peacemaker, you have all the love in the world

I recently have been studying the Enneagram model for human personality, a bit, with my Yoga teacher, she herself having trained in it.

I struggled with the analysis model in the past, as I claimed not to believe in what I considered boxing people in.

I did not wish to be pinpointed, or narrowly confined.

I now realize that my strong reaction was primarily due to my ego’s misinterpretation of the whole thing.

Eventually, I consented, and decided, that because none of the numbers truly fit me, I must then be a four. The artistic, intuitive, sensitive and moody type. The one governed by emotion.

It was the only piece that possibly made the slightest bit of sense.

Until I ran into conflict, fairly recently, and through my reaction to the drama, my teacher kindly opened my eyes to a new possibility.

Upon confrontation, my insides twisted and turned and became shaken to such a degree that I tossed through sleepless nights, and wanted desperately for it all to go away.

It is exactly these types of circumstances I work so dearly hard to avoid.

And as I mentioned this to the wise one, she calmly stated,“That isn’t how a four would react. You might be a nine.”

Nine is the starry-eyed peacemaker.

Often checked out of reality, we are the dreamers who idealize the world and our emotions to such a degree that we can lose all touch with reality and our sense of self in the process, not to mention the uncomfortable feelings that go along with human life. Including, among other emotions, anger.

It occurred to me, when she told me this, that maybe, in fact, she was right.

I embraced my nine-ness and began confronting the discomfort of the drama face forward, in remedy.

A few weeks into my newfound approach, I waffled a bit, losing my sense of self, yet again, this time in the story of myself as a creator.

You see, I am highly emotional, as well as an empath, and extremely sensitive. I feel everyone else’s emotions to such a degree that I have no choice but to take them all in.

Every child’s blinking, wide-eyed stare, and every stripped shoelace life slumped by the side of the street, pierces through my paper-thin skin to a heart that dances at the wonder and rends at the very sight of despair.

And the best way I have found, for processing all of this feeling, is through words.

Family members used to laugh at the intensity of the letters I would write, when I was a teenager going through all the aches and pains of growing up.

I would grow so heated and all the emotions would become so bottled up that the only way I could possibly begin to coherently organize my thoughts was through pen and paper.

Even today, I tell people I write because I cannot talk.

Spoken words stumble and trip on my tongue.

The thoughts, ideas, and feelings swirl from my heart, through my head, to an outpouring rush from my fingertip to pounded-upon key, and only then do I begin to feel even remotely okay.

I cannot achieve this same level of okay-ness, in any other way.

Yet, through my brief Enneagram study, I realized that writing is, by no means, the end-all, be-all for me. Writing is not where my true spiritual work lies.

Writing is merely a gateway, a door opening to the horizon of the desert of real growth, through which I must walk for centuries with parched lips croaking at the far-off dream of a droplet of water.

As I waffled between understanding my intuitive, artistic,deeply emotional side, the side that must write, must create, every single day, without negotiation, in order to feel alive, and my neurotic tendencies as a passive peacemaker merely floating by, it suddenly dawned on me.

It became evident, with a spring-into-cold-water awakening, that writing holds the potential to serve an incredibly passive aggressive form of communication, depending on what I then do with those words.

Hammering out my deepest feelings, only to free the thoughts and post them in threads of ether, is a significant form of cathartic release.

But it does not take the place of picking up the phone and reaching out to those who may have hurt me, or even worse, who I may have hurt, in whatever way, shape, or form, of the moment. Even those whom I hold most dear to my heart.

And why do I write about the generality of my feelings, skimming the bottom of the ocean for shells with closed-tight eyes lest I feel the stinging of the salt?

Why do I hold other people at arm’s length, keeping them just far enough from both the brightness of my heart’s beating pulse as well as the sharp flashes of true, human emotion I at times feel toward and around them?

Why do I numb myself from feeling the deepness and the fullness to the rawest degree?

I have no problem speaking my mind around those I know to be just passing through. The temporary coworkers, transitory housemates, and people I meet on various travels.

And in the process, I have been able to foster real connection with so many strangers. Yet with my own family and friends, I am afraid. I hold back.

Because what if they don’t feel the same way? What if they do not love me as much as I love them? That could very well be the case.

In fact, who could possibly hold this much love for itty-bitty old me (as I hold my arms wider still than the span of Earth, moon, and sun combined).

When your love touches mountains, it can never be reached. And so I guess this raises my deepest, darkest fear. Of only ever being able to love on human terms, under human conditions, and in the very limitations of our earthly ways.

I once saw my life flash before my eyes.

