Category Archives: Uncategorized

It All Comes Down to You

We all get into places where we feel like our feet (or maybe head) are stuck in the ground. We look around, maybe even ask for help, but there’s none to be found. Friends can come visit, providing nourishment or encouragement, but they never seem to be able to pull us out on their own. And so we wallow. Assume it’s our lot in life. And learn to “have fun” by engaging in all sorts of reckless and stupid activities. Like getting blackout wasted.

It’s easy to feel stuck in our lives in North American society, when we’re preached to from birth that the only acceptable life outcome is home ownership, career ownership,  spouse ownership and offspring ownership. But something in our souls longs to be free. Not of jobs, homes, wives and kids, per se – but we yearn for the ability to choose – again and again.

Makes sense when you think about how we’re always changing. They say on a cellular level that we’re a whole new person every seven years. Literally every molecule in our body. New. Yet we also remain who we are. The observer. The witness. The listener. Whatever you wanna call it. And that person doesn’t give a shit about your BMW so much as it does seeking a return to authentic joy.

As energetic beings, we all have a vibration. We’re water. In motion. All the time. Held together mainly by the exterior we call skin. So doesn’t it make sense, then, that we don’t like feeling stuck?

Like Morgan said in Shawshank, you can get busy living or get busy dying. And like “they” say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Reason why? The teacher was always there. It’s just that you weren’t. It all comes down to you, gypsy. Have no fear – only love.

Get Lost

I wrote this spring about following my dreams, even if I didn’t know what they were.  At the time I felt completely lost, and had just taken a job with a law firm that would never make me happy, for the money, and quit two days later. We all have dreams. Sometimes I think we’ve just spent so little time on them that we may not even know what they are, what they mean, or how to pursue them.

I guess that makes sense, since most of us spend most of our waking day doing something we wished we weren’t doing, leaving us exhausted, with little left to give. So I’ve been thinking that to get to where I wanna go, I’ve first gotta let go of enough of the stuff that’s been dragging me down, to be able to get lifted up when these dreams present themselves. I’ve already got to be the me I want to be. The me that deserves that next awesome thing.

But letting go is hard. Maybe so, but it’s easier than hanging on to a sinking anchor. Which is what sticking with something that’s bringing you down is like. Makes it hard to breathe.

So dream detection. How do I know when I’m on to something, versus just being an idiot? You just know. Ya know? The problem is that we’ve got all these little voices in our heads – our own, our father’s, our girlfriend’s – telling us we’re wrong. Foolish. Unprepared. Under-resourced. Less than capable in some way.

My friend Stephen recently told me about a book that he loves called “The Secret of Letting Go” by Guy Finley. I’ve got about 40 pages left and have thoroughly enjoyed every one so far. If you’ve ever, like me, felt trapped in your own life, this book is a winner. When you open the cover, the first page reads simply: “Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over…”.

It really is a wonderful book that beautifully encapsulates  much of the Eastern wisdom I’ve long held as truth, and presents it in an easily digestible format. It also, of course, was presented to me right when I probably needed it the most. As “they” say; “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. So maybe today is your day to get lost too.

I said recently that just because you don’t know where you’re going, doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you want. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted. To be happy and feel like I did my life job. I’ve just been too busy trying to force things to be the way I was taught and thought they were supposed to be that I feel like I almost could have missed the point all together. Wouldn’t that be a pity.

A poem.

oh you pretty thing
found yourself lost in a dream
bought the lie
sold your soul
gave up your rock and roll
now arrived at the end-zone
there you lay all alone
looking back low
no life to call your own

2011’s been a whacky year for sure. And I KNOW it’s not just me. Let’s send it out with a bang and start again.


…and what it all comes down to my dear friends… is that everything is just fine fine fine…

Getting to Grateful

Another holiday season has arrived. Although you wouldn’t know it by the periodically 80 degree weather we’re still experiencing here in Dallas. While I’m guessing this will mean snow in May (we got 3″ the first day of spring this year), at least it’s nice for now.

I think the weather has caused the holidays to sort of creep up on us this year, and I’ve talked with lots of people this week who couldn’t believe that Thanksgiving was already here. So I’m now beginning to see the onslaught of facebook posts about the holidays: both pro and con.

General gist of the pros: I love my family. I’m grateful for my life. I like pie.

General gist of cons: I don’t like my family much. I’m upset about things in my life. I hate how fattening pie is.

