What Making Malas Has Taught Me About Life

What Making Malas Has Taught Me About Life

 

A couple years ago I was inspired to make my own mala necklaces for meditation.

 

I had thought about making them for years and resisted it.  What came up instead was crappy stretchy bracelets with clay and porcelain beads that were remarkably uninspired,  I tried selling them, and sold embarrassingly few.

 

In another attempt to avoid making spiritually-based jewelry, I revisited my high school practice of making hemp jewelry.  I was working at a gym at the time that had multiple locations with school-like colors and the pride to go along with it, so I started making color-coordinated bracelets with fun alphabet beads to match each location.  In my youth, I was unaware this might not sit well with the owners of the gym when I was trying to make money off of what I was making…and using their company names and colors.

 

All the while in the back of my mind I saw mala necklaces.  Mala necklaces made of stones and crystals, things I had been in to when I was young, and as I grew up and “matured” I felt like it was child’s play and discarded it from my life.  What was I going to do with a bunch of loose stones from family vacations to Colorado and like places?  Sure, they were pretty and interesting, but they just took up space.

 

I forget how it began, but I started meditating again, and meditating with my mala beads.  I learned to use my mala beads in my first yoga teacher training, which was really the most useful skill I got out of my first training.  I recall my teacher telling us our first mala would “come to us” because it “chooses us”, which, at the time, I thought was bullshit.  Now, of course, I think more in alignment with what she taught.

 

However, inwardly I ascribed to what she said.  I thought the perfect mala was going to come to me, and it seemed that nomalas were coming to me.  It became clear to me that certain malas were coming up for me in my mind, inspired malas, malas that I really wanted to meditate with because they were beautiful and made out of lovely natural stone beads.  I love stone beads because they’re cool to the touch, which, I can only assume, my pitta dosha loves because it cools my heat down.

 

I kept seeing rose quartz, goldstone, and clear quartz in my mind’s eye when I would think about meditating. I scoured the internet for the right mala, and I was continuously left disillusioned for what was on the market. To me meditation was a special experience, and I wanted a mala that reflected that.  More importantly, I wanted a mala that was special and unique. I was tired of seeing malas with om signs, peace signs, and hamsas.  Not that they aren’y beautiful, they definitely are, but what I was looking for was for something with a little touch of magic.

 

I began to look for malas that had a unicorn charm on it, or something else unusual and fun.

 

I wanted to be inspired to pick up my mala and use it, and all the while I kept seeing them in my mind, and not seeing them anywhere in reality: not in any shop, farmer’s market, or on Etsy.  Everything looked it like was thrown together fast and just made to be made, rather than made with the intention to inspire.

 

So, one day, I don’t even remember how I got them, I ended up with a bunch of strands of beads.  I had rose quartz, agate, blue goldstone, and opalite.  All my favorite, and only some were natural.  Two were man made, and the agate was dyed hot pink.

 

I had funky, fun unicorn charms of just the pony’s head.  I was picky about the thread I chose: I didn’t care much for tradition when it came to them.  I was aware that there was a special “mala thread” for them, but I knew that wasn’t the right fit.  I saw sparkly, handmade tassels that matched the thread that joined the mala beads themselves.  I found that thread in the embroidery department of the craft store.

 

My first mala took my 8 hours to make.  I didn’t know that beading needles were a thing.  I kept having to chop the end of the thread as it frayed, wetted the end with my mouth over and over, and even resorted to glue to harden it to get it to go through the hole of the bead.

IMG_3438-2.JPG

Even the push to make the malas themselves was a source of inspiration and push.  This is a story really of me finally accepting my own spirituality and spiritual practice, and admitting it to the world.  Before this, I was stopped by the belief that people would make fun of me if they knew I meditated, if they knew I chanted in Sanskrit with mala beads and did a ton of pranayama prior to that.  Yes, I had these thoughts despite being a yoga teacher and practicing yoga for nearly twenty years.  The old athlete-mentality still never left me for some things.

 

But when I did finally make these, I felt like a lid had been blasted off a boiling pot.  The release was so complete, it was the breakthrough I needed.

 

I made about 6 malas with that first run of beads.  They took me a couple days to make.  I sold each one for $75 and I sold them right away.

 

That first run of malas I made in a hurry and from a place of desperation.  I had already bought the materials and was waiting for a moment of inspiration to strike that would cause me to create them.  The universe caused it, instead.  All, and I do mean ALL, of my clients randomly stopped training with me for an entire December.  I panicked, because I realized that with the money I was making from teaching my classes, I was only going to have enough for the essentials, and Christmas was around the corner.

 

All of my clients stopping for an entire month wasn’t expected at all.  They all had good reasons, so I couldn’t be upset at them. It was just how it was, and how it went.

 

I was shocked when I realized how quickly my malas sold.  I even made special tags for them by hand, explaining the meanings of the stones, colors, the charms, and everything.  I gave them a name: the Magical Unicorn Malas.

 

 

As time went on, I probably made around 100 Magical Unicorn Malas.

 

Magical things began happening in my life as I continued to make them.

 

I had a feeling that I should break from the traditional 108 beads that malas usually are.  I was just learning about the significance of repeating numbers, and was feeling that I should change the MUM to 111 beads instead of 108.

