The life and times of a tattooed Yoga teacher with technicolor hair

Finding my way… Watching how life falls apart and comes back together.

All is coming

I remember things that I used to write, years ago.
They reflected the mental, emotional and physical state I was in at the time.
Some may say that writing was a means to “get the emotions out”, while others may say that I was reaffirming those emotions.
It was both.

I look at things I have written recently, since I began writing again, and the feelings those writings bring up.
Not just the feelings in me, but the feelings they stir up in others.
Recently, I shared my background regarding eating disorders with Yoga Journal, and how my practice with Yoga helped me.
Even more recently, it was posted on the YJ website.
Just the other day, I posted it on my Facebook page for my friends and family to see.
Let’s be real, I had a couple beers and was like, “Yeah! Do it! What are you waiting for?!”

I shared it with my community of graduates from the teacher training program I graduated from.
The response I received from both social networks was so amazing. The support from my husband and dear friends was so beautiful.
That it resonated with such a wide community, that people shared their stories after reading mine – made my heart feel as though it would burst.

That journey, from childhood to now, was extremely painful.
Even writing this, tapping into where I was to be thankful for where I am gives me a stab to my heart.
Perhaps one day I’ll no longer feel the need to ask myself, “If you could, would you change any of it?”, but I’m not there yet.
So I ask myself, and my response is: I wish people would have known just how much they meant to me.
Ah, I was so busy not loving myself, that I couldn’t share how much I loved others.

Everything brings you to where you are. I’m grateful. Here and Now, I’m so grateful for all of it.

It’s become a kind of game, Ram Dass uses the apt analogy of a chess game, “I made this move, let’s see what happens to the rest of the game.”
I’m interested to see how things play out.
Which is not to say that I don’t get impatient, or that I don’t second-guess my moves at times.
It’s that ebb and flow; somedays I feel courageous, others not so much (or at all), but it comes back around.
Yoga, meditation, mindfulness – all of it has shown me to watch the fluctuations.
I’m not so good with not getting attached to the highs and lows, but I’m a work in progress.

In the back of my mind I know the gist of how I’d like things to happen. The good thing about where I currently am in my journey, is that even if I become impatient while waiting on the next move (doh! Isn’t that being the cause of my own suffering?), I know the next move is gonna’ come. It has to, everything always changes. I’ve made my move – it was scary, and difficult and beautifully rewarding.
I’ll keep doing my practice, keep listening so my impatience might become minimal.

Like Sri K. Patthabi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming.”

True story.

If you’d like to read that Yoga Journal article, this is it.

Understanding My Purpose

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I have so many half finished writings in my unpublished folder-thing.

I go through these periods of being so inspired. Periods of connection to some sort of creative source. The problem is that when something doesn’t happen in the time I feel it should, self-doubt rears it’s head and I start feeling like I should just stop everything I’ve been working on and go back to being just another cog in the wheel. A nine-to-fiver (although in my part of the country it would be a seven-to-fiver).

Some of the things I’ve been feeling lately are that I wasn’t born into enough money to do the humanitarian work that I want to do. How ridiculous! I know that statement is so completely unfounded that it makes my head spin.
Sometimes my ego comes up with some crazy shit. 

I’ve been trying to pinpoint why saving the Ecuadorian amazon tugs at my heart. I think part of my frustration is that I’m not sure why it does. So I feel like I don’t have any tangible reason for working on it, and if I don’t have that reason, it’s easy to lose track of the goal.
I love nature – everything about it. Trees, small plants, big plants. Bugs, small ones and big ones. Arachnids, reptiles, animals.
I love it all.
I’m a treehugger, and unapologetic about it (which research has caught up with me, and says hugging trees is good for your health – so that’s cool, too).