Earlier this year my cousin Jen married a survivor of the Aggie Bonfire. He’d been up top and has been in a wheelchair since I’ve known him. Here’s his facebook two cents on the holidays:

Glad to still be here. Always saddens me to remember this time of year. But thankful the times aren’t as dark. Even though I never met the twelve who died; I am always reminded of the people I’ve lost in my life, regardless of if they were strangers or family…They made an impact. So I wish all happy holidays and remind you to appreciate not only what you’ve lost, but to celebrate what you still have. There will always be somebody “better off” & someone “worse off” than you. So if the holiday blues try to get you, tell them they weren’t invited and remember. Had I not passed through the dark tunnels in my life, I wouldn’t have emerged to appreciate the goodness and love I’m surrounded by now. If life hadn’t ran me over a few times, I wouldn’t realize how truly blessed I am. So god bless and happy holidays!

…But how do we get from the black hole to the blue skies? I find cliches to be cliche because they’re typically true. Who’s ever heard “Time heals all wounds”?  Is there anything we can do to hurry things along, at least? I dunno. But I have noticed that there’s a few things that I do that make me feel better if I’m feeling blue or lonely.

For starters, I’ll make myself not alone for a little while. Nothing wrong with a little human interaction. We all need it. I’m really lucky to have awesome friends and family, being that I  live in  my hometown and all, but that doesn’t mean somebody is available to play on demand. Even if no one you know is around, there’s always still plenty of people ready and waiting for you… somewhere.

Heard of the internet? Guess what. There’s a meet up, hoedown, yoga class, music show, or whatever you’re into going on all the time, all over the place. So if you wanna talk with someone, chances are you won’t find them in your house. You’re going to have to go out.

But then again, sometimes you’re your own best company. There’s always a closet to go through to donate old items, a picture to draw, a book to read, a meditation CD to lay down and listen to.  Still bored? How about learning to cook something new. Or volunteering at a soup kitchen (a personal favorite during the holidays). Or blogging.

Too bummed for all of that? How about switching the channel to something upbeat or motivational? I love The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Got Netflix? Plenty of good stuff on there as well. What we’re watching and listening to affects our mood. It’s easy to listen to nothing but Debbie Downer’s Greatest Hits when you’re in a shitty mood, but why not try putting on something to suit the mood you’d like to be in instead?

Above all else this holiday season, remember that wherever you are, you aren’t alone. The collective universe loves you. Even when you can’t see it, feel it, hear it or touch it.

 

LOVE.

LOVE. Mirriam-Webster gives nine definitions for this four letter word (some with multiple subsections). So it’s no wonder we’re all so damned confused about what the hell it means when someone says it to us.

We’re all a product of our own experiences, so I think it’s only natural that when we’re told that we’re loved, we think it means to the person saying it what it would mean in the same context if we said it to them.

WRONG. And of course it makes sense that this thinking is wrong. The person saying it isn’t YOU. They’re THEM. So it may mean something totally different to them. You might be saying love, and it means I love every fiber of your being, and the essence of who you are (including your imperfections). The other person might be saying love, and it could mean they love the way you make them feel about themselves. Or the things you do for them. Or something else entirely.

Of course the only way to really know this is with time. I hear that actions speak louder than words, but truth be told, I think they’re both pretty damn important. So after a little time, if we pay attention, I think we can find out if we’ve found ourselves the type of relationship we wanna be in or not.

There’s lots of reasons we stay in less than amazingly satisfying relationships. Convenience. Loneliness. Fear. It’s good enough/There won’t be anything better. Nobody’s perfect. I’m running out of time (need house, babies, yard, dog, yadda). My friends will keep including me in all the fun couples stuff. My parents will get off my ass.

No big surprise to those who know me – I love love!  I also think we have within us the capacity to love nearly anybody, since we’re all little parts of the same magnificent beast that is life. But beyond that, I think we have to love ourselves first and foremost enough to call it quits when it’s time to call it quits.

Figuring out when it’s time to call it quits is rough. If you listen to religion and lots of old timers, they’ll say once the contract is signed – BAM! – you’re bound together for life. I reject that, although I’ve personally opted to not sign any contracts to date, in hopes of wanting to be sure it’ll happily stick, before I commit.

I’m currently reading a book called “The Dip” by Seth Godin. The tag line says it’s “A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick).” The Dip, he says, is “a temporary setback that you will overcome if you keep pushing.” He says that “winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt – until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons.”

