Good Morning Yoga

This 30 minute practice opens your hips gently and fluidly, perfect post run/workout as I did this morning. It’s a vinyasa, so you get a nice flow going, and she takes you into all sorts of hip openers from tree pose to butterfly.

If you have tight hips, don’t fret. Take it easy, go as far as you can – accept your body where it’s at today. My right hip always tightens up more than the left one, and it’s so easy to get frustrated over this! But it’s okay. Just show up today and let the body be what it is.

One caveat – opening your hips can bring up a lot of emotion, so be mindful of what might come up.

Allow.

Relax.

Open.

Enjoy.

Namaste –

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beginning again

I’ve just taken a month off from writing. I had internal work to do – physical and emotional and spiritual healing, and I needed the freedom and the space to devote my full attention to this. I had thought that, upon beginning again, I would take my record here in a feminist direction – elucidating the female experience for the sake of everyone who doesn’t know what it’s like, to lend my voice to whatever the feminist movement is now, to share my story.

But then – well, I told my mother on the phone this morning that I had my equivalent of St. Paul’s revelation on the road to Damascus. For all intents and purposes, I saw the face of God. I’ll relate the full story in another post, but trust me when I say I was and even still am a bit reluctant. Because this all happened in a way that made the reality of God undeniable for me. And I’m not entirely comfortable with that.

 With this revelation, I’m motivated to revisit the Bible, to study Christian texts, to understand what exactly it means for me to believe in God. Now. Because my faith was everything to me until I was about 16, but now, truly, I’m starting anew.

What I know is this – for the last six and half years or so, I’ve been trying on Darkness. I threw my purity ring to the wind, engaged in all the debauchery the world has to offer, and had some truly sensational experiences [I’m literally writing novels]. All my lights were out in the summer of 2014, when I found myself unbearably depressed, isolated, and numb, spending 72 hours in a mental facility so I wouldn’t kill myself. This was the low point. I see it as my rock bottom – the moment when I realized if I spiraled any further I would extinguish my flame entirely and that I had no choice but to go up from there. Since then, I’ve been building, exploring, studying – practicing. Gradually awakening parts of my self I’d dulled or forgotten, gradually remembering who I was as a child, as a teenager – before all the pain, before all the darkness. I started practicing yoga daily, consciously eating healthy food, treating my body with respect – I started being kind to my self. And I started exploring spirituality.

I’ve made incredible friends who explore this as well, had myriad conversations about Buddhism, faith, meditation, religion, politics, the principles of right and wrong, the way the world works, what it is to be “cool,” – etc. And I found solace, comfort, solidarity with all these people who seem as lost as me. Who are curious, intelligent, awake to reality on some level, but left without viable options when it comes to spirituality. We each seem to form a syncretic cocktail of ideas and, comparing stories and philosophies with so many, I find that we’re all headed in a similar direction. We all want love and kindness and unity and acceptance – the very ideals Christianity supposedly purports. But I’ll be honest, not many people want to be associated with Christians. I certainly didn’t – the people who claimed to espouse my devout beliefs in high school were the very ones who ridiculed me. Even now, I’m reluctant. And I know I’m not the only one.

So, as I embark on this journey of figuring out what the hell it means to believe in God, to read the Bible, to potentially classify my self, once again, as a Christian – I figured I might as well publicly document it. I’ve had enough conversations with enough of my peers to know that other people are asking the same questions I am. This is for you. For me. For anyone who wonders what it means, now, in this century, in our present culture, to live. This is for the sake of love. Unity. Understanding. Hope. For Light.

 sunflower

Love –

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Soul Care

As humans, we are inherently triune beings – mind, body, and soul. Growing up in charismatic Christian circles, I saw people moved by what they called the holy spirit. Now I see that these people use[d] religion as a means to give their souls life. They spoke in tongues and danced around rooms, “moved with the spirit.” But I feel the same spirit when I listen to jazz or absorb great paintings; I pulse with that life when I dance in a club or write a story. I may not ascribe to any religion, but my soul is as alive as ever.

