purpose

Resilience of Spirit

Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men.
— James Baldwin

One common misconception I had when I first started on this path was that once one becomes "spiritual" they are somehow miraculously immune to hurt, disappointment, and it is the end of dealing with challenging and difficult people.  Obviously this is not the case.  The hurtful stuff is still going to show up while the spiritual work doesn't stop.

Instead, recognize the patterns that show up and use them to your advantage. Through challenging times, the acknowledgment of important patterns will emerge. You begin to see these people and circumstances as teaching opportunities, and as reinforcement of an important part of yourself, rather than an excuse to spiral into victimhood.  Consider these invitations to go deeper into self-awareness. In these moments, you can choose to react or respond.  And, sometimes, all it takes is some time and a few deep breaths to know exactly how it needs to be handled.

Sometimes when I encounter a challenging person, I wonder "What the hell?! Have I not learned this lesson already?" I catch myself being hard on myself, as though I might have done something to "attract" or "deserve it."  Then I remind myself it's because I have the resilience and strength to handle it. I return to all of my self-care tools in the tool box I've been adding to over the years.  With each and every one of these interactions, it gets easier. My communication skills strengthen, and I feel more empowered.  Better still, my enthusiasm for fulfilling my purpose becomes even more vibrant and reinforced.

When I find myself really impatient and frustrated with a difficult situation, I immediately dive right back into self-care in the midst of the chaos.  Then magically, the issue reveals itself fully as another opportunity for personal growth.  Sometimes it may not be about a pattern or a karmic lesson at all. It could just be that a particular person is showing up because I have that much more light and love to extend, and they are *always* the one who needs it the most.

I feel like my entire life has been preparing me for this kind of work.  Over the course of my life I have encountered so many difficult people, and my resilience has been tested time and time again.  Now it is possible for me to see these interactions as check-in reminders that the work that I do, and how I show up in the world is more important than ever.  The pain and the suffering that exists is tangible and real. When I prioritize myself first, take responsibility for the part that is mine, and respond with grace, that gives others permission to do the same - if they so choose.

How do I deal with this on a fundamental level?  Through forgiveness and gratitude. Forgiving myself for supposedly "attracting it" and forgiving the person or circumstance that is propelling me forward into the next stage of my personal development, while at the same time feeling grateful for it showing up in the first place.

I spent a lot of time by myself last weekend, meditating in the woods. One morning, during my meditation, I suddenly felt everyone that ever caused me grief gathered around me in a circle.  I sat with them for a while, then I started to cry. It wasn't because I was sad, it was because I had an enormous amount of gratitude for them despite the difficulties we experienced together.  After all, they are my greatest teachers. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be called to do any of this personal work. At the end of the meditation, I sent them love and forgiveness, and then they disappeared.

This visualization was really healing.  I'm not sure why it happened. Maybe it had something to do with my surroundings, or it's because I've been feeling ready for the next big step. In any case, I felt a huge shift in the energy, and it felt good. 

Forgiveness is the first step, then once released, the second step is to create a self-care plan that works for you. Or, perhaps forgiveness alone as a self-care practice is enough.

The next time you come across a difficult person or circumstance, give yourself some love first, stay connected to your truth, and ask yourself "how can I serve in this situation to the best of my ability?" If you take the time to sit with it, and take some deep breaths, the answer will come to you in no time.

The Courage to Call Dad

The last time I talked to my dad was July of 2014. That last conversation ended with him hanging up on me.  Needless to say it's been really hard to admit to anyone, let alone myself, that I haven't talked to my own father in nearly 2.5years. That "click" and the dial tone on the other end of the line broke my heart into the tiniest little pieces. 

It's hard to imagine not talking to someone who you admired and loved so much as a kid. A combination of family stuff, and my reaching the capacity for any kind of drama (even if it involves family), I decided that what I really needed was space to heal. Rather than try to force something out of anger, I refocused the energy on my own healing. Little did I know that days would turn into months, and months into years.

I initially started seeing Anne because I became frustrated with a romantic relationship that ended recently. This emotionally depleting on-again-off-again romance spanned about 8 years. Deep down, I knew the incident with dad needed to be resolved before I could really focus on a loving relationship with myself and on a loving and committed partnership.

My first session with Anne was transformative.  Our first exercise was a guided visualization technique. In it I imagined myself sitting in the audience of a theatre by myself, inviting people from my past up on stage. "Imagine connecting on a soul level" she said. I was finally granted the permission to say everything I needed to say to them, all while practicing forgiveness and compassion. 

When it came time to invite my dad up on the stage, I started to cry uncontrollably, and felt a heaviness in my chest and in my heart. Anne kept it going, coaching me through it all by reminding me to focus on the breath and on feeling the deep-seeded pain. Healing through a visualization like this really resonated with me and connecting soul-to-soul was the next-level healing I was craving.

Fast forward to session three. Anne suggested that I go see my father, to reconnect with him. In her opinion, reaching out to him was the golden ticket to my own healing. By reaching out I would demonstrate to him unconditional love. I was thinking to myself "Fuck, I did not sign up for this!" I immediately resisted the idea, because it had been so long.  Calling him felt more right to me.  When I finally found the courage to call, he wasn’t available. I decided I would call him back another day when the timing was right.

In the meantime, Anne reminded me to focus on the good parts of the relationship and on connecting with dad’s true self...without all the layers of past hurt, misguided actions, and judgements. Then I remembered our home videos from the early 1990s.  

The video entitled "Christmas 1990" is particularly special. I am a spirited, bounce-off-the-walls, theatrical kid.  What I saw through the eyes of my 9yr. old self was a girl who loved her father unconditionally, in a home that encouraged cooperation, fun, and creative self-expression.