I have been waiting for the right moment to write these words aloud (Lord knows, I’ve written them thousands of times, before, in the privacy of my journal’s safe leather binds, as well as in notes for my therapists’ ears alone).

But now feels as good a time as ever to get this off my chest. At the risk of sounding starkingly mad, I was attacked once, and in the moment, I knew I was about to die.

My attacker, as he tazed me with a stun gun shot to the neck, also had a knife, and I intuitively knew in an inexplicable way his every intention to stab me. Only then he didn’t.

And, clear as day, I felt a message from God (because God doesn’t always speak, so much, in the linearity of words or images.)

And the message filled me with a new kind of love, a feeling so full and pure that I knew I had experienced it before, possibly as a child, or perhaps in another life. As I was filled with this feeling, I knew it was not my time to go.

I was here for a mission, to feel this kind of love, again, here on Earth. As I received this divine message, my attacker stood, and walked away. Without reason, he let me go. He let me go, to run.

And so run I did.

I ran until I found the haven of my bed, in a city that would not feel safe for months to come.

I ran until I found a shell in which to hide myself away.

I ran, and I ran some more.

I ran until I found the familiar sensation of numbness I had discovered in recent years, as a soother to all the hurt.

I allowed being numb to swallow me whole.

For far too many years. Under far too many methods. Some physical, but many of which appeared as mental inflictions of an imagined sense of control.

Until I could no longer bear the shutting-down engine, sputtering in the wake of a smogged-out highway full of flat tires and pierced dreams.

I could no longer stand sleepwalking my way through life.

The re-awakening has been a slow, painful process, full of much, much feeling.

Crawling my way back to the light of day has, at times, left me battered and bruised, and feeling deathly alone.

But this aloneness, I am forever in the process of realizing, was always part of the delusion.

As was the idea that I would never be loved, just as I am, anger and all. As well as the idea that I, with all of my feelings, am too much for anybody else.

So, for all you other peacemakers, floating through life on idyllic daydreams so far, up, and away in an effort to keep your too-muchness at bay, please know, that I can feel the rays of your love, down here, from where I stand, as well as those of your anger.

I can reach to the very ends of your dreams, and I will not let go of what I find there, however slippery and gruesome the mess. I will not let go, just as so many, here, did not let go of me.

 

This article was published on Rebelle Society.

a writer’s dilemma: do we fear balance?

For what feels like centuries, I have been traveling along the healing path.

Healing from what? Who knows.

Healing from every dark stare and all the secondhand smoke that has infiltrated my lungs.

Healing from every whispered shout of Shh! Not now.

Healing from ounces of food withheld from or shoveled through my lips.

Healing from all of this and more. Much of it not mine, originally, but rather absorbed through my empathetic pores, spread through my veins and clogged-up channels. Thousands of muffled cries and dried-up tears and pleas and prayers for protection from all the darkness that exists here on Earth.

Some of you would call this a dramatic interpretation of the current, human state.

I would tell you, those who fear the drama, that there is no reason to run from the rising curtain and that rather, this is merely the gift of sensitivity, bringing to light the energy that lies beneath the rug.

The threads of life binding us all together. The spirits within and without and the ever-fluctuating state of the pieces that make up the whole.

And this sensitivity, this aliveness, it deserves to be felt.

At the same time, though, there are very real things that we can do, here on Earth, as protective mechanisms from certain elements of spirit becoming too much for our fragile frames to handle.

And as I explore these countless healing mechanisms, I continue to learn what works and what does not so much, for me, personally.

Because a lot of what they swear by are simply sugar pills filling bottles of deception.

Be careful of what you adhere to. That is all I will say on that note.

In my opinion, true healing takes account of the whole and brings us to a state of balance.

Thousands of routes, no two alike.

And in my quest for balance, I’ve come face to face with many of the qualms that will prevent me from ever finding such a thing. The latest surfacing of which is something I fear far too many of us artists, deep-feelers and writers alike share. The deep-seeded fear of happiness.

Because happiness is a fickle houseguest. She brings in her bag treasures that we cannot quite put our pinky finger on. We feel the blind taste of sweetness on our lips, or we catch a waft drifting across the shore, without ever quite holding the fruit in our palm.

We can stroke her soft cheek and know everything is right with the world, for that one split second of time. And then we spend years allowing the memory of it to fill us with glimpsing pulses of energy unlike anything else.

Years ago, I gave up the quest for happiness. And then I realized that my heart beats the pulse of a happy home within, telling me everything always is, actually, okay. Even when it’s not.

But still, I fear the unique ring of happiness that I associate, in my mind, with the balanced state of being. I fear that when balanced, I lose the ability to create.

The artistic path is like walking blindly through dripping tunnels, using my hands to feel my way along rocky crevices. Sometimes, fairly often, I fall to my knees, and crawl through a mess of tangled branches. Other times, I stand tall and dance. A weird and wildish dance. The true dance of when no one watching.

But then there are moments when the tunnel falls away, and I find that I am floating in a capsule of space.

In those rare bits of time, Spirit takes over and transcends through my fingertips. And those moments, however few and far between, make the whole journey seem so beautifully perfect.

Yet those moments, for me at least, haven’t always come from being balanced and happy. Rather, they’ve come through feeling. Feeling every last bit of life coursing through my veins. Letting all the feeling swirl around in my cells until my fingers can make form of the nonsense and carve something tangible.

Not thinking about what the words might possibly mean, but rather just writing the waves as they come.

If I become balanced, do I lose this ability?

If I protect my energetic orbs from taking on everything that is happening around me, do I lose the ability to write from a deep place of feeling?

These are all questions I hold, loosely, in my palm, as I decide, once again, that if it does happen, it is okay.

And in the next moment, I will tell myself, again, it is okay.

And again in the next one.

Because as each of these fears arise, they really just shine the light on the roots growing deep in the muck. The fear of not being enough. The desire to be loved. Writing to generate that very love or attention, rather than just for the sake of writing. Every human qualm clouding my soul. Every broken bell sounding out over my voice.

When I asked my Ayurvedic practitioner if, once balanced, I would lose the ability to write, she assured me that, on the contrary, I would uncover a deeper story within, that of my true self emerging.

That sounds nice to me.

But, even if that doesn’t happen, even if I never write another word in my life, it is going to be okay.

We are given so few breaths, so few heartbeats, so few pangs to feel within our chests. All I can do is spend them living. Balanced and happy, or not.

And I would tell you, fellow writers who fear the happiness, that this morning as I write these very words, I feel pretty damn happy, and lucky to be alive. So maybe your voice does not actually ring from the darkness, but rather the life within, screaming to get out…

… the life that contains a unique blend of sprinkles of happiness, despair, indifference, love, and a myriad other emotions.

 

This post was published on Rebelle Society.

the real reason i started practicing yoga

I have a confession to make. There’s a bio floating out there (somewhere) about my yoga background and it is – get ready for it – a lie. Not a whole lie. A half-truth. And one made unintentionally. But I want to come clean all the same.

I started practicing yoga from a dvd in my bedroom, when I was about 11 or 12 years old. My partial-truth bio claims “as a complement to dance”. Which is true. I was a dancer (a not very good one) and I thought increased flexibility, which I heard I could get from yoga, might make me better. So the way I remembered it, I bought a “yoga for flexibility” dvd. I vividly remember practicing it in my bedroom – for some reason seated twists stand out in my memory. Maybe that dvd had a lot of them.

Memory is a funny little selective animal. Often it cages out the aspects on which we don’t want to focus our attention. Last winter, in the middle of a move, I came across that dvd again. The title was actually “yoga for weight loss”. Not flexibility. Aha – now all the twisting-postures make sense. The reality is, when I was in middle school, I had an eating disorder.

I used to limit myself to less than 1,000 calories a day. I worked out obsessively –running, swimming, dance, and, apparently, yoga, as long as it promised to turn me into a size zero.

The irony of it is – I started practicing because I wanted to be smaller, but instead, yoga had the opposite effect.

I have heard that eating disorders often originate a means for control. Which, in my case, makes sense. As a kid, I was an oddball. I got made fun of, and had a hard time fitting in. I remember one time, riding the bus home from third grade, a girl telling me the clothes I wore were weird and that I should dress more like her. She was wearing blue-jean overall shorts with bright flower patches sewed on in random (“fashionable”) places. That same day, shopping with my mom at Kids R’ Us, I saw those shorts. I asked my mom to buy them for me. That girl and I ended up becoming friends, when she realized I had the same shorts she did. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

We didn’t have cable until I was eleven, and to this day I still don’t know how to play video games. I think those were the kinds of things that made you cool back then, but I’m not entirely sure. I remember making a new friend when we moved in sixth grade who, upon realizing how shy and awkward I was, stopped being my friend. I have always been an introvert – and in middle school, being quiet and shy was just plain not cool.

I think the combination of getting picked on, and my sensitivity, led 12-year-old me to subconsciously realize that I could never control other people and what happened around me. As a means for coping, I gripped at controlling the one thing I thought I could – myself. Namely, my body. I became obsessed with being perfect. I thought perfection equated happiness. Because people who, in my eyes, appeared perfect, also seemed to be happy. I forgot that inherently, I am happy. Always have been. My mom claims she never met a happier baby. And as a child, I may have been a goofy weirdo, but I loved every minute of being a goofy weirdo.

That “yoga for weight loss” dvd led me to my first “real”, instructor-taught yoga class, which I took at my high school. It was taught by the gym teacher, a marathon runner who I doubt had any kind of yoga-teaching credentials. This was back before yoga was all that popular in the US (and a smidgeon of the size it is now in DC). I told someone about this and he told me I’m “like an original hipster of yoga”, because I did it before it was cool. I think that comment will make my family laugh. At the time, armed with a field hockey stick and a slew of pink hair ribbons, I was the epitome of a catholic schoolgirl, and basically the opposite of hipster. I think the most ironic thing I did was go to a Fall Out Boy concert. And, apparently, do yoga.

I have nothing but fond memories of my freshman-year yoga class. I went to a large public school, and felt lost there. I had very few friends, and spent many an open-lunch period wandering the halls by myself, because I couldn’t find anyone to eat with. But in yoga, none of it mattered. Students of all ages and social statuses took the class, and in the “yoga room”, we were all equal. The teacher would write on a chalkboard the poses we were going to learn that day. Every Friday, she put on meditative rainforest-sounding music, and we did savasana (i.e., corpse pose, otherwise known as the yoga version of naptime), for the entire class. It was awesome.

My first yoga teacher did not wear lululemon (if that even existed then). She did not chant or take photos of herself doing fancy poses, or teach us rigorous flow classes with a peak pose (at least, not that I remember). What she did do was offer us a safe space, in which to explore our bodies through the practice of yoga. She read the room, and gave us what we needed (deep rest). She planted the seeds of yoga, which, for me, have since cultivated into a lifelong practice.

That year, I started eating again. I also, unknowingly at the time, learned to listen to my intuition. I made the challenging choice to transfer to a smaller, all-girls school, where I felt less lost and more at home to be myself.

At first, eating again had the opposite effect – I went through bulimic episodes, and frankly, blew up in size. My journey with food has been a long, hard-fought, solitary battle. It took me years to get to a place where I did not count calories or feel guilty about what I ate. Today, I eat a highly intuitive diet that works for my body. I focus on whole, unprocessed, natural foods, and have eliminated foods that don’t serve my body’s health. I have written briefly about my journey with food here.

Exploring my sensitivities, and which foods do and do not work for my body, led me to another version of my former eating-disorder behavior. This time, instead of focusing on loving myself because of how I looked, I turned my focus to loving how good I felt, as a result of practicing yoga and meditating everyday, self-care rituals, and living a clean, healthy lifestyle. Yet I was still missing the point. Because both of those versions of living involve conditional love – loving myself because I look or feel a certain way.

I realized this recently, when several instances of control-related issues emerged in my life. I believe we attract into our lives what our souls require for higher growth and learning. And I needed to learn the ugliness of the control-gripping monster.

Last week, I saw a photo of myself, and I realized that I was viewing it in a different way than I was accustomed to. A great deal of my life, I’ve seen my photo, and immediately began analyzing the parts. But last week, I looked at my face, and saw the whole person. I looked at my image just like I look at other people. I think this is what it means, to love myself unconditionally. Loving myself in entirety, no matter how I look, what I can do, or how I feel.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading about the beginning stages of my yoga journey. I think this is why I love teaching yoga to all ages, but especially kids and pre-teen and teenage girls. I have visions of one day starting a mindful living club for teenage girls, where we practice yoga, meditate, and talk about mind-body health.

For me, yoga is (and was) a game-changer, the gateway to my own healing. I began practicing because I wanted to be a size zero, and I thought “yoga for weight loss” would get me there. I think a lot of us start a yoga practice because we want something specific. Writing this reminds me of the song lyrics – “you can’t always get what you want/ but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need”. I never did become a size zero, from that dvd. Instead, I got exactly what I needed.

I intentionally don't keep photos around from my disorderly phase. Instead here's one from the peak of my "awkward phase" - 15 or 16 years old. Back when I thought it was okay to cut my own bangs. And apparently I really liked pink.
I intentionally don’t keep photos around from my unhealthy-eating period. Instead here’s one from one of my prime “awkward years” – 15 or 16 years old. Back when I thought it was okay to cut my own bangs. And apparently I liked pink.
Ten + years and so much growth later <3