 

One day, I was making one of the first angel-themed malas in my collection.  I was nearly done with it, and stopped to count the beads. I only had a couple to go before I made it to 108.  This mala was a clear quartz crystal mala and it was threaded with sparkly light yellow thread.  It reminded me of my sister because her favorite color is yellow.  After I did the count, I remember I got into a trance.  I landed in the rhythm of making the mala so deeply, that I forgot I was even making it.  My hands moved automatically: grabbing a bead, threading it, tying 2 knots, grabbing a bead, and so on.

 

Suddenly, I came to with a start and realized I had threaded way too many beads, and had made my knots way too tight to hope to even untie them well enough to get the necklace to the right number.  Having the right amount of beads was important to me, because when I would shop for them I would count them.  Most malas I found were more than 108 beads, and I got the sense they were there purely for decoration and not for their intended purpose of meditation.  I really wanted a mala that stayed true to the 108 bead tradition, even though I was being pulled and guided to create my own thing.

 

I stopped and started frantically counting the beads, anticipating counting all the way to 115.

 

When I got to the last couple beads, I was shocked.

 

The mala ended perfectly at 111 beads.

 

It was my second angel themed mala ever.

 

Repeating 1’s means your angels are watching your thoughts, and that you should think about what it is you want, because your angels are taking a snap shot of that thought and are going to make it manifest.  That’s why it’s tradition to make a wish when you see 1:11 or 11:11 on the clock.: that wish is going to come true.

 

I was so shocked I put the string of beads down and didn’t touch them for a day or two.  When I did finish it, I gave it to my sister, Kelsey, because I felt that I couldn’t make money off that piece, and I saw her in my mind the entire time I was making it.

 

Malas taught me to trust. Trust the flow of the universe. I’ve learned more from malas by making them than I have by meditating with them.

 

I remember how uninspired and ego-driven my other bracelets were.  How they exhausted me and I really thought they would sell and they didn’t. I had spent a lot of money on them, even my rent money, thinking they would sell, and I ended up giving them away.

 

My malas were another story.

 

The more I made, the more I got into the process.  I began loving making them so much I would spend hours making them, by this point getting really efficient because I discovered not only beading needles, but the rhythm for producing them at a fast pace.

 

The shortest amount of time it took me to start and finish a mala, from first bead to handmade tassel tied and the knots glued was 40 minutes.

 

Here are the more important lessons mala making  taught me:

 

One bead at a time

To create a beautiful mala efficiently, I tried to string multiple beads at once.  Malas can take a long time to make, and I tried to shorten the time by stringing more than one bead (I think the most I tried was five) and then adding the knots with all those beads on the thread.

 

This worked terribly.

 

I had no control over the string, and the knots were forming in the wrong places.  The knots ended up being too far apart and the beads too loose, and for anyone who has meditated with malas before, meditating on loosely beaded malas is a type of thumb-gymnastics I don’t want to experience again.

 

 

I realized that the quickest way was the longest and most deliberate way: do one bead at a time, and make your thread too long in case you have to cut it for any reason.  The slower, the faster.  A paradox just like yoga itself.

 

The beading itself reminded me to take the process one step at a time, just like yoga, just like life.

 

Everything is connected

This is what was really profound to me.

 

After about my 50thmala, I realized the metaphor that they are.

 

All 108 or 111 beads were connected by a single thread.  Each bead is individual until I put them all together on one string and give them purpose with a tassel, and sometimes a charm.

 

I began seeing this metaphor everywhere, and it began when I as teaching power yoga.

 

I realized that our breath is the thread that connects the beads of all our poses.

 

And then it went deeper than that.

 

Way of being is the thread that connects all human beings to each other.

 

We are all on one grand string of a giant, universal mala necklace.  Each of us is a single bead.  We are all part of something greater and grander than ourselves.

 

Make What Inspires You, It Inspires Others

This just hit me today: when I finally started making malas, something extraordinary happened: everyone else did, too.

 

And what was extra-remarkable was that non of us were competing with each other.  We all supported each other’s work, sometimes even buying pieces from each other.

 

It blew my mind how different everyone’s version of malas became: my then-coworker Jenaia had perfectly executed malas with the precisionof a jeweler.  Some of the tightest and most beautifully executed knots and tassels I have ever seen.  Izzy’s malas took on a more fun dynamic complete with interesting combinations of stone beads and multi-colored handmade tassels.  Other teachers began making them, too, and everyone agreed on the same thing: making them in and of itself was a meditation.

 

And we were all self-taught. We just followed and instinct to make them, and we made them out of pure inspiration and desired.

 

This, for a long time, united us.  I even helped some of the other yogis sell them.

 

This never happened when I was making those stretchy painted-clay-bead bracelets and hemp macramé atrocities.

 

I still have many of these malas in my collection, and use them regularly.

 

Malas Really Do Choose You

I don’t make malas like I used to.

 

It became less and less of a priority as I got clear on where my life was headed next, career-wise.

 

Making them can be isolating, despite the attempts we all made to get together for mala-making parties, which only happened a couple times, and not everyone could make it every time.

 

As making malas dropped on my priority list, so did needing to make money off of them.  I began making them on a case-by-case basis only, and I started making them as gifts.

