The Necessity of Receiving

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Stress. We all experience it. We know what it does to us, yet it continues to be the standard state of mind, body, and spirit for many of us. Anxiety keeps us gripped in a strait jacket; incessant multi-tasking locks us into warp speed and scatters our energy; and depletion leaves us feeling like there’s never enough (time, money, sleep, happiness, ease, you name it). We run on the hamster wheel faster and faster, speeding up to keep up, doing more to get it all done, and taking care of everyone and everything else.

Giving is wonderful. Extending ourselves in service to others, sharing our gifts, wisdom, and time is very important. The world is in need of what we have to give. But, if we keep giving and giving, doing and doing, without plugging into our true source and replenishing ourselves, we will run dry. Our souls can become depleted.

We can run on spiritual depletion for a while, because the effect is not too noticeable at first. It might feel like a lack of inspiration, feeling out of sync, a restlessness, a sense of uncertainty about life, a longing for something more but we don’t know quite what. Unfortunately, this initial feedback usually doesn’t get our attention to slow down and replenish ourselves. If we keep plowing through these outer red flags, we’ll hit the mental ones: overreaction to things, mind racing, quick to anger, feeling on edge, crying for no apparent reason, resenting the fact that we keep giving and others don’t appreciate it. Most of the time, we barge through these flags, too, and the soul depletion will try to get our attention through the physical body. We start feeling run down, we get sick more often, the body hurts and aches, we can’t sleep well.

Instead of recognizing these signs of spiritual depletion as feedback to refill ourselves, the tendency is to keep on going and somehow try to feel better through quick fixes. The Band-Aids of comfort food, cocktails, Netflix binging, and endless internet scrolling don’t help for very long; they come off and we’ve got to find another one to put on. Unless we go back to the source of the real depletion, anything we try to fill ourselves up with falls straight through our tank just like nothingness.

What’s needed is to stop the doing. Stop the depleting outward flow, and allow for a receiving inward flow.

Allowing is the art of receiving.
Receiving is the secret of giving.
Giving is the process of manifestation.
Manifestation is the road to prosperity.
~author unknown

These four sentences have changed my life. They were shared with me by a dear friend a couple of years ago. In order to manifest things, in order for them to come into fruition, we must give of ourselves in some way. That makes sense and we would probably all agree with that. But look at that second sentence: Receiving is the secret of giving. What? That turns the idea that many of us have been taught of “it’s better to give than receive” right on its head. And then the first sentence: Allowing is the art of receiving.  Wow. Allowing myself to receive is the foundation for giving, which is the building block for manifestation, which is the way, the road, to abundance.

Allowing and receiving. It’s the antidote to depletion and all the stress we experience. We’ve got to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first and breathe deeply before we put the mask on others. This is not selfish. This is self-care at the very important, fundamental level. Soul care is health care. We must allow our souls to be filled up, replenished, fed…before we can fill up, replenish, and feed others.

The feeding of our soul is crucial, especially for those of us who are dedicated to taking care of and serving others. Yet, is it one of the hardest things to actually do. We are maxed out, run down, on edge, depleted, looking for a better way. And yet, our response to allowing ourselves to receive and replenish is often “I’m too busy,” “I don’t have enough time,” or “I feel guilty doing something for myself.”

If we want a different experience, and most of us do, then we must actually do something different. If we want to take care of ourselves, then we have to actually make the time to do it. Souls hurt, minds hurt, bodies hurt, yet making a change to take care of ourselves seems monumental; another thing to add to the list of things to do. It’s not easy to carve out meditation time when the sink is full of dishes, the laundry needs to be done, the kids have to go to soccer, and what in the world are we going to have for dinner?

Something that really helps is a retreat. A retreat is a strategic withdrawal from all the externals, the act of retiring or drawing back in, as into safety or seclusion. The word retreat comes from the Latin word retrahere which means retract; to draw back in, to take back.

A day retreat is good, a weekend retreat is really nice, and a week-long retreat can restore your soul. Many of you know that I lead a retreat in Montana at the Feathered Pipe Ranch. Being at the ranch for a whole week is medicine. It’s soul food. If you are experiencing the feedback of soul depletion and know you need some self-care but just can’t carve it out for yourself anywhere, I invite you to come with me to the ranch this summer. Physically putting yourself in a new place really helps jumpstart the new pattern of self-care and allowing yourself to receive. When you’re away from the dishes, the laundry, the cooking, the job – away from all the externals – you can begin to really slow down and slide into the conscious pause, the space, the present, and step off that hamster wheel of constant doing. Once you do that, you start being. The garden hose of soul depletion becomes unkinked and energy, light, love, calm, radiance, peace, and healing begin to pour back into you. “Oh yeah!” becomes the mantra as you remember who you really are and your truth comes to the surface and starts shining out, with a new brightness and brilliance.

