Mantra Monday: “I Practice Non-Attachment.”

Aparigraha or Non-Possessiveness is the fifth and final yama. When studying this yama, I learned another way to view non-possessiveness is through the lense of non-attachment.

Attachment is still something I struggle to understand and it is talked about considerably when discussing all branches of the yoga tree and through The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.
Pantanjali defines attachment as “the consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard.”
Awesome. Did that make sense to you? It did not to me the first, second and third time I read it. We discussed this concept at length throughout my yoga teacher training and attachment always seemed to be at the core of any sense of suffering; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, etc.
For awhile, I struggled with the thought process that maybe I was not supposed to care about anything? If caring about something or someone led me to be attached to them and the fear of losing them led to attachment, well, should I just not care?
Not caring can be a freeing concept in some respects. Not caring so much has helped me deal with some forms of my anxiety where maybe I am not caring so much about my appearance, about how fast I can run, about how far I can push myself in a yoga pose.

But, there are some things, or mainly, people, I have a hard time not caring about.
My biggest attachment and thoughts that cause suffering relate to the fear of losing people. My core group of loves ones (husband, step-son, family members and friends) are treasured and dear to me and the thought of anything “bad” happening to them or an untimely death causes me to have anxious thoughts.
I was confronted with this construct pretty head on when my dad was murdered four years ago. My biggest fear and source of anxiety up to that point was losing someone I loved and then crash, bang, boom, I did.
Does non-attachment tell me to not care about what happened to my dad or my healing process? The way I am understanding attachment is that it does not mean a lack of care, but a lack of investment to an expected outcome. I am trying to be at peace with whatever outcomes may come in regards to the things and people I care about.
Non-attachment to outcomes has helped me not suffer as much through the legal process surrounding the arrests made in my dad’s case. The legal process is still dragging on and I work to be at peace with whatever may be and not let the results affect my own personal healing journey.
I believe attachment is the main source of the anxiety I experienced for so many years. Although it still creeps in from time to time, having an awareness of what is going on has helped tremendously in dealing with the racing thoughts.
There was an incident a few months back with my step-son’s school bus. He was almost at school when a stolen truck crashed into the bus. The driver of the truck got out to run and the cops begin shooting at him. Right.next.to.the.bus. Everyone was OK. The driver was arrested. The kids made it to school safely. My step-son was fine.
The next day as I drove to work and thought about him on that bus, I constructed a whole alternative, catastrophized scenario in my head. I decided to never let him out of the house again and cover him in bubble wrap when we needed to go outside for some requisite sunlight.
I am exaggerating, but I am sure you can imagine how this event sent my anxiety soaring, but I was able to recognize it before it spiraled out of control. I beging using the mantra “I do not own safety. I do not own people.” My step-son is one of the greatest blessings of my life, but he does not belong to me. I have to work to be at peace that the universe, his guides and god will always protect him.
I used tree pose or vrksasana to demonstrate non-attachment or possessiveness. I love how this pose feels both grounding and lifting simultaneously. In order to stay stable in this pose, the standing foot must be firmly grounded and connected to the earth. The breath has to flow calmly and freely, the body lifts and the crown of the head connects to a higher source. If you hold your breath, become anxious or overthink it, you will fall out of this pose. Tree pose takes both tremendous focus and freedom of the mind, just like the journey to non-attachment.

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Mantra Monday: “I Allow Myself to be Loved.”

The chakras continue to become more tangible and meaningful as life unfolds. As I focus on the heart chakra and deepening meaningful connections with others, I am also reminded of what throws the heart chakra off balance most: GRIEF.

It’s hard to make to adulthood without experiencing some form of grief or loss. This can of course be the physical loss of a loved one, but it does not always have to be defined simply in terms of someone we love passing away. It can be the loss of a relationship, friendship or dream. Loss and the subsequent grief are apart of the human journey.