My grandparents used to own 40 acres of woods in Kansas.
They didn’t live on it, but they used to keep horses out there when my mom was a teenager.
Their horses eventually passed on, but my grandma and grandpa would still go out there every morning  to feed birds, rabbits, deer, squirrels, the fish and turtles in the pond, and whatever other critters might come around. They had long, winding paths out into the woods. That was my favorite thing about going to visit them – even though I had to wake up early to go with them to “the forty”. I would almost always see one or more deer, sometimes rabbits and turkeys, a snake now and then, spiders (whose webs we always admired and were careful not to damage their hard, beautiful work).
At some point in my younger years (10? 12? Who could remember…) I stayed with my grandparents for about a week during the summer. My grandma took me out to the forty for a hike (a hot, muggy hike). I got to go down trails that I typically missed out on.
It was so pretty, so quiet but for the birds. There were areas that were too overgrown to walk to, which I thought was so cool, that plants could get so dense.
My grandma would point out different flowers, different species of birds. She would tell funny stories from years gone by about things she’d seen, or grandpa had seen. My grandparents are some of the best people in the world.
When my grandma started having mini-strokes a few years back, the hospital bills started massing together. My grandpa couldn’t keep her at home because she needed more care than he could give, so she spent some time in a nursing home off and on – the price of which was astronomical. Despite all of us pitching in to help, my grandpa made the decision to sell the forty. I remember being so heartbroken. My brothers and I offered to buy it from them, but of course we couldn’t pay as much as the developers could.
Life is full of tough decisions, and that was one of them.
I can’t bring myself to go out there. I don’t want to see manicured lawns, and giant houses on the land I used to run around on, feed birds on, spot deer on.

Like most times I write, I figure things out as I’m writing.

I think it’s safe to say that I don’t want the amazon to be destroyed for development because corporations need more money in their pockets.
Those tribes live so much differently than we do. They have the quickly vanishing ability to live off the land around them. They can walk through their territories and recognize the plants, the animals. These people coming in to tear it all down don’t have memories of walking through the densely wooded areas with their parents and grandparents, maybe even great-grandparents.
There are so few areas of the world left untouched by man, and that breaks my heart.
I can be a bit anti-social at times, and during those times, I just want to go outside and look at the sky (if there were woods around, I’d probably be found there – but I make-do with what I have).
The amazon is so much more than just forty acres of flora and fauna. The amazon has more knowledge, medicine, diversity in it than anyone even knows. The fact that huge swaths of it are being sold and destroyed is maddening. That people do not realize how much we depend on this part of our planet for the very air that we breathe, for the rain that we need to survive, is just mind-blowing. That people do not realize the small actions (both positive, and negative) they take here, have a big impact on this area that none of us have ever, likely, been to, is unacceptable to me.

As it turns out, my reason for wanting to save the Amazon, is that I don’t know. I know practically nothing about this wonderful place. What we, the human race, actually know about the amazon is a fraction of a percent – and we as a human race are wantonly destroying it, as if our lives do not depend on it.

I want to know more about the amazon rainforest. Scientists and biologists are desperately, and hurriedly trying to chronicle as much about this amazing place as they can – because developers are destroying it faster than they can discover it. This part of our planet is so diverse, that biologists walking through the forest discover a new plant, bug or animal almost every time they go out looking.

In my heart, if I wasn’t learning more about this extraordinary location, if I wasn’t doing whatever it is that I can to help the people there, to help the plants, the animals, the spiders weaving their webs – I would be contributing to the death of all of it – and to look at the big picture, the death of our planet.

My blue sky is directly related to the trees of the amazon.
I cannot allow myself to forget that connection.   

*****

If you want to help me reach my goal by contributing to my campaign, click here

If you want to learn more and take action personally by joining the Global Seva Challenge, click here.

NBC News report on the role YOU play in this here: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/rock-center/51768274/#51768274ua

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Sometimes you hide

There are so many things that people hide.  The tiniest things that one won’t acknowledge.

I’ve done it, you’ve done it.  Do we have to be open, honest, raw all the time?  Of course not.  Sometimes when I am my most honest I feel as though I am completely over-sharing.  While I prefer to be aware of and see the immense value in feeling the “vibe” around me, occasionally I share with reckless abandon. But I think there’s a time for everything. There certainly comes a time when being raw and open is required.

I do intend to be aware.  I intend to not over-share.  I prefer mutual sharing.  Everyone feels equal, no one feels embarrassed or depleted afterward.  In my opinion, it’s good.