So as it relates to love, at some point we gotta figure out if the Dip means it’s time to call it quits, or if it’s worth digging in and sticking. For me, the time to call it quits has ultimately come when one party or the other realizes, or starts behaving in such a way, to where one or both parties realize that one person is into the other person more than vice versa. That’s a really stupid way of saying if and when you realize that “he’s just not that into you”, it’s time to bail.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I’m not perfect. Nor do I think that anyone else walking the planet is either. But I’m perfectly clear that before I settle down with someone for the long haul, they damn well better think I’m perfect for them. Just the way I am. And vice versa. Cause to me, that’s love.

A poem.

you say us being over is a crime
sublime
don’t you know life turns on a dime
next time
i won’t give up peace of mind
for you
so take your tricks on down the road
just go
you’re beautiful but not mine to hold
i tried
next time i’ll do better than before
to find
the line to tow in give and take
i’ll shake
the bum wrap of door mat
i’ll find
someone else to call mine
in time
won’t mind me the way i am

Life’s Funny

Life’s funny. Right when you think you’ve figured something out, things change. If we’re lucky, we get to see how the people, places, experiences and things that came in and out of our life have always all been for the best. But how do we stay happy, even when things seem shitty, and where does happiness come from anyways?

I don’t know. But stuff is stuff, and “things” can be great.  I’m pretty positive that “things” fall flat in creating happiness in several important respects, though. Certainly I can do things to make myself happy and create happiness around me. But can other people cause happiness too?

It gets thrown around a lot that true happiness comes solely from within, and sure, to an extent… but is true happiness truly solitary? Does it come simply from enjoyment of wearing the skin you’re in, and everything in between it; or does it also require companionship and an outside world of sorts?

Happiness derived in part from companionship starts to make some sense if you subscribe to any one of a variety of oneness theories. Or believe any of the studies conducted on happiness as it relates to human touch and interaction, marriage, and/or pet ownership.

As one of my yoga teachers explains: “We’re all just energetic beings enjoying a human experience”. So then, essentially, we aren’t entirely ourselves at all really, rather we’re just a little sprinkle on a piece of pie, at the hippest bakery, which is still just one of five on any non-descript New York City block, lucky enough to be enjoying this fine day.

But sometimes it seems like there’s a lot of junk standing in the way of enjoying the day. Each and every day. Here, right now. Work, money, relationships, self-doubt, whatever.

Meditating and focusing on “reaching” enlightenment all day might help me clear my brain, but I’m not so sure it can help me become fully engaged, and impact and enjoy something bigger and more important than myself… like the world. Which I think’s gotta be the reason I’m here. To give, receive, love, be loved, experience and enjoy.

Walk of Life

So I thought something really stupid here recently. I thought that when my dog got old, and stopped acting like she gave a hoot about doing stuff, that it meant she was ready for retirement to her doggie bed. She’s had arthritis/hip problems for years, and had some time ago started seeming like all she wanted to do was lie around all the time.

I took her to the vet a few weeks ago, who said that Dakota was really losing the muscles in her back legs, which was pretty typical for old gals like her. The vet stressed that it was more important now than ever that I be taking her for walks, so she could maintain her strength and vitality. I suddenly felt horribly guilty, and committed to start re-integrating regular lengthy outings to our daily regimen.

Well, it’s only been a short time, and we’ve just been taking about two 15 minute strolls near daily. I’ve already noticed some incredible differences: 1) Where she had no longer been running – we ran the other day (a whole block =)). 2) Where she had no longer been able to jump on the bed, she’s now back up there regularly.

It’s amazing what something as simple as a little walking around can do for a pooch. Or human. In his book “8 Weeks to Optimum Health”, Dr. Andrew Weil says that walking is the single most important and beneficial exercise for humans, and encourages it above all else. Maybe it’s like Newton says –  an object in motion is supposed to stay in motion. So I only suppose it makes sense that we either use it, or we lose it.

Spandex Pretext

I went on Kurt Johnsen’s radio show “Health Wealth and Happiness” last week to talk about Pass the Mic, and got to sit in while he  interviewed Yeah-Dave Romanelli. They got into a pow wow about the relative merit or demerit of the Yoga Journal “Talent Search“.  I believe Kurt’s point was that marketing fashion and cool tricks as being what yoga’s about is risky business. Well, it got me thinking.

DID YOU KNOW: Yoga is now a $6 BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY?* And for some reason it seems to revolve in large part around black spandex pants.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with fancy yoga clothes and gear. And I get that there’s merit to the instructor not wearing MC Hammer pants, so that you can see what he or she is demonstrating. I also get that while practicing, you wanna wear something that’s not gonna get in your way. But what I don’t get is why that all has to mean spandex. Unless you just dig it.