The heart chakra that has not recovered or grown calloused from these experiences can present itself as untrustworthy of others, closed off or too clingy. It can be difficult, but it is so important to let others support us in those moments of grief and continue to open our hearts up to new relationships, concepts and wonder. After a loss, it can be tempting to close ourselves down and not allow hurt to enter into our hearts again. But, we also close ourselves off to new beginnings, connections and experiences.

I was so very fortunate to have a strong support system after losing my father to a homicide. His death was sudden and unexpected. There was nothing in place for a funeral and I had to figure out a whole mess of things, quickly. But, I did not have to do it alone. I had family and close friends that rallied around me for support. I had people step up and take care of things without being asked. I had friends, co-workers and people I had not even been in contact with recently, send support, love and even money to help me bury my dad.

I will never ever forget that.

I lost my dad in an awful manner and I could have easily fell down a hole of hate and anger. But, humanity did not let me. They made it impossible to focus on the ugliness because they kept showing up with beauty.

Ed lost his dad this past week. He is now facing his own journey of grief and loss and I just hope I can show him the love and support he deserves. I took this picture at the coffee shop we met up at a few days after his dad passed, to start planning his funeral. We sat and cried. We talked about my dad. We talked about his dad. We allowed one another to grieve and be supported.

I think it was no accident that I ordered a matcha latte and the barista served it with a heart swirl. Green is the color associated with the heart chakra and this picture will now serve as a reminder to always love and allow myself to love.

heart chakra

Music Monday: Heal the World

I venture to say most of you have heard about the tragic massacre in San Bernardino that occurred last week.

I am pretty gutted by this one, especially because I have to refer to it as “this one,” to distinguish it from so many other mass shootings that have occurred in the United States.

I live in San Bernardino. My house is not far from where the shooting occurred. It has not hit too close to home. It has hit home. It felt so surreal to see my city all over news outlets, with familiar streets and sites.

The sadness and outrage I feel in no way compares to that of friends and families of the victims, the injured and those who were present, in fear of their own lives.

I cannot believe this happened again, but, of course I can, it’s an issue that is still not being addressed. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that it happened in my city, but why should we be exempt? UGH. I HATE (and I do not use that word freely) how common this has become. I HATE that it has hurt my community. I HATE that more families are hurting, scared and shaken.

I do not want to rant about my personal political views, desires for policy change, speculation for motives or personal feelings about implications and aftermath. There is enough of that going around and I feel drained.

What I need to process through in this space and maybe along with you, is HURT and HEALING. When I feel like my head will explode if I ask myself one more “WHY?” question, I have to look back on my own personal experiences of hurt and healing for support.

These tragedies of course strike up personal chords. I can empathize with what it feels like to lose someone to gun violence. Certainly not in this magnitude, and I will not pretend to understand the pain of these loved ones, but I I can sympathize somewhat. A violent loss is different from other loses. I still deal with the loss of my father to gun violence and crime. I still enter court rooms and sit feet away from the accused. There was fear, anger, nightmares and profound sadness that followed and emotions that I still, and always will, encounter.

At the simplest level, I think it comes down to “hurt people hurt people.” This phrase has helped me not hate. This phrase has helped me let go of valid anger. This phrase helped me not be scared anymore. Most importantly, this phrase helps me be mindful of the way I treat each and every entity on this planet.

I know I am an idealist. I know I have far-out-head-in-the-clouds-hippie ideals, with bleeding heart liberal values and can be too idealistic. But maybe, if we all treated one another a bit kinder, or at the very least, not go out of our way to hurt one another, well, maybe we would stop giving others the motivation to want to hurt us.

I am not saying the shooters did this because someone called them names. But, I cannot help but wonder what level of hurt they experienced in their own lives, to motivate them to so viciously hurt others.

If I had it my way, everyone would have enough to eat and their food would be affordable without additives, preservatives or dyes. Every animal would have a peaceful, happy life and every child that wanted a puppy would get one. Everyone would do yoga and practice preventative medicine. No one would liter. We would all have open and peaceful communication and solve our issues through conflict management practices. No one would own or need a gun. Hunting would be thought of as a past barbaric practice and protection would be unnecessary because no one would not want to hurt each other.

