It's Like I Had No Choice

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(if you came from Facebook and read the first part of this story, jump down to Let’s backtrack to 2017)

I’ve never been married, had a child, or experienced many milestone birthdays, but my excitement for tomorrow could only be explained on the level of one of those days some look forward to their whole lives. Tomorrow is April 14th. It marks the start of my journey into becoming attuned: my initiation into the realm of channeling Reiki healing.

Reiki Healing is the sacred process of channeling the Universal Life Force to heal another. The words REI + KI are Japanese, think: QI or CHI in Traditional Chinese Medicine or Prana in the Yogic tradition.

Its so powerful and works on the subtler levels of the body that touch is not necessary, rather healers can work on the energetic body which is larger & surrounds our outer physical shell. It will not be me doing the healing, but opening myself to receive healing from the Goddess; to become a channel for the healing to pass through me to another. If the receiver is open to the practice (although they do not necessarily have to believe in it) it will work. The biggest relief? I as a guide/channeler cannot do it wrong. What a relief to hear that!

And so tomorrow marks the start of the next phases of my journey inward and my journey outward*.

Not only will I be able to provide more service to my community through Reiki healing, but I will follow a path my grandmother was on and perhaps pick up where she left off. I am frequently shown signs that I am making the right choices, with a growing interest in the energetic, psychic, & intuitive arts . From the people I surround myself with to the discoveries I make in my own meditation practice - I know I am protected, safe & supported. A soft, loving voice saying ‘I See You. Keep Going. Don’t Stop.’

And so I’d like to share with you a short little story, as to how this all came to be. How this opportunity to be welcomed into this sacred realm of healing was so organic, it was like I Had No Choice.

Lets backtrack to 2017. It was a normal day unlike no other, checking my emails when a sub request came in. Teacher seeking 5:45am coverage the next day. Immediately my first answer was a big fat HELL NO. It’s not that I didn’t want to teach, but I was afraid. Reflecting on how I once overslept to teach an early morning class, the thought of causing such a big disservice to my community created lots of apprehensions.

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And yet, something was pulling me to try again. You may not know what these forces are that call you to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, but SOMETHING in me wanted to teach this class.

Class was awesome, saw wonderful students and a beloved fellow leader, John DeGood, who I don’t get to see quite often. After class he strongly and lovingly suggested that I attend another local teacher’s class (Leticia) who taught at a neighboring studio. He shared how our teaching styles were similar and perhaps I’d find a new connection with her. I was excited at this prospect, and so as soon as he left I looked up her schedule.

This teacher’s schedule overlapped with mine and so I never got to take her class, but lo and behold the studio had an 8am class which was perfect to get a practice in before I taught again at 12. Leaving with a sense of accomplishment for not only getting up on time, but also finding a prospect of a new connection in my life, I drove to Yoga House & Wellness Center excited for class.

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This class was also awesome and the teacher by chance was someone I knew, Angelique, who was also subbing that day. I took the class in their main building at Royal Fitness, a gym in Barrington. I was all buzzed up from the morning’s events and so I decided on a whim to sign up for a gym membership. I’ve never liked gyms, never cared for weights, but I thought what the hell! This day has been so random, why not join the gym.

When I applied for my gym membership, the woman registering me was kind and we chatted for a bit. She asked what I did for work, to which I replied ‘I’m a Yoga Teacher!’. Her face lit up - they had an opening for a job at the yoga studio next door. One week later, I’m hired. Two weeks later, I meet Zoe who was running (and still runs) the studio.

Zoe and I began a working relationship, her being one of my managers at the time. She heard I was leading Yoga Nidra around our community and suggested we team up and add Reiki into the mix. I was open to the idea, but really had no inclination of what Reiki healing was, how you did it or how it would work in the Yoga Nidra practice.

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In our second event together, there was a moment. She and I locked eyes and there was an unspoken ‘Wow.’ The vibrations in the room were so strong, she didn’t have to hover closely to people’s bodies. The energy was so palpable that I felt it without really knowing what she was channeling. That day marked the start of our committed partnership: to spread this practice to as many people as we could because this combo was fucking magic.

Fast forward half a year later and she and I began planning our first retreat - my first retreat not associated with a yoga studio. There were nerves, thoughts like ‘am I worthy?’ & ‘will anyone show up?’ . But those little inner knowers, soft & distant whispers, they calmed me and told me: KEEP GOING.