We are raised to go to school, to seek education – to read books and solve math problems in care of our minds. We’re taught to eat healthy foods and exercise to care for our bodies. But what about our souls? The spirituality of religion can get stuck in legalism and dogma, leaving the greater part of the population lost and, in many ways, dead.

“A little wisp of soul carrying a corpse.” – Epictetus.

 

Our souls are what bring us to life – they’re the animating factors that shine light behind our eyes and make our skin glow. Think of humans as double layer cakes – mind and body are the layers of cake, but without frosting, who wants to eat it? Dry and crumbly, maybe it tastes good for a few bites, but something’s missing. The glue, the moisture, the decadence – the icing on the cake – the soul.

All animals have bodies and minds. But what make us human, what have the potential to make us great and transcendent beings, are our souls. Our healthy souls can unite us, make us free, give us power, and lead us in paths of love and light. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sets physiological and safety as the lowest two – the only needs that are purely physical or mental. The top three are love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – the needs of the soul. So, if you don’t believe me, believe an esteemed psychologist – 3/5 of our most basic human needs are those of the soul.

But in a society, a culture, a world that neglects the soul – how do we care for it? How can we bring it to life? This takes work, consciousness, dedicated practice; Rome was not built in a day. Maybe you follow religious teachings, maybe you let music and art spark your internal fire, maybe you practice meditation and yoga. Start by clearing out the cobwebs, dusting the corners, and opening the windows – the beginning is the hardest part. Just as muscles atrophy in the absence of strain and brain cells wither away with disuse, our neglected souls wilt like thirsty flowers in the shade. We need sunlight, we need water, and we need these things regularly. People use drugs to feel alive in this way – to skip the daily practice and enjoy the light of the soul for an evening. But this feeling of ecstasy is possible on a daily basis. With practice, with care, the soul becomes stronger and brighter, and your power becomes increasingly accessible.

pen and ink drawing let the light in

So, as Voltaire wrote, let us cultivate our gardens. Let us seek out beauty and love, surrounding ourselves with objects and images and sounds and foods that bring us joy, with people who radiate light – let us make our souls happy. When we do this, all other desires are met – a body and mind connected to a healthy soul with be beautiful and intelligent and strong. So yes, have your workout and your salad, and read your books and work your sudokus, but begin with the soul. Stoke your internal fire and all parts of you will burn as brightly. 

Let the light in.

 

Love, calm, & care –

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Short Skirts in Siberia

I wrote a summer post about this skirt, so now I can use it as an example of how to winterize your wardrobe! I live in a place where they decorate the streets and parks with actual ice sculptures, so I have to bundle up. Any time I leave my home, I need my down coat, gloves, and loads of layers.

down coat earmuffs bundled up style

So how does one wear a short skirt in -5°C/23°F weather [the warmest it’s been all week]?

solving outfit problems

Start with magic tights – these are lined with velour, and I swear I can stand outside in them waiting for a bus for twenty minutes and barely feel a draft. They sell them all over the place here, and I found these in one of the many shopping malls. In Colorado I would wear fleece tights [found on Amazon] with skirts and it worked fine, but that doesn’t quite cut it here.

warm tights for winter

This is the velour side. Heaven on my skin.

On top, I’ve found that layering a shirt with a sweater is the best bet. I got this heat tech long sleeve from Uniqlo shortly after arriving here for around $15, and it’s already paying for itself. Good thing I also bought a turtleneck version. It’s fitted, so it’s perfect for layering or wearing on its own.

button front skirt and fitted black top

I can’t tell you how handy a length of black ribbon can be. I use it for loads of things from headbands to neckties, and here it works as a belt. Found in my mother’s ribbon bag.

ribbon belt cocked hip short skirt

My dear mother bought me this sweater before I left Colorado. She might feel chagrined to see that I tore off the entire bottom half of it, but what would a piece of clothing in my wardrobe be without some sort of adaptation?

