To Live and Love - A Journey of Surrender Through Joy and Pain

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Does life ever seem to just slow down, for a second, like you are watching life happen in slow motion? For me this happens from time to time and the sound is internal. The noises become like white noise or even quite in my mind and my eyes see different. Today I see people at Whole Foods hustling. They are eating and packing their groceries and texting. Some people are smiling while others look tired and others heavy with grief.

Where are they going? What are they cooking for dinner? What are they thinking about? When is the last time they were held or heard the words “I love you?” How are they feeling with the dynamics of the world lately? Are they hurting with the loss of the fires? Have they lost a good friend or lover recently? Have they found joy in something special?

I think these questions and more. Are these people that are going about life connected or numb? Or perhaps a little of both? Do they know their purpose? Do they even contemplate this question? Are they running on fumes or rested?

The answers to these questions and more are unknown to me yet available to each person.. All I know is what I can see, feel, hear, taste and touch.

Today I sense that life is delicate and bold and beautiful. When these moments happen it is hard for me to fully articulate what this feels like. The closest thing I can compare it to is looking at a meteor shower. Have you ever watched a lot of shooting stars in a dark night? As you are outside the rest of the life simple stops and you can so clearly feel and know that there is something out there that is bigger than you. Something so grand and complex that everything works together. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change. The birds chirp as the sun rises. The list goes on and on. Nature is perfect and somehow this life things works, despite my ability to sometimes comprehend how.

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So today, I sit with headphones in, I pause in this moment. I am in awe of simply being a human. I am in awe of experiencing all of life: the joy, the pain, the sorrow, the worry and the love. All of it. It is intense and amazing and hard all at the same time.

Can you relate? Are you someone that feels intensely or worries? For those of you that know me, I am a worrier and a feeler. I can feel all of the feelings so strong that sometimes it overwhelms me and I cannot breathe deep or understand the depth of life. And in these moments I allow myself to take it in and pause. And then get back to being grounded and find room and moments to breathe and be grateful. The other thing I will honest with is my fear of loss. My worry has been very intense since I was young. I feel like since I have been young, I have been waiting for the call that something bad has happened. In fact, even today, my dad called me and the slightest pause in the “Hello Kitten” made my heart drop. My heart was pounding in my chest and I thought/felt “what is wrong? What happened?” Oh, dear. That isn’t fun or necessary, but sometimes is my reality.

I mean, that doesn’t seem productive or even normal. As I’ve been working with my therapist on this, I have trained my mind to think the chance of something bad to happen to be heavily skewed to a higher percentage of it to happen.

Why I am sharing this with you? Well, for starters, I want to be clear that this thought pattern of being on high alert has not been valuable to my mental or physical health. It can through my rhythm in a moments notice.

However, it is my reality. It is my work in progress. It is the story behind me trying my best in life. It is the story behind my smile and showing up in life. It is my battle of letting go fully and surrendering enough to say, “I am living; I am loving.”

But then again, what does it mean to live? Does it mean going through the motions and hustle? Or does it does it mean to connect? Does it mean to be at ease in the good times and soft and open to healing and hurt in the not so pretty times?

Honestly, I truly am thinking a lot about life. I am clear if one thing, that when I am connected to source, and I take time to pause, and breathe I have a better life. I am kinder to those I love. I am kinder to myself, I have more patience, resilience, joy, and faith. And so I strive to do more of this in the form of gratitude, meditation, and honoring life by taking care of myself.

What I am not so clear on is this whole loss thing. The pain of life is so intense. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of our dear friend Erik who left us on August 7, 2018. Why Erik? Why did a man that had such a positive impact and love have to leave us so soon? Will any of this every make any sense at all? What about his beautiful wife and three kiddos? Why them? And then how do we surrender to bad shit like this happening?

Honestly, I don’t understand nor do I pretend to know if I will ever comprehend. But what I know is that to honor Erik and all those that have passed or are living and experienced grief, I will do my best to honor the life I do have. And I will take it a day at a time. I know it is cheesy and hard all at the same time.

I want to prevent the hurt and pain. For me, for James, for my kids and my mom and dad and sisters and brothers. I want to avoid pain at all costs. I want to never have to get that call again and I want the pain in the world to go away. But what if my job isn’t to do everything I can to avoid that? What if my job, rather, is to surrender to it all. What if my job is to trust that no matter the crappy things that happen, there will also be joy and peace within. To know and own in my journey that there will be light and joy along the way.

Maybe the point is to give so much thanks to our blessings that we spread even more? What if we do even more good? And instead of waste precious moments worrying about would or could happen should there be tragedy, what it we simply surrender to the blessings now? And then know that this is a choice to surrender each and every day. It isn’t something you buy at Target or Amazon, rather, it is a choice that we make each and every day and moments through the day. I think I can even get on board with that (and am trying, I promise).

