Right now I am learning about listening to my gut -- deeply listening -- and then letting whatever truth that lies there gracefully pop out of my mouth... It sounds so easy, right? Listen to your gut and then, well, just SAY it. However, as I continue to play with this way of being, I realize that this is a new for most of us here on Earth. From my experience, speaking what is true to me is not necessarily applauded in this realm: it means saying uncomfortable things like, "I am not going to do that, even though you want me to;" "It's time for us to go our separate ways;" "Your feet smell;" "You have food in your teeth"... etc. I think I speak for many of us when I say that I was raised in a culture of tribal people pleasing, a culture that patted me on the back for "going with the flow" instead of being an individual, for eating my peas when I really couldn't stand them, for sitting in my seat like a "good girl" and being quiet when I really felt like talking something out, for sticking with softball even though I got nauseous every time I put on my cleats. Most of us grew up in this tribal culture that told us the following: "do as we do and we will love you for it."
But as I continue to grow on my journey, I am beginning to realize the deep wisdom that lies within my instincts: those truths that lie deep within my gut (or third chakra), the things that I just "know" (in my sixth chakra) to be right. And by my instincts, I'm not talking about the animalistic instinct to eat chocolate EVERY night after dinner (#truth), but the deep inner callings of my Soul: the wisdom that is made clear to me when I sit quietly for a little bit. The quiet pushing and urging of the Holy Spirit that speaks to me in silent space.
I'm lucky enough to have married a man who also believes in the importance of "speaking your truth" -- tenet number one in our wedding vows -- and through our marriage I've had a safe platform to speak hard truths (i.e. "I don't think I can handle working at this job any more;" "I need some time alone;" "Your feet smell"). He's allowed me to play with working from my truths instead of following the handbook of obligatory "supposed tos" and loving me anyway -- you know, despite the boatload of debt I brought to our marriage, or my love of sing/shouting MC Yogi jams while in the shower. And the more I do this, the easier it gets, until I butt heads with that deeply ingrained tribal mindset that says "but you CAN'T do that (i.e. talk about Jesus during yoga, chant through the chakras at church, skip a work Christmas party, eat WHEAT sometimes) -- that's not how WE roll."
I am calling us all out as lovingly as possible: finger pointing at my own human faults as much as my neighbor's because, let's be honest, how many times have I guilted a former student into following the tribal philosophy of my classroom or a friend into coming to my birthday party (gross, but true...). If I am to live and move from what I hear the Holy Spirit telling me in my gut, I have to respect others' "truths" even when they hurt me or may not fit my expectations. I've realized that speaking my truth also means saying "Yeah, I was pretty shitty to you -- sorry 'bout that" or "Maybe I didn't do that in the best way possible..." It's hard and it sucks and it forces us to change A LOT, but when I study the ways of my greatest teacher in healing, Jesus, I am sure that this is the way that we will move forward as a human race -- to lovingly empower one another to be authentic, to get out of the game of manipulating one another through white lies that hide our mistakes and missteps, and boldly answer the deep and loving call of Spirit to evolve beyond our egos and live authentically.
And when I study the lessons of Jesus, I can see that This Man was the ultimate example of how to Stand-in-Power and Speak-Hard-Truths. The tribe surely didn't like what His authentic truth was: in fact they hated it so much that they killed him. But He was so authentically aligned with the Spirit that he couldn't, WOULDN'T back down... even though I'm sure he thought about it out there in the desert, you know, taking the easy "ohhhh, fine, whatever you guys say, just please don't kill me" way out. How easy it would have been to do this, but he didn't. He chose the way, the truth and the life that we are all called to do in our own lives -- to unabashedly, yet lovingly, speak what's true to us. No wonder he loved children so much, for this authentic way is our true nature as it's easy to see when you spend time with a raw little soul.
For the next few weeks before Easter, on the mat, I will invite my yoga students to do as the great Teacher did -- engage their fiery centers and wash away the shame or fear that keeps them from moving according to their authentic truths, no matter what the tribe thinks. Let us be free once and for all, just as Jesus was, and move from our center as lovingly as possible.
For a long while I have been feeling uneasy about "my place" in the yoga community: who am I among the millions (could that be real? It sure feels like there are millions of yoga teachers out there these days... ;)) of yoga instructors. Yeah, knowing all about alignment is cool, and I get that it's important that I understand it and mindfully plan safe practices; mudras and chakras and pranayama practices are also highly powerful, interesting and fun. But what's in my heart, what I can speak to from a sincere and genuine place, are the stories of Jesus and Mary, the Saints, Angels, and the traditions of my Catholic roots. I have worn many masks as a yoga teacher throughout the last five years: attempting to be the hotsy totsy, pop music vinyasa flow instructor, the scientific queen of anatomy, and the list goes on... And what I keep coming back to, what's real in the most authentic place in my soul, are my teachers: Jesus and Mary (yes, while maybe a bit untraditional, my Christian understanding is steeped with strong, powerful, kick-ass Catholic women: the Mary(s), Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Brigid, Joan of Arc... there are many and they hold equally powerful positions in the puzzle of my Christian understanding). And so I guess this post is my coming out party: that my call as a teacher is to create an even deeper understanding of the lessons of Christ on the yoga mat. There has to be a way that all of it -- the chakras, the breathwork, the poses; nature, the seasons, the rhythms of life; AND the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection -- makes sense. And that's what I aim to learn and teach through my yoga practice: not Hinduism OR Christianity, not Ayurveda OR the Incarnation, but all of it: meditation AND prayer, Krishna AND Jesus, Energy AND the Holy Spirit.
So what the heck does this have to do with winter? I've been really reflective on the season of Lent -- the time when Jesus went out in the desert to be alone with God before he was faced with the most tumultuous and trying time of His life: the crucifixion. As I prayed about all of this today, I realized that this time of quiet with God is what the season of winter is calling us to be a part of.
Ayurvedically, winter is a YIN time when energy is low within all parts of nature, including ourselves: we are called, during this time, to enter into the quiet, conserve our energy, and prepare for what's next. And as much as over-eating, over-spending and over-drinking help us to feel "better", it's not a "good" that lasts - but a fleeting one that often makes us feel ickier than we did before we grabbed for whatever it was to ease our discomfort. So, as much as you may be wanting to avoid winter, my practices during lent call us to enter it, fully, without resistance, patiently accepting the lessons that God is teaching us through these winter months.
If you want to recharge your battery in a gentle, loving, nurturing way that will give you the energy to keep going join me on the mat, and I can promise you that the Holy Spirit will take care of you through these beautiful, gently heating restorative classes.
Let's come together and focus on the beautiful reminder that the Holy Spirit offers us during the winter season: "Be still and know that I am God."
Yoga Therapist, Teacher, Speaker, Writer, Mother