I know this will never happen, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder…

At the very least, can we just stop being so mean to each other? Can we not go out of our way to say an unnecessary comment, post a spiteful reply, give a dirty look or let our FEAR take over?

I feel that fear is the true motivating force behind those types of mean behaviors and I feel that it is running completely rampant right now. I sure do not blame anyone for feeling fearful, but it bums me out to see how pervasive and dangerous it is becoming.

Can we make the conscious effort to not be afraid?

It’s hard. Really hard.

My dad was shot and killed in March of 2012. An arrest was not made until July 2012. The first fews weeks, I was fearfully obsessed that “the shooter was out there.”

I remember suspiciously looking at people. I remember creating stereotypes in mind of who this person must be that pulled that trigger and when I saw someone that fit that description, I would look them in the eye and think, “was it you?” I remember feeling my intestines quiver. I remember constantly feeling anxious and fearful. I had a hard time sleeping and woke up multiple times per night from nightmares.

Somewhere in my grieving brain, logic kicked in and said, “you have to stop!” I accredited this to my yoga and the awareness that I had been starting to practice on my mat.

It had to be an extremely conscious decision to not be afraid anymore. I had to take deep breaths when I went out in public and be completely at peace with the knowledge that the person who killed my dad was somewhere free. I had to separate the justice and legal process from my healing process and VERY consciously re-focus on my health, sleep and heart.

Can we all make that commitment to consciously practice awareness of our fear? Can we try not to stereotype, blame, argue and fight? Can we agree that maybe we disagree about many things, but be OK with not changing minds and proving ourselves “right”?

Can we just for a moment, stop pushing our personal agendas and speculations and just support one another? Seriously, can we just give one another a hug? We really need it.

I have been listening to this song. MJ has comforted me through many times and helped me make sense of some pretty trying situations. I know it seems like a childish notion to simply be nice and loving, but maybe that simplicity is what we need to return to. Be nice. Treat others how they want to be treated. Be OK with being wrong. Don’t let fear win.

I wish I had better answers. I wish I knew what to do to stop the hurt. But maybe, can we start with healing and letting go of fear?

There Are Ways
To Get There
If You Care Enough
For The Living
Make A Little Space
Make A Better Place…

Mantra Monday: “Why Not Me?”

For years, I suffered from “Why Me?” syndrome. I guess I thought I should be exempt from life’s tests and trails and would dramatically wonder what I had done to deserve any pain, heartache or stress.

I begin letting go of this attitude more and more as I entered adulthood, but it was truly put to the test after my dad was shot and killed in 2012. Losing my dad to a homicide was completely senseless, unfair and maddening. The more I thought about it, the more angry I became and I felt myself stuck in anger following his death and unable to move forward in my grief in healing.

The old “Why Me?” thoughts begin to creep back in. Why did this have to happen to me and my family? What had we done to deserve this? What good could possibly come of this? I wallowed in this place of questioning for a few weeks, when finally one day in my meditation, the mantra “Why Not Me?” begin to repeat itself in my soul.

why not me?

Whenever I got stuck in the unhealthy thought patterns, “Why Not Me?” would pull me out. I begin to realize I was no one special to be above suffering. It helped me remind myself that everything is not fair or just and sometimes the lessons we are meant to learn are not immediately evident.  This mantra helped me move through anger and make peace with the situation that life had laid before me. I no longer question why it happened and I have made peace with what my new reality is.

I have also had to use “Why Not Me?” when good things happen. I have recently realized that not only did I not truly believe that I deserve the bad, but also the good. I noticed I am uncomfortable when good fortune comes may way and feel undeserving. In the last few weeks, I have interviewed, and been offered a job at a school district I was eager to get into. When I received the call, I immediately thought “there must be some mistake.” “Why would they choose me?” When I hung up the phone and told my husband, he was excited and asked why I wasn’t happy. It took me awhile for the news to sink and for me to realize and accept that my hard work and experience had me deserving of this opportunity.