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And so we listened. And our retreat sold out. More Yoga Nidra & Reiki Healings sold out. And we planned another retreat. And we planned more workshops. And tomorrow she is attuning me. I am her first student she will attune and she is gifting me this initiation of no charge. I share this detail to emphasize how wildly connected Zoe is. She was first attuned over 20 years ago, but held her teachings close to her heart until she knew she was ready. Well, now is her time and I am blessed to be her first student. She sees me and sees that I am ready, and we will enter into the next phase of our spiritual partnership.

I know in my heart that she is the reason why I subbed that random class, went to that random yoga studio, signed up for that random gym membership, landed that random yoga job, met this random woman who became my manager and realized fairly quickly that none of these things were random, but PERFECTLY in time.

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All the puzzle pieces continue align and I see this path so clearly that these are synchronicities rather than coincidences.

My most recent reminder came last week. As I was watching TV, a strong pull moved me from my seat and into my office, to a book. A book of my grandmothers which my mom had given me after cleaning out our garage. I don’t know what told me to pull out the book and hold it, but I did. It was a black book, no cover, but on the binding it read The Complete Illustrated Book of The Psychic Sciences by Walter & Litzda Gibson, originally published in 1966.

I held this book in my arms, literally clutching it and hugging it. I felt weak, collapsed on the floor and started to sob. I felt a soft message come through. She said ‘I’m so happy you found it.’ I knew this message came from my grandmother who passed last summer, hence the overwhelming amount of emotion. She was with me in that moment and I know she is so proud of me.

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I spoke to my mom the next day to share with her this story, both of us sobbing. Through tears, she laugh-cried and shared how important that book was to her and it is no coincidence it was in my hands this week. What a special moment!

Just as I had to get up and grab that book.

Just as I had to teach that 5:45am class.

Just as Zoe and I had to lead our retreat.

We joke that it is as if we had no choice.

Now of course this is a cosmic joke, because we believe in our hearts that we chose this path.

I am remembering where I have been.

Here I am - picking up where I left off.

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My intention of sharing this post is to not only voice my story, but to encourage you to listen to those little whispers. Psychic messages are not loud. They are usually not always clear. You need to open yourself up to receive them & trust when you are being pulled to someone, something or somewhere. You never know where it will lead you.

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I’d like to dedicate this post to all of the great healers & guides who have passed through my soul’s life. I feel blessed & grateful to know each of you & thank you for your teachings.

*May you rest in Peace Mike Fabi & may your 🌀 Journey Outward 🌀 continue beyond this physical lifetime.

What the Hell is Presence?

I’m sitting here on my cushion, eyes closed, reflecting on how the hell I’m supposed to ‘be present.’ C’mon man! Be in the Now. Be With. You got this.

I’ll start by closing my eyes and look at my third eye. That’s what all the yogis talk about…I think…?

Ouch. That gives me a headache. How do people do this?

OK - that’s too much…how about I relax my eyes.

Wait…now I forget how to relax my eyes.

Let me just open my eyes. That works, too.

Go away Saturn…I love you but your cute cat self is too….

…..distracting. Back to eyes closed.

How long has it been? It has to be 5 minutes by now…

I think I want Kombucha…

Continue mental rant ….

Sound familiar? If you have meditated even once you know the feeling - flittering in your mind like a pinball in a machine from thoughts to thinking in an instant. Am I doing this right?! What am I supposed to be doing? Is it even working?!

It’s easy to get all defeated, make excuses for how you ‘can’t meditate’ or ‘sit still’, but lets be real...ANYTHING can be done with proper tools. The best part about life is that ANYTHING can be learned and we’re blessed with living in the Information Age - yes YouTube!

Having access to a wealth of information at your fingertips is great and awesome, but what matters is your COMMITMENT to using it. If you’re willing to give up the lies that you ‘can’t’, here is a crash course with three points in PRESENCE - one of the greatest outcomes to a meditation practice.

First - Presence is different than ‘The Present’

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The present is a moment in linear time - like Past, Present, and Future. The truth is you are ALWAYS in the present moment.

You can’t ever transport yourself back to the past, or hyper-blast yourself to the future. You are always in the present. But here is the caveat: you can be in the present and thinking about what that rude person said to you at Wegman’s 3 weeks ago and what you wished you replied back with; you can be in the present and be thinking about how awesome your life will be once you overhaul that annoying facet of your life you can’t wait to change. You can be in the present thinking that you’ll be happy when…..

You can be in the present moment, while simultaneously being no where at all! So what does all this talk about ‘being in the present’ mean anyway and how does it actually help you?