The first few scenes in the video are from our elementary school Christmas concert.  Dad is the cameraman, and from his POV, he is proud of his kids.  He frequently zooms in on myself, my sister, and two brothers. At one point, after my song finishes, I spot him in the audience, and I give him a smile and a little wave. He giggles behind the camera, admiring the gesture meant just for him.  A special moment between father and daughter.

Watching these videos helped me to reconnect with my own essence, and reminded me that dad and I are connected, no matter what our current circumstance.  These videos gave me some hope for reconciliation, and the courage to call him back a second time. 

Anne suggested that when I call him back I should leave a message with my name and my phone number.  She said "Well, let's just say he doesn't call you back for a few months, or ever, at least you can say you tried."  Without any attachment to outcome at all, I called him back. This time I was ready to leave a message. I was not expecting to get him on the line instead!  

While I waited for him to get to the phone, my heart started to pound, and my hands started to sweat.  Soon after I heard him say hello, with enthusiasm in his voice, I instantly felt at ease. We talked for about twenty minutes.  He asked me a lot of the questions about life, work, etc. It was probably one of the nicest, and healthiest conversations we’ve had in about 6 years. 

I feel good about finding the courage to call.  It was totally freeing, and I feel an immense weight lifted off my shoulders. A heavy burden I’ve been carrying around for a long time. 

In hindsight, I strongly believe that by focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship during the last few months meant a positive outcome once I did make contact.  By focusing on myself for a while, I have come to know that my relationships are outer manifestations of what's going on the inside. I feel like I have truly made peace with this aspect of myself, and now I feel like I can accomplish anything. I feel energized having let go of all expectations from here on out, and I look forward to what’s going to happen next. 

Love, SJ

Let Your Heart Be Your Compass

I felt the sudden urge to share the background story about how I ended up becoming a student of yoga.  This should hopefully give you some context for some of the things I'm going to share with you regarding my work with Anne.

The following passage is adapted from my Yoga Teaching Training application to 108 Yoga, back in 2012.  And, it is no coincidence that I started finding hearts that same year. I believe that timing is everything once the decision is made to start making positive changes in your life. The supports show up to make it possible for you to align yourself with what it is you truly want. These supports can come to you in a lot of different ways, whether it's through the people you meet, the circumstances you find yourself in, or through something as simple as seeing a heart shape.

It is also important to note, that the quotes I inserted throughout my application were ones I picked up along the way, even before I started practicing yoga regularly. I would come across these and jot them down in my journal.  When you notice something that speaks to you. listen to it, write it down, revisit it, because it's the wisdom of the heart that is trying to tell you something.

...From my YTT Application (2012):

We begin our journey of spirituality, when we sever our intimately sensual relationship with fear – Dr.T.K.V Desikachar

My yoga journey began after a desire to change the course of my path…a life path that was directed by fear and insecurities. Before I started my regular yoga practice my life was unmanageable. My work, and some, but not all, of my relationships were anything but positive and caused me a lot of angst.  Negative thoughts and behaviors, and misperception clouded my sense of self. Stress, worry and the illusion of control were common themes. I knew there was more to living a more fulfilled life, but I felt trapped by anger, frustration, shame and self-doubt.

Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom – Victor Frankl

During the Fall of 2010 is when my course took a different turn. After experiencing an anxiety attack, somehow I knew that was my body’s way of telling me something had to change. I immediately started counseling and was blessed with a lovely counselor who helped me realize that I had a choice to make, and it was up to me to do the work.  Her suggestion was to start doing things for myself, so for me, these included things like better self-care and practicing yoga more regularly again. Soon after making the decision to implement these changes, the 108 Yoga Groupon popped into my inbox.

I started at the studio the week of my 30th birthday in February of 2011, and my six-month sabbatical began on June 30 that same year. This couldn’t have come at a better time, because I had lots of free time to devote to the practice. I arrived in Ireland on July 1 to do some sabbatical research and soon discovered it was going to be so much more than that. There was something about reconnecting with my ancestral heritage that opened my heart up even more to the healing process and put me more in touch with my spirituality. As one of my friends in Ireland said, the country is “one big open heart.”

That year was all about empowering myself in my ability to self-heal.

It was through the teachings at the studio that I became interested in the body’s ability to heal itself through chakra work and ayurvedic practices. Before I left for Ireland I started seeing a Reiki practitioner and I continued treatments and counseling once I returned to Canada. I also explored other complementary modalities, such as osteopathy and massage therapy.

Let your heart be your compass, your mind your map, your soul your guide and you will never get lost – Unknown

In January 2012, Dorothy, the owner of 108 Yoga at the time, offered The Four Desires workshop. Through this workshop, I discovered that my life’s purpose (dharma) is to provide direction for myself and for others, and I decoded my Dharma as “I am a compass.”  With my inner wisdom as my guide, I am able to align myself to True North, in order to clearly see the path that was intended for me. Along with seeing hearts, the imagery of the compass is another symbol of growing in the direction of living a more fulfilled life.

Through practice we develop faith in the wisdom of our spiritual intuition, faith in the continuity of our practice, and faith in our deepening understanding of yoga – Vyasa’s Commentary on the Yoga Sutras

It was not until I rediscovered the benefits of yoga that my life became manageable. My perception of the world around me began to change. I started to love and nurture myself and started taking better care of myself.  For example, being more honest with myself, making sure I get enough sleep, eating well, fostering positive friendships and relationships, and trusting my inner guide.

A daily practice allows me to further my personal development, attain mental clarity, quiet my mind and keep my heart open.  Yoga is the foundation necessary for living my life’s purpose, with authenticity.  My life is now abundant, and serene, as yoga provides for me the peace of mind, contentment, self-acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness required to set myself free.

...

Love, SJ