freedom

Dive In

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Where there is resistance is where there is the invitation for growth and expansion, to swim wide and free in the see of your spacious being. The places that rub up against us like the coarsest sandpaper, the doors we want to close and turn our backs on, the murky waters that don’t look inviting, and the reflections we look at and want to refuse to see. These are the most powerful opportunities of our lives, if we can only allow ourselves to dive in. Perhaps you remember learning to swim? I do. I recall fear, discomfort, and unease. My father had me hold his shoulders, as he would swim under and to the surface, giving me a heads up each time so I could hold my breath. Over time, I became more comfortable and found myself freely swimming through the water unassisted. If I had never learned to swim the opportunities to explore and enjoy my life would be far more limited, not to mention the peril I would find myself in if I ever wound up in deep water without a floatation device.

So much of learning to swim is like meeting the resistance of our lives and courageously diving in. Diving in does not have to be headfirst mind you. The resistance is the kind fatherly warning that you are about to go under; it’s the opportunity to garner yourself against that which may drown you. Sure, you could grab a floatation device, ignore the problem, refuse to deal, and turn away spending your life with your head above water not getting your hair wet, but how would such behavior prepare you for when you don’t have a choice. Learning to bolster up and face our challenges head on is how we learn to swim, not drown, thrive and not just survive. There is great satisfaction in resolving inner and outer conflict, in expanding beyond the parameters of what we are, for what we will become.

Where the resistance is, is the place we have the greatest opportunity, it’s the place to turn toward, not away. Dive in to the resistance and have faith that you will swim safely to solid ground, more free and happy when you arrive there than you were when you hit the water.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve

Distraction, Discipline, and Freedom

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This afternoon I find myself seeking distraction to avoid doing the work, putting thoughts into words, making sense of an oftentimes senseless existence in this weekly exercise of writing. This isn't a new experience, I have been avoiding since I was a child, especially on days like today, clouds hanging low and grey. I know I am not alone this afternoon in my desire to get back into bed with a good book and cup of hot tea. My distracting behaviors lead me to question what I am really getting from a half an hour dive into a Facebook feed that shares very little important information. I question if the past time of trolling my news feed will ever really serve me. More often than not the answer I return to is no, yet I continue, it's a form of addiction. As I near ever closer to a year of non-smoking in reflection of a very long lived habit, I honor that all my addictions are just forms of distraction, just places to put my attention allowing me to avoid the work that has to be done. As a young girl I was especially good at this, back then the habit was called day dreaming, of which I was accused by many teachers all throughout grade school. By the time I got to high school there was a constant greek chorus being recited by my father, "get some discipline." Discipline became a word of dread, as did the action it referred to, and in adolescent fashion I refused, following an inner dialogue that demanded discipline would take the freedom and pleasure from my life.

Lately I recognize that despite my egos best efforts to exonerate me from any form of discipline, somehow a seed of steadfast focus took hold and without distraction I have arrived at a stance of understanding the value and the freedom discipline gives as its reward. Many things take part in the grand tale of each of our lives unfolding and I know a big part of this volume of my life has to do with my ever present desire to experience the world standing on my hands. Yoga, arriving, returning, deepening my practice, returning again no matter how I felt, or feel, and my desire to invert in every variation, has amazingly, and respectfully brought not only discipline into my life, but layers and layers of freedom. Discipline of skill in action using principles of alignment in my asana practice has enabled me the opportunity to experience the fulfilling feeling of physical freedom as I refine the architecture of my inverted body. Discipline in my physical body was only the seed from which more discipline has arisen and in turn has created more and more freedom in all aspects of my life.  Such as the great discipline it takes for me to mindfully meet life with an open heart and a willingness to love from that heart without condition, rather than react with cruelty and judgement to an oftentimes cruel, judgmental, and senseless world. Discipline is also the tool that I wielded when I stopped distracting myself by lighting the cigarettes ten or more times a day almost a year ago, and closed the Facebook feed this afternoon. After acknowledging all of this I have to note that discipline is nothing without focus, without intention. Without a goal there is no direction to work toward, any goal is good enough, even and especially when that goal seems absurd or minimal like standing on ones hands, for the goal is the seed from which great freedom sprouts.