The great thing about going on retreat for a week is that it takes a few days to settle and really begin to let go of the warp speed living.  A weekend, though wonderful, usually isn’t long enough to allow for this shedding process. When I am in Montana, I notice that after a couple of days, I have finally let go of that speed and have dropped into a river of delicious slowness. My energy has increased to the sweet state of calm. When I look in the mirror, the lines in my face go away and I start to look more radiant, more glowy. I really noticed this “ranch effect” last year. When I arrived to teach my week, my friend Anne was there, just finishing her week of teaching.  There I was, getting off the van, all spazzy and excited, with warp speed all over me. I saw her walking down the trail, ran up to her (because I hadn’t seen her in a whole year), and man, she had The Glow. For years, she and I had always been at the ranch together, shedding and glowing at the same time. But wow, what a contrast to see myself, just arriving, and her, after a whole week of transformation. Of course, after a few days of settling, we had The Glow too.

Think about joining me June 22-29 for Soul Food: A Creative Celebration of Freedom and Authenticity. If you’re in need of replenishment, I can’t think of a better recommendation to fill your tank all the way back up to full and overflowing. Immerse and ground yourself in nature, which reduces the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Fill your lungs with pristine mountain air and drink fresh spring water. Slow down and savor some of the most delicious food you’ve ever had, made with love. Detox from digital media and from incessant multi-tasking.  Internet is there, if you need it, but you’ll find sitting in an Adirondack chair on the grassy meadow under the aspen, looking at the big sky ever so much more appealing. And healing. Feed your mind with the silence of meditation, meaningful conversations, and thought-provoking group discussions. Rejuvenate your body with mindful movement: Freedom Yoga accessible for every single body, and a meditative dance practice I created called Bhakti Moves. Open your voice and tune to into your resonance through song and chanting. The inner talking will go way down and your listening ears will go up, bringing your intuition and inspiration back into full flow. Come with me. Allow yourself to receive. Feed your soul and come alive.

Retreat details are here at the Feathered Pipe website. 


Yogis Doing Yoga, For Real

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I’ve been teaching yoga for over 20 years now. One the one hand, that’s barely any time at all; just a blink of an eye. I’m still in beginner mind, filled with awe and wonder over how much I don’t know and how much I am still growing and unfolding into who I am. On the other hand, two decades plus a few more years is a long time. The teachings have taken root in such a way that the fruits of the practice are my now normal: Yoga is a way of life for me.

What? Dog pose is my way of life?? No. Yoga is my way of life, not asana. There is a distinction between the two.

When I first started out in yoga, I didn’t have a clue about this. Since there were no studios here then and I had never been to a class, I was completely self-taught. I was a long-time group exercise instructor and had gotten introduced to yoga at an international fitness conference in the mid 90’s, when mind/body disciplines began to appear on the “aerobics” circuit. I decided I wanted to bring some of this stuff into the cool-down portions of my classes, so I started reading lots of books and studying some VHS tapes. The internet wasn’t even a thing then, which is so hard to picture. But none of the books or tapes I had mentioned anything about yoga being a way of life, it was all about how to do the poses, the asanas. I didn’t know there was anything more yoga than asana specifics until The Universe blindsided me with a bizarre series of events that would lead me to my one and only teacher, Erich Schiffmann. When I miraculously crossed paths with Erich, my learning and my life started to rocket off into a whole new realm, to say the least.

I began to learn that Yoga is not synonymous with asana, as I had originally thought, and as most people think. The two are not necessarily the same thing. Again, the books and the tapes I had weren’t saying this. Yoga is about the experience of unity consciousness, our deepest truth; feeling the experiential fact that we’re not separate from God, never have been, never could be, and never can be. We are the specific and unique manifestation and expression of The Divine, and so is everyone and everything else. And it’s not just about experiencing this truth, but it’s about how we live our lives when we’re centered in that experience. Yoga is a spiritual lifestyle, such that we are inwardly guided by God/Source/The Infinite in every single thing we do, in every single moment of every single day.

The problem is that we have forgotten the truth of who we are. We think we’re all by ourselves, alone, separate from Spirit and everyone and everything else. Why is this a problem? Because mindstate (how we’re choosing to use our mind) is everything. Mindstate doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it causes ripples of effects that that flow through our body and out into the world. Being in Yoga mindstate (experiencing our truth and inseparable unity with Source) naturally ripples out effects of calm. A tension-free mind ripples outward into a tension-free body, and outward into actions that are inwardly guided and healing in every moment. Being in separation mindstate (mired in a false sense of separation) ripples out effects of conflict and tension in the same sort of way – mind, then body, and then ultimately out into actions that are hurtful and inappropriate. Those actions finally get our attention and we think, “There’s got to be something I can do, some sort of practice, so I can make a change in myself and start living a life that’s in the flow, so I can start feeling better.”

Yoga is a something we can do. It’s both a practice of bringing ourselves back into the experience of the truth and it’s also the state of experiencing the truth that has been here all along while we were off forgetting. So, this experience of feeling our conscious unity with All That Is, and letting it guide us through our daily lives is called Yoga and the practices that we can do in order to get back into that mindstate of truth is also called Yoga. Yoga is anything we do to bring ourselves back into the experience of Yoga. There are many ways and practices to do this, most of which don’t even have anything to with a yoga pose. In fact, everything we do can become a practice, a means, of feeling Unity Consciousness.

But here’s the thing: It’s not about the practices. The practices are simply a means to a greater end. The practices are only there to get us back into the remembrance of the experience of truth so we can live it. If we pledge allegiance to the practices only, if we glorify the means only, then we’ll miss the whole point of what the practices are for. You can do asana all day long and never do any actual Yoga. You can do Yoga all day long (which is the whole point of all the practices) and never do any asana.

This idea was not well represented in the books and video tapes I studied back in the 90’s, and it doesn’t seem well represented in the way most people learn about yoga today: the internet. A quick search on “yoga” brings up studios in my town, articles on best poses for beginners, yoga for weight loss, and image after image of people doing asana, mostly highly contorted asana. With yoga gaining such huge popularity, which is wonderful, I wonder if these images – often of white, thin women in expensive outfits doing what looks like gymnastics on a sunset beach – is representative of what yoga really is about?

I love JP Sears’ videos. In his video called “How to Meditate” he says this about meditation, though it can be easily applied to asana: “You’ve got to post pictures of yourself meditating on social media… 100% of all people will rightfully assume that an innocent bystander was walking by and they were so taken aback by the powerful tranquility of your meditation that they couldn’t help themselves but to take a picture of this natural wonder… If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you meditate and nobody sees a picture of it, did you really meditate?”

Since our world is becoming increasingly visual, I think it would be so great to have some accurate representations of real people doing Yoga, for real, not people just doing asana for the camera. What would that look like? Certainly not glamorous, exciting, or sexy enough to get many Instagram likes. From the outside, living the Yoga looks just like doing the ordinary things that you do in your day – drinking coffee, eating lunch, being at your job, picking up the kids, working things out with your spouse or partner, laughing, crying, looking at the sunset, feeding the dog. However, on the inside, it’s radically different. It feels like living a life that’s in the flow of universal harmony. It feels like being tuned into the listening state as we go about our daily live, following the feeling of rightness in every morphing moment. It feels vulnerable, finding the courage to rest in uncertainty and trust things that we cannot yet see. Someone scrolling through images of that in a news feed likely wouldn’t even stop.

I’m not saying that pictures of asana aren’t helpful or interesting to look at, because they certainly can be, but asana is just one of an infinite array of means, not an end unto itself. It would be so wonderful to see the means less glorified and the end – living a spiritually guided life – more talked about and represented and elevated. Completely unexciting on the outside, but man, what an incredible inner experience.

IMG_5302 2Here’s my first ever Yoga selfie. I took it this morning. Here I am, doing Yoga, for real. I’m centered in it, feeling the unity, feeling my truth, listening ears open for what I need to know, looking out at the light in the back yard. I’m drinking coffee from my Bob Ross mug. I often use Bob Ross analogies when teaching and a student gifted me with this mug and a box of Bob Ross bandaids that say “No mistakes, just happy accidents.” I’m wearing my robe. No makeup. I haven’t even brushed my hair or my teeth. That’s Yoga? Oh yeah… that’s Yoga.