Choosing Moments Over Memories

IMG_2033I am asking myself these days how can I slow down inside so that the external speed of life does not diminish my ability to soak it all in, marinate in it, allow it, and not be bulldozed by it.

My little one is growing so fast and I don’t want to have memories.

I want to have moments.

Moments that I was Here for, moments that I laughed in, cried in, broke in, and healed in, but moments that I felt echo through my whole being.

And if at the end I remember them, well that would be wonderful. Call it a bonus. But I want more than anything to be here now.

I’ve been really inviting myself to be more present in my day-to-day life because while meditation and stillness feel miraculous, the majority of my time is spent in unstillness, in movement, jumping from one moment to the next without time to pause.

So I tried a trick I learned a lifetime ago but get lazy about. I try to engage with life as if I am doing everything for the very first time.

It’s the very first time I’ve seen water come out of the spout.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen my son smile.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen a blue sky.
It’s the very first time I’ve smelled garlic toasting in the pan.
It’s the first time I’ve tasted a strawberry.
It’s the very first time I’ve sat on this couch and felt my body relax.
It’s the very first time I’ve changed a diaper.
It’s the very first time I’ve heard a dog bark.
It’s the very first time I’ve hugged my husband.
It’s the first time I’ve smelled a rose.
It’s the very first time I’ve felt rain.
It’s the very first time I’ve heard my son cry.
It’s the very first time I’ve felt tired and achy.
It’s the very first time I’ve done yoga.
It’s the very first time I’ve moved my legs to walk.
It’s the very first time I’ve smiled.
It’s the very first time I’ve looked in my husband’s blue eyes.
It’s the first time I’ve said, I love you.

Oh how things slow down inside me, melt inside me, and how the gratitude rises like a bubble I can’t suppress. I’m always close to tears because the magnitude of life on this level is hard for my small human form to hold. So I keep stretching my heart bigger to hold it all, to receive it all, and to reflect it all back.

The world keeps speeding along, but as much as I can I try to slow down my perception, my experience, my quality of life so I can soak up the moments fully during the only time they will be with me, right now.

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Stillness.

Stillness is a secret door,
isn’t it.

Hidden,
in plain view.

Locked,
until you find the key.

Plain to the untrained eye.

Uninteresting,
A dead end,
Boring.

Until you stumble into its wondrous garden of mind-blowing wonder.

What was that?
How can I get back there?

Call it meditation
Or call it prayer
Call it the universal pause
At the end of each exhale

You get there through God
I get there through stillness
They get there through movement
Others get there through alcohol

We must get there
Which is Here
The space between doing and thinking
Where everything,
I mean Everything
Reveals itself.

And when we come to,
our hearts will have expanded
through breakage or gratitude
at the smallness of being human
and the largeness of our experience.

We will return Here
you and I
to sit in the garden of Truth
where everything is as it is
and where the nothingness gets transformed
not into something,
but into Everything,
into All The Things,
into This.

This hug
This look
This pain
This heartbreak
This laughter
This wail
This darkness
This glow
This confusion
This anger
This love
This kiss
This question
This answer

This moment.

Coming Home

rainbowI tap on the walls of my heart.

Are you in there? Can we talk?

She seems so close at times, resting a few inches deep in my chest, only a whisper away. Yet today it feels I must travel miles to see her clearly.

So I begin my journey. Miles in silence, miles in movement, miles in questioning.

Where are you? When will you speak? I cannot hear you. Are you saying something? Come closer still.

When all is silent I know it is not because she lacks the courage to speak but because I lack the courage to listen.

So I stop asking, stop moving, stop meditating, stop trying so hard to catch her.

And I start listening. To the wind howl and the rain drop. To the birds chatting and the leaves rustling. To the ambulance wail and the motorcycle’s blast. To my baby’s giggles and my dog’s bark. To my own footsteps and the silence between my breaths. To my own heart beat.

Slowly I begin to hear her. Speaking the truths she always speaks.

She is back, a few inches deep in my chest. A whisper away. Where she always was.

Waiting for me to come home.

