I remember when I first heard inspiration broken down into the phrase “in spirit action,” it struck a chord in my heart that reverberated into the marrow of my bones. For myself the feeling of being inspired is to feel a lightning strike of awareness that echo’s beyond the essence of myself and into the unknown, a feeling of magic in action, or as it was so sweetly stated to me the feeling of being “in spirit action.”In my human desire to create a mold of the life I want, and like some malleable material form myself to fit that mold I find myself rather surprisingly organically winding up where I am. The journey itself feels as I imagine a river feels as it makes its way to the ocean. Sometimes rough waters move fast and create waves of great turbulence, other times the current moves more slowly and the stillness of the waters surface appears as if nothing is moving at all. Even though I hold fast to a mantra that came to me in a blast of inspiration many years ago guiding my life always in perpetual positive progression, I sometimes like the river, find myself stagnant and in an eddy as I try unsuccessfully to move back upstream, afraid and anxious of what lies in the current ahead. I find this is when spirit shows up and with a rumble the lightning strike of inspiration crackles across my inner landscape, turning me back in the direction of the current, to continue downstream into the mystical landscape of the unknown. Inspiration moves us beyond the veils of what we perceive to be the truth and into more expansive states of knowing. Inspiration comes, sometimes when we are prepared for it holding our pen and our paper, and other times like a shock to our hearts. Inspiration leads us into the crags of our fears and invites us to become stronger more beautiful people while we explore our mortality there. Inspiration whispers to us from our hearts when it is time to let down the walls we have built to protect ourselves from our vulnerability. Inspiration is our invitation to step forward in spirit action, no matter what anxious, doubtful, fearful thoughts may be trying to maintain a stronghold on our experience of life. Taking a leap of faith is heeding the call of inspiration, and no matter the result on the other side of the leap, spirit is always there to catch us. To uncondition ourselves of the hardened walls we have built to protect our hearts from preconceived ideas of hurt and maintain stories of self-defeat and insecurity, we must learn to listen to the whisper and thunder of spirit when it invites, or demands, us to leap and to soar on its wings. Living our lives in this kind of freedom, in spirit action, fulfills not only our hearts in every moment of unconditioned love we allow ourselves to give and receive, but also, like a child on a treasure hunt, leads us to the most surprising unexpected and brilliant of places on this mystical journey of life. May we all become more courageous in heeding the call of spirit, rowing confidently while we laugh all the way downstream, rolling on spirits invitation to action no matter if the mold holds or breaks. With Love, All Ways, For Giving, Genevieve
Last week the grandfather to yoga in the western world, B.K.S. Iyengar transitioned from embodiment to whatever comes next. Had it not been for the many health ailments he suffered as a young person, which resulted in his pursuit of a life-long dedicated practice of yoga, the world of yoga as we in the western hemisphere now know it, would likely be as much a mystery to us as Unicorns. Looking through his quintessential book Light on Yoga, it is clear to see that Mr. Iyengar was a masterful practitioner, however, before he was an adept in the physical asana, he was already a great yogi for not giving in to giving up on the possibility of a long life of radiant health. In his seeing an invitation given to him by health ailments so severe it would be easy to label them only misfortune, not only did he realize the possibility of a long and flexible life, his optimistic choice by proxy has enabled me, as well as millions, if not billions of others to live radiant healthy meaningful lives too.
The opposite of his choice, seeing the detours of our lives, the ailments, and the challenges as misfortunes and direct assaults to our personal happiness, is not taking the invitation to expand and grow in the face of the hardship. When a wider perspective is taken, one of optimism and confidence in ones capacity to traverse the sidesteps of the extreme ranges of being human while maintaining inner peace, we come to know not only our innate strength and grit, but also the value of being open to enjoying life however it appears in front of us. This openness is the spacious place where steady inner peace can always be maintained. Successfully dancing the complicated steps of this waltz while sometimes tripping over our own feet and maintaining inner peace, first and foremost, requires the desire to do so. Starting with clear focused intentions, and a heart full of passion enables our capacity to pursue wellbeing and resonant harmony within and without no matter the shape of the adversity we are experiencing. When we only perceive love, joy, and health as being available to us in one way then we limit ourselves to the myriad of other ways contentment and harmony can walk through our doors, for in the only one-way perspective, there is only one door. It’s like playing that game as children where you put the correct shaped pegs into the holes of their corresponding shape. Some holes will never correspond with some pegs no matter how much we batter them with our little plastic hammers. Allowing the circumstances of our lives the opportunity to manifest into their most full form of serenity and joyfulness without forcing the world around us to be as we think it should be, is living with an unconditioned heart, practicing really good yoga, and leaving room to shine some light onto Unicorns.
