reflections from a yoga mat

i cried in yoga today.

i’m not sure why, but i think it’s because i had stored up negative emotions inside of my body-  stress, anxiety, and  pressure.  the need for control, disappointment, and expectation. and sometimes these things sneak into our lives and linger without invitation or our own awareness that they are there. and i’ve learned that when we store this negative energy within ourselves- either consciously or unconsciously- it begins to dim out the light that we are, the inner and outer radiance that we shine, and the brightness we share.

 

 

can you reflect for a moment on the ways in which you may be dimming your own light?

 

 

if you look long enough and can be open with your heart, you might find that you are unkind to yourself in ways that you did not know. like the ways that you eat or do not 0r in the way you force what is not ready to come.  the way you judge your best efforts or the words you allow to speak to your heart. the way you talk to yourself as you set out on a new adventure or explore an unwalked path.  and can you look inside and find the parts of yourself that are holding on to thoughts of inadequacy, worthlessness, harshness, and self-judgement?  or perhaps you punish yourself through criticism, over-working, and the need for perfection.  maybe you will start to observe the stories that you tell yourself about what you cannot do or about what is already done.  listen to the thoughts that swirl in your mind causing anxiety, anger, sadness, or loneliness.  and from my yoga mat i learned that sometimes we dim out our own light by doubting our competencies, talents, and abilities, or choosing not to see our goals through. do you notice yourself creating unnecessary pressure through deadlines, busy-ness, or the need to control every outcome? and when you search your soul are there lingering feelings of isolation, guilt, shame, or fear?  what do they feel like? and how can you let them go?

 

 

stop for a moment.

just notice.

 

 

and in these last two months i’ve learned that when we dim our lights or the lights of others through criticism, judgement, and unkindness, we cause the world to go dark.  we cause suffering. we become trapped in hurt and unconscious negativity.  when we make ourselves small it can become harder to grow, to develop our talents, to be consistent with our personal values, and to be who we fully are and are capable of.  and when we spread negativity to others through jealousy, gossip, comparison, or un-forgiveness, we harbor the same energy within ourselves. but remember my friend, if we can replace our individual and collective spots of darkness with light, we may all shine. 

 

and can you get to know yourself? can you sit with yourself and wonder?

take the time to begin to find yourself in all the ways that you’ve been lost in it.

 

 

 

 

and from my yoga mat, i have found that the more you know yourself the better you’ll be able to recognize when you are straying from your own path.  we can use these opportunities of awareness to embrace discomfort and lean into our pain and insecurities. we can develop presence with the way that we feel and begin to understand that we need not do anything to change it.

 

release. breathe. let go and lean in.

 

 

 

we may not have all the answers, but at least we may begin to ask of the right questions.

namaste.

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… because of letters to strangers.

dear stranger,

i wrote you a letter once and i’ve thought about you a lot since then, mainly because life continues to present its experiences to me and i like to think that we are here in this world learning together.  i like to imagine the two of us meeting in a coffee shop with mismatched furniture sipping on our favorite hot tea and exchanging bits of wisdom learned from the struggles we have endured, the tears we’ve cried, and the moments we have celebrated.

i think the thing about advice is that we can share it, but only through experience and overcoming our individual struggles do we ever really understand.  i think pain, discomfort, heartache, uncertainty, and raw emotions are necessary for our growth and important in realizing the richness of life. perhaps the lessons learned from my pain will be different from the ones you learn in yours; and maybe we offer these things to each other so that our individual discomforts can be different, although shared, and somehow that is comforting. and so i’ll give you my words in hopes that you’ll get from them something that you need and in hopes that you’ll know that wherever you are, we are both here.

i hope you are always learning, dear stranger. that you look at the world through eyes filled with wonder, curiosity, and imagination. i hope you fail frequently and continue to try. that you view the simplest pleasures through the earnest eyes of a child. i hope you create beautiful things and use all of your senses.  that you read interesting books, seek out new adventures, and have deep conversations with someone you hardly know. i hope you listen to the news and read things that challenge your beliefs, i hope you write down poetry and sing silly rhymes. i hope you paint. that you walk. that you touch nature with an explorer’s heart.  i hope you listen more than you talk and that you love before you judge. and i hope you know the world to be simple, complex, and wonderful.