I had a conversation with a very dear friend earlier this evening, and we were discussing writing.  She had scoffed when somebody told her that she should take a journal and write her thoughts and feelings down.  We discussed the trepidation surrounding that.  Once those thoughts and feelings are in writing… they’re in your face.  It’s confrontational.
I shared with her that I had recently begun writing again.  That I hadn’t done such a thing since I lived at home, 18 years old.  I stopped because my mother snooped through my room and found my notebooks of poetry and writings.  That was her last resort in trying to know me – digging through my things.  Looking back I feel sad that it was that way.  At the time I was so infuriated, so violated.  Those were thoughts that I wrote while crying, thoughts of terrible, dark things that no one should have to read.  I thought I was nuts at the time, and terrified that someone would know it.  I was ingesting dozens of random pills a day as the dis-ease in my mind ran wild.  To say my body was imbalanced is a little understated.  The worst part at the time, was that she wouldn’t confront me with it.  I would come home and things would just be missing from my room.

Looking back, it is so obvious to me how terrified I was of people knowing my secrets.  The things that were strictly between me and myself.  Hell, I’m still scared.  I’m not terrified anymore, but scared and uncomfortable with the idea of people knowing these things about me, and the things that were worse.
What is it that shapes you into the person you are now if not for the awesome and horrible experiences and moments in your life?  I feel that a large portion of who we are is a conglomeration of moments; filtered through the perception of thoughts that we have had since the beginning of our remembrance. The keyword there is perception, and our perception may change, if we allow it.

In the past year I have been realizing that by so adamantly hiding from my past, I was once again, being two people. “I teach yoga now, I meditate, I blah blah blah…” and I still run from things that have anything to do with disordered eating habits. It scared me to let people in on that part of my life. But I was noticing that people  tend to have this viewpoint, especially in the field of being a yoga teacher, or a personal trainer, or generally when you’re in a position to aid people – that without the background information, they tend to think that all of this came easily, or that your life has always been bright and cheery. There’s a missing link of humanity there.

So you see what needed to happen: It was once again time to step out of my comfort zone. Oftentimes getting what you really, truly desire requires facing the things that make you feel most vulnerable and uncomfortable. I think by shining light on this part of my life, it is not only a reminder that I am in fact a regular human being, but hopefully will help people to find peace within themselves. That was why I began teaching yoga to begin with, after all.

May you have peace.
In your thoughts.
In your words.
And in your heart.

The shaping of thoughts and Life

I have single-digit days left before I leave my job of what would be 8 years and embark on the new, exciting, freaky-deaky journey of becoming a full-time yoga teacher. I was looking back through notes on my phone (searching for a poem by Mark Nepo that I thought I had saved, but alas it wasn’t there) when I stumbled upon a note I had written 1 year ago, to the day. This is that note, and how timely my words proved to be.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, mental patterns in the brain are called “Samskaras”, literally the impressions or grooves from this life (or the previous, if that’s what you’re into) that cause suffering. Every negative thought that you reaffirm lends more power to the next negative thought. The only way to begin to transform yourself and your life is to first recognize that change is needed. It’s remarkably easier than it sounds; Argue with yourself. No, really. Every time a negative thought comes in, change it to the positive. This feels silly and corny at first. But who gives a eff so long as it works? The more power you lend to changing your thoughts to the positive the more powerful your positive thoughts will become. It’s a scientific fact that your words send out a vibration. Each intonement has a different vibration. It’s also a fact that thinking produces energy. If you think you’re about to be hijacked, your brain sends a rush of adrenaline through your body to prepare to fight or take off. If you start thinking of something sad, the corresponding chemicals flow through your body and brain to produce a melancholy state. If you tell yourself a deliberately contradicting thought when you think negatively, you just deliberately changed the chemical release in your body. I had to do this dozens of times a day, and I still find myself re-aligning my thought pattern all the time. Like a stereo antenna. Growing up I listened to the same station every day, but some days I would have to move my antenna to get a clearer signal. When you think about all the negativity you can bump into throughout the day it becomes easy to see why it takes consistent deliberation to maintain the appropriate frequency. A life of joy and a life of ease are not in the same category. It takes work on yourself to maintain joy. From personal experience, stepping out of my box brought me face to face with things I was uncomfortable with. The more I was confronted and didn’t back down, the easier the confrontations became. The kicker is that as you continue to become more at ease with what formerly brought you discomfort, the more you realize that you are beginning to create another box and it is necessary to, once again, step out of that boundary and confront something new. It’s called personal growth, and it’s rewarding as f*&%.

