Field Trip – Iyanla Vanzant at Agape International Spiritual Center

Iyanla Vanzant is one of my favorite spiritual teachers. Her words and lessons resound in my soul. I respect her life experiences, honesty and transparency. I have learned from her struggle, her lessons just make sense to me. I have been working through her Forgiveness book and am discovering the freedom that comes from forgiving myself.

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When Ed text me that Iyanla was going to be speaking at Agape International Spiritual Center, I screamed. We immediately bought tickets and counted down the days to see her speak in person.

25320650386_978cd1f39f_o Iyanla’s new book is entitled Trust and discusses learning how to trust yourself, God, others and life. In her lecture, Iyanla discusses how important it is to do the forgiveness work before delving into trust. I am going to start this book after I finish working my way through the forgiveness book.

TRUSTOne of my favorite quotes of the evening was “forgiveness is a healing technology, it changes your cells and DNA.” I believe that unforgiveness can permeate cells and cause sickness, I feel that it’s something that show on someone’s face and in their demeanor. The idea of forgiving being a healing technology felt like an AHA moment and made sense regarding how it can show on in someone’s appearance.

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Another AHA that stood out from the lecture was Iyanla discussing how most of us are talked out of trusting ourselves at some point in our lives. Typically, it’s when we are children and our natural curiosities or intuition are shut down by someone who thinks they know better. Iyanla also discussed how if we cannot trust ourself, it makes it difficult to trust God, others and life.

Iyanla signed our books and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I told her I was working through forgiveness and she reminded me again to do that work before starting trust. She had a beautiful energy that touched my soul.

Iyanla

I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lived it and I’m still here to talk about it and help someone else if I can. Iyanla Vanzant

When Iyanla announced that her new book Trust  was about to come out, Angelina and I went on high alert for possible book signings.  I joined the Barnes and Noble events page located in Los Angeles believing that would be her first stop. So when we found out The Agape Spiritual Center in L.A was hosting the author on a Saturday night, we were ecstatic; we planned a whole night around it.

IMG_1406The evening started out with a welcome prayer and blessing for the divinely inspired and heavenly dressed speaker.  Afterward, Iyanla spent the first five minutes of her lecture in gratitude. She thanked and spoke on how humbled she was that everyone came to hear her speak.

Her presentation centered mostly on the issue of trust.  She shared many stories and solutions on how to create an inner space that’s free of personal resentment and past hurts.  The biggest take away from the evening was when she suggested, “get to know God internally rather than externally; that way you learn to trust yourself.”

One of the ingrained habits religion has taught me was to always look externally for God.  In the past I always asked myself: how can I serve others?  It can be a bit confusing and draining when fear and codependency become part of the purpose for serving.  For myself, I’m learning that I can’t help anyone unless I’ve helped myself first.  I can’t show someone how to become a better version of themselves unless I’ve done the work myself.

The evening ended with a book signing and even though it was late, Iyanla stayed until way past eleven to personally sign each book.  She has definitely done the work to remain humble.
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Peace,
Ed

Field Trip: Cheryl Strayed Lecture

It has been an amazing season for book releases and author tours! We have been fortunate enough to meet Elizabeth Gilbert and we jumped at the opportunity to meet Cheryl Strayed.

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Cheryl Strayed is certainly one of our favorites. We both loved Wild and her podcast that she co-hosts with Steve Almond, Dear Sugar.

Wild holds a particularly special place in my heart. I was reading the book on the very night that my dad was shot and killed and it became an important part of the beginning of my journey into healing.

Cheryl was appearing in Pasadena on a school night! This means Ed & I are usually in bed by 8:00, but we fought traffic after work, drank some caffeine and headed over to the venue. We received copies of her new book of quotes Brave Enough and excitedly sat down to hear her speak.

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Cheryl was incredible. She has such an amazing way with words, without being pretentious. She is authentically relatable and honest.

Cheryl started off by asking the audience if anyone had a tattoo of one of her quotes and there was someone there who in fact, did. She discussed the new book of quotes and the purpose behind publishing it. She clarified that she did not do this because she feels like she has a vast amount of wisdom that must be shared, but because each of these quotes had a story behind it for her and she was starting to realize that her quotes had stories for other people. She had been getting many emails and pictures of people’s tattoos, stories and memories of what her quotes had meant to them and was realizing that they had taken on different meanings to different people.

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Cheryl lectured for a very short time and devoted the rest of the time to questions and answers. She answered a very wide range of questions varying from grief, advice, writing, movie making, overall-wearing and my personal favorite, sharing her favorite word (a tie between love and fuck).