 

dear stranger, we let go of so many moments in our rush to get to the next one.  i’m always learning that if  you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss out on this moment. i hope you don’t wish time away. you’ll miss kindness in the eyes of the cashier, the sound of a small child giggling, and the crunch of the leaves underneath your shoe.  when we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the sickness that is busy, we don’t slow down enough to experience the rise and fall of our breath, witness the sun set, or smell the scent of a cool summer’s rain. we don’t hear what our parents are saying, feel the love that other people are offering, or notice a stranger’s attempt at connection.  although i understand the lure of the future, the draw towards tomorrow, and the excitement of what will be, i also recognize that we do so in exchange for the now.  what i know is that it is about today.  right now.  this exact moment is your life.

when we constantly reach out for distraction, use our time for mindless scrolling, and focus on the world through a screen, we give away the opportunity to practice patience in moments of frustration and to understand how we truly feel.  dear stranger, please put down your cellphone and live in what’s real, in what’s right in front of you. when you are with your friends, family members, strangers, on the bus, driving in your car, in a work meeting, trying something new, eating dinner, relaxing before bedtime, or celebrating something momentous, put down your phone.  i worry that pretty soon we will have lived a life of moments captured, but not truly enjoyed. and we will be left with a life that is unlived. unnoticed. and unappreciated. turn off your phone for a while, my friend…. we don’t get these moments back.

 

i’ve been learning about quality in this last year.  the quality of the relationships i have with friends, family, and my community. who i call and who calls me back. quality work, lessons, experiences, and tasks.  i’ve come to understand that part of developing quality is about being selective and that it is also about time;  choosing how you spend it, what you give it, the amount offered to it, and whom or what we give it to.  you don’t have to accept every task, article, or thing to do; you don’t have to accept every argument or conversation. decide what will add value to your life, who will enrich your worldview, and what will bring happiness and then do these things.  gently let go of the rest.

pay attention, my friend.  notice what you offer the world and yourself through the words you mutter underneath your breath, in the background noise of your mind, and in exchanges you have with people you love and the people you don’t know. focus on the quality of the time, energy, and effort you offer to the world and notice how it comes back to you.  are you here?  are you present? what message are you sending? what lessons are you teaching? what energy are you allowing to fill up your soul?  what relationships are you giving of your heart and your time? and is this the way you would like for it to be?

 

and when it comes to love, i hope you have the courage to let go of somebody who doesn’t love you. that in your search for a companion, you get to know yourself first, accept your shortcomings, and make peace with your flaws. i hope you let love come when it does and in the meantime you celebrate the wholeness you already are.  i hope you don’t accept misguided attention to escape your loneliness, and when your heart gets broken dear stranger, i hope you know that you are still complete. and when you are in fact lonely, i encourage you to seek out connection rather than half-hearted attention.  connect your heart to someone else’s, someone who understands your worth.  recognize that you are enough and start to learn all of the ways in which you convince yourself that you are not.  take time to listen to the background noise that plays throughout your mind and learn that you don’t have to believe every thought you think.  and remember that your value is not dependent on another person’s acknoweldgment or acceptance.

 

i hope you take sometime to look for the cobwebs that may exist in the corners of your heart and decide to let them go, clean them out.  past anger, unforgiven hurts, and feelings of inadequacy or not being enough.  listen for those whispers that cloud your mind with feelings of anxiety, disappointment, sadness, or hurt.  replace them with self-love, compassion, empathy, and gratitude.  and remember dear stranger, other people’s happiness and successes are not the absence of your own.

 

i hope you don’t let your dreams pass you by in exchange for the easier route. i challenge you to create routines and put forth the energy needed to accomplish your heart’s mission. nurture self-discipline and foster the habits necessary that will lead you to your goals.  i hope you find something that you are passionate about and live it.  i hope you fight for something that is larger than yourself and become all that you already are. and while you are on the way, take care of yourself and tend to your own garden. wish others well. give yourself permission to be strong and in the same breathe, to be soft, to be unsure.  take the time to practice being you and drown out the unnecessary noise that tends to clutter our lives. and most importantly, show yourself some kindness as you grow.

 

dear stranger, give out pieces of your heart without attachment or expectation. share your love, give out kindness, and shine your light.

 

 

remember that it’s all beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

because i’m not who i used to be.

a conversation i had with a friend nearly nine years ago came to mind the other night.  we were sitting on the couch the summer after i’d returned from my freshman year of college talking about whether or not we thought we had changed.  i recall myself trying to identify all the ways in which i hadn’t; all the ways in which i’d stayed the same.  i, perhaps defensively, assured myself and my friends that i was the exact person i was as when i left.

it’s silly to think of it now, but of course i had changed.  i had spent time with new people, lived in a shared room with someone i didn’t know, and gained a small sense of a larger worldwide perspective. i had tried new foods, used public transportation, and failed my first exam. i had traveled to two new states and observed more diversity than my hometown had to offer at that time. i knew it then and i know it now, i had changed.