At the time I wrote the above, I had zero intention or idea that one year from then I would be stepping out of a box. I’m not going to go into sordid detail, because honestly, I feel that some of my personal grooves from my life are worn so far down that it’s a chore sometimes to visit them and climb back out from them. But for the sake of “here’s my story. Take what you need and leave the rest”, here is this:

The little bit of connection (I use that term so very loosely) I still maintained with my mother will be severed (touched on briefly somewhere in here: http://wp.me/p2GVyk-3 ). Without a need to talk business, there is nothing left for her to talk to me about. So yeah, there’s the occasional sinking of my heart right down to my root chakra that my mom is older and there’s the mortality aspect coming into play. But we all make decisions. I made mine and she made hers. Fin. ’nuff said. I went through years of guilt tripping myself for things I did when I was growing up before I realized that if we all went around judging ourselves based on what we did as teenagers we’d all very likely hate life immensely.

I AM glad to be moving in the direction that I am. I’m here now, and it’s the best state I’ve ever been in, quite honestly.

My friends, my tribe of people that I surround myself with are amazing. I use that term dead-on for the full meaning of the word.
A few days ago I was randomly confronted by numerous people from my past (that also have nothing to do with me now, which is good), and while I was initially completely ‘thowed off kilter, I awoke the next day with such a huge appreciation for the people I have now. I swear, it’s as if the universe knocks me around sometimes just to liven shit up – shove a reminder right in my face. And I’m glad. I’m glad it happens that way. The universe, my subconscious sneakily manifesting what I need to be confronted with – it really matters not the way you phrase it.
What matters is the noticing.
I notice how far I’ve come.
I notice how wonderful my people are.
I am so immensely, incredibly, remarkably, resoundingly grateful for every single person that chooses to take part in my life.

Here’s to a new and bigger box, and here’s to bursting it open whenever the time is right n’ proper.

And of course, this is the piece I was originally looking for by Mark Nepo. Fairly apt, I would say.

http://threeintentions.com/2012/02/08/the-great-wave/

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Closing Time

Did you see the moon setting this morning?

It was pretty awesome.
It looked big and pink from the reflection of the sun’s rising light.
It was beautiful.
I tried to take a picture, but I was driving and every time I stopped at a sign or a light it was out of view, so I just kept moving and glancing at it.

Taking mental pictures.

I believe I will put in my resignation today.
This is so scary for me, for a lot of different reasons.
Money?  Will we have enough money?  Will I gather enough students?  Will anyone want to be guided by me?

I am young by modern society’s standard. I recently turned 25. I have held this job since I was 17, before I could even work full time. I work with my step dad, mother and brother. I will need to talk to my step dad this afternoon, before the new year break.  All of my major leaps seem to take place on or around New Year’s Eve.

I don’t plan it that way, or at least not consciously so. What will his reaction be, I wonder? He knows this has been coming since I started teaching.

When I first made this decision a month ago, I nearly gave myself a panic attack thinking of everything that may or may not happen. This is my usual way…
Some part of me tries to scare myself into staying with what is familiar.  This change needs to happen though.  I feel it in my gut, in my heart, in my soul – wherever it is, it’s a tug. I feel this pull into the unknown.

I send out lots of positive words formed into positive sentences:

“By taking this leap, I’m putting forth trust. Trust that it will all work out, however it is meant to work out.”
And ones that are even more corny…
I feel silly sometimes, throwing out intentions for the atmosphere to hear.  Thinking all these thoughts that make me sound like Susie Sunshine.  But why shouldn’t I?  Why is Debbie Downer more legit?  Perhaps it’s because people expect the worst…  I grew up always expecting the worst, and it was exhausting.  On days when I revert to that, all I see is harsh negativity.  That certainly doesn’t inspire me to do anything but go home, yell, drink, complain and go to sleep only to wake up regretting that time the next day.  I visualize my body inflamed and irritated on those days.

I’m going to quit my job today.  I keep being distracted from that point. I keep reminding myself so I’ll be ballsy enough to do it.  I’m writing this as a sort of picture of this day.  Sometimes my memory can’t be trusted, so I wanted to be able to look back and read my thoughts.  Which, funny enough, by recording my mental dialogue today, it’s rather like trying to take that picture of the moon this morning.  I’m stopping to write, and I’m losing sight of why it is I’m writing.