After the lecture, we were able to get our books signed and meet Cheryl. She was so incredibly gracious and listened to me pour my heart out over how important Wild was in my grief process.

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She signed Ed’s favorite quote in the book and spent a minute or two talking with us and thanking us for coming.

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We certainly did not regret staying out late on a school night. It was a wonderful experience to meet Cheryl and hear her discuss so eloquently, a wide range of topics.

Hiiii, it’s Ed,

When Angelina mentioned that Cheryl Strayed’s book tour was headed to Pasadena I knew I had to go.  I’d been on a Cheryl obsession ever since last year; eating up all the information I could find on her.  I loved that her spiritual journey was unconventional and it resulted in finding the love of her life.

If Cheryl went on a journey through the Pacific Coast Trail – then I had to go on a journey through the Pacific Coast Trail.

Over the summer I was up near Oregon in search of the PCT

Over the summer I was up near Oregon in search of the PCT

 

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When I opened Cheryl’s new book, I found the perfect quote that describes “god” for me:

I love that she personalized it!!

I love that she personalized it!!

I understand Cheryl’s point of view when it comes to the ultimate creator of the universe. She was raised in an abusive home where she witnessed the physical abuse of her father. Afterward her mother passed away from a terrible bout of cancer.  I was raised in a home where every desire of one’s heart could be answered through prayer – instead of hard work.

When I look at the human experience as a whole, sometimes I ask the Lord, “couldn’t you have made it easier for us here?” God is a creator of wonderful experiences but at the same time, it can be a ruthless bitch!

Ed

Field Trip: Elizabeth Gilbert Lecture

Over the summer, on the exact same day, at exactly the same time, I was texting Ed to tell him that one of our literary heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert was coming out with a new book Big Magic, and he was texting me to tell me that Elizabeth Gilbert was accepting essay submissions asking readers how Eat, Pray, Love affected their lives.

Liz Gilbert would call this synchronicity *BIG MAGIC.*

Ed and I have been faithfully listening to her podcast leading up to the book release and we each downloaded the book on the release date. Along with listening to it, I read it to highlight the heck out of some amazing quotes, such as:

“I finally realized my fear was boring…..because it was the same thing everyday.”

“….creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching alongside it.”

“To even call someone a creative person is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species.”

“…you will never be able to create anything interesting of your life if you don’t believe that you are entitled to at least try.”

…and on and on and on.

We knew we wanted to see her somewhere on her book tour, but my hectic schedule was making it difficult. We were both thrilled to hear she would be appearing locally and bought tickets immediately.

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Liz Gilbert was simply delightful. She was incredibly down to earth, yet impressively articulate. The woman definitely has a way with words and certainly expresses ideas about creativity in such a relatable format.

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Her lecture covered the topics we read about in Big Magic, particularly creativity and fear. I found it very refreshing to hear that Liz Gilbert herself has struggled with an incredible amount of fear, particularly when it came to her creative pursuits.

I really liked Liz’s comeback to when fear tries to tell us “who do you think you are?” This can be in creative pursuits or in any area of our lives. I think I have personally been struggling with this in relationship to my career, as I blogged about here. Liz discussed “the arrogance of belonging” and creating a new relationship with a sense of entitlement. She discussed that this is not diva or princess like entitlement, but an assurance type that asserts our rights. This really resonated with me and the work I have been doing with my root chakra and asserting my right to here. I sometimes need to remind myself that I do have a right to be here (in my career, as a yoga teacher, as a creative individual) and need to define for myself why that is true when that fearful voice creeps in.

I also loved Liz’s discussion of perfectionism. A phenomenon I am recovering from and still struggle with on and off. Liz reminded us that perfect things can never be made and we often romanticize or proudly announce our perfectionism. However, perfectionism is just another form of fear. Once she said this, it made SO much sense to me and resounds true with my anxious feelings of not being perfect at something. There is an embarrassing list of things I have not tried, because I was afraid I would not be good at them. I really hope this realization frees me from shying away from things I am completely suck at (that list is pretty long, too).

Liz was gracious enough to sign books after the lecture. I got my hard copy of Big Magic signed and Ed got his essay submission for Eat, Pray Love Made Me Do It signed:

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I highly recommend Big Magic! This book truly gave me permission to re-think my relationship with fear and gave me permission to not work so hard to eradicate fear (which is impossible) but have a peaceful co-existence with it, especially in conjunction with creativity.