“Why Not Me?” has helped me in both positive and negative situations. I hope it can help you at some point this week.

Field Trip: Wild the Movie

Ed & I saw Wild last week. I was skeptical about this movie. I read the book when it was first released, back in March 2012 and it is so close to my heart. I never know what to expect when a book is adapted to a film, but fortunately, this movie delivered and Reece Witherspoon did a wonderful job portraying one of my heroes, Cheryl Strayed.

In March 2012, my life was about to change forever. The universe was about to take one of my legs out from under me, but, little did I know, it was sending me small guides along the way to act as a crutch on the journey.  Looking back, I know realize how many things had been set into motion before this month, in preparation. An unplanned trip to the bookstore was one of them.

I was drawn to this book on a random Barnes & Noble trip, when it was first released. I saw it on the new release table and a quick read of the cover drew me right in. It was about a young woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone. I was sold. I have hiked small portions of this trail and I am determined one day to hike it in it’s entirety. Reading as much as I can about the trail can only help, right?

The book and movie did an accurate job of portraying the backpackers plight. I remember the first moments I put on my too heavy backpack, for my first trip into the wilderness and thinking “I can NOT do this.” I remember those first agonizing steps and thinking, “whose fucking idea was this?!” I also remember the freedom I found on that trail. I found freedom from fear and attachment. All I had to help me survive was on my back and that is a pretty cool feeling.

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my first backpacking trip, in the Rocky Mountains

This book was about SO much more than information about the trail (although she did provide that). Cheryl Strayed loses her mother when she is in her early 20s and this seems to be the triggering event that sets off her life into an uncontrollable, downward spiral.

Cheryl Strayed gave me an excellent road map for what it was going to be like to lose a parent as a young adult. I was reading this book on the evening of March 28th, 2012. In the section I was reading, Cheryl had just lost her mother and was describing the heart wrenching aftermath. I remember it shaking me up and offering silent gratitude that my parents were still living.

At that very moment, my dad was taking his last breaths.

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I found out a few hours later that my father had been the victim of a homicide, and I had lost him to an act of violence. Over the next week of shock, disbelief and chaos, Wild kept starring at me.

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I was absolutely terrified to open that book. I knew it was going to force me to face feelings I was not ready to face. I also knew, I needed to face them and ready or not, I did.

Cheryl Strayed helped me to start to grieve. She laid out the trail for me, showed me what it was going to be lost. The feelings of loss, of being lost, of anger, of gut-wrenching sadness. She showed me what was coming and I will always be grateful for that.

In love & sisterhood,

~Ang

“The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.”

As a former conservative Catholic, I LOVED THIS STORY!  In the past, I would have compared, judged and dismissed Cheryl Strayed as a lost soul.  If I hadn’t evolved my spiritual beliefs, I would have missed a real good story.  What attracted me the most about this brave woman was the unconventional way she reached her truth.

Life can happen at any moment, and where ever we find ourselves along the journey is how we’ll respond to any given situation.  Cheryl’s mom died while she was still young and the way she responded was to throw caution to the wind: she slept with random strangers, divorced her husband and even tried heroin.  This definitely is not the best way of dealing with ones issues but I understand why she went to the extreme in trying to understand what was going on around her.

Life is not easy; it has many twists and turns that can either be positive or negative.  One of the things I’ve learned through spirituality is that God cannot take away the negative – no matter how much I want to pray it away.  Slowly, as I start to trust in the idea of free willI’m starting to see that the whole mentality behind the devil made me do it is really a lack of personal responsibility.  But there are many roads that lead to truth and Cheryl Strayed’s journey is just one of many.

Peace,
Ed

 

Youthful Decisions and the No Clue Blues: Part 3

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Aristotle

There comes a point in life when life itself becomes the classroom.  There are no classes, lectures or degrees one can attend or attain in order to by-pass the hard lessons that need to be learned.