Well, if you move on from the fact that you are always in the present, the next step is tapping into something different: presence - or what I call an embodied state of being within the present moment. Presence is to be in your body, experiencing life viscerally - with feelings and sensations!

Acknowledging that there are spontaneous thoughts arising and dissolving.

A tool is discernment: recognizing when you have thoughts versus when you are caught up in thinking and making the choice to turn. Discernment is a spiritual gift and it looks and feels different than judgement. Its about getting real with yourself (from love) and acknowledging something like when you drift away, which happens!

One of the greatest harms you can do in your meditation is get angry with yourself for thinking. Start to get comfortable with the fact that the brain thinks - and that is OK!

Second - Thoughts and thinking are two different things

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Thoughts are spontaneous and arise and dissolve. They most likely do not follow a linear story line and are random pop-ups of reflections, reminders, and memories among many other categories. Sometimes a thought will pop into my head and I’m not gonna lie - I wonder, where the hell did that come from? 😹

I hear so many students say they can’t meditate because their brains are too busy and they can’t quiet the thoughts. This is so sad to hear because our goal of meditation is not to stop the thoughts! That is a big undertaking that realistically will only result in feelings of failure.

I’m not sure where these misconceptions came from, but I want you to know that finding presence is possible no matter what you think the inner workings of your brain are like.

So if thoughts are spontaneous and do not follow linear lines, thinking is that inner dialogue, the stories we continuously create around what we believe we’re experiencing.

For example, a thought may arise that you need to move the laundry to the dryer before work. This thought could arise and dissolve. Often what happens though is this thought becomes entangled with other related thoughts, and we transition into thinking.

Remembering that you need to move the laundry over turns into thinking about the detergent costs and how you may want to switch to a cheaper brand and how that STUPID lady at Wegman’s just really got you pissed when you were there to buy detergent and ugh…why didn’t I reply with this clever remark. And bam - you’re in the rabbit hole.

Now the rabbit hole is not bad. It’s not wrong. It’s not a place you need to feel guilt about entering into! Shit happens, the brain is just doing its job, go easy on ‘em! But you DO need to discern when thoughts turn into thinking and come back to your anchor: the thing that brings you back into presence.

This takes practice (which is why I’m grateful I have many lives to give it a go) and it leads me to my next point:

Have an anchor to return to

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An anchor is a tool you actively use to return to embodied presence within your body. If you’re caught up in the world of thinking you need to return to something.

When thoughts morph into thinking and become distracting (which they often do) return to something else your body can sense like your breath or even better - your actual physical body!

Meditation studies have shown that focusing on the body is much more effective than focusing on your breath for newer students. Breath practices are very subtle and harder to ‘feel’ whereas the physical body is much more tangible.

Your anchor could be body awareness like a self-guided body scan, a guided meditation where you follow the audio, pranayama or a breath control practice, star gazing or looking out of a window, or closing your eyes and watching the colors, patterns and shapes shift and morph.

Whatever you choose, you return to that place time and time again. Even if you need to return 10,000 times in 5 minutes, the practice is working, because you are practicing! Don’t give up!

My intention is to provide tools for anyone who is interested to enjoy the gift of meditation with some ease. For more on this I’ll write a blog post soon about my morning ritual.

If you’d like to join for in-class instruction, come out for my Meditation Foundations workshop on Tuesday January 29th at 5:45pm @ SHINE Power Yoga Maple Shade.

Satya: The Truth Hurts

"The way of peace is the way of truth. Truthfulness is even more important than peacefulness." - Gandhi

This isn't an easy story to tell. It may not be a story that will make you happy or feel joyous. It is simply a story that I need to tell.

It was a Thursday. I had just taken a marvelous Deep Hot Stretch class with Tracy in Maple Shade. I felt so relaxed and at ease, all tension released on the mat. I hopped in my car ready to take on the day, reveling in the warmth of my body.

I made a right turn out of the studio, heading my usual route to Medford. As I was listening to a True Crime podcast, my heart rate already a little elevated from the story line, I was jarred by a crash into the right side of my car.

Stunned, I looked into my rearview mirror only to see a woman hysterical on the left side of the road, hovering over what looked to be an animal. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind in one instant - the most glaring: "I think I just killed something."

I threw my car in park in the middle of the road, put my hazards on, and ran over to them - panicking and afraid to know the truth of what happened.