“I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”   Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s a once in a lifetime experience to enter in a writing contest of a well known author, only to win the contest and have the writer autograph the original copy before it gets published.  I consider myself very blessed to have experienced this opportunity.

I couldn’t agree with Angelina more – Elizabeth Gilbert is an eloquent speaker.  One of the reasons I enjoyed Big Magic so much was listening to her read her own work on audio.  I doesn’t surprise me that she became a number one best seller.

Once the publishing company allows the winners to show their work on social media, I’ll post my winning essay on our blog…FUN!

Peace,

Ed

AIDS Walk LA

This past weekend, we participated in AIDS Walk LA, in West Hollywood.

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Although the weather was scorching for an October day in Southern California (high 90s!), it was still important for us to walk the 6.2 miles with our fellow brothers and sisters who are still spreading awareness and raising funds that go towards prevention, education and treatment.

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Field Trip – Big Bear Yoga Festival

I have been looking forward to attending Big Bear Yoga Festival (BBYF) and was eager to share the experience with my spiritual sister. Yoga is huge part of my life. I teach once per week and try to practice on my mat several times per week. I try to practice the other branches of the yoga tree, even off my mat and my life has changed because of my daily meditations. I was eager to immerse myself in a day’s worth of the festival’s activities (the festival runs all weekend) and super excited to share this experience with Ed.

hiiiiiii BBYF is held at the YMCA campgrounds in Big Bear, nestled in the San Bernardino mountains. It is located about 45 minutes from my home, but far enough to feel removed and free from everyday responsibilities. The mountain air was fresh and the trees welcoming. It was the perfect environment for a day of yoga, heart-opening, gratitude and shifting perspectives.

The first workshop we attended was Essential Oils, Chakra Oils and Flower Essences, taught by Ashley Yau.

Ashley This was not so much about learning about essential oils as it was about how to experience and connect with flower essences. We started off by each walking in a circle surrounded by the flower essences. We listened to which one called to us, then we sprayed that essence all around our chakras and spread our aura around. We then drew a flower card and tried to connect with the essence we sprayed and the one on the card we drew. Does this sound like too much esoteric, hippy nonsense? It totally was, but I loved it and felt connection with the card I drew.

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My card was about financial healing and describing that my financial worries were now behind me. I found this interesting since I will be starting a higher paying job next week and have been thinking about changes I would like to make in my financial life.

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After we connected with our flower essence and drew our cards, Ashley led us in a meditation to discover our inner gardens.  At the end she asked us to give a message or blessing to mother earth, which we were able to express through coloring. Again, on one level I felt this was completely ridiculous, on another, I let my skepticism go and went with it and totally found my secret garden. Ashley’s authenticity and loving kindness are remarkably inviting and her innocence is contagious, she gives you permission to reconnect with a child-like curiosity and wonder.

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Next, we headed to one of the most important parts of the day: lunch! We were pretty hungry and I was oh so relieved to see the selection of food. There was plenty of options for vegans (not just an iceberg lettuce salad). I piled my salad plate high with fresh veggies and filled up on vegetarian baked beans, a vegan hot dog and gluten-free crackers with hummus.

BBYF lunch After lunch we headed off to Finding Inspiration in Nature: Creating a Vision Board Workshop. We took our time being creative and thinking about our goals, desires and visions. My vision board seemed to be filled with images depicting self-care, nurturing, good health, food and movement.

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We finished our vision boards early and we walked around the Vendor Village. I had a reading with Life Path Healer Marie Feuer and an iridology session. Both of these were revealing and eye opening. I have only begin to process the information and hope to share more about them both when I work through some of the issues brought up. I definitely have some work to do in the realms of forgiveness, emotional honesty, cleaning up my diet and overall health.

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Next up, we did a 90 minute yoga class, Juicy Yoga Movements with Elka Haeckel. This was a beautiful, feminine and definitely, juicy practice. It was extra special to practice right next to my spiritual sister. Ed has come to my yoga class before, but we had never done yoga together. It’s always extra special to share these heart-opening and vulnerable experiences with someone you trust.

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After class, we were ready to eat and luckily a delicious dinner was served. I piled my plate up high with brown rice, lentils, curried vegetables, hummus, naan, salad and THE most amazing mini-samosas.

dinner We decided to end off our evening with Sunset Singing Bowl Bliss led by Julie Johnston. We started off with a beautiful chanting of one of my favorite mantras for compassion. 108 times through, we chanted Om Mani Padme Hum then Julie led us through a forgiveness session through the singing bliss bowls.