interestingly,  i recently felt a similar tinge of pain after hearing someone say, ‘you’ve changed,’ and, ‘i remember when you used to be more sensitive.’ i’ve spent some time thinking about where that small knot that formed in my stomach came from as well as that tiny sting of guilt.  somewhere along the way, i learned to equate change with badness; with the idea that if i was different from who i am now, i would somehow be less than i used to be.  perhaps these associations come in knowing that discomfort, uncertainty, and challenges often accompany change or that it can often be difficult and unwanted.  but the truth is, i am less sensitive and my feelings do get hurt less often; not because my heart has hardened, but because my sense of self has strengthened.  i’ve gained confidence and an understanding that people’s actions and words are more often a reflection of themselves than they are of me.

and so in the last few days i’ve purposefully changed.  with some thought, i’ve realized that who i am now is not the same person that i was a minute ago or a few days ago. and who i am now is not the person that i’ll always want to be.  what i know is that from moment to moment, we can change parts of who we are.  like our attitude, behaviors, and goals. we can change the way we speak to and about others and the ways we respond to trying situations.  we can change our thoughts, the direction we are heading, and our dreams.  what i am learning is the only thing that keeps us from becoming someone new are the thoughts in our minds that tell us we must remain the same.  i believe  it’s worth being reminded that we often become so attached to  the role we’ve assigned ourselves we forget we are fluid and ever-changing.  and who we might be in this moment is only a fraction of the possibilities of the person we may become.

 

 

today, i am a person who hopes that i change.  a person who hopes that i am different than who i was yesterday; because yesterday i was impatient and quick to complain.  today, i will be a human becoming that is more understanding, in less of a hurry, and focused on the good. today there are parts of myself that i hope to change, parts that i hold on dearly to, and parts that i hope to continue to grown into 

 

 

and so this week, i hope you lose your sense of self and start anew.  i hope in the middle of a conversation or in the middle of a word, you change.  that you respond differently than the way you used to.  i hope you try to listen more or speak up when you feel uncomfortable.  i hope you start to transform yourself by observing your thoughts and the contant noise in your mind and by challenging yourself to slow down, focus on the present moment, and be more forgiving of the past. i hope you start to work out, continue your recovery, or begin that book.  and all of these words are not intended to say that change is simple or easy to endure, nor do they mean to suggest that making a permanent change will not be difficult; they are here to remind you that it is possible:  that you have changed, can change, and are changing. and while you are regularly transforming, i hope you practice being more loving to the person you are and the people you are surrounded by. through constant self-reflection and regular development, you can decide in this very moment who you will be and give yourself permission to let go of who you once were.

 

 

 

 

i hope you’re always in the process of finding yourself.

 

 

 

what to hold on to.

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mostly, i’m still learning how to let go.

the things we hold on to are different for all of us- some act as anchors heavily weighing us down; while others, like lifeboats, keep us above water.  i’ve also come to realize that some things are much more difficult to let go of because the experience has in fact changed one’s biological functioning- like trauma, poverty, or abuse/neglect. and in the years i’ve had, i’ve learned that we keep so many things close to our heart, however, i’m also learning that not all of it needs to stay.

what i know is that there are some things that it is time to let go of.

it might be stress or automatic assumptions that do not accurately reflect your abilities.  it might be the mistakes you made when you lost yourself or the half-hearted attempts you’ve made in trying to figure out the person to become.  the classes you dropped and the goals you gave up on. the divorce you went through or decisions that have left you with regret and unhappiness. it might be the comparisons you make when you are surrounded by colleagues, peers, family, friends, or strangers, or perhaps the harsh judgements made towards yourself or others. the relationships that broke your heart, the tears that were never wiped away, and promises that were left unkept. maybe it’s time to let go of the friendships that didn’t grow together or the words that can’t be taken back.  what i know is that diverse life experiences weigh more heavily on different people’s hearts and that it becomes easy to drown in emotions like anger, loneliness, anxiety, shame, guilt, stress, sadness, or fear.  we hold on to feelings of failure or inadequacy, memories, expectations, desire, past hurts, and unmet expectations– and they keep us feeling broken.  and if you give it some thought, you might find that you are holding on to the very things that keep you stuck.

how would your life be different if you let go of them all?

take a deep breath in and become more aware of those things that weigh heavily on your heart.  and maybe today is the day you slowly find the courage to surrender into accepting what is.  acknowledge the past and move on.  lean into your insecurities and feelings of discomfort; find your personal weaknesses and allow yourself to grow into them.  mend the parts of yourself that are broken through self-love, acceptance, healthy relationships, choices that reflect your long-term goals, and commitment to change. and to do any of this- or all of it- we must learn to let go.

you let go by first recognizing what it is you are holding on to and then by deciding what kind of impact it is having on your life.  you let go by releasing the negative energy from your soul.  and after you decide, you must act.  you begin to choose one thought over another or exchange an unhealthy decision for a healthier behavior.  perhaps you release anger through forgiveness or acceptance and let go of greed, desire, and the pursuance of material possessions through contentment and non-possesion. letting go means allowing yourself the possibility of being wrong and being okay with that.  and when you let go, can you hold on to that self-motivation and fearless drive while releasing the stress, judgement, and criticism that we often allow it to accompany? letting go means beginning a search for inner-peace and deciding what moments you want to let define you.  and i believe that letting go is one of the purest acts of self-love we can gift ourselves.  and for me, this does not excuse our imperfections nor ignore our past mistakes or shortcomings, it does however foster our capacity to look at ourselves through a lens of compassion and grace that creates enough space to make room for change. and when we begin to let go, we also start to remember that all things are possible.

by letting go, we allow ourselves to become. 

invisible threads.

