust that the work will get done, the house will get clean, your children will be loved, and at the end of the day, you will rest and be ready for another one.

Be Present. In order to maintain some small amount of order in the chaos, practice being present. Whoever or whatever is in front of you deserves your undivided attention; and your attention might bounce from one thing to the next as rapid as a ping pong ball, but each moment deserves your unbroken focus and awareness. If your mind is scattered between twenty things at once, you might end up feeling fragmented and broken, and whatever or whoever is on the receiving end of sparsely scattered attention will only be partially fulfilled. Give all of you to whatever is in front of you, even if it’s only for three seconds, and both you and the receiver will be felt, heard, seen and appreciated.

Fill up. Another key element to juggling the work-life balance is to fill your own cup. That means you must do whatever you need to do for yourself to feel replenished. The moment you feel drained or depleted, that’s your sign that it’s time to refill. For some, that might mean taking the entire weekend away from it all; for others it might mean taking a few minutes to be alone or going out for an evening with friends. Figure out what it is for you, and do that thing. It’s not selfish, it’s essential.

Forgive. Do I practice all of these tips, all the time? No. That’s why one of the most important things to remember as you juggle work and life and everything in between is forgiveness. Forgive yourself daily, because you won’t always get it right, and you can’t expect anyone else too, either. Forgive yourself and forgive others, because ultimately, we’re all in this together, and you’re doing the very best you can.

Add joy and pleasure. Add joy and pleasure to your life like it’s your job. Seriously, it is as important (if not more) than anything else you do. This one is hard, because there’s this idea floating around that pleasure and joy only come after the work gets done. If that rings true for you, untangle yourself from that belief system. You don’t have to go crazy or do anything elaborate; just do one tiny little thing each day that brings you pleasure—don’t wait until you feel like you’ve ‘deserved’ it, because guess what? You’re alive, and you got up this morning, so you already deserve it. Go do something wonderful for yourself. Right now is  a perfect time for that.

At the end of the day, balancing life can be messy, but it’s also a fun and crazy ride full of twists and turns, ups and downs, growth, surprises, and moments of pure magic. The never-ending mystery of it all is worth every second. Enjoy the ride.

…and for a quick glimpse of my magical, messy life as I prepare to teach my yoga classes, take a look at my latest Instagram post. You can check it out right here.

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Photo: Unbrelievable

How to Meditate Without Driving Yourself Crazy

There is no doubt that a regular meditation practice can change your life. It teaches you to tune in and understand yourself in ways you never thought possible. It strengthens your inner resolve to become a conscious observer of whatever comes up—both internally and externally—and opens up an unlimited source of inner space and peace.

It seems simple enough—just sit and breathe—but there’s this unruly, free-spirited influence called the mind—and it loves attention. When we try to ignore it, it just seems to get louder. Sometimes it helps to have a bit of direction, so here are a few tips to help make it more do-able:

  • You can practice anywhere, anytime, for any duration. And you don’t have to sit still. The important thing is that you’re comfortable, so if sitting in a pretzel position on the floor isn’t your thing, try a different position. And if sitting still makes you feel crazy, try a moving meditation instead. There are no rules, so be creative in your approach.
  • It’s important to recognize who’s in charge. I know it might feel like your thoughts are running the show, but truly, it’s the other way around—you have the power to control your thoughts—and meditation is a great way to get them organized and under control. Take a moment to observe your thoughts; if you’re observing them, then you can see that they are separate from ‘you’ as an observer. When you recognize the distinction, you can determine which thoughts you choose to keep and which ones you want to release. Furthermore, when you separate yourself from your thoughts, you’ll see that you can meditate on the essence of you that contains your thoughts, rather than be swept away by them. You can still meditate while there is some thought activity still going on—you’re just not getting wrapped up in whatever story is playing out.
  • Your mind loves to be busy, so give it something to do. Select a mantra (a word, phrase, or sound repeated to aid in concentration), or you can simply count from 1-10 over and over again. Using the counting method, the idea is to start back at one again when you notice that your thoughts have started to drift. (When I first started to practice meditation, I never made it past four). You’ll notice that in the beginning it’s hard to get the mind to stick to one thing—it’s sort of a free spirit—but meditation is about disciplining the mind so that you can use it as a tool, rather than the other way around. It’s just like anything else; it takes time and practice to develop strength and discipline—so keep trying.
  • It might help to think of your thoughts as creative little sparks of imagination, (sort of like little kids). Without direction, they dance and bounce all over the place, but once they gain a bit of focus, the possibilities are endless. So be kind and patient as you work with your thoughts. Politely ask them to settle down; give them some direction, and keep working on it. You may have to redirect your focus 30 times in two minutes—that’s okay! That’s why it’s called a practice, and it does get easier.
  • Another thing to keep in mind as you start a meditation practice is that you don’t have to try to figure anything out, or try to seek peace, because inner peace and wisdom is your natural state. All meditation does is help you slip into that natural state, which is sort of hiding beneath the static noise of the mind. As you practice, you’ll open up more and more space and you’ll realize that the peace you crave has truly, always been there.
  • One of my favorite methods is to just let it be. Rather than allow your mind to take center stage, simply allow it to remain, but turn the volume of it WAY down, so that it’s like a soft murmuring of noise far off in the distance somewhere. Then place your direct focus on your breath, your body, a mantra, or whatever you choose as an anchor point.
  • And, if in spite of all your efforts it still isn’t working out, simply try again later. Next time, maybe try a different time of day or a different approach. Whatever you do, try again.

The important thing to remember about meditation is that it is a practice and it does get easier. Let go of what type of experience you think you should be having or how it should feel—because if you get stuck on an idea of how it should be, the experience might make you feel even crazier than before you started.

And stick with it. Even if it feels like nothing is happening during the time that you actually spend meditating, it is having an influence on the rest of your life. Your intention to simply be present with yourself sends a powerful energetic vibration to the Universe, letting it know that you’re ready to expand your consciousness. Give yourself permission to experience whatever comes up and accept that your process is perfect in whatever way it manifests for you.

To help get you started, I’ve added an audio recording of a brief 3-minute guided meditation. I hope it helps. You can listen to that right here:

 

Also, I spoke about this topic on  KSL Studio 5 recently. You can watch the clip right here. I hope it helps.

I’m sending loads of love your way; happy meditating!

e.

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