 

I had something  occur recently that had to do with a very special mala I had in my collection.  One of my friends, Izzy, had made a gorgeous purple charoite mala with amethyst accent beads and a butterfly charm.  At the time, I had just learned about the healing power of charoite and how it helps with stress relief, and I was going through a really hard time in my life then. Instantly I knew that mala was mine. I chalked up the money to buy it. By this time in our mala-making enterprise, all of us had raised our prices to be $100 or more, because of the time and effort we had learned went in to creating these pieces.

 

A couple months ago, a yoga student of mine surprised me and reached out to me requesting I teach her meditation.  I agreed and went to her house expecting just a pranayama session, which I was going to give for free.  We ended up talking about chanting meditation with malas, and I spoke a lot about the power of different stones and one piece in my collection in particular, my charoite mala.

 

It turned out she suffered from a lot of stress and anxiety.  I kept seeing my charoite mala in my mind’s eye, and yet went ahead and designed a lepidolite mala for her instead that had a quartz crystal charm on it. I threaded it with light purple thread and it had a moonstone guru bead.

 

Even though it was beautiful, well-intentioned, and a lot of thought and work went into it, something didn’t feel right.

 

I gave it to her anyway.

 

She, of course, loved it, and used it.

 

One day I felt an urge to reach out and see how her practice was going, so I did.  And her response shocked me.

 

She started with “You wouldn’t believe what happened, I didn’t want to tell you.”[

 

She proceeded to tell me she had kept the mala in her purse.  She hadn’t used it that much, because shortly after she got it, she went to the beach and her entire purse was stolen at the beach, including the brand new lepidolite mala I had made for her.

 

Interestingly, I wasn’t that upset.  In fact, I was a little relieved.

 

She was of course upset about all of her cards being stolen and having to be replaced, and all the other inconveniences that come with having your purse stolen, but I knew exactly what I had to do.

 

Rosella Rossi’s voice, my first yoga teacher training facilitator from college who originally taught me to meditate with malas and said that malas choose you and not the other way around, popped into my head.

 

I heard and felt the charoite mala belonged to her.

 

The lepidolite was never meant to be hers.  It was meant for someone else.

 

I could tell how upset my student was because she had just started her chanting practice and believe in it so much-how could this happen at such a crucial time in her life?

 

I realized it had been nearly three years since I had meditated with my butterfly charoite mala.

 

It was time for it to move on.

 

As soon as I could, I went home and grabbed the mala, swung by her place, and placed it in her mailbox.

 

I sent her a text letting her know that I left something for her there.

 

When she returned home later to find it, she tried returning it to me.  I had told her a lot about the charoite stone, how it’s the stone of comfort and it arrived at the perfect time in my life when I needed it the most.

 

“It’s so important to you” one of her text messages read.

 

But I responded with a message that said it’s work with me was complete.  That things happen in life for a reason sometimes, and in this case that reason was to give the right person the right mala that was right for them. One that I didn’t even make!  One that I had bought for myself, from a dear friend, who put just as much love and attention into his pieces and I did in mine.

 

I could feel her gratitude through the text.  I knew I was probably never going to use that mala again, and even if I do need another charoite stone mala, I always know where I can get a custom one.

 

Malas, especially making them, hss taught me more about spirituality, trust, and faith than nearly anything else has.

 

Now, when a mala comes up in my mind’s eye and I feel who it belongs to, I don’t wait.  I get online and order the beads and make it as quickly as possible.  My intention behind making them is to inspire people to want to meditate.  Because they want to, not because they need to.

 

Yes, I know it “shouldn’t” matter what a mala looks like.  We do meditate with our eyes closed, after all.  However, I love meditating with intentionally made malas. It reminds me of the intentional magic of life: the more intentional I am, the more synchronistic life is.

 

Take life one bead at a time, we are all connected, and your mala will come to you if you let go and trust the flow of the universe.

 

What greater lessons are there than those?

Advertisements

A Note to Yoga Teachers: Stop Saying Shavasana is Hard

Shavasana.

Is.

Not.

Hard.

I started doing yoga over 20 years ago, and it wasn’t until I did a yoga teacher training at a Baptiste affiliate that I realized I was cookie cutter teacher just like all the rest of my teachers before me.

I’m not putting myself or any other teacher down.  It’s just how it was.  No one actually taught me to be authentic, to be inspiring, until I did that affiliate yoga teacher training.

My breakthrough at that studio was this: being copy-cat yoga teacher is existing in the world of default. It’s teaching from the past rather than the present, to create a brand new future.

Default teaching is uninspiring and halts progress.

As yoga teachers, it is our job to get really real. So much of our job has a connotation that we are disillusioned and have a distorted sense of reality.  And I get that because we stand in front of groups of sweaty people preaching about reality and consciousness while telling people to move their bodies in weird positions.  Yes, I get this paradox, and yes, this image could seem to be me at times.

This post is meant to inspire any and all yoga teachers who come across it.  It had been years since I was in a yoga classroom that had default teaching: meaning the teachers are just repeating everything they have heard, who in turn repeated things their teachers said, and on and on down the line. Nothing was new, inspiring, or engaged me in what the teacher REALLY had to say.  This isn’t any fault of their own: it’s just the lineage of teaching in many disciplines, even beyond yoga.

As a student, I want to hear what YOU have to say, teacher.  I want to hear what inspires you, what speaks to you, how a certain pose has changed your life, or maybe some new breakthrough you have around a pose.