Like lots of people I know, when I started taking yoga classes at a studio, I got hooked during the introductory new student special. And then signed up for a pricey membership, and went out and bought a bunch of pairs of tight black polyester spandex pants. Not to mention a $60 sweat towel to put on my mat, that I would eventually leave at a studio, never to be heard from again. And let’s not forget the $22 stainless steel eco-friendly water bottles.

All of this simultaneously caused pain to my ever so fragile pocketbook, made me more self-conscious about the weight I had to lose (and leaving the house in said pants), and had me wondering whether or not I could afford to practice yoga. Thankfully, at some point I came to the realization that one of the beauties of yoga is that it doesn’t require any of that. All I needed was me.

So nowadays in class, you’ll likely catch me donning sweats or American Apparel leggings from eBay (see: above), a Hanes beater, and a $9 mat from Target. Not because I don’t like nice things (I sure do!), but because for me, I’ve found that my scarce resources are best allocated elsewhere.

There’s no mat, yogi towel, groovy toe sock or nifty boob lifting and separating wonder sports bra that are going to make my body and mind healthy and free of pain. For me, it’s the actual practice of yoga that helps work towards that goal, and it’s the reason I go to yoga in the first place.

The beauty of the healing benefits of yoga are that they’re free; and require only yourself, gravity and the ground. The cool toys are just icing. Besides, what kind of gear do you think Patanjali** and his posse were sporting? =)

*I found this article while proofing my entry. Yes, it uses a lot of the same punch lines. Guess they’re just some of the obvious ones. Right on, Elephant Journal!

**Patanjali = Considered the Granddaddy of modern yoga.

Tell Them I’m Struggling

I’ve been quiet for months, cause I haven’t had much to say worth sharing. Like everyone else, I’ve been busy trying to forge my path through this wacky world, and feeling like I wasn’t sure what my next move would be. Everything inspiring has seemed impossible, and everything possible has seemed uninspiring.

Sometimes, I think it’s when we’re right on the verge of getting everything we ever dreamed of that it seems the most unlikely that it’s ever really going to happen. I think that’s been the case for me. I’ve been wandering somewhat aimlessly through my career lately, wondering how to fuse it with passion.

To others, the answer may have seemed obvious – practice music law. I’ve been hearing it for a good while. From people I trust and respect. They’ve believed in me. But if I’m being really honest with myself, I haven’t believed in myself. I’ve been afraid of not knowing what to do. Afraid that little ole me doesn’t have the resources to do it, even if I figured it out. Afraid of never getting out of debt, and never being where I want to be financially. Maybe too, afraid of what it would truly mean to succeed.

After 2 1/2 years of self-employment, I recently started shopping my resume. Last week I got an interview at a firm who wanted to pay me respectable money, if I’d start right away – and I took it in a heart beat. Why? To pay my bills. The problem? I realized at lightening speed that it was a poor fit, and that I wouldn’t be happy.

So after my second day with the firm, it was time for a weekend of major celebration: My brother Matt’s Bar Mitzvah. Although I wanted nothing more than to be in the party spirit, my own haste in decision making and perceived life in the balance were weighing heavily on my mind. And amidst discussions, and while surrounded by all of my family and friends (several of whom are the lawyers on the planet I trust most), the truth came out. I’d sold out.

So my call to action is simple. I’m resolved to buy back in. To believing in myself. To going for it – whatever it is that I want. No matter what. I’ve worked long and hard to get to where I’ve gotten (wherever that may be) and I’ll forge ahead – despite the scariness of the unknown. It’s time to make a change, and dammit I’m going to figure out a way to make it happen.

At the service for Matt’s Bar Mitzvah Saturday morning, I opened up the prayer book, and found the following poem on one of the opening pages. Maybe being willing to let down your guard, and admit your struggle, is to gain the support of the universe. Namaste to all.

Tell Them I’m Struggling, by David Meltzer

Tell them I’m struggling to sing with angels who hint at it in
black words printed on old paper gold edged by time.
Tell them I wrestle the mirror every morning.
Tell them I sit here invisible in space; nose running, coffee cold,
& bitter.
Tell them I tell them everything & everything is never enough.
Tell them I’m davening & voices rise up from within to startle children.
Tell them I walk off into the woods to sing.
Tell them I sing loudest next to waterfalls.
Tell them the books get fewer, words go deeper, some
take months to get through.
Tell them there are months when it’s all perfect; above
‘n’ below, it’s perfect, even in moments in between where
sparks in space (terrible, beautiful sparks in space)
are merely metaphors for the void between
one pore and another.