With all the heart-opening, processing and vulnerability, I was in a great place to begin meditating on forgiving. I realized I had more work to do in this area than I realized and I think I spent most of the bliss bowl session crying. However, these were healing tears and I felt pretty amazing afterwards.

singing bowls singing bliss bowls

Ed & I headed home after the bliss bowl meditation. We talked about our experiences the whole way home and listened to N.W.A to balance out the inner garden meditation. We are spiritual sisters who make vision boards, but we still keep it hood.

In love & sisterhood,

~Ang

As long as I’ve known Angelina, she’s always practiced yoga.  Although I’ve been to a couple of classes, I’m not as consistent as she is.  So for my birthday, she gifted me an entrance ticket to the festival and I had the time of my life!

It started out a bit rocky due to my lack of time management.  I’m still getting use to my work schedule so when Saturday morning came, all I could think of was sleeping in.  Even though we had planned the previous day, I was still in sleep mode.

The trip started a bit hazardous:

GPS led us to the wrong route. But it always leads to lots of laughter afterward.

GPS led us to the wrong route, but it always leads to a lot of laughter afterward.

Once we found the right road, we were well on our way:

A well manicured dirt road.

A well manicured dirt road.

Although we arrived an hour late, we definitely got our monies worth going from one event to another.  My favorite part?  The colorful vibrational bowls.

IMG_1832 IMG_1833 IMG_1834Some of it was a bit hippy-ish, but the positive energy among the people made the day even more special.

Peace,

Ed

Field Trip: Sharon the Spiritual Counselor and Healer

“I don’t wanna talk about it right now, just hold me while I cry my eyes out, I’m not Joan of Arc, not yet, but I’m in the dark…” Madonna

Before I share our latest adventure, I’d like to give our friends a brief description of how I met my Spiritual Bahana.  Angelina and I met through a mutual friend.  After he left for China to teach abroad, we kept in touch as much as we could through Facebook and other types of social media.  It wasn’t until her Great Spin Out that we connected from deeper, more spiritual level.  As we have been building our blog together, the need to be vulnerable with one another has become more and more important.  It hasn’t been easy. Not because of trust, but I believe it’s due to the newness of experiencing vulnerability. There’s a certain vocabulary that’s necessary in order to open up and remain in that space.

As a recovering stereotypical gay man, in the past, I’ve hidden my vulnerability through bitchy behavior and judgmental comments; using the sacred space of vulnerability as a way to jab or gossip about others. I simply wasn’t aware of the art and the trust that’s required to go along with it.

In the last two field trips, I’ve had to tell Angelina I’m not there yet when the opportunity arose. On our field trip to The Spiritual Center, part of the service required us to look at one another in the eye and repeat words of affirmation – I found this to be a bit difficult. At our most recent field trip with Sharon the spiritual counselor and healer, I was asked some questions in front of Angelina which were a bit on the personal side.  Although I’m not one to shy away from digging deep, I guess I hadn’t controlled the situation before hand which made it uncomfortable.

I’ve had to do a lot of shadow work with my issues of co-dependency and learn how establish my own personal boundaries.  Some of the hesitation also comes from not wanting Angelina to feel the obligation of confessing anything she’s not comfortable with. I’ve learned that vulnerability is a gift and needs to be respected with a trusted person.  In the past I’ve given it away too freely and have been guilty of breaking the trust as well. The sting of both has made me feel like Madonna:

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Love and sisterhood,

Ed

energy work

When Ed asked me if I wanted to get my chakras balanced, I was allllll about it. We went to see Sharon, an energy worker who uses essential oils, sound therapy, reiki, etc. to re-align chakras.

I have done some shallow studying of the chakras, but I know I want more education. In the research I have done so far, I have identified that I need to work on opening my throat and heart chakras.

My past patterns have been to hold things in and try to take care of things on my own. Sometimes this has worked, but more recently I am finding it’s not adaptive anymore. I end up stressed out, with migraines, neck and back pain, loss of sleep and mounting frustration.

I am finding I need to ask for help, when necessary. I need to speak up about things and although confrontation can be uncomfortable, I need to assert myself in situations when I feel my boundaries pushed.

This has been tough. I am working on it. I have found that the more I speak up about my issues, the more people are likely to share with me. This has led to me forming more deeper connections with others. I am getting to the point in my life where I am tired of faking that things are OK, and giving an automatic, disingenuous “GREAT!” response when someone asks me how I am. If I am not, I will say I am not.