“Onward and upward!” has been my theme for the past week.  Enough writing for now, I will fortunately have plenty of time for that once I am “unemployed”.  God that’s scary. But it’s scary for no good reason. I have no good reason to be afraid of this.

It’ll be an adventure, and I tell myself I love adventures in hopes that it will make me braver.

I’ll let you know how it goes… The quitting thing… And the adventure that follows.

Patience is a virtue, mostly…

“Patience is a virtue.”
In a lot of situations, it’s true.
Stuck in traffic.
Inevitably in the slowest line at the bank, grocery store, et cetera.
Most days my patience is good. I don’t mind waiting on people to count out nickels, dimes and pennies. Generally speaking, I think it’s sweet when an elderly couple are shopping together and block an aisle at the store.
But in certain situations, I feel the patience being a virtue thing is bull.
When it comes to me living out my dreams, I think my patience is not what should be tested, but my ability to manifest (thank you, www.manifestationyoga.com).

I’d just like to say, “F*&^ it! I’m not waiting anymore!”
I’ve been at my current job for 7 years. I am 24 years old. I work at my family’s business, and I was initially hired on to “help out for a while.” I make good money, the hours are alright and I get paid holidays. Really sweet gig, and I am very grateful for it.

But It’s not what I’m meant to do.

I don’t enjoy my job. Every day feels like the same day. I keep my head up because when I’m laying in bed in the early morning and I’m not sure what day it is, I recall which class I taught or participated in the day before – and that’s how I keep my days straight, by reflecting on the gig I love. The one that makes my heart sing and whatnot.

When I was in teacher training, my adviser told us about when he got a job working at a hospital sorting pills. He found it remarkably boring. He started making it interesting for himself, getting really methodical about it. Apparently, he was the best damn pill sorter they had ever had. One day he woke up and he had been there for over a year. This had been a temporary thing, to earn some dough so he could pursue what he really wanted to do.
I’m really good at my job. I like to be good at whatever it is I’m doing. I’m a stickler for quality.
I was listening to his story and then I tallied up how many years I had been at my job. My heart sank! I had my “Holy shit, I’m still doing this” moment.
So what am I going to do?

I’m going to start living as if my dreams are real.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to sell my house and move next week.
It means I’m going to live like every thing else is just a dream.
Fill my thoughts with details.
I am going to open a studio with my husband, in a beautiful location, with trees and water.

What color will the walls be?
What will the children’s yoga room look like?
What classes will we offer?

Ooh, I’m gonna’ manifest this. No doubt.

Peacock Power

“Activate peacockpower!” was the email I received from WordPress.
How awesome is that?  I felt like I should have a ring like the kids from Captain Planet.

My name is Emma.  
Like my description says, I am a yoga teacher with technicolor hair (blue, as of late)
and a rather large tattoo of a peacock on my back.  

Why the peacock, you might ask?

I was born in Emporia, Kansas.  I only lived there for 7 short years, but it still feels like home.
When I was very young, after my mom would drop my two older brothers off at school,  she would sometimes take me to a diner type place with THE bomb cinnamon rolls.
Big ones.
Covered in sticky, luscious frosting.
I got to press the button on the old school intercom.

Emporia also has a great little zoo, with a drive-thru exhibit, which is where we would head next.

In the cool Kansas morning’s, I would be huddled up in the backseat eating my breakfast and I would hear them… The peacocks waking up and shouting about whatever it is peacocks might shout about.

Sure, there were mountain goats and buffalo, deer and a mountain lion -
but those peacocks were the first exhibit, and by far the loudest.

Fast forward 19/20 years, a lot has transpired.
My mother and brothers have not been on speaking terms with me for 4 years (my own religious insubordination being the cause).  I am at a Yoga Teacher training at Barsana Dham (later renamed Rhada Madhav Dham – don’t worry, not a lick of this counts toward your final grade), a Hindu ashram in the Austin hill country.

It is January.

They have Peacocks.

 There is something to be said about growing older and noticing the moments in life that feel like a completed circle. 

I would be in tears some days walking up to the training center, bundled up in the cool Texas morning and listening to the peacocks up in the trees, starting to wake up. They were not nearly as loud since the mountain lions in the hills run unencumbered.

Peacocks are a still, foggy morning in Kansas.  Just me and my Mother.

Before all the bullshit.

They are a wink from the Universe.

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