The Season of Gifting

Giving feels great, and the season is definitely upon us. Black Friday is a surefire sign that Big Business has decided that it’s time to shop, but perhaps you don’t have to blow your wad this year to feel good and get your point across.

Tiffany and her posse say that their overpriced diamonds give your heart a voice. Kay says that every kiss begins with Kay. De Beers says that only two things are forever – love and diamonds.

The expensive shiny rocks are pretty. No doubt. But any Yahoo with a few bucks (or who is deemed to be able to get a few bucks in the somewhat foreseeable future) can buy one. Does the fact that someone is willing to shell out a bunch of dough, or take out a loan, make him or her a loving significant human in your life? In my experience: Nope.

A diamond may last forever, but the good juju you get from giving or receiving one sure doesn’t. If your relationship has issues, it still will – whether you spend more than you can afford on gifts or not. If your relationship is solid, it still will be – and your loved one won’t want you to spend money you don’t have on expensive gifts anyways.

So for clarification, am I saying there’s anything wrong with people with lots of money spending it on diamonds? A resounding no. As far as gifts go, they hold their value a lot better than lots of other things. Like Mercedes, for example.

But realistically, most of us can’t afford expensive presents this year. Not in the Dave Ramsey sense of the word “afford”, anyways. And that’s OK. There are lots of other ways to show you care. Like saying so. Or spending time with your special someone. Or making them something. Or buying them something small but personally significant.

OMxiety

My first om happened on January 1, 2009 at Gaia Flow Yoga. I’d been practicing the physical poses of yoga in gyms for years, but nobody had ever omed in front of me, that I could recall.

Oming is a common occurrence in yoga studios at the beginning and/or end of a practice. All it involves is inhaling deeply, opening your mouth, and allowing the single syllable, pronounced “aum” to come out, steady and rhythmically, and then holding the note, with everyone else in class. Some teachers belt out long loud oms, while others practice a more soft and subtle om.

Sting wrote the forward to a book called “Yoga Beyond Belief”, which one of my teachers (Chinook Wudshu) is currently reading for a training he’s going to. Sting said: “Admittedly, I don’t sing (in the shower) what anyone would recognize as songs, per se, nor do I use the shower fitting as a fantasy microphone, but instead limit myself to vocalizing long resonant tones. I will sustain an om for as long as my lungs can hold out, and advance semitone by semitone of the chromatic scale…”

When I first starting practicing om, it made me anxious, and I didn’t want to do it. Being prone to analysis paralysis, and after a lifetime of being told I couldn’t hold a note to save my life, oming made me feel exposed and inferior. I’d find myself in a comfortable seated position, pressing my hands together at my chest as tightly as I could, squeezing my eyes together to keep them shut, and then letting out whatever noise I could, just hoping my voice wouldn’t croak and disrupt the class. Afterwards, I’d notice an increase in my heart rate. What? But I’m supposed to be relaxing?

So what is om, anyways? My first teacher, Chrystal Rae Almeida, explained that “om is the sound of the universe spinning into creation”. I read recently in an article in Yoga Journal that om is “the audible expression of the transcendental, attributeless ground of reality.”

OK. No wonder I was nervous. Not only am I singing in front of a room full of strangers for the first time since childhood, but I’m singing about a subject as meaty as actual existence. Whatever that is.

But something cool happened by facing my OMxiety head on and moving past it. About a year later, I started singing. In front of people. On stage. For the first time since middle school. And I love it. After that, I started writing lyrics, which I also love. And after that, I started successfully learning to play an instrument for the first time in my life, despite a two decade desire to learn.

There’s a field of psychology that deals with anxiety called “cognitive behavioral therapy” which seems to assert that anxiety is caused by a lack of understanding of the nature of the way that things really are. One of treatments is called “exposure”, in which the therapist exposes the patient to whatever it is that they’re anxious about, and thus avoiding, in order to help them get over it.

Invariably, we avoid that which we are anxious about. But, by facing our fears head on, we can eventually come to realize our misconceptions about things, and then we can start actually living the life we dream about.To me, this seems right in line with the aims in our practice of yoga, as far as using meditation and other techniques, such as breathing and exercise, in order to become more clear about what’s going on. As they say, it’s a practice.