 

 

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i’ve been thinking a lot about heart strings, invisible threads, and the ways in which people enter your story for a page or a chapter and change the entire ending. regardless of whether people come into your life by fate or chance, i’ve always been the kind of person that believes our interactions result in a connection. and so by the end of our lives, we could have an infinite amount of threads linked to other people’s lives, memories, and stories. and although it’s been grudgingly so, i’ve come to accept that not all people are here to stay; i’ve learned that the lesson and impact they bring often requires an ending.

because of friday, i’ve been thinking about all of the people that come into our lives for different lengths of stay. i like the idea of an invisible thread that links you to all of the people that shape who you become in this life. perhaps it is a ball of tangled string- sometimes tied complicatedly in knots and sometimes loosely bound together- or an uncountable amount of strings that run parallel to one another. but mostly, i just like the idea of an invisible thread that links one person to another; like somehow, our individual life stories are now part of each other’s. and so i’ve been thinking about the people i am bound to. the thread that taught me not to attach my identity to another person.  the thread from high school that formed from an unlikely friendship between myself and an adult in recovery from substance abuse.  the interwoven threads of kindness from people like the frail Chinese woman who prayed over my body in the parking lot or the nurse who walked across the street to the convenience store to buy me reese’s pieces when i had meningitis because it was the only thing i would eat.  a thread that was a lesson in heartache from the boy who taught me about the strength it requires to put yourself back together.  my college chemistry professor who i spent tuesday afternoons with.  the sheepish grin that taught me about hope and what life can be like when you lose it. the thread to your father- the first person to show me what a mandolin sounds like. i’ve been thinking about my invisible threads stretched out across this world;  the attachment to the Egyptian eye doctor and his Polish girlfriend who found us crossing the nile river and took us out to dinner; the new york city taxi driver who coincidentally ended up being our driver for two consecutive nights; the man from Turkey who showed us his grandmother’s rugs over a hot cup of tea.  and maybe it’s so that i could say goodbye, but i like to think about all of the ways in which our lives are now intertwined. in the ways that i’ll see red converse shoes and deep ocean eyes and think of you.

 

so maybe some people don’t come into your life to stay forever.  maybe we will each go off and do a million separate things and maybe our life paths will never cross again, but the thing about threads is that you can’t undo what has already been formed.  i believe that people stay long enough- even if only for a moment- to impact your existence and to help write out your story. like the strangers in the check-out line that teach you about patience or the ordinary people who do extraordinary things in the corner of their world that teach you about humility.  the child on the airplane with an endless amount of questions that reminds you to wonder.  the people you see on the street or wandering through the town that teach you about strength and acceptance.  and if life has taught me anything, it’s that some people’s stay will never be long enough. i don’t have the answer for that, i don’t know why it is that they sometimes leave before we are ready.  all i know is that maybe you don’t get to decide how they leave, but you can choose which parts of them stay with you.  and so on days like today, i remember how important it is to think about the people who have impacted us- both positively and negatively- and to be grateful for those lessons, those threads.  we can only hope to experience this life in it’s entirety and so we take in the good and the bad and every little thing in between.   love intertwined with heartache.  loss accompanied by strength, hope, and growth.  a million failed attempts and one moment of success. endings that become beginnings. the people that teach you about self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance.   a million words and one set of ears that will listen. and when you think about all of the threads that comprise the person that you are, think about the ways in which you have impacted the people around you.  what lessons have you taught?  what message did you send? and are your threads ones of love and kindness?

 

what i know about invisible threads is that if you give people the chance, they will surprise you.  connections are formed when you put your phone down and  lift your head up.  when you offer a smile or change someone’s day. when you look someone in the eye on the elevator or really listen to what people have to say.  they are formed when you realize that at every given moment, your life is being changed by the people around you.  invisible threads link us to unsuspecting people in the most beautiful of ways. you may not get to choose who comes into your life, when they leave, or what lesson they bring, but you do have a say in the way you link yourself to other people in this world.

 

 

and with all of these words, i guess i’m trying to say that i’ve been thinking about how so many parts of my life are not mine alone-  and i’m comforted by the idea that so many parts of our lives are experienced together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 and so this is for monday mornings and for letting me be a part of your growth.

i like where our stories meet.