As your student, I want you to shatter the status quo of yoga.

When my teacher a couple weeks ago put us into shavasana, I was whooshed back to 10+ years ago when all I knew was default teachers and teaching, and accepted it because that was all I knew there was.  I used to think it was inspiring, until I figured out everyone was kind of saying the same thing all the time.  My teacher started on a long, soft-spoken monologue about the how’s and why’s of shavasana being a hard pose.

You know what happened?

Shavasana BECAME hard for me.

I couldn’t let go once she said that.  I couldn’t relax because I didn’t know how tobein yoga’s most rewarding pose.

I couldn’t disconnect in order to connect.

Where this idea originated from, I have no idea.  And I don’t care to know, because that won’t be in alignment with where I am headed as both yoga teacher and practitioner.  My work is to look forward always.

As a student I give myself over fully to my teacher in complete trust and guidance.  When a teacher gives a cue that leaves me experiencing stuckness instead of lightness, openness, and possibility, what is the experience I am supposed to get from that?

This experience brought up for me the power of our words.  The power of our words on others, on ourselves, and especially as leaders as yoga teachers.  Yes, we are leaders.

If you get one thing from this post, I want it to be this: WHAT WE SAY IS WHAT WE CREATE IN OUR CLASSROOM.

I generated a conversation with this teacher and another one after class.  They had good points: it’s hard for westerners to let go of their thinking mind; it’s hard to let go of anxiety; it isthe hardest because we are so attached to our lists, responsibilities, stress, and distractions; it’s hard because….because…because…

Breakdown your “becauses”.

They don’t serve you.

The purpose of shavasana is to let go.

TELL your students to let go.  Let go of what’s in the way between you and your students, and tune in to what they are feeling, on their mat, right now.

Inspiration is in the room, and all around you.  Is just repeating what you have always heard a source of inspiration?

In the conversation with the yoga teachers, I pointed out the following: are you giving your students an opportunity to discover for themselves what shavasana means to them?And are you noticing your students, really lookingat your students, in your class who HAVE completely let go?  Have you noticed how deeply they are connecting, and your words are disempowering? Have you acknowledged them for where they are in their practice now by powerfully letting them be?

By saying that shavasana is hard, it not only cuts off your students from experiencing their divinity, it also disconnects you as teacher from connecting with your class and with Source.

What is your quality of leadership if you show up every single class, giving the same cues just because other teachers have taught them so they must be “right”, and continuously told your students that shavasana is hard?

Your students will NEVER truly get there if that’s the course you choose to continuously take.

So my colleague and fellow yoga teacher, riveted by the brand new point of view I gave her about shavasana, was left awestruck about the truth that experience is in HER hands, and not in those teachers before her, who aren’t even present in the room. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I told her that she can talk about what she really wants to talk about.  The connection I got to make with my teacher was real and deep, and all because I chose to take a stand for my shavasana and the shavasana for hundreds of others.

Get present to the truth of you being a leader, being a guide, being the generator of your students’ experience.  What does shavasana mean to YOU?

With all of your years of experience as both student and teacher, those hours don’t count for nothing. SOMETHING new has come up for you at some point: SHARE IT.  Your students WANT to hear it.

Your most inspirational is your most authentic, which means get really real NOW.  Your students’ experience is in your hands.  If you want them to go deep into meditation in shavasana, then TELL THEM to go deep.  It’s all connected to your purpose as yoga teacher.

Our work is always to make transformation accessible, not inaccessible.

Our work is to provide a clearing for discovery and creativity, not filling up space with old ways of being that don’t let us go anywhere new.

Being a yoga teacher is a calling.  How we show up is the most important aspect of our lives, especially when our work involves transforming others.

What shavasana means to me is FREEDOM.  I get to connect with nothing, and get present to how I am nothing.

And from nothing, I create everything.

 

When You’re In a Bind, Go Into Bird of Paradise

When You’re In A Bind, Go Into Bird of Paradise

I just finished taking one of the RCY teachers’ classes, Luis Jimenez (@luisinmotion on Instagram) at Buddha Grove and, as always, he had a physically challenging class, punctuated with enlightenment.

Luis always has transitions and pose combinations that will blow your mind, and he also has a deep profundity fueled by simplicity.

With all the transitions occurring in my life right now (trying to open a studio, my grandmother not doing well back home in Minnesota, trying to get my second book completed, training for CrossFit, etc.) leaning into challenge can be met with a lot of resistance, no matter how much yoga and meditation I do.

And sometimes all a breakthrough requires is that one thing a teacher says that makes you get out of your own way.

Extended side angle pose is a pose that I need regularly.   Even without a consistent CrossFit practice in my life, my knees, hips, and lower back will start to hurt if I don’t do this pose regularly.  It opens my shoulders, upper back, and adductors, all problem areas for me if I’m not on top of my yoga practice.

DSCF8612

However, I also LOVE going into balance poses.  So it’s always a challenge for me: do I stay in extended side angle (which can have the good-hurt of healing) or travel forward into bird of paradise, which doesn’t target my problem areas?  In my practice, bird of paradise seems to be the easier pose than extended side angle, and I didn’t realize the internal struggle I had around it until Luis’ class.

As I remained on two feet, debating, in my head, and therefore stuck, Luis instructed, “If you are in a bind, go into bird of paradise.”