As I got closer I saw the dog lying in the grass and my whole world came crashing down on me. How was I going to live with the fact that I just hurt or killed this animal? After a moment - which was an eternity - the doggie started to move, walk and actually came over and sat in my lap, allowing me the sweetest moment to give him pets. I felt it was a nonverbal soul communication. We both knew we needed comfort from that traumatic experience and so we joined together.

After 10 minutes on the side of the road, giving lots of snuggles & kisses, hearing cars blaring at my car precariously parked in the road, the owner of the dog said they were fine - not to worry - and that she was going to go into the house now.

In a split second my mind questioned a thousand things again.

Should I give her my number? What if she tries to take advantage of me? Was this my fault? She said she was sorry - her dog was off the leash & across the street where they shouldn't be. Can I get sued? Will the dog be OK? Will she take them to the vet? How will I know any of this if I don't give her my contact?

And then....I left. She didn't ask so I didn't offer. Unfinished business flittering around like a pinball in my mind. The worries still hanging over my head. True - the dog was off the leash. It had ran to the other side of the road. The dog ran out from in front of a parked car so I did not even see it coming until I heard and felt the experience of it all. But still. I had played a role in this and I couldn't bear the thought of not knowing.

I wanted to leave a card, some peanut butter, some treats and my phone number to heal this wound of guilt on my heart. But I had fears. Insurance. Legality. Vet bills. I don't know this family.  What if they try to take advantage of me? After a week of worrying I called my mom for advice (thanks Mom!) She suggested filing a police report, to have this documented and to ask for their guidance on the situation.

I filed the report. But I never went to the house. Why? Because fucking life got in the way, of course! Other worries and anxieties filled the space instead and before I knew it I was swept away on another tangent of uneasiness. 

I lived in fear most of the month due to miscommunication & refraining from using my voice in many of my interpersonal relationships, except with Jonny. I struggled with my anxiety like I would back where I was years ago. I could see it all unfolding in front of me like I was watching a movie and yet I did nothing to stop it.

August has been a month of wild emotions. I reverted back to my old patterns - addiction to my anxiety and self-loathing thoughts. Refusal to ask for help from anyone but Jon; refusal to ask for connection; refusal to do the work.

This all started from one moment. Me not acting in my truth. Me not upholding my values & morals in a split second decision that broke a seam within my psyche. This is not far off from the me of years past. I used to never stand in my power. I felt and acted small. I was afraid to voice my opinions, my fears, my viewpoint. And I saw myself doing all of this - again. Building up over each day that passed.

I practiced yielding to my emotions - allowing the anxiety to flow in without any effort to curb it. I am happy I let myself feel this month as it provided me with many lessons on how I act when I feel overwhelmed, neglected, ashamed & guilty. And I saw what can happen when I do not live from my truth - it eats me alive.

To be fair, I was never good at opening up. I was always secretive. Holding my hard truths inside me so as not to burden anyone else around me. Partly because I did not want to hear those truths leave the protected home of my mind.

Looking at ourselves is not easy.

The yogic path is not easy. It means I see myself clearer when I am acting out my karmic patterns. But there had to be a point where I said fuck this! Enough is enough girl!

I met with my mentor and she could visibly see all of these things that I was carrying around. She felt I was holding on to my anxiety and to reflect on what it was feeding. She was right...It was feeding something alright..

I became addicted to my anxiety this month. Once fear lives inside me it spreads like wildfire and somehow it feels like more energy to heal than to let the flames burn me alive. But ultimately, I have a choice. Where does my anxiety stem from and what is it feeding? Where can I go from there?

I've learned much quicker this time than in years past when it's time to say ENOUGH. When it's time to make the switch. When it's time to identify that I'm no longer yielding - I'm wallowing. When it's time to stop wallowing and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! When its time to start telling the truth, seeing the truth and experiencing the truth - even when it hurts.

I had to clear. Sit down with those I needed to. To express the hard truths, the fears I was living with, to connect & heal.

And yes- I've learned how to yield. How to let these emotions flow in and flow out without needing to fix it right away. But...then what? Stay an anxious mess & drive myself crazy?

Hell to the nawwww.

And damnit I am dropping off my phone number and peanut butter!

Yielding vs. Letting Go

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” - Lao Tzu

Let me start this off with a question. Pay attention to any triggers the question may spark for you - feel the question in your entire being.

How do you feel when you're wrapped up in your emotions, whether it be from a traumatic experience or from a day to day irritation and someone suggests to just "....let it go." How do you feel when you tell yourself, "You should just let it go.."

For me - its icky. All jumbled up in tightness. And that shit sucks..