I am over surface friendships. I want to form more meaningful relationships with others and that can only be done if I am truthful and open.

I feel like my Spiritual Bahana Ed and I are at that place. I have opened up to him more and more and find myself immediately telling him all the good, bad and ugly about my day. We are finding out more and more things about each other’s journey and have been calling necessary meet ups more and more to get DEEP.

As we talked with Sharon, I felt comfortable with sharing all the DEEP answers to the questions she was asking. I feel that I am finally getting there. I am finally ready to begin opening my heart and throat to speak up about what is in my heart. I told her about some of the past traumas I have experienced; about some of the turbulence in my family as a child, about my dad’s murder and the trial that is still up in the air, about my failed marriage and about how hard I am on myself. She drew this super fun picture and explained how some of those traumas can create negative energy that stick to the chakras and block them.

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Sharon did some balancing test on me and identified that my heart chakra needed work. I was not surprised to hear this. Based on some of my past traumas, I had blocked this part of myself off. Partly for protection and partly because it was my negative way of dealing with tough situations, it was just easier to pretend not to care. However, I have been working on releasing these traumas and opening myself up more and more.

Sharon used sound bowls, chanting, essential oils and light touch to balance out my heart chakra. When it was over, I felt a profound sense of calm.

I want to continue to keep working on these chakras and open myself up to others and new situations. I want to speak up more about my feelings and ask for help. I want to be OK with not being OK all the time and find/keep the people in my life who will support me through those moments.

In love and open-heartedness,

~Ang

Field Trip: Agape International Spiritual Center

This weekend, Ed & I visited Agape International Spiritual Center. Ed has been a few times before, but this was my first trip and from what he had described to me, I was very interested to see what it was all about.

Agape is described as practicing “New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality” and transcending denominations in it’s love and honor of God. There were aspects of various traditions that I recognized and it made so much sense to me.

My first introduction to Agape was as we entered from the parking lot, and saw some vendors in front of the building selling food and artifacts. The energy could be felt immediately and I sensed a kinetic connection.

I was surprised and pleased to find vegan options immediately, and fresh juice being sold. I have always been of the opinion that spirituality and health go hand in hand and I have been perplexed at (some) churches lack of discussion about the body and mindfulness of what we put in it.

vegan food After we perused some of the art of mandalas, we decided we better feed our physical selves before we worked on our spiritual selves.

mandalas I ordered a deeeeeeelish vegan quesadilla with tons of veggies and pico de gallo.

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After we ate, we headed into the building to settle in and prepare for meditation. Each service begins with an optional 30 minute meditation. This also made SO much sense to me. I feel that I hear God best when I have quieted my mind and settled in to be in tune. I have never meditated with such a large group of people before, there was easily hundreds present and it was amazing that even amongst such a large group, there was audible silence.

After mediation, the service begin with uplifting music, affirmations and a message from turning things out of sight, into insight.

The day's affirmation

The day’s affirmation.

The message really resonated with me and made sense. It was about truly tapping into the God within us all and using that to deal with hardships. The analogy was given that we should not dread or feel that we have to face a hard circumstance, those circumstances have to face the God within us. Another aspect that stood out to me was the referencing of God as “it” or “they” instead of “he” or “him,” which has felt problematic to me, in the past.

After the service, we continued our worshiping at Venice Beach and basked in the beauty of creation.

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In love & sisterhood,

~Ang

“Stop looking outside for help. You’re sourced and fuelled and funded by a renewable resource, which is within you. It never runs out. It is your Essence. It’s your life.” – Michael Bernard Beckwith

I’ve been to Michael Beckwith’s spiritual center on several occasions and one of the things that always strikes me when I go is the pureness of diversity.  There are no mission statements or forced pictures on the wall which state this sanctuary welcomes all, only to see the congregation is a prominent race or color.  When I looked around at the participants who celebrated alongside me, there was a mix of everyone.

The first time I went, two men, an interracial couple, sat next to me holding hands throughout the ceremony.  There were no uncomfortable stares or glances; everyone appeared ready for the meditation rather than concentrating on who was sitting next the them.  Last Sunday we were able to see some of the workshops that are available to the public; workshops that actually help and empower people in their daily lives rather than condemnation.

Each time I leave the sanctuary, I feel as if I’ve accomplished something spiritual; I leave with a sense of wholeness and oneness with myself and others.

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Peace,

Ed