spirituality

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.

Knowing I'm Enough...Now

It was exactly 12 years ago today that I graduated with my Masters Degree from Dal.

Not too long ago, I was going through old photos, and came across one of my parents and I in front of the Rebecca Cohen auditorium on graduation day. Seeing myself in the photo brought me right back to how I felt that day, and to be honest, it made my heart sink a little. 

When sharing my feelings about a momentous day such as graduation, one might expect me to describe a sense of pride and accomplishment. Instead, I would describe it as a day filled with sadness and disappointment. Hidden behind my smile was negative self-talk, pain, and anger. From my perspective, I could have "performed better.” I recognize now that this type of inner dialogue was slowly but surely becoming the silent killer of my spirit. 

It might come as a surprise to you that despite having achieved all A-‘s on my transcript, lots of committee involvement, holding down a rare 2yr-long internship during my studies, *and* landing a tenure-track faculty position before I even walked across the stage, still wasn't “enough" for me. To top things off, because I didn’t make the cut for Beta Phi Mu (the International Library & Information Studies Honor Society) or receive any other graduation awards, I didn't think I was deserving of anything on graduation day. 

Rather than focusing on my accomplishments, and feeling grateful for where I was, I kept searching for what was missing, and then I bet myself up for that. On the outside, I was smiling, celebrating and hugging fellow graduates.  On the inside I hated myself.  It seems pretty absurd to think of speaking to myself in this manner today. In hindsight, I do appreciate where I was at the time, because it lead me to where I am now. 

While I do try to remain positive in my posts, I think it's important to share the dark parts of my story, because that's what makes sharing authentic and real. Perhaps revealing these parts of myself might inspire someone who might be struggling?  Practicing vulnerability is hard, and it takes a lot of courage. It does get easier the more I share, and I think the reason being is, I have zero attachment to the outcome. Sharing just feels like the right thing to do, and it's important for my personal growth.

During the last couple of months I have been spending a lot of time listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s audio book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life : Living the Wisdom of the Tao. In it, he reflects on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. He shares the ways in which we can remain centered in the Tao (aka higher power, spirit, God...) by knowing we're enough by dropping the need for external validation. Listening to these teachings raises my level of self-awareness and reaffirms that I am on the right path. All I have to do is be still and go within to access this ancient wisdom. Everything I need is right here. 

We all have an important role to play and have something to offer by first recognizing our higher purpose, no matter what society deems "successful."  Once I made the decision to live from this heart-centered place, my life completely shifted.  Things became much simpler, and more peaceful, and I started treating myself with more dignity, self-respect and love. 

When I reflect back on my past, I don't label my experiences as positive or negative, but rather as opportunities that shape who I am.  At our very core we are all born whole and enough.  What got me here? A hell of a lot of soul whispers and synchronicities. I am excited to share more of these stories with you in upcoming posts, now that I'm back to writing on a more regular basis.

Much love, 

Xo Sarah Jane

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

Writing & Relationships

I started seeing Anne Berube recently.  She is a very dear friend, and also a spiritually-based Life Coach.  I attended her Happy Sessions group workshop last July, and that is where I learned about the importance of vulnerability in sharing our stories.  Along with some accelerated personal growth work over the past year, it was time to start seeing Anne one-on-one.   

I have a fairly dedicated yoga and meditation practice (and have for about 6years).  Not until recently did I experience a major shift in how I approach the relationship I have with myself and with others. As my spiritual practice and self-awareness continue to expand, so too does my interest in working with the subtleties around how I spend my time and my energy. This is all in relation to my thoughts and limiting belief patterns, and how I choose to respond to (what I perceive as) the negativity that shows up in my life. 

How do I want to manage my energy?  Who do I want to spend my time with?  What is more fun for me? What brings me joy? When do I feel good? When do I not feel good? When do I feel supported?  Not necessarily over thinking, but listening to what my heart knows to be true, and trusting my intuition. All experiences, good or bad, are opportunities to either grow or shrink. I am empowered to choose one response over the other.

I am continually reminded that it takes a lot of courage to show up to a workshop, or to delve into “your stuff.”  However, for me, it's part of what I do on a daily basis. The more expansive I feel, the deeper I want to go, and the stronger the desire to explore something new.

Those who know me well know that I carry a journal with me wherever I go. Writing in itself is a very important part of the relationship I have with myself.  I write down everything!  Love stories, significant events, details about who I meet, what we talk about, how I feel in the moment, all of my fears, insecurities and disappointments. Sometimes my hand can’t write fast enough for my thoughts, it’s so exciting!  Once it’s all on paper, I feel better.

Sometimes, if I go back to my entries it’s as though I’m reading someone else’s words. These journals are nothing short of a chronology of spiritual growth history. My journal is one place that teaches me that it’s completely ok to be unapologetically me. And, the more I journal the more this idea shows up in my life, and in my relationships.

Writing is part of my path. I never really thought about it that way until Anne pointed it out. She suggested that I share more on my blog as opposed to keeping everything self-contained in my private journal. 

These entries will never replace writing with a pen and paper, and I don’t necessarily plan to divulge all the nitty-gritty details of a first date, or share how pissed off I feel in the moment. I will save those for my journal. I know, right!? How disappointing! ;)  I do; however, plan to share my work with Anne. Her suggestion to write more here reminds me about vulnerability and the importance of sharing our stories, as real as they are.

I want keep things simple, and accessible and hopefully something resonates with you, makes you smile, or sparks a little something in that heart of yours.  

Love, SJ