It insinuates that there is something to fix. Something that needs changing. Something is wrong with me. This idea that we can completely let go of a thought that is bothering us completely disregards the fact that we are human - wholly analytical and emotional beings whose minds operate like waves in the ocean; thoughts rolling in & thoughts rolling out.

What if I told you that in our lives we never actually have to fix anything? That things are unfolding in the precise moment that they should, with lessons embedded throughout all of it?

If you aspire to be great advice givers, for yourself first, and secondly for others, you must consider your language when doling it out. I fell in love with this idea when I first heard it, and feel compelled to share:

Yielding vs. Letting Go

Lets start with Letting Go. Letting go of a thought that haunts us or a habit that perpetuates within our actions assumes that we are capable of releasing an emotional experience and it is never coming back. 

How about an example. Remember that cringe-worthy thing that you did back in 7th grade? You know it - that thing that just as you were about to drift comfortably off to sleep pops into your mind to keep you awake for the next 12 hours? Yeah - thats it. Well, here's the trick: just let it go.

Ahhhhhh...if only life were this easy!

That the moment a disturbing thought jumps into our mind we could eradicate it all with those three little words. Here is a hard truth for us all: stating you will let it go does not make it go away

That horrifying thought reappears primarily because you desire to wish it away, but also because there is a message or experience still to be had around it. Hyper-focusing on letting it go does not uncover truth. It does not heal the wound of the ego. It does not divulge the experience's deeper meaning.

Now forget about that weird 7th grade memory. Think of some experience in your life that is a part of your spiritual path, a lesson you may be struggling with or a memory that is wrought with emotion. Those three little words, let it go, just don't seem to be doing the trick.

Letting go is active - it requires work, struggle & internal debate. It requires you to do something about it. You should just let it go. This implies you shouldn't be experiencing 'it'. Which implies you are broken, strange, weird. Which implies you need to be fixed. Phew - that is exhausting just typing about it...

Instead, lets consider the practice of yielding.

Yielding is the passive practice of allowing things to occur as they are - just as you'd patiently wait your turn in line, yield to oncoming traffic, or be the last dog in the pack that enters the house calmly. 

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Yielding is allowing your cup to overflow. Letting the soft water caress your hands, cool your body, & experience the vulnerable experience of it, all while trusting that the water is not so strong it will sweep you away.

Yielding does not require you to do anything about your cosmic entanglements. Yielding quietly asks you to sit with what is, to experience 'it' as 'it' is - as simply an experience.

Yielding does not require you to delete your so-called disturbed 7th grade memory out of your head, because in fact it is not cringe-worthy. It does not have the inherent qualities of embarrassment or shame. It is simply an occurrence that happened at a specific point of time.

It is our perception, or saṃjñā, of the event that creates the story: that it needs to be let go. Our Saṃjñā, among the other 5 skandhas, attaches emotions like shame and guilt to an experience. These skandhas, or aggregates, falsely disillusion us during the process of consciousness, without any true meaning or substance.

All that is to be learned, all that is true, reveals itself through yielding. Many do not enjoy meditation for this very fact. Sitting, standing, lying or walking; it is all the same to the individual who does not wish to yield. It can feel anxiety-ridden, or overwhelming, to allow these thoughts to bubble up to the surface. But if this is where the thoughts so desire to be, let them happen, not let it go! 

So, how does one practice yielding?

It is simple really. When your mind drifts to that nagging thought, the one that keeps you up at night, listen to all the facets of that experience. Allow it to happen.

Check into your physical body. Where do you feel this experience you so desperately wish to annihilate? Is it in your heart? Does it live in your throat? How about your belly? Sit with the physical sensations. Do you feel tightness there? Knotted-ness? (Hey, its my blog...I can make up words if I want to!)

The first step of healing is yielding to the physical sensations. Allow them to show themselves for a time that you are comfortable with. Maybe 30 seconds. Maybe 1 minute. It isn't a contest, but an experience. Yielding means to stay; to wait your turn, just like that patient and kind person merging onto 295.

Then, what? Well, that is a story for another day. For now, I am practicing yielding. To allow things to be as they are - without my incessent need to tinker with, or to consume my entire being. To be OK with things not being OK.

“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, to yield with life solves the insoluble.  To yield I have learned is to come back again...." - Lao Tzu
    I'd like to thank Shambhavi Sarasvati for her inspirational podcasts which led to this blog post.

 

I'd like to thank Shambhavi Sarasvati for her inspirational podcasts which led to this blog post.