If you have not thumbed through the pictures of Light On Yoga, I recommend it. I offer that there is no need to feel like you are less of a person if the asana demonstrated in the book appears to never seem attainable to you, truth is, one never knows what the future has in store, and as far as I understand being able to put your feet behind your head does not necessarily make you a better person. For myself, looking at his photos and remembering that his journey to that amazing expression of his being was a long and patient walk, reminds me that no matter the foundation we may start with, through passionate focused intention and dedicated practice, many, if not all obstacles can be surmounted.
In the wake of Mr. Iyengars departure I find myself in deep gratitude for the so-called misfortunes of the human experience. Reflecting on my own personal journey as well, I know, that were it not for my hardships, my illnesses, my personal dance through discontent to content, the contentment I experience in the spaciousness of this knowing perspective would not exist. Something would be there, but it would be less evolved in empathetic understanding, less capable of compassion, and less knowing of my resilience.
Truly, it's just more fun to think it may be a Unicorn not a monster that shows up in that deep blue of the mysterious unknown.
In Love, Joy, and a never ending search for Unicorns, Genevieve
In the last year my life has changed remarkably, surprisingly, and mostly against my will. At the beginning of last July I unfortunately fell down a flight of six stairs. I had never fallen down stairs before and I only imagined how painful it would be. Being a kind of clumsy girl I found it fortunate for me that there aren’t’ a whole bunch of stairs to fall down in Taos as most buildings are one story and the front entryway is even with the earth. Though before last July I had yet to fall down stairs in my life, I wasn’t new to falling. I had more than once slipped on the ice, stumbled over after one to many beverages of the saucy kind, or just being my clumsy self tripped over something outside my range of vision. As a tall person, falling in general, isn’t’ much fun. I lament my height as I watch children fall and bounce right back up without much more than a whimper. Over my many years as an avid snowboarder I became more accustomed to falling. However, when playing in the snow one does their falling in the snow, which has a generosity in it’s reception of a body no matter it’s size. Falling into snow that has freshly fallen is as delightful as falling into bed when you’re exhausted, it’s a welcome surrender. Falling down stairs, not so inviting, and falling down stairs when you have placed your foot where you see the step to be, and you step with the confidence of someone who has managed to stand upright for more than three decades, is a far cry from a welcome surrender. After I tumbled down to the bottom of the flight of stairs, body facing up the direction I had come, in acute and shocking pain, feeling like something beyond the veil of my perception had pushed me I questioned, “How did I miss that step I was so obviously taking?” Since the fall everything has changed. As I said before, falling to the ground as a tall person usually does not lend itself to bouncing back. Before the fall I was experiencing more chronic pain in a long-term back injury than I wanted to admit, but after, I could no longer ignore it. I went to the doctor, which was marked for me, as I never go to the doctor. That doctor sent me to another doctor. I was ordered an MRI that catapulted me directly back to the trauma of the car accident that caused the back injury so many years before. In conjunction with the memory of the trauma my fear worsened as I relived an old reality that once I laid down in the MRI tube I may never stand up again. Recognizing this was a fear, an old story, before the test I rose to the opportunity to face it head on. Inside the MRI tube I choose to meditate on spacious landscapes as to not feel claustrophobic, and based on previous experience this time I knew better than to open my eyes. More importantly I was able to remind myself that no matter the pain I was going through and the possible outcome of the imaging, I would be walking away after the loud hum of the magnificent machine stopped.
I’m a stubborn person. I credit my stubborn nature with the reality that I can walk post car accident. Yet, it is also my stubborn nature that perpetuated me living my life without pause, as I was doing, in a state of chronic pain before the fall. The imaging results of the MRI were good, and I in perfect stride with my stubbornness took a minor two weeks off of my regular schedule for “rest”, which hardly included rest. Along with being stubborn I have a hard time slowing down, and though it was far from the truth at the end of my two-week “rest” I told myself I was better. I was not better, and this journey was really just gearing up. By the end of December a mere six months later I could barely walk.
Falling down stairs was not something I wanted to do, nor was falling out of my perceived ability to manage my life, which in turn meant constant managing of my lie. Telling myself as every day went by and the pain in my low back and hip and shoulder and neck got worse, I was ok. What compounded the necessity of the lie was another lie I was telling myself, I couldn’t, not work. I had to work. How would the bills get paid if I weren’t working? It’s not like I was making a whole bunch of money, but I had this story in my head that if I didn’t make money the financial fall, and a fall from self reliance, would be worse than the pain in my body, worse than relying on someone else, worse than anything I had lived through up until that point.
Keeping up the façade for six months was easy because I would smoke copious amounts of tobacco and pot and forget about it. I would get in bed daily after following through on my commitments and tell myself this new standard of living was ok because at least I made a bit of money that day, and now I could numb the feeling and rest. However, a few hours of rest some days, did not make up for the sometimes eight hours a day I was teaching most days at that point. And like the fall down the stairs in July, I fell in my driveway at the end of December coming home from the studio. My legs collapsed underneath me as I burst into tears.