My.  Mind.  Was. BLOWN.

What other binds in my life am I not actively moving toward, with, or through?  Why am I creating so much meaning around an entirely different pose? The only reason they’re connected is because they flow together seamlessly.  My mind was making one pose be more important than the other, when, in reality, one isn’tharder than the other, because they are distinct and separate poses!

Bird of paradise and extended side angle both just are as they are, individually.

Sitting and debating about whether or not I “should” do one of my favorite poses wastes my time.  If it comes up for me, I should take action on it.

I heard an amazing quote the other day: “You wouldn’t have a dream it you weren’t meant to fulfill it.”

I realized I am stopped by things being too easy sometimes.  If something is easy, why would I skip it instead of doing it and enjoying it?

In that moment I caught myself in a belief that I had to stay in bound extended side angle pose, because I was “supposed to” stay there.

What I got from Luis’ class was this: I was making bound extended side angle MEAN SO MUCH and bird of paradise mean so little.  We experience freedom when we drop meaning around things, situations, and people in our lives and allow them to just be.  As soon as I dropped meaning around my extended side angle pose, my bird of paradise felt lighter than ever.

Then off of my mat after class, just like those two poses, I dropped all meaning around plans I had made with friends who had all bailed on me.  I went through with the plans on my own, met up with other friends, and went home and got a lot of work done on my business.

All because I chose to not stay on two feet and rise up onto one foot.

Because I let go of meaning around one pose and chose to enjoy both with equal intensity and care.

Just because something seems too easy, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.  The same goes for things that seem hard.  Easy and hard are just labels we ascribe to something that’s all the same, and that thing is action.

What do you do when you’re in a bind?  Every cell in my body was telling me to go for that bird of paradise, but my reasoning, rational brain was telling me “no, stay here where you are safe, and right, and probably doing more than if you did the other pose.”

Well, my spirit had a different idea.  And so did my yoga teacher.

Because sometimes all we need to take is take a step.  Leave your thoughts behind, and just move.  Your body, fueled by your spirit, knows where to take you, it knows what’s coming next, because it knows your destiny better than you do.

Where can you fly to today? Drop your thoughts, maintain your bind, stand on one foot and be spectacular.  Yoga, as in life, isn’t always about doing “more”; what stirs your soul and comes easily to you?  That’s what the world is waiting for you to commit to.

Satisfaction vs. Results

IMG_1390

One of my teachers last week got me present to this distinction.  Satisfaction and results are collapsed into being the same thing in our minds.  The reality is, these two phenomena are not the same thing.  They are separate and distinct.

We tend to go through life believing that results will equal our satisfaction, that one equals the other. Focusing on results places our satisfaction “over there” and never here, right now, the space beneath our feet in and our hearts.  It disconnects us from now.

So much of what we do in our lives is powered by motivation.  Powered by the drive of dissatisfaction in order to get the results that will produce our satisfaction, eventually.  In my experience, motivation is draining.  Inspiration is energizing.

Satisfaction and results are separate entities.  They are unrelated to each other.

Satisfaction is satisfaction.  Results are results.

Satisfaction does not depend on results to exist.  Results do not require satisfaction to manifest.

You see, satisfaction comes from a way of being.  Our entire world can be falling apart around us and yet we can maintain our sense of satisfaction.  Satisfaction is a declaration, a choice we make, a commitment to our way of being, and that being is one of being at cause for our own greatness and the greatness of others.

Are you resigned to being automatic? To going through life as an automaton?

Who are you REALLY as an invention of your own life?  Someone with the greatest superpowers ever, and those powers are to invent your life exactly as you see fit and how you want it.

To get where we want, things have to fall apart.  We think that the things that happen to us are who we are, and nothing about that statement is true.

Satisfaction is present and is always present.  It is created through declaration and intent.  Sometimes we forget about it, and our work is to recommit to it in the moments we fall backward.

Five years ago I had lunch with a friend.  I had recently gotten present to the fact that I started a lot of projects and didn’t complete them.  I didn’t feel satisfied with that.  I made a commitment to her during that lunch date that I would complete things I started.

In one profound moment, I made a commitment to completion.  Getting complete with as much in life as possible.  Committing to the sense of completion within me, and from that space of commitment it creates a clearing from within for me to create my life for myself.  My commitment creates my way of being, and a clearing for others to do the same.  This is the impact we all have on each other.

Results and satisfaction are a constant theme that comes up for me as I move through filling out my Empowerment and Achievement Journal.  My 90 day journal committed to guiding you through five categories of goals and journaling about gratitude, it can be easy to get caught up in the worthiness of life as just existing in the realm of accomplishments and results.  After all, it does have the word “achievement” in it’s title.

When a goal isn’t achieved, or an intended result not manifested, it has happened to us all that we have identified with that event.  And oftentimes we call that event “failure”.  Creating space between the event and who we “think” we are is where our work is.  Seeing our lives as being bigger than what we are here to achieve is the work of transformation.

Every time I fall short from a goal, no matter how important or insignificant it may seem, I ask myself if my happiness and satisfaction is really dependent on achieving that goal? Every time I get stuck trying to fill in one of the goal categories, I ask myself, am I complete and whole as a human without needing to fill this specific goal out perfectly?

Notice where you are held back by needing to identify as your results.  Your results are not who you are.  You are so much bigger, so much greater.

As Red Cheetah Yoga grows into 2019, expect so many changes.  RCY is committed to getting complete this year, and being a vehicle for your satisfaction and transformation.

Coral Gables, you have never seen anything like this that’s on the horizon.  Focus, velocity, and satisfaction are speeding your way, in the most elegant and transformative way possible.

I have fully completed five copies of my own journal.  Every time I begin a new one, I see a new journey ahead of me that becomes more effortless, more intentional, and more expansive.  Every time I look back on the completed ones, I see how much I have grown as a result of completing them.  Results are not powerless.  There is power in results, and we don’t need to be our results to be whole, complete, and perfect human beings.

Let go of your results and focus on your satisfaction.  Every moment is an opportunity to invent your life.  Let it invent itself for you.  When you get present to yourself as complete, satisfaction happens for you.

 

 

Beginner’s Mind

 

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.

Their wisdom was unfathomable.

There is no way to describe it;

All we can describe is their appearance.

They were careful

As someone crossing an iced-over stream.

Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.

Courteous as a guest.

Fluid as melting ice.

Shapable as a block of wood.

Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait

Till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

Till the right action arises by itself?

The Master does not seek fulfillment.

Not seeking, not expecting,

She is present, and can welcome all things.

Lao Tzu

 

It’s a contradiction to begin a blog post that has the title “Beginner’s Mind” with an ancient Chinese verse about mastery.

 

As Lao Tzu may have put it, what is mastery, if it were not for beginners?  Mastery does not arise on it’s own without first being a beginner of some kind.

 

But even in mastery, do we ever lose the opportunity to experience beginner’s mind?

 

This 15thverse from the Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell, is one of my favorite of all 68 verses. This verse was the first one to land for me.  The line that first impacted me was the one about water, “Do you have the patience to wait/till your mud settles and the water is clear?”

 

At the time I first heard that verse (my first reading of the Tao Te Ching was over audible; I realized I was speed reading this tiny book and I felt I was missing out on a lot, and chose to slow the book down by listening to it instead of sitting and reading it.  One of the best choices I have ever made) I was trying to force everything in my life. Forcing things to happen in my life is a trend I tend to have, and I felt that Lao Tzu was calling me out from over 2,000 years ago, telling me to practice patience and that everything is going to work out ok.

 

Yet this post isn’t about that line at all.  This post isn’t about water and it’s fluidity, it’s clarity or it’s muddiness.

 

This post is about the line the second stanza:

 

“Shapable as a block of wood.”

 

For years I have just glossed over that line.  I was totally lost on it to the point I didn’t even notice it, nor did I notice that I wasn’t noticing it.  I was resigned around that line and automatically thought, “well, that’s just some Chinese reference I probably don’t understand.”

 

Well, if it was just a “Chinese reference I don’t understand”, I don’t think the Tao Te Ching would be suriving to this day, because none of this book is just a list of “Chinese references”.  This is a book that has stood the test of time and speaks to the souls of all who encounter it, in whatever form.

 

I ignored this line because I really didn’t understand what it meant.  Which also meant that I wasn’t listening very well, either.  It wasn’t until I read Wayne Dyer’s book on the Tao called Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Lifethat the message of that line hit me, and I realized what an error I had made by taking that line for granted.

 

You can create ANYTHING from a block of wood.

 

Literally anything.

 

We are all Michelangelo’s. Each one of us.  Michelangelo would say, after carving a great masterpiece, that he was only freeing the figure that was trapped inside of the block of marble.

 

We are all the figure in the block of marble.

 

We are the block of wood, and we hold our own carving tools.

 

This is what a beginner’s mind is.

 

Our lives are the block of wood, or slab of marble.

 

Every single day, we have the opportunity to create our lives newly.  To approach the day with a brand new, clean slate, free of all the mindsets and circumstances and conversations and emotions from yesterday. Yet we carry all of these things with us into our new day, every day.

 

And, when it comes to the greatest spiritual teachings, even the yoga sutras, we live our greatest lives by letting ALL of it go, even the “good” stuff, the good memories, the pining for how things “used to be”.

 

That never puts us in our power right now.  That never lands us where we are headed, and sets us up to only repeat in a great act of insanity the same experiences and circumstances that we have already had.

 

Yesterday’s transformation is today’s ego trip.

 

Even hanging on to yesterday’s breakthroughs and great triumphs can separate us from the awesomeness of today, of all the array of emotions that are there for us every single day.  The happiest people on this planet let themselves experience ALL emotions, because without sadness, heartache, anger, frustration, tears, worry, grief and fear, we are hopeless to be able to experience love, joy, gratitude, lightness, laughter, fun, gaiety, creativity, integrity, and happiness.  They all support each other, they all create each other.
So, when we wake up in the morning, we can take yesterday’s experiences with us into today, which, no matter what went on yesterday, no matter how great or terrible or mediocre or neutral yesterday was, yesterday is not today, and today is not actually built on yesterday. Today is only built on today. And, if you gave up the actions of yesterday, you have far more space in front of you to create exactly what today is MEANT TO BE.

 

The yoga sutras call this raga, clinging to past pleasure, and dvesa, clinging to past pain.

 

This is the work of creating your future.  Being present to now, and picking up your wittling knife and getting ready to carve something brand new today.  Yesterday you carved an orca, what if today you carved a snail? Or a tree? Or a skyscraper? A dog? A human laughing? Two people embracing? A flowing river?  You can even put blocks of wood together and create something large, or carve many tiny things out of one single block.  You don’t even have to use a knife: a torch will do!  You can burn beautiful designs into the sides of your block of wood.

 

What you created yesterday, has been created.  It is complete.  Leave it there, and pick up the next block.  What is waiting for you in those grains?  What amazing answers does that block of wood have for you that are waiting to be discovered? Created?  Are you willing to connect with your block of wood and ask it what it wants?  What it’s possibilities are?

 

What if that little block of wood is your life?  And you get a new one every single morning?

 

What if one morning you didn’t get a new block of wood, but you got yesterday’s instead?  Well, yesterday’s is complete!  All the extra wood has been carved away, and it’s in it’s perfect final form: a little frog.  So, since you chose that you don’t deserve a new block of wood, you decide to resign yourself to carrying around your little wooden frog that you carved yesterday.  You go to bed, and you wake up the next morning, no new block.  Still the same old frog.  Getting up, you place your carving tools to the side, and carry around your old frog.  But the frog doesn’t think he’s old!  The frog thinks he is great!  He’s a wonderful wooden frog carved from the best block of wood!  But he is sad he cannot go join the other blocks of wood that have been carved in days past, carved with joy in the moment and then cast aside and the artist declared his work complete.

 

This artist has gotten stuck at frog.  Behind him are all these other creations: flowers, monkeys, buildings, vehicles, fantastical things, yet he has been stopped by his frog not because of the frog itself, but because he cannot see beyond the frog.

 

What else is there?

 

That’s the despairing story the artist tells himself.

 

Until one day a block of wood returns again. Unexpectedly.  The artist looks at the block of wood, and with drooping shoulders turns away and says half out loud to himself, “What point is there? It’s been so long, I cannot do it again. I have no inspiration.”

 

And so he picks up his wooden frog and trudges through his day.

 

The frog has turned black from being held so long from the oils of the artist’s hands.  The old wooden pieces tossed aside are still light colored.  The frog wonders why it hasn’t gone to join the others in paradise.  The artist is stuck in a fog.

 

Eventually, every morning new blocks of wood show up in the artist’s home.  They begin to pile, and dust begins to settle on them, as they patiently wait for the artist’s inspiration to come.  They are there, and they are waiting, and no action is being taken.

 

One day the frog gets lost.

 

The artist feels more lost than the lost frog.

 

What is he to do without his frog?  Without everything he knew?  Everything he identified with?

 

How was he to survive?

 

For days he wanders without his frog, without noticing the dusty pile of wood blocks.

 

What the artist doesn’t realize is, it’s his story that holds him back.  It’s not that he can’t carve, he can still carve.  The only thing between him and his carving a new anythingis the belief he chose to entertain, and that is that he has no inspiration left, and he was at his greatest when he carved the frog, and there is nothing greater than the frog that he can create.

 

One day, missing his old, worn-out frog, the old artist picks up a new block of wood.  Slowly, ever so slowly, he begins to wittle away at the block, piece by tiny piece.

Something begins to emerge.

 

Soon, overcome with the mindless action of creating newly again, the movements of his hands become a little faster, a little sharper, a little more precise, and details begin to emerge and life is breathed into this new wooden block that is now transformed into something life-like.

 

All it took was one little action.

 

The first courageous step of beginning.

 

Letting go of a need for it to be perfect, just a need for it to becomesomething, something out of nothing.

 

The artist then reconnected to his original intention, his original commitment, of creating every single day exactly what he was feeling in his heart, and today, this was what he was feeling in his heart.  Creativity isn’t a fleeting emotion, just like how love isn’t a fleeting emotion, and neither is passion.  Our thoughts, actions, and emotions are all connected, they feed into one another, and yet the only one that actually makes a difference is action.

 

Michelangelo carved David on a bet.  He was bet he couldn’t create a masterpiece from a piece of stone that was considered unworkable.  Two years after the bet, the great artist revealed David.  In wonder and awe, the man he made the bet with was shocked at his creation, and asked the inevitable, how did you do it?

 

Michelangelo’s response: “I just carved away everything that wasn’t David.”

 

Let nothing from your past hold you back.

 

What can you carve today, by letting go of all of your wooden frogs from yesterday?  Carve away the excess marble and reveal your masterpiece. Wake up tomorrow, and repeat.

 

This is true mastery.

Choose To Evolve

IMG_0910

Choose To Evolve

 

Defining words can be useful.  However, there is a deeper meaning when the origin of a word is considered.

 

Etymology, or the origin of where a word comes from, goes beyond definition. It involves the word’s country of origin, how long the word has been in existence, and the word’s evolution over generations.  When I got into spelling bees in school, I learned etymology was useful in being competitive in bees because if you’re given a word that you don’t know, you can figure out the spelling by asking the judge for the word’s origin.  For example, if you’re given a word you don’t know and you learn that it has a Latin root and it has a hard “k” consonant sound in it, chances are that sound is created with a “ch”.  However, if it’s root is Greek, chances are that the “k” sound the word is created with a “k” instead of a “ch”.

 

For example, if a bee participant is given the word “kleptomaniac” and she has no idea what it means, upon hearing it she may automatically think it would start with a “ch”.  However, having the presence of mind to use her resources, she requests the etymology of the word, which is Greek in origin.  She will know then that the likelihood of that first syllable to start with a “k” is much higher than a “ch” because it’s root is Greek and not Latin.  Kleptes, by the way, means “steal” in Greek.

 

Etymology is useful for more than just winning spelling bees.  It also helps us get deeper into our integrity in our conversations with ourselves and others.  Red Cheetah Yoga’s “Choose To Evolve” becomes more powerful when we look beyond definition and into it’s vernacular evolution.  Etymology describes what the words also meant in their original, native languages.  I know many people, myself included, who LOVE to research the meaning of names and most know the meaning of their own (mine means victory of the people, originally from Greek, with it’s origin from the goddess of victory, Nike).  Knowing the come-from for words can be a powerful tool, just like learning our personal come-froms in our ways of being, acting, and planning.

 

It is because of etymology that the phraseology for RCY is CHOOSE to evolve, and not “decide” to evolve.

 

Just by looking at the definitions of these words can be deceiving, and can seem almost identical in nature if not read carefully:

 

Decide: (v) 1. To solve or conclude (a question or controversy, or struggle) by giving victory to one side.

  1. to determine or settle (something in dispute or doubt)

 

Choose: (v) 1. To select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference

  1. to prefer or decide (to do something)

 

Even when we zoom in on the actual definition of these two words which seem, on the surface, to be synonyms, they resonate with very different energies.  And “choose” even uses the word “decide” in it.

 

However, at Red Cheetah Yoga, these words are very, very different.

 

And here’s why:

 

Etymology defined is the derivation of a word, the study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words.  The etymology of etymology comes from it’s original Latin etymologiaand before that Greek etymology(os) meaning studying the true meanings and values of words. Etymo(s)meaning “true” and logos meaning word or reason.

 

The etymology of decide: 1350-1400 Middle English decidenfrom French decider, and before that, Latin deciderwhich means literally TO CUT OFF.

 

The etymology of choose: before 1000: Middle English chosen, chesen, Old English ceosan; cognate with Gothic kiusan, Old High German kiosan, akin to Greek geuesthaito ENJOY, and from Latin: gustare, to taste.

 

Which lands better? Which feels better?

 

To expand on “decide”: the –cide suffix  literally means “act of killing” and is the same suffix also found in these words: pesiticide, suicide, homicide, genocide, spermicide, and so on.  These are all manifestations of some sort of cut-off-ness, and in these examples it’s a cutting off from life force, vitality, creativity, and possibility itself.  It’s absolutely final, no space for transformation, a shift, or inquiry.

 

To choose…now we are in different and more inspired territory.

 

To choose means to have an awareness of options, a recognition of the smorgasbord of life that is in front of you, always.  To take every step and moment of your life from the awareness of choice…that’s powerful.

 

Every breath is a choice.

Every thought you have is a choice.

Everything you eat is a choice.

Your beverages are all choices.

Your friends, coworkers, employees, bosses, they’re all choices.

 

Breath is either automatic or intentional.

Footsteps are either automatic or intentional.

Which do you choose?

Automatic breaths and footsteps reflect an automatic way of being.

Intentional breath and footsteps equal an intentional way of being.

 

Your way of being is the most important and powerful choice of all.

 

And when it comes to those around you, this post is not suggesting you cut people out of your life in order to “not choose” them because they don’t live up to your expectations or match your “vibe”.  No. What “Choose To Evolve” is requesting of you is to choose people for everything they are, and everything they are not.  Choices are not always easy, nor are they meant to be, and the array of things we get to choose from may not be anything we actually want.  So consider that if you read the above statement concerning others in your life and you made a decisionto cut someone out, you are not in a space of choosing, you are deciding. Where does that get you?

 

To be aware of your ability to choose is also to recognize the glorious responsibility you have to be disciplined to create your life, to as gratefully and joyfully choose the things you “have” to do by turning them into the things you GET to do.  These are the things that make your life work: paying your bills on time, studying, giving time and energy to your new project/business/family.  Whatever it is that’s important to you that makes you feel complete, satisfied, and whole when you’re on the other side of completing that task.

 

Deciding your future will not empower or inspire you.  Choosing it, however, will. Choosing is hear-led, with a simultaneous awareness of now and tomorrow, of yourself and others, and how it and we are all connected.

 

To decide resonates with a feeling of resignation, of “this is all there is and nothing can change it” energy.  It’s contracted and small, exactly what the energy of being cut off feels like. Decisions do not empower.

 

Choices empower.  To choose means to take a little taste from everything, to move forward from a space of inquiry and willingness to be swayed, and to select from all of your choices in front of you.

 

From the space of choice, you have literally NO IDEA how far or where you can go.

 

Are you aware that you are constructing your future RIGHT NOW through the choices you make?

 

I invite you to stop deciding your life.  To give up being resigned and “fine” with what you have right now.  The moment you get present to the truth that everything you have right now is a creation of what you have been deciding, that is a powerful moment for you.

 

Make your shift into choosing.  SEE, truly see, with the eyes of your heart what your options are.

 

How do you choose to create your life today?  Where can you begin?

 

The moment you take action, you inspire others to do the same.  The planet is relying on you.