warm white winter sweater outfit

As for the skirt – I love the pockets. Wrist deep. Easily the best feature.

deep skirt pockets tattoo watch girl

An adjustment I made more recently was adding this invisible magnetic snap between the first two buttons. It had a tendency to gape, and I didn’t like the look of that, so I sewed a little magic in and now it’s good as gold.

easy at home fix for gaping skirt

I found this skirt at a thrift store, but I did a bit of digging online and came up with a couple options that are available now. This one costs less, this one is mid-range, and this one costs more. The key with things like this is to find your version of it. I had in mind that I wanted a button front skirt, and this one is exactly my own. Every single person could wear a different one – do you.

I pin curled my hair today because I washed it in the morning and taught classes all day. I came home, threw on a headscarf, and when I take it out tomorrow it’ll be bouncy and glorious.

pin curl hair short hair style

Teaching the children has me on my feet all day, so a quick yoga video upon arriving home is just the thing. My favorite Youtube yoga instructor has one for people who work in the service industry. It’s barely 20 minutes, doesn’t even require a yoga mat, and leaves you feeling unwound in the best way.

Love, calm, and care –

How to Have Feelings

I don’t know about you, but America’s education system did not prepare me for real life. Emotions? Those aren’t mentioned in physical education or Spanish I. I spent my adolescence with a brick wall between my mind and my heart – I was emotionally ignorant. While I did just earn a college degree, what I actually learned during the past four years was how to feel. And I didn’t learn this in school.

You know how when you’re really happy, you physically go a little nuts? Whether you shout or dance or grab someone near you and shake them with joy, you move. Emotional energy has to move out of the body. Negative energy is no different from positive in this way. My reflex is to shut down and isolate myself, only to find that I’m more upset than ever and am burning with angst or something, but I have no clue what it is or why it’s happening.

I used to be so embarrassed that I had feelings. I saw it as a weakness, something to get rid of quietly. Movies show people acting out of raw emotions without thinking things through, without taking the time to feel before making decisions. Feeling and movement go hand in hand for me – they both clear my head. Whether it’s a run or boxing or lifting weights or yoga – when my body is busy, my heart can feel and my mind can think.

A good cry is scientifically proven to be the most efficient way to move the emotional energy out, but that doesn’t always come easy. Often, it comes on the heels of exercise. When I have something pent up inside, I find myself shedding tears as I’m punching a bag or breathing on my yoga mat. Then I finish my yoga, and I turn on the shower and let hot water run over me while I sob in the fetal position. It’s so cathartic, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I began with boxing. I’d been hurt by a lot of people [including myself] and didn’t know what to do with that, so I punched out my aggression. It’s okay to be pissed off, as long as you’re taking it out in a healthy way, a way that doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Yoga, in many ways, saves me every day. Breathing air into all parts of the body, letting it circulate, it’s the freshness of spring cleaning every time you practice. It’s entirely free because it’s all over Youtube, and you can do it in the privacy of your own home, so no one cares if you look funny or if you fart, because you will. And the acceptance, the calm that comes with it makes you okay with that.

Movement, getting in touch with my body, has served as one of the most effective tools of recovery for me. Finally feeling all the emotions that I’d pushed down with food or alcohol or whatever else has been purifying. It’s helped me dig out all the skeletons in my closet, and now they are all happily cremated and serving as fertilizer to the new growth in my soul. And, really, I don’t think any of that would have been possible without physically getting my feelings out of my body. Once they’re out, they lose their power, and you’re able to analyze them with a clear mind, to work through the causes instead of acting out of the effects. And, like every other form of self-care, it’s so worth it.

What do you think? How do you get your feels out?

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Curving Cravings

Cravings are an automatic avoidant reaction. I crave things when my heart can’t take in all the feelings that it’s presented with. Whether it’s a walk, a burrito, a coffee, a cigarette – all of these are distractions. So to unlock cravings, you pause – catch yourself.

Now – you’ve stopped yourself in search of a fix, looked at the situation objectively, and listened to your emotions. Now what? Yes, you have a choice, but what are the other options? In any kind of recovery, you need alternatives. Call them coping skills, outlets – it’s all the same. I’m not going to stop myself from buying the cookies if I don’t have any other options.

Part of recovery is finding your options. Cravings can be born of boredom, so this spurs a search of the self. What do you like to do? What makes you happy? What makes you feel good? It’s different for everyone, naturally, but universally healthy things are great choices. Start with breathing. In your stopping and listening, breathe deeply. Get oxygen all up in your lungs and let it out slowly, wholly. Repeat. Whether you want a cigarette or a line or a cheeseburger – slow your roll. Breathe.

Going for a drive, looking at a good view - these are outlets.

Going for a drive, looking at a good view – these are outlets.

Now, if you don’t know yourself very well, the search for things you enjoy can seem daunting. Try to see it as an adventure. Try new things – you might like them. Even if you don’t, the process of pushing your boundaries comes with its own exhilarating rewards. Ever done yoga? Go on youtube and test it out in the privacy of your own home. Like to read? Try it and see. Have a bicycle? Try riding it. Draw a picture. Or, if that sounds scary, get one of those fancy adult coloring books. Art is soothing – creativity is healing. Maybe you learned to play a musical instrument as a kid – try picking it back up. Or take lessons for the first time. Go outside. Visit a museum. Explore a neighborhood of your city. Call a friend.

I always find movement helpful, whether it’s movement of the body or the mind. The emotions that lead to cravings aren’t usually pleasant, and while recognizing them and taking a moment to sit and feel them certainly helps – it’s difficult. I can feel annoyed while I’m running; I can box out my anger; I can vinyasa flow my way through anxiety. Physical movement occupies the body, allowing the mind to search itself, providing clarity. I’ve had huge emotional and intellectual breakthroughs during workouts or while cleaning my house.

This all ties into the connection between mind, body, and soul. I used to be bothered by my mind and take it out on my body, whether through eating, smoking, promiscuity, drinking, etc. I didn’t realize how badly I was making myself feel because I wasn’t feeling my body. Strange as it may sound, I wasn’t in my body. Sure, I had thoughts and preferences and some nascent sense of style, but I couldn’t look at my toes and feel love for them. I never saw my thigh and knew it as a dear part of me. I hadn’t learned the strength or sensitivity of my own body – I didn’t know it. I’d feel confused when I looked in the mirror, disillusioned with the gap that I felt between what I saw and what I believed to be my self.

Yoga was most instrumental in bridging this gap, but I imagine everyone can find their own ways. Boxing and dance were big, too, even playing dress up in my own closet – physical movement, learning my body and how it works. I lift weights because I like to feel strong; I run because I like to feel able and I don’t want to be out of breath when I go for a hike or climb some stairs. Through practice – consistent, intentional practice – I got to know my body. And through that, I now have a deeper sense of self. Every inch of me is my own. I am in my neck, arms, stomach, hips, knees, heels – all of it. After 22 years in this body, I’m comfortable in it. And I love myself, so I take care of it.

I always liked reading, and that remains a strong alternative for me. Creative pursuits have dominated as well. Writing a story or an essay, journaling, playing piano, painting, researching something, planning, doing a thing for someone else. Journaling is quite accessible, and it really helps with becoming aware. Writing down how you feel is an easy way to connect – giving your body something to do [write] while your mind thinks about what’s going on inside of you.

Once you get going on the alternatives, they snowball endlessly. The frontiers of you are endless because you’re always growing and changing and learning new things. It’s good to have a wealth of options, that way you never feel stuck with one healthy choice against an entire candy aisle or a whole pack of cigarettes. You have power in this – implement your agency. It gets easier.

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