Keeping in stride with my knack for holding a stubborn position, I looked around at my life and told myself I was totally screwed. I was screwed because I had built a life around using my body to make a living and now my body was saying no more. After spending so much time trying to maintain a semblance of control in my life, if not within my body at least within my bank account, I was now face to face with the reality that I truly had no control. In a disparaging state I realized the one thing I could do to feel better was quit smoking, and on the first of the year I did. This good feeling choice was followed swiftly with a ripple effect as every relationship I held close to me was pulled into a vortex of friction, discontent, discomfort, and conflict. From my husband, to my siblings, to my best friends, to my parents, all relationships were up for evaluation, and most especially, the one I was having with myself.
There I was in the dark of winter, having what I call an acute episode of life, as I was now truly falling into the well of the lies I had used to hold up a life they could no longer hold.
In retrospect I can say life is pretty amazing. Again months have passed and I am no longer in the cheese grater of life and I can look back on those painful days and weeks and know I am better for them. In the presence of the hardship I found myself supported in the most beautiful of ways. I found that there is always help. Sometimes we have to humble ourselves enough to ask for help and step outside of our limited ideas of how life is supposed to be long enough to receive it as it is, but I found that when I did, help arrived. Help arrived for me, just when I thought I would continue falling and never hit bottom. I think that when we are in the worst states of emotional and physical discomfort in our lives, when we are truly most vulnerable it is the hardest time to reveal our truths. I know for myself last winter was the most challenging emotional time I have lived through in my life up to this day. There were days when I contemplated carrying on, the value of this experience, and what a relief death might be. To reveal that kind of emotional experience in that state takes courage, but if we chose not to, if we continue to hold up a façade of a life of lies, we do eventually slip through the cracks like Robin Williams did last week, and so many of my friends did before him. I like to think I am not alone in this kind of experience, that anyone with a heart that hurts has contemplated crossing over, yet I do not know if that is true. What I do know to be true is that I was fortunate to have a net of help wrap itself around me, as I needed it. Help arrived then and help has continued to arrive, mostly, because I was able to ask for it.
The pain in my body before the fall, and after the fall, is mostly tied up in the real injury I sustained so many years ago in my back. It is also tied up in the layers and layers of story of my life stored in my cellular, emotional, and mental body. I am not ashamed to admit that since January I have been in therapy, revisiting the story of my life, the truth and the lies, while learning how to see it as a whole bunch of this one time, rather than, that’s always the story. My desire to experience less physical discomfort has gratefully lead me to make choices for my self that are loving and not rooted in the contracted state of fear I was experiencing last winter, nor the deluded state of smoke and lies. In the delightful heat of the summer and after months of deliberate care for this vehicle that houses my spirit, I spend more days with less pain than I have in years. I am feeling more optimistic than ever before that I will feel less and less pain as more time goes by, maybe even no pain someday, but that is going to require diligent awareness and honesty.
I haven’t smoked in months, I haven’t gotten high or told myself money was the most important tool I had, I haven’t done these things because I recognized that though they had worked as a band-aid in the past, that’s all they did was cover up the problems. I realized this week as I agonized a bit about the weight I have gained in the past few months that holding onto the concept of a good weight is akin to holding onto the fear of not having enough money, akin to choosing pain over health and well being, akin to being afraid of falling. It was in that realization that I recognized it doesn’t’ matter what the band-aid is because beneath any band-aid the need is always the same. The need is to surrender, to fall and to trust, to believe the net will appear. As I had this small epiphany I began to cry, the tears fell with ease, with joy, with sweetness, with grace from my eyes. To surrender to grace, I am continuously reminded, is the greatest gift I could ever give to myself, any of us could ever give to ourselves, no matter the circumstances.
Like falling into fresh snow, falling into grace is a generous invitation to fall into the authenticity of being alive, a welcome surrender into the divinity of being.
Though as I intended to step down that flight of stairs and I placed my foot where I could see the step to be, it clearly wasn’t the best next step for me. No matter how much control any of us wants in this life, the reality is, we aren’t really in control at all. Life is full of happenstance, circumstance, and experience and what we have control of is our response. Perhaps Robin’s response to the circumstances of his life was the correct one for him. Perhaps his fall back to grace just looks a little sloppy from here. Grace always catches us, this I know. I also know that my falling down the stairs was really more like leaping over a threshold of honesty into a life of authenticity, or being tossed by grace from a lackluster life of lies into a resplendent and honest future. Like raindrops falling from the sky, any time we fall we are making our way back to the source, back to the bigger body of water, the brilliant divinity from which all life was begot. Anytime we breakthrough the lies, the pain, the hardship and rise to the occasion of humble surrender, I truly believe, we are getting what we need.
With love, and many tears of laughter and sorrow for Robin and because of him, for all my friends gone, and the opportunity to continue to live,