And it also isn’t saying that to surrender doesn’t mean to show up for you and those around you. For example, do you care about animal rights? Go after it. Channel it and do good things. Do you worry about guns in schools and pretty much everywhere these days? Try your best to surrender and be at ease and then channel your frustration to volunteer or raise money to change laws.

That is the balance. That is the gift we get to choose. And then we take a deep breath again and again to connect, to believe in something and to keep showing up.

What do you choose? How do you show up for you and life? How do you surrender and let go, yet fight for something you believe in. How do you hold those close to you but not grip and worry so much that aren’t able to live or feel the feelings of love and joy?

That is my deep question for you as we enter this holiday week. There isn’t an answer that is right or wrong. The quote in the bathroom today at mXe said “Be Where You Are.”

My wish for you is to do just that. Be right where you are. Be aware and kind. Contemplate the gift of life and how it can be beautiful and divine and so many things. And honor all of your feelings today. And know that you are loved and not alone.

Peace, love, and healing to all of you beautiful humans.

Kristin

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Be Where You Are

Yoga - Living my Yoga

The choices you make about how you will respond determine everything.
— Rod Stryker, The Four Desires

It is almost been three (now to plus months) weeks since the immersion of Yoga with Yogarupa Rod Stryker was in town. It is three days a year that I look forward to when he comes back to Minneapolis, hosted by my amazing teacher, Tanya Boigenzan (owner of Devanadi). In these three days I am lucky enough to be surrounded by an amazing group of yogis, and sangha (community). I quickly am reminded why I feel in love with yoga many years ago. While the information in my mind has changed, and some of my experiences have deepened, it is still the same.  

For me the biggest take-away practicing yoga is connecting to me, my true essence. My essence is the place in me that is always there and truly wants me to thrive. When I practice it does so many things for me. Not only does it remind me that sitting in meditation is critical for my well-being, but it also reminds me that life is a little bit of a balancing act. And the more I understand this, the more I surrender to the control or any of the emotions that come with being human. 

To elaborate I will share a little bit more about me. I have always been a determined person. I have always tried so hard: to do things the right way, execute a project, pass the perfect pass on the volleyball court, or make the best team, or be the best at my job. You get the point. I have had a drive in me that has helped me get through the challenging years of middles school, various health challenges, while not a huge deal, went with me everywhere. This led me to thinking that something MUST be wrong with me. I must have to TRY HARDER. 

Insert the collapse after my second baby, deep into the emotions I never knew were even there. I realized, oh my goodness, my vikalpa (my deep desire that is beneath my consciousness that impacts my actions) is holding my back and causing me pain.  In addition to understanding these deep desires that do not help me to thrive, I also was able in the past few years to uncover my dharma (purpose). Thank goodness for Tanya's wisdom and one-one-ones with her that inspired me to do the work and to know my dharma. This knowing of my purpose would be (and still is) the anchor to me surviving this crazy thing called life. First, getting through the baby stage of my second, and then onward into each new phase (or season) of my life. 

In 2014/2015 I did a lot of work from the Four Desires book by Rod Stryker, with the support of his training and my teacher Tanya, I learned a ton. I still remember being at the 3-day immersion and going outside (away from the people) because the emotions were too strong. The suffering that I had been hiding from came to the surface, and I wanted to drive away and stop looking at it head on. Good thing that day I had carpooled and I had to stay; I did the work. I realized that a lot of my suffering was old patterns of thinking, and something deep in me that i wasn't necessary consciously choosing, but that was ultimately impacting the quality of my life. 

I spent the next couple years saying my dharma code over and over and over. Even now, when things feel stressful or aren't going well and I catch myself reacting or not being grounded/stable I pause and think, "what is your dharma code? Bring yourself back there." The most recent example for my is finding mice that decided to invade our home in March. . For those of you that know me, a spider or a centipede will make me squeal. This was a challenge to say the least. What got me through? My dharma code. It wasn't the daily meditation (which I was too anxious to do), rather it was this anchor that reminded me to have faith, to be confident and to surrender. When in doubt, I always come back to this.

I am one to be hard on myself so I often judge or place things in a category of good or bad. I do this even worse with food (that is for another day), but I have also done this with my yoga practice. I have been judging how my meditation practice has gone up and down over the years. I get mad at myself for starting and stopping and then the spinning of the mind happens. However, last week I realized something. I finally understand that me trying to keep going in life with grace and gratitude, faith and kindness, and determination yet surrender IS MY PRACTICE. 

This has been my journey for me. Would I be more patient with my kiddos if I had a daily practice? Yes. Would I have less on and off anxiety? Yes. Would life feel more effortless if I gave myself the foundation of wellness through sleep, practice, and some daily routine that I so crave? Yes, yes, yes!! But, perhaps I don't just tell other people to give themselves grace, I actually DO it and practice it. 

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Wouldn't that be awesome? Now think about you for a moment. Is there something that you are hard on yourself that you know you need to do more of? Do you beat yourself up over x, y and z? You are not alone. Know that, and understand that awareness and self-reflection is so imporant, but especially without judgement. Ask yourself which is it? Are you hard on yourself or are you able to take information in your life and remove the emotion? It isn't easy i know.

To take this a step further I believe that when we come from a place of being objective (vs. judgmental) you open yourself to growth.  The opposite is being stuck. When we are took hard on ourself we can easily get stuck. This theme is everyone once you start looking. You will see this theme in yogic texts, Brene Brown's work, self-help books, etc. 

This realization came from me asking for help. A couple weeks ago I felt like i just couldn't do this "healing thing" alone any more. To stay super candid, my restricted diet on and off for 7 years was breaking me. I felt alone, hungry, confused, overweight for me, stuck, angry, disappointed in myself, and I knew i had two options. Option one was to choose the "f-it" choices. I could do whatever the hell I wanted to. And I did for a while with food, and let me tell you that didn't go so well. I also had a little bit of wine and on the high-volume mice day I may have even had whiskey. And then that didn't feel so good either. But even before any of those actions I asked for support from to professionals to help me to better understand food and my body. Why does it hurt, why am I carrying an extra 10-15 lbs, why do I hate food, why does everything seem so hard? 

And you know what asking for help did for me and letting go of control for a little bit? It reminded me of WHY I am doing it all. I reminded me that I don't have to do it alone. It taught me that although I tell others to be objective, I have a column of good vs. bad. I am constantly judging myself and not doing 100% of whatever restricted diet, or pills or rehab makes me feel like a failure. I do the same thing with my yoga practice, or sleep, or the way I feed the kids or even parent. Even if I do 95% awesome and the 5% fails, well, that sucks, I must improve. And that sends me down the stuck lane. The lane where I feel ashamed. The lane where I wonder why I am even trying. The lane where I cannot even take a deep breath, let alone desire to practice yoga. And that is not going to serve me or be able to live and love in this beautiful and crazy thing called life. 

I want to share two final things with you that have me thinking and hit me to the core of my being:

The first is an excerpt from the book that I randomly found in the one minute I had to pick out something for me at the library. Brene's words below resonated so much I almost dropped the book in the bath and sobbed uncontrollably. Essentially, women, have to have it all together please. Don't try too hard, but look good, have it all together, be confident, but don't try so hard. Sheez. And these words made me think even deeper about this and my own body-image and food issues. Why do I have to fight this battle inside and alone? Why do we have to do ALL of this alone and be grounded in this "beauty" (for lack of a better word)? This unwritten expectation is not discussed, yet it is felt 110%. At least for me. And how do any of us know what the other woman's story is if we aren't asking the questions? Maybe someone has gained extra weight but they are sleeping awful? Or maybe they aren't eating much and their metabolism is messed. Or maybe there is a deeper story behind why they don't "have it all together." And so I simply leave this excerpt with you. Does this resonate with you? Do you hold yourself to this? Do you compare yourself to your co-worker or friend or sister or even your mom? Do you compare yourself to a version of yourself from the past? No answer is right or wrong, but simply information for you to get to know you better. 

Exerpt from: Thought it was just me (but it isn't) by brene brown

Exerpt from: Thought it was just me (but it isn't) by brene brown

The second is my most recent revelation on life following the funeral of my dear friend's dad. He was 86 years old, but still I found myself teared up during the service. My ears were listening to the words from the Priest and I prayed that I would get a message that would add value to my life. Every time I am at a funeral I am reminded of how precious life is. And going to a funeral in eighth grade for my friend's senior-in-high school sister forever made an impact on me. I left realizing that bad things happen, and unfortunately I have been deep-down scared out of my mind of bad things happening. This topic is linked to so much of my story (hopefully I can elaborate on one day). However, what I realized sitting in that church is that life is a balance of joy/goodness and suffering. Birth is part of life, and death is part of life, and all the things in between. 

What if i stopped resisting with all my might? I can resist life and the risks that come with it with every party of my being (can you think fight or flight)? In this state I think I am secretly in control of life with my worries and actions. Or the other option is that I allow myself to surrender with faith and to live fully with love and faith. 

To summarize my aha- moment is simple: life comes with joy and pain. And we are all experience hopefully both (some more than others). Despite the joy and the pain, how can we find peace with exactly where we are at, while being grateful for what is, but also having faith and hope for what might be?

Those are my thoughts today as I reflect. As I notice the ups and downs of some of my days and weeks. Life is a constant choice of how we react to the world, how we surrender, yet stay present. And regardless of where you are, be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. It is truly the only option to get closer to the state of thriving and contentment. Can you continue to be curious on your actions and thoughts? Can you be open to knowing that you deserve to thrive and to be love and supported? I am slowly learning that the beautiful part of life is less about where I want to go but more in the journey of self-reflection and growth. 

Peace and Love to you all,

Kristin  

2019 UPDATE: I am excited to write an updated post for what is happening in 2019 regarding living my yoga, my favorite resources, and even a link to reviews on yoga mats (because we all know this can be a battle). I look forward to sharing soon.