Whatever it is we desire, is to some degree or another attainable with focus and discipline.  Of course there are varying degrees of limitations, however the most limiting factor will inevitably always be our own limiting beliefs of ourselves. These limiting beliefs in essence are just a form of distraction, which we place in our paths toward satisfaction and success to avoid the hard work of hurdling the challenges that are naturally partnered with steadfast discipline.

Discipline essentially is an assertion of ones will power, which can be used to subvert destructive addictions like smoking, and enhance personal behaviors that are self serving like standing on ones hands. I personally have chosen to write these weekly blogs as an exercise in discipline. I would like to think that they speak to the audience who reads them, that my words touch a place of truth and heartfelt meaning that carries beyond my exercise, however in the end the exercise is enough. In leaping over the hurdle of my avoidance today, and every sunday I feel gratified, even if the feeling is only a small portion of personal satisfaction. By stepping into the work, into the practice of discipline, and turning away from the avoidance, in the moment of completion of the work I am free from the guilt that dances with my distracted mind as I troll the Facebook feed on my phone.

In the end, I find that by satisfying the efforts of my discipline the distraction has its place of honor too, and in that, snuggled nicely into my bed, I invite good entertainment to speak to my heart words of truth, on purpose or deciphered by my own beautiful mind.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve

Knocking on the Door of What Serves

There are many common misconceptions of yoga, one is that yoga is just exercise, another is that just by practicing yoga you are becoming more spiritual. As a yoga teacher I find I spend a bit of time in my classes trying to clear up these misconceptions and more, as well as explain the value of a spiritual practice that uses the physical one as a vehicle. Just to be clear here, from my understanding and background there is no right way or wrong way, only what serves. What serves however, changes, and the practice of yoga is deep enough and spacious enough to make room for all changes in the search for what serves. From the place of yoga as exercise to yoga as spiritual practice and everything in between there is value to be gained. How deep any seeker goes is up to them. With all that being said, there is an essential focus to better oneself by knowing the trappings of ignorance and the value of awareness. In the wake of ignorance is often hurt and suffering, therefore the more one pursues awareness the more one may experience peace and contentment. Knowing the difference between powers generated from the energy within and power generated from a willingness to surrender to something greater is a point of awareness that can greatly serve and is the premiss of a spiritual practice. One of my yoga teachers once said, “this practice (hatha yoga) will make you more powerful, but it will not make you more spiritual.” The sentiment referred very specifically to the quality of hatha yoga that enhances the power of ones energy body by dropping restriction in the flow of energy creating more potency and energetic power through this process. With increased energetic power comes an increased responsibility of the practitioner to act with more mindful integrity, because the heightened power increases the risk of ones potential to go out into the world and abuse the world in a state of ignorance. The ignorance being the unknowing of the quality of ones great power and the effect such a powerful state can have on others.

I find it is common to come across people with great personal power who have not refined their awareness of it and therefore their boundaries around it. These people present themselves commonly in places of leadership and authority, and from their ignorance can flow hurtful words and actions, such as the art teacher who criticizes a piece of work without sensitivity to the artists expression and their vulnerability in expressing themselves.

Anyone who has practiced yoga for an extended period of time and in so doing has advanced their practice, has probably experienced a heightened sense of personal power, the ability to accomplish ones desires, to rise above adversity, to face ones challenges, to set goals and intentions and follow through, and so on. It is one of the many blessed gifts of the discipline. However, as my teacher said, all that power does not make you more spiritual. Perhaps the power is all you are seeking and the spiritual aspect of the practice brings up feelings of aversion in you. This perspective of the practice is fine, and it serves, until it doesn’t.