As I move forward, I’ve decided to keep all the spiritual practices I’ve learned along the way and apply them into my daily routine.  There’s still a lingering temptation to go back to the one dimensional way I use to worship which feels more comfortable and familiar, but then I’d be going back to something that really wasn’t truly me.

There’s also something about walking the thin line between heathen and saint; when I walk the line of Mary Magdalene, I feel fully human, full of imperfections and mistakes.  When I walk the line of sainthood I feel the peace that not even the world can bring.

Love,

Ed

I spent most of the earlier parts of my 20s working hard to achieve goals. I was constantly working towards the next thing and trying to be better. Once I finished my Bachelors, it was on to my Masters and working hard at an internship to hopefully land a great job. Then, it was working on my credential and pursuing a more secure career. Once that was set, my attention turned to running and I started training for marathons, racking up miles and tearing up my knees. I strove to run faster and longer. I averaged running 3 marathons per year for about 3 years.

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I realized later that so much of the motivation behind all of the achieving and working was fear/anxiety based. I felt that I had to work hard so I had a secure future. I felt that I had to do something productive and impressive with my time. When I really stopped to think about it, I realized that I was dealing with anxiety for so many years and keeping myself busy was a way to keep my anxious thoughts at bay.

What was I anxious about? Everything and anything.

There was mostly this underlying fear I had that something bad would happen. There was no true basis for this fear, but I would create fearful scenarios in my head and lead myself into a full-fledged panic attack, thinking about all the bad things that could happen. My family could get in a horrible car accident. I could be struck with some terrible disease and die a slow, painful death. The list of horrible thoughts I put myself through goes on and on. As I reflect back, I realize it was fearfully clinging to everything I was attached to and afraid to lose.

I had been working on my anxiety and seeing small improvements. When I was 28 years old, my father was shot and killed. This event was a turning point in my life for so many reasons, but I bring it up here to explain how strangely enough, it freed me of my anxiety.

I was always so fearful of “something bad” happening, and then something very bad did happen. It was absolutely the worst and a difficult time for my family. However, it was how I death with this event that released me from my anxiety. I used yoga, meditation and lots of friend/family support to get me through. I realized that something very bad did happen…and, I got through it. I was able to live through the pain, fear, anger, sadness and grief. It is possible for bad things to happen and still come through the situations.

Although I still struggle with anxiety, it is much more manageable and identifiable. I recognize when it’s creeping in and use some of the coping mechanisms that have worked before to address it, before it gets out of control.

In love and peace,

~Ang

 

Music Monday: The High School Edition

The past week was tough.

I work as a high school counselor, and our school lost one of our students in a car accident, during the middle of the week.

This is any educators worst nightmare. Working with kids, you grow to love them as your own and cannot even begin to process losing one of them, so soon. I also acknowledge, that no matter how difficult this may be for our staff, it is nothing compared to what her family is going through.

I did non-stop crisis counseling for two days and felt spent by the time my weekend arrived.

I needed support to get me through, so I called on my Spiritual Sister. I text Ed and asked him for prayer throughout the week. He text me to check on me throughout the day and let me vent when I needed.

One of the positive things to come out of such a negative event was seeing how the students rose up to support one another and begin to move each other through the healing process. It was absolutely gut wrenching to see them experiencing such a deep loss, so early in their lives, but it was beautiful to see them support one another through it all.

In one of the most tight knit classes, one of the student’s friends asked if they could watch High School Musical, because it was one of her favorite movies. It was a very sweet way to honor her and even though the movie is a little cheesy and silly, it was exactly what the kids (and even myself) needed after days of shock, tears, anger and heavy, deep grief.

This song reminds me that even in those insane situations that life throws at us, it is possible to get through them, if you have the right support system. I was able to witness that this week along with my Spiritual Sister and I was fortunate enough to see it with the younger generation.

I have often wished that life could just transpire as neatly and bubbly as a Disney movie does and that all problems can simply be sung away. Although that wish may not always come true, as I prepare for this Monday and whatever this week may through at me, there is comfort in knowing that we really are all in this together.

In love and sisterhood,

~Angelina