We are the Space

YouAreTheSky

We are the space that holds the light {however bright it may be.}
We are the space that holds the darkness {however dark it may get.}
We are the space that holds the energy {however charged and wild.}
We are the space that holds the silence {however long and still.}

We are the space that holds the laughter {giggles, belly laughs and laugh/cry combos.}
We are the space that holds the grief {heartbreaks, heartaches and heart roars.}
We are the space that holds the beginning {the wondering, the exploring, the innocence.}
We are the space that holds the ending {the fragility, the no mores and the emptiness.}

We are the space that holds life {in our bellies, in our hearts and in our eyes.}
We are the space that holds death {of our partners, of our children and of our dreams.}
We are the space that holds the question {who am I?}
We are the space that holds the answer {when it comes, in its own time, when we least expect.}

We are the space all our experiences flow through, the space our being rests in, grows in, lives and dies in.

Honor that space. Hold that space. Enter that space daily through our breath or through our yoga or through a hug, a cry, a laugh, a word or a pause. Create the doorway into our self and then walk through it and witness the magnificence that is called being human.

Originally published on YogaOneBlog.

What I Know About An Open Heart

heartMy uncle had open-heart surgery last week.

In my good-sized extended family our reunions tend to take place at hospitals instead of at holidays. It’s an interesting dynamic trying to stretch my heart open wide enough to hold both the joy at seeing my family and the sadness or stress because of why we’re at the hospital.

It feels scary to do that—to stretch my heart wide open.

It makes me feel vulnerable which makes me feel protective and afraid I won’t be able to handle it. But mostly it makes me feel open. And when I’m open love can not only flow in, it can also flow out.

I did a little research on open-heart surgery and here’s what my non-med-school mind gathered: It’s a big deal.

It can vary from procedure to procedure but in many cases the chest is opened. While the surgeon works on the stopped heart, a heart-lung machine continues to send blood to the brain and other organs.

Healing happens in phases, the first of which lasts six to eight weeks.

The medical advances and science that are required to accomplish this is amazing. What’s equally amazing to me is the findings of the HeartMath Research Center, an institute devoted to decoding the heart-mind connection physiologically and how that affects our quality of life.

Without going into too much detail, some of what they’ve found is this:

“The heart affects mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance and personal effectiveness. Our research and that of others indicate that the heart is far more than a simple pump. The heart is, in fact, a highly complex, self-organized information processing center with its own functional ‘brain’ that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences profoundly affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs, and ultimately determine the quality of life.”

This gives us a major incentive to take care of our hearts both figuratively and literally.

When was the last time we had a heart-to-heart with our heart?

These aren’t always easy conversations. I find the only time I can truly enter my heart is when I am completely present, which requires radical attention and focus. Otherwise I’m not entering my heart. I’m entering my mind. I’m entering my mind’s representation of what my heart holds, but not my actual heart itself.

My mind likes to tell me a lot about my heart, kind of like a know-it-all friend likes to give us the low-down on everyone else. But that is often not the truth of the matter.

We find what’s really going on in our hearts by stepping into our bodies (quite literally into our body and out of our mind) and thus into our present moment.

Here is where the heart-to-heart happens. Like any authentic conversation, expect some powerful clearing to come from it.

What I know about my heart is that it’s a muscle. Physically and emotionally it’s a muscle. It needs to pump to work and it needs to love to work. Not just once or twice but every moment of every day for my entire life.

Life will perform open-heart surgery on all of us many times over in our lifetime.

It will feel like our chest is being ripped open.

It will feel like our heart has stopped beating.

It will take us time to heal. When we heal, our heart will beat better than ever and it will love better than ever.

Over and over again our hearts will get broken. When they heal we will find they can hold a little more love than they could before. When we can hold a little more love, we can give a little more love.

And that’s what makes the world go round.

Originally published on elephantjournal.

photo via Pinterest

An Experiment in Gratitude

I committed the last 30 days to finding something to be thankful for every day.

It seems like a no-brainer because aren’t all of us finding the gratitude in our lives every day? I thought so but was surprised to find some days it was very easy and other days extremely challenging.

IMG_2803I obligated myself to posting each day on Twitter and was grateful for the accountability that came with that obligation.

As the days passed I began to realize my little experiment was taking me somewhere I didn’t expect. It was taking me deeper into my daily grind and my thankless attitude that often accompanied it.

Every day gave me an opportunity to find the beauty in the ordinary and even in the ugly. It allowed me to reflect on the small things that light up my world. It challenged me to see where I was taking life for granted and begin to create a seismic shift within myself that will change the landscape of my life for the better.

Gratitude is not just an attitude. It’s a state of being that softens the edges around our energetic body and our physical hearts and lungs, allowing us to expand to our full capacity. From that place of fullness, of enoughness, we begin to offer ourselves and our gifts to the world a little more generously. Not surprisingly it also allows us to receive more than ever before.

Here’s what I found to be grateful for the last 30 days. If you have any to add or your own list I’d love to see it.

{gratitude list}

Day 1: I am grateful for my failures because they make me try harder.

Day 2: I am grateful for the thumping in my chest that allows me to enjoy another day.

Day 3: I am grateful for that first sliver of sunlight that kisses my cheek and warms my soul.

Day 4: I am grateful to the universe for providing what I need before I even ask.

Day 5: I am grateful for my legs that support me, lift me, and move me.

Day 6: Thank you SEA for your salt and your spray and your crash and your roar and your whisper that calls me home.

Day 7: Thankful for my laugh lines that get deeper and more wrinkly each year.

Day 8: Thankful for today’s new moon that reminds me everything has a shadow side, a yin, a pause, a time to look within.

Day 9: Thankful for the days I am very very tired. It means I am very very alive.

Day 10: Grateful for relationship {the state of being connected} to myself, to my loved ones, to all living things, to all human beings.

Day 11: Thankful for this compass {my heart} that I can turn to when I get lost and find my way back to true north.

Day 12: Grateful for my health: physical, mental, emotional.

Day 13: Grateful for family who acts as a mirror and reflects back to me what I need to work on.

Day 14: Grateful for all the aliveness that throbs in and around me.

Day 15: Thankful to yOgA for improving the relationship between my head and my heart.

Day 16: Grateful for Sound: palm leaves scratching at my window, church bells in the distance, an airplane above. The sounds of Now.

Day 17: Thank you ARMS for holding love, reaching out, and pulling life closer.

Day 18: Grateful to my friend A.R. who once upon a time said: “I think you’re ready for The Power of Now.”

Day 19: Grateful for the steam that rises from my tea and warms my face.

Day 20: Thank you Today for giving me opportunities to learn, grow, thrive, love and live deeper.

Day 21: Grateful for the roof over my head and the love in my heart.

Day 22: Thank you Mother Nature for today’s full moon and her radiant energy.

Day 23: Grateful for conversations that go where we’re afraid to go and unearth true connection.

Day 24: Grateful for the questions that have no answers, but in their place a quiet knowing that the question itself is what matters.

Day 25: Thankful for Laughter {giggles, belly laughs, heart roars, and those weird laugh/cry combos}.

Day 26: Thankful for Hope {that small ember of light within that never dies out}.

Day 27: Grateful for Breath {that helps us turn the impossible into the possible one breath at a time}.

Day 28: Thank you Today for giving me the gift of the Present.

Day 29: Thankful for pain. It’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.

Day 30: Grateful for Endings {the wrapping paper for Beginnings which we only find when we look inside}.

Still.

IMG_2143If I sit very still
(as still as a stone)
I can almost see the growth happening
in me, in the soil around me

as the first green stems push up
un-earthing

Such is growth.
un-earthing what is possible
what is unknown
what is to be

I can almost sense the earth’s rotation
and my rotation
around my heart,
my axis

If I sit alone
(for longer than I like)
I can almost hear my voice
small and uncertain
daring to speak up and break the silence

like a bird’s song at dawn
rousing me from sleep
inviting me to listen
to the silence that follows
to the beat of the universe

If I walk slowly
(as slow as the sun sets)
I can almost hear my blood swishing through my veins
and my heart pumping
thump thump thump
and my breath swooshing
inandout inandout inandout inandout

The symphony of Life
I am the conductor
and I am the spectator

So here I sit very still
(as still as the moon)
watching it all
being it all
allowing it all
remembering it all

So that even when I move
(quicker than I should)
and break the spell
some of the magic lingers

like morning dew
or the smell of rain

proof of what was
and what is
and what will be.

3 Steps to Transition Mindfully

the pathWhen going through transition it can sometimes feel like we bring all of our old stuff into a new place. Kind of like moving houses. Our surroundings change, but we don’t.

I often feel resistant to change because it requires me to get uncomfortable. I sort of grin and bear it until I’m through the ickyness and back in my comfort zone.

When I approach change and transitions this way it feels as if I’m trying to walk through a door carrying five bags with me. Cumbersome, difficult, and frustrating. It’s much easier to walk through the door with one bag or no bags.

To truly transition is to “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.”

It is to transform.

When I find myself at the doorway of change, internal or external, I ask myself these three questions:

1) Where are you now?

Grounding into the present moment and into our reality, whatever that may be, is essential in order to move forward.

Transitions are uncomfortable, awkward, and make us feel vulnerable. Often all we want to do is get away from the discomfort. Yet sitting with our discomfort is one of the most courageous and transformational steps we can take.

David Whyte simplifies it in his poem Start Close In: “Start close in. Don’t take the second step or the third. Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.”

2) What do you need here? 

In a process of transition and change everything is in flux, including you. What serves you here, where you are now, may be very different from what served you a month ago or a year ago. Relationships that nourished you before may be draining now. This is your opportunity to mindfully clean house internally and create space for new opportunities and experiences to take root.

If it’s one of those five bags holding you back from crossing the threshold, leave it behind. If your glass is already overflowing there will be no room for you to receive more.

3) Where do you want to go?

In yoga there’s something called a drishti. It’s a gazing point one focuses on to stay grounded externally and aware internally. Sometimes it’s external, such as focusing on a spot on the ground in tree pose, and sometimes it’s internal. An internal drishti is when we draw our awareness inward so that we aren’t disturbed by external stimuli.

In order to stay balanced when moving in new and unknown directions the focus has to be internal because everything external is changing. Setting a soft focus on where we want to go while staying grounded in our reality enables us to step clearly in the direction of our choice.

Any transition we may be going through is fertile space to transform. Don’t just endure it. Don’t just survive it. Let it transform you. Let it ignite you. Let it deliver you to a new, unexplored place and a new, unexplored you.

The Secret to Staying Free

Rachel's skeleton
the spine

My chiropractor once shared with me that he took part in a study that observed what happened to the bones after a chiropractic adjustment.

What he saw was that 30 minutes after being adjusted the muscles pulled the bones back into their old, incorrect spot. Then 30 minutes later the muscles moved the bones back into the correct position.

It’s as if they were reminded of where they were supposed to be and then the body corrected itself.

This reminded me of what happens through yoga. We go to yoga for a metaphorical adjustment. We intentionally adjust our bodies and minds to realign them and we leave feeling great.

But our ingrained habits and traits are very strong. Yogis call these habits samskaras. They’re like the muscle that pulls what we’ve just aligned back into its old patterning over time.

Years of reacting in a certain way can reach out and grab us just when we think we’ve left them behind for good.

Longtime yoga teacher Christina Sell puts it this way: “One fun (and humbling) thing about growing up is seeing how many times I thought I was changed only to realize what I thought was lasting change was simply a moment of freedom.”

Years of practicing yoga, instituting good habits and cleaning house internally can improve our lives externally so much that we sometimes think we’ve been cured. We’re past whatever it was we wanted to get past. We’re free of whatever it was that had us in its grip.

Life has a way of testing the new-and-improved us to see if we’re really walking our talk. How we respond when life meets our expectations is not as revealing as how we respond when it doesn’t.

The practice of yoga is a unifying one, not one of disunity. Through yoga we begin to unveil the inherent unity of our mind and spirit, of our head and heart, of our body and soul.

It’s not that we create the union, it’s that we become present and still enough to observe what’s already there, thumping in our hearts and rushing through our veins.

We are already whole. We are already complete. We are already free.

The more we remind ourselves how to stay aligned, the easier it is to return there when our samskaras pull us out of alignment. This is how we find the freedom hidden in the most compressed situations and how we maintain that freedom when life becomes challenging and intense.

We keep reminding ourselves. We keep creating healthy samskaras. We keep holding space for our self to grow in, whether that means digging through dirt or blossoming in the sunlight.

When our old habits show up we allow for them, we forgive them, and we learn from them. We bathe in the freedom of being ourselves.

The Mindful Mother

shadow swingYou chose me because you knew.

You knew I would show up for you today
And every day forward
Starting with your first breath
Ending with my last.

No lousy excuses about what I need to do
Or what’s more important
Or not now little one

It is always now for us
This is always the most important moment
This is always where I’m supposed to be
Here with you, right now

When you look at me with those clear eyes that haven’t yet seen disappointment
Or joy
Or loss
Or your own reflection in a mirror

I know you are saying:
Return to me.
Come back from wherever you are

This is why I chose you to be my mother.
Because I knew you could show up for me
I knew you would show up for me

I knew you would choose Here over There
Every time

I chose you.
And you choose me.

Originally published on elephantjournal.