In my experience no matter how willful we become, how powerful, how capable, life hands us circumstances that can bring us to our knees. Sometimes experiences so extreme they bring us to our bellies lying prostrate upon the floor of absolute loss at the bottom of the well of deepest grief. Other times, life brings us to a confined space between a rock and hard place, the hard place appearing to look like the edge of a cliff, and perhaps is. Life pulls the rug out from under us leaving us shocked in the wake of deception and betrayal. The general expression in this state of loss is completely embodied and completely devastating, confirmed in an exasperated and hysterical statement of “I don’t know what to do.” When the level of severity of life happening reaches this breaking point, the throwing oneself over the edge point, is when all of that power has very little use in service to us, for in the confusion of no control there is no clear place to direct our energy except into the abyss.

This is where a spiritual practice can have great value. A spiritual practice that gives inward permission to believe in and pursue a relationship with a higher power than oneself. Simple as that. However, as there are many kinds of spiritual practices and many of them are also tied up in religious dogma and loaded words it is common in this day and age of science and extraordinarily accessible information to avoid spiritual practice, to see no purpose for it, to discount its value based on evidence of its use to disempower and not self empower and on and on. Truly the most valuable choices any of us can make are the ones that serve us. Using any discipline to know what serves each of us personally is of great help in making informed choices to do so. Speaking for myself and from the basis upon which I live my life, I am served by a practice of believing in a higher power. I am also served by the practice of believing that the essential nature of that higher power is benevolent without condition with love, and in that all things are allowed, all things are accepted, and all things are always moving in the direction of more beauty and more benevolence. The boundaries, the integrity by which I live are choices I get to make based on what serves me, and this, is as I see it, the essence of free will.  Though there is no fundamental scientific evidence of the greater power I believe in, I see evidence in everything. From the grand intelligence of the universe to the unconditional nature of gravity and the intelligence of my body to heal without mutating into some obscure unnamable creature. I don’t know how it all works, I cannot see any of it working, yet I trust and believe my feet will touch the ground tomorrow, the earth will continue to rotate on its axis, and the next time I get a cut on my knee it won’t grow back another finger. Believing in a higher power is very similar to this and does not have to include any rhetoric of good, bad, evil, and holy, unless that is what serves the person with the beliefs.

Spiritual teachings have existed for thousands of years for a reason. There is something to them. Sometimes they provide answers, more often they provide more questions. Not unlike hatha yoga a spiritual practice can generate great personal power and like all things of power, there is the potential for abuse of that power and the people who stand in its shining light.

One doesn’t ever have to take on the spiritual practices of yoga or any philosophical discipline to see their lives benefit from a concerted and disciplined effort over time, to measure the efficacy of their work, to have integrity and be accountable in value systems and personal actions. However, when life throws down, spiritual belief serves the individual who believes in a higher power to take the leap of faith trusting on the other side there will be a net, to swim in the well of grief knowing that all things in nature change and that love is never gone, and to be ok with not knowing the how’s and the when's, finding spaciousness in their awareness to be present in letting something greater then them self know the design, leading to a state of contentment and inner peace.

The practice of hatha yoga (the physical stuff) will make your more powerful, yet it won’t make you more spiritual, true spirituality takes a more concerted effort than that. If evidence it what would serve you to believe, know that eventually, if one goes looking hard enough, spirit reveals itself everywhere, however like anything we are not looking for, it’s hard to find, if you don’t believe you will.

In the end, the truth is that when we seek beyond our ignorance, beyond our misconceptions, beyond that which we are told are facts, whether it is a spiritual, physical, or scientific seeking, we are always serving ourselves. Expanding into the spaciousness of awareness is where we receive the invitation to contentment and peace, it's up to us however, to take it.

“Keep knocking, and the joy inside will eventually look out the window to see who’s there.” -Rumi

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve