The Leap of Faith

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This picture says it all.

This is how I feel when I’m at the Feathered Pipe Ranch. This moment was from several years ago, during one of our July retreats with Erich Schiffmann. I say “our” because being at the ranch with Erich and all of my dear friends whom I’ve met there over the past 15 years, was always like a family reunion every summer. I’m so grateful to my friend, Robyn Gibson, for capturing this moment of something we used to love to do at the ranch: swinging on the rope swing.

This was a big, giant – I mean giant – rope swing that was attached to a cable between two huge pine trees, where you could swing out over the lake, let go, and drop into the water. Some of us realized that even if we didn’t want to drop into the water, we could swing on it anyway. It always took us a few days to work up to getting on the swing because it was so damn scary. We had to walk by it and look at it and give ourselves time to muster up our courage to get back on it. Usually, by the third or fourth day, we were ready.

Now, there’s a lot you can see in this picture up there, but there’s also a whole lot you can’t see. For starters, the length of the rope and the height of the attachment to the cable. The rope was really long and the attachment was very high up. Those big, tall, supporting pine trees would sway and flex every time someone was swinging. Secondly, I don’t know exactly how tall that ladder was behind me, but those first six rungs or so in the picture were just the bottom part! The entire ladder was very tall and had a little square plywood platform on top for standing – or, more accurately, for getting up your courage to jump off.  This is why it always took several days before we were “swing ready.” Plus, did I mention you swing right down through those huge pine trees out over the lake?

So, on the designated day at the appointed time, the swingers would gather over at the ladder. Who was going to go first this year? With a smile, you’d grab the bottom knot of the rope and hold it while make your way up those sacred ladder rungs.

Now, this was scary in itself because with each rise of a rung, there would be a little more tug from the rope. The higher you went, the bigger the tug forward. So, I’d go up a few rungs, sit there, look out over the lake and feel that ever-increasing fear with the ever-increasing tug of the rope. Then, I’d go up a few more. Wait. Feel my heart rate increasing. Then (and my palms are actually sweating right now, just thinking about it)…I’d creep up to the top platform, staying small, keeping my center of gravity low and then s l o w l y stand up. Oh my God. It’s such an exhilaratingly terrifying place to stand. I mean, I’m on a shaky board ladder, on a tiny little perch way, way up there, knees bent, leaning forward, feeling the strong pull now of the rope, beckoning me to let go and jump…and there’s the lake and everyone else way down there….

The only requirement now is to let go of the thinking. I mean, all I have to do is jump and I will naturally land on top of the little wooden seat that’s hanging down out there, several feel in front of me. It’s not a thinking activity. My body knows what to do. It’s either do it or don’t do it. It’s either jump or climb back down. I have a choice. Nobody is making me jump. I want to jump. Oh God, this is soooo high…

Then, in a huge act of self-trust, I take a breath, take a leap of faith, and jump. It’s a freefall for what seems like forever, going down and down, like a giant slide between
those two huge pines, and then a graceful swoop waaay out over the lake and way up into the Montana blue sky. The scream that comes out of me is always primal and comes from the depths of my soul. It’s awesome. The swing goes back and forth – gotta be
careful not to hit the ladder on the swing back in. And then I lay out my whole body, Rope Swing.jpgletting my feet go way up into the air first, looking backward at my friends on the terra firma. (There’s Anne doing the layout.) We’re all screaming and laughing and now. The swing slows after several passes out over the lake and back and it’s easy to hop off. Well, sometimes easier than others! But wow, it’s unbelievable taking that plunge and that wonderful leap of faith.

1625801_109568486987_3495553_nThis swinging practice we had at the ranch is a whole lot like Yoga. Living an inwardly guided life, with one ear turned toward The Infinite in all we do, calls us to let go, take a leap of faith, and sometimes jump into the unknown. But when we leap, the net will always appear, just like the little wooden seat always ended up right under me, to support me and carry me out over the lake and up into the sky. And then we soar into places we never thought possible. There is nothing more freeing.

A few years later, the pine beetles took out those two massive pine trees and the swing had to be shut down. It’s open again now, with new supports and even a new ladder. I haven’t been back on it since the old days. Maybe this year, when I get to the ranch in August, I’ll give it a try. I’ll at least walk over to it and think about it for a few days and see if my courage wells up.

 

I invite you to join August 18-25 at the Feathered Pipe Ranch for our week-long retreat – Be the Real You: the Art of Self-Trust. This is a sublime week celebration, laughter, community, creativity, and open-hearted authenticity. We’ll explore the themes of Freedom Yoga, the practice of inner listening, courage, and deep self-trust, and give ourselves permission to color outside the lines, release comparison, and bravely be the ones we are waiting for. 

 

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Feathered Pipe Interview

Hi, everyone!

This is an interview I did recently with my dear friend and board member of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, Clint Willis.  It will appear on the Feathered Pipe website later in July, but I wanted to go ahead and share it here, so you can get a feel for what my teaching style is like and what to expect from our August 18-25 retreat, which I’d love to have you be a part of.

Love, Carie

~

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Carie Garrett will lead her second Feathered Pipe retreat,
 Be the Real You: The Art of Self Trust, August 18-25 in Helena, MontanaShe recently spoke with us about how she’ll work with yogis to foster inner listening, courage, and self-trust. It’s going to be an amazing week of community, love, healing, sharing and growth.

 

FP: What’s at the core of your approach to teaching yoga?

Carie: My approach to teaching yoga revolves around themes of heart-centered vulnerability, authenticity, and creativity. I’m interested in being the place where I’m living a guided-from-within life, saying “yes” to Creation flowing through me in all that I do and all that I say, bravely being the real me and letting myself be seen. I’m highly inspired by the work of Brene Brown, author and shame researcher at the University of Houston. Her research has shown that vulnerability, which she defines as risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure, is the birthplace of creativity. So, learning to relax into the state of not having everything figured out, being willing to fail, and just being real is so important in living a creative, inwardly guided life. When we trust ourselves skye-farm-carie-jo-7090_origenough to bravely be who we are and let ourselves be seen, something really powerful and transformative happens which is healing for us, personally, and actually for the whole world, collectively. The world is in need of our gifts and what each of us has to offer.

 

 

FP: Facing our vulnerability can be challenging!

Carie: Right, most of us don’t like the feeling of uncertainty and exposure. I like to feel like I’m in control, I like to know what’s going to happen, and, man, that letting myself be seen thing is still very hard for me. It often feels so much easier to hide and stay small and try to protect myself in a made-up safety net. But that doesn’t serve myself or anyone else. You can’t squeeze any creative living out of that. It’s like kinking up the garden hose and wondering why the water won’t flow out. The tendency is to think that other people, especially the teacher, have it all figured out; that he or she never struggles or has issues. But we all struggle. We’re all trying to make sense of this trip of a thing called life on planet Earth. It’s a wild ride!

FP: How can Freedom Yoga help?

Freedom yoga is a highly creative practice. It teaches us to live in the place where we are present in the brand new Now moment, listening to The Infinite/Creation for our every move. We learn to relax into the space of uncertainty, of not having everything figured out, of not knowing how it’s gonna go. This is vulnerability. It’s the place of infinite possibilities. From there, we open ourselves to options and choices and bravely give
expression to the thing that’s feeling most right and keep following that wherever it leads1096258_orig (1)
us. Doing this cultivates a huge sense of self-trust. Instead of looking to others to tell us what to do or reflect our truth to us, we’re powered up from within to be who we really are. The more we practice this in the microcosm of the mat, the more it translates into the macrocosm of life, such that Freedom Yoga becomes a way of life.

FP: How will the retreat foster that experience of showing up?

Carie: Just being at the ranch in general fosters this experience. Slowing way down and being held in a sacred place is such fertile ground for this work. Our sessions will build a strong sense of community and togetherness. This creates a foundational space of love and openness for us to begin to set down our pretenses and defenses. Letting go of tension, in all its forms is the key. Tension is the “tone killer,” as we will discover. Once we start to let go of the self-imposed grip, we come back into our tension-free, natural alignment. And when that happens, being who we really are is the inherent result. We’ll be exploring various themes of that through meditation, movement, and group discussions.

FP: There’s a fair amount of group discussion on your retreat.

Carie: Yes, it’s my favorite part! So much good stuff happens in these discussions. Somebody will ask a question or make a comment, which leads us off into an amazing learning adventure. These are always so powerful and mind-blowing. People often talk about their struggles, or how to apply these lessons to everyday life. The most important
part is the listening that takes place. One way to start letting go of tension is to shift into
listening mode–to be quiet and hear what others say. That experience of hearing and veronica-katherine-1_origbeing heard is similar to the feeling of seeing and being seen, and opens doors for continued connection during the retreat: in the dining hall, out on the grass by the lake, walking up to the stupa. People go deep with each other. Lots of cool conversations happen.

 

FP: Spending a week with a bunch of other Freedom Yogis at the Ranch can definitely be a peak experience.

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Carie: I’ve met some of my closest friends in the whole world over the past 15 years at Feathered Pipe Freedom Yoga retreats. If something goes down for me and I need support, these are the people I call. We share something sacred during the week. We take off masks and show up–totally, beautifully, and simply. The community is a huge part of the experience. But you can also be alone when you need that time–there are so many quiet corners of the ranch where you can recharge and just drink in the sheer beauty of the place.

We can’t wake up by ourselves. We need others to hold up the mirror for us–and we need to hold up the mirror for them. Everyone has to bring their gifts forward for community to function. In the class or retreat environment, we’re all there to help each other do that. This retreat is about that.

FP: What else can we tell folks about what to expect?

Carie: This can be a profoundly moving experience. When I’m on retreat at the Ranch, the real me comes to the surface. I can see it in the mirror. The lines in my face seem to fade as the deep layers of tension evaporate and my real face emerges. I’m like “Oh! There I am!” Everything starts to feel more vibrant and alive. I can just be myself, not worry about what anyone else thinks, as I drop into that sense of self-trust. It feels clean and buoyant and light, like I’m in the flow of universal river. I just let go of the oars and lie on my back, and let the current take me. It feels fearless.

I also want people to know that this will be a creative week, with a lot of different types of experience. We’ll meditate and do yoga and talk. The things we do on the mat will be easy and accessible to everyone. Some of it will be restorative, some of it will be freeform, and some will be guided. We’ll give ourselves permission to get out of the box and color outside the lines. We’ll also make some art and do some journaling. We’ll chant
and we will dance and we will come alive!

1640621_origWe’ll walk up to the ridge together and watch the sunset. We’ll laugh and we’ll cry…at least I will cry. It’s just such a beautiful, profoundly moving week for me that I’m always crying such good, healing tears. If you want to get back in touch with who you really are, deeply connect with Spirit and experience something different…this retreat could be a good one for you.

~

I would love nothing more than for you to join me for this healing and transformative week at The Feathered Pipe Ranch: Be the Real You: The Art of Self-Trust, August 18-25. Please let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to seeing you there!

The Thief Called Comparison

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Teddy Roosevelt

 

I talk about this quote a lot, it’s been with me for years and years, and I’m sure I’ve written about it in several blogs. But, it bears repeating: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

 

Part of what Yoga helps us to do is to turn inward, to become familiar with consciously inhabiting our own center point, such that we shift from a habitual, external focus in the world to an internal focus of presence while we’re in the world. We learn to drop anchor into the steadfast constancy in ourselves – our closest contact point to The Divine – so that we stop drifting around on the choppy waves of the ever-shifting world outside of ourselves. We practice this in the slow context of the meditation cushion and mat, so that we learn to be anchored within as we go about our daily interactions with the external world, where everything flies around at warp speed.

 

Maintaining this tether of centered-from-within presence while in the fast-moving world is hard and I am most definitely a work in progress with it all. It’s getting easier that it used to be, but I still find myself losing my center sometimes, letting my energy and power drain out to other people, other situations, and other things outside myself. When I choose to do this, I slowly pull my anchor in and start drifting. I know this is happening when I start to lose my joy, my grounded sense of self, which feels terrible – as it should. And if I don’t catch the awful feelings as feedback of how I’m choosing to use my awareness, I find that I easily revert to a very old pattern of looking “out there” for my sense of self so that I can feel better. Every time I choose to look outside of myself to feel better, I make a pact with that old thief who takes away joy and all other good feelings: comparison.

 

Instead of slowing down and reclaiming my grounded center, which is what’s needed and is the only way for me to feel better, I start looking around at other people, what they’re doing, and make the comparison that other people have it all together. It’s easy to look at others and the way they present themselves in the world and think they have a perfect life and don’t ever struggle about anything. Because of this comparison I make, the resulting feeling is to think that something is somehow defective in myself and I don’t have enough of what they have; which puts me into a state of lack. Feeling less-than and feeling like I am not enough or don’t have enough is like gasoline sitting next to the fire of low self-worth. If I choose to pour that on the fire, it’s only going to get bigger.

 

I find that the Facebook experience can really ramp this up. I post things, like this blog, for example, or vacation pictures, or something I’ve been doing or thinking about…and then I scroll through the news feed to see what my friends are up to. My goal is  connection at the beginning of the scroll. Facebook is a great way to stay connected to my friends and when I’m centered and anchored in who I am, I love seeing what people are up to. I enjoy celebrating their joys and smile with their smiles. However, if I have chosen to pull up my anchor and drift, losing my ground and my center, my desire for inner connection becomes an experience of outward comparison.

 

Instead of an interactive experience of real-time conversation, where there’s a back and forth exchange of energy, an outward pulse and an inner pause, I’ve noticed on Facebook, that my sole focus is outward – on others. When I scroll through the news feed, I’m doing nothing but looking at other people’s stories, other people’s pictures, which are like visual sound bites. If I’m not anchored in my truth, comparison rears it’s ugly head. How can it not? It’s the by-product of being adrift on the choppy waters. If I continue to let myself scroll through the news feed without the inner anchor dropped, tethered to my joy, feeling my abundance, feeling that I am enough, appreciating my unique individuality…well, all of that slides down the drain and I’m using what I see to fuel my state of lack. Suddenly, I’ve poured the gasoline on the fire.

 

Here’s what I begin hear in my head: “Wow, everyone else has the perfect marriage – look how happy everyone is. They probably never argue or have any issues to work out. Oh, gosh, look at that, people going to a family reunion and actually enjoying being around all those relatives. Man, everyone else goes to Europe except me – I’ll probably never have the money to see Paris, like I’ve always dreamt about. Oh, God, look at her body. I’m 53, I have cellulite that won’t go away and saggy skin I can’t do anything about and now I’ve decided to let my hair go gray. And great, I’ve been doing Yoga for more than 20 years and I can’t even bend my body with any semblance of that that. I suck. What is wrong with me?”

 

Comparison is the thief of joy.

 

Here’s what I’ve learned.

 

The thing is that most of us don’t post pictures on Facebook of ourselves going through hard things, feeling less-than, feeling scared of life, anxious over the state of perpetual not-knowingness and not having things all figured out. We don’t talk about feeling less-than, or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed because our lives don’t seem to compare to those of others. We like to post and share our successes, but we don’t post about the foundation upon which success is built: failure. In order to walk, we must first learn to fall. And there are a whole lot of us in the world walking around, which means there has been a whole lot of falling happening. We all fall. Every single one of us. Birds have to learn how to fall before they can fly. In order to rise up, one must first fall down. We don’t like to talk about that so much.

 

There is no such thing as the perfect anything. Each of us is on our own path, never before seen by anyone, and struggling is part of it. If we were able to get underneath the visual sound bites of Facebook posts to the whole stories behind the pictures of apparent perfection that we see, we would indeed discover trials and hardships behind every one of them. We all fall, we all fail, we all feel insecure, and none of us – nobody – has it all figured out. None of us are perfect, no matter what any pictures look like, but we are all ENOUGH. We are enough. We have enough, we are beautiful, we are gifted, talented, and here to let our innate brilliance shine out into the world. The world is in need of what we’ve been given.

 

One of the things that’s been important to me as a yoga teacher is to share my own struggles, to share how hard things can be, and to clearly say that I don’t have things figured out. It’s so easy to think the teacher has it all together and lives in a constant state of bliss. Not true! This business of living the yoga is not for the faint of heart. It’ll pull you out of your comfort zone, it’ll bring you to your knees at times. That’s part of learning to walk the path through uncharted territory. As we keep going, listening inwardly for how to take each step and bravely putting one foot in front of the other, we will discover who we really are: The Divine being Itself right there where we are. When we allow ourselves to be the place where that shines through, we become healed and changed, which heals and changes the world.

 

So, I just wanted to say: “I do not have it all figured out” and “I don’t know.” These are some of the most freeing and empowering words in my vocabulary. It’s taken a whole lotta years walking forward on my path for me to let these words come to the surface; more than 20 years of yoga and meditation, over 8 years of recovery work, and what feels like lifetimes of a slow growth of courage welling up inside myself to let go of the pretenses of appearing to have my life perfectly stitched together. I don’t. Nobody does, despite how things appear on the surface. That’s why we’re all here on planet, I think; to to get our hands dirty in the soil of this earth and the uncomfortable messiness of embracing this wild trip of a ride of being spiritual beings embodied as humans for a while. Though we walk together, each of us is on our own journey. Let’s not let comparison steal our joy.

 

~ namaste