murphyormel

wacky reflections from a nutcracker wannabe

Tag: spiritual

The mat is a magical place. Just breathe.

“Breathing gives man strength, vitality, inspiration, and magic powers.” – Chuang Tzu[1]

Teaching college coursework and years of public speaking in advance of yoga teacher training gave me confidence in front of a group. Prep work, delivery of material, study of my 20+ year professional world and critical lingo to the subject. Check!  But to be in the real seat for the first time in this new world as a Yogini Tour Guide – a world that brings me deeply profound and personal passion and emotion that I don’t teach in a college class room- has indeed been humbling. The mat is safe. It is sacred. It is mine.

I knew having fun was key. I knew prep, material, time and sharing an authentic me would make for a strong teacher and rich class experience where students want to follow and return. But when the bell rings and class starts, I am again reminded this journey of a beautiful practice of asana, pranayam and anatomy take time to strengthen (a practice of its own), and they are looking to me to guide them through a journey, an experience not for a grade or degree but for something deeper and heartfelt.

My magic wand of knowledge can indeed be magic only if treated with respect, integrity, candor, knowledge, selflessness and loving-kindness to the body.

The opposing forces of knowing what I have learned thus far; however, are causing me internal angst. I know just enough to be a yogini snob, meaning test my own waters of ego, as I briefly return to the role of student. I’m struggling with alternatively trained or not trained teachers leading postures that I now know are risky to my body and full of ‘Simon Says’ moments and ego. I find myself having to breathe deeply and let go of my want to correct their approach, cry out or protect my neighbor who doesn’t know any better. Certainly, this is some awareness to Santosha[2] (ethical concept of Indian Philosophy, one of the Niyamas meaning contentment, satisfaction) I didn’t see coming my way. But I continue to come back: 1. To remain faithful to my mat. 2. To observe this experience as it continues or dissipates. This “practice” of letting it go- like letting a passing car go without thinking about the passengers or destination – is the test.  And my self-reported inability or insecurity around the concept of “letting go” is an entirely separate blog post. 🙂

The most significant observation I’m practicing today is the role itself, meaning Teacher v Student. Sure, I can prep the class sequence with planes of movement in pratapana (warm-ups), teach basic pranayama, explain benefits/contraindications for varying asana, share a poem or reflection for meditation prior to Savasana, etc., but guiding someone’s personal journey doesn’t require a course syllabus.

As I continue this transition from student to teacher and back to student, I continue to observe my ability to be in the moment (or not). A student yogini for many years, I know my own body, I shift when good pain turns to bad, I adjust/realign based on my own anatomy, and I know to breathe thoughtfully in order to maintain my balance. I don’t even think when I do these things, the mat is the magic carpet with a guide leading the way.

So now, I face a world knowing far more about anatomy, philosophy and pranayam (breath work) than ever before. Acting as the tour guide not the traveler is a shift of self-awareness, breath, and trust. I must be AHEAD of the moment for the students’ experience and protection rather than IN the moment with my own body. And most importantly, I must learn to let go of my own ego as “teacher”. I am honored to know what I have been taught thus far, but realize this is simply the beginning of the practice as teacher.

Joyfully and with thoughtful intention, I commit to inhale the experience and accept my opportunities for change as new learnings of discipline, philosophy, acceptance, non-judgment and friendship emerge.

The mat is a magical place. Just breathe.

Om Shanti,

Mel

[1] Anatomy and Asana, Suzi Hately, Section 3:Principles, pg. 27

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santosha

“the only corner of the world you can change is your own.”

The only corner of the world you can change is your own“, my yoga teacher, Sarah, said these words to me- and bizarrely, I dated the quote 3/13.  Oddly, that date hasn’t arrived yet, and I held on to it when I can’t explain why today.  Regardless, she has been my healer for over 10 years- not knowing her wise words would do the trick and/or how often I call up words she said to me years ago during a Sunday morning practice.

Even if I haven’t had the energy to be back in her studio in some time, I go back to the mat in my living room even just to sit, when my body can’t do more than simple asanas and sometimes just breathe, because even that is some form of healing and brings calm in a most needed moment.

I am one week from returning to work and strangely my anxiety is incredibly high.  I am terribly bored at home and sleep nearly 18 of 24 hours on a good day, so you’d think returning would be ideal.  I really enjoy what I do, so that isn’t the issue either- in fact, I’ve missed some great successes with a talented team.  Seems like I should be thrilled to return, and yet, I’m wondering if the reality of returning to an every day cycle of life without the mess of my life swirling so close to me and “out there” is what has me anxious today.  Is it that folks will expect normalcy when I don’t know what normal is anymore?  Is it that I have to face the next phase head on with a more positive lingering of sickness?

Sure, I will do this silly junior mint cancer thing again in a year, but my intuition says I will get the A and finally a negative read and thankfully, the nightmare of this mess will be over.  Is it that a wonderful man from my past wants a real relationship, and I’m terrified of letting anyone down or being hurt myself ?  That jealousy takes over, and I can’t find a way to manage this hurt that he didn’t create.

And my sweet girl….I’m humiliated at what I have put her through in the last few years.  Am I teaching her anything with these sweet mistakes – meaning, vulnerability, humility, giving of my heart and believing in people, or am I hurting her when I can’t get it right and so many others do?  (ok, that alone is its own blog post with a divorce rate so high and more people concerned about my junior mint experience than the loss of a marriage)

I have been reading this great book, “A Wild New World” by Martha Beck. She talks about being a wayfinder, a healer.  What she doesn’t say is in direct correlation with my wise yogi teacher and wayfinder, Sarah, “the only corner of the world you can change is your own”.  She speaks of feeling from within, going into wordlessness and using the power of energy to feed and feel others interconnectedness, others “oneness” (ironically, a previous blog post- are we all interconnected after all?).  Folks who are highly creative, emotional and often gregarious on the outside but have a deep need for quiet on the inside are often part of this “Team” as she refers to this membership of sorts.  What I love is where it takes me- somewhere outside of my own life, somewhere possible to make change.

So Sarah through me to Ms. Beck herself are now interconnected, as “the only corner of the world we can change is our own.”  We simply each find our own way to change our corner.  I, however, am still searching.

Cheers to deep breathing, closing our eyes and feeling our insides sing and love that exists, even when we don’t feel so lovable.

I am blessed.  Just have trouble seeing it sometimes.  I suspect I am not alone.

Mel

Perspective shines on me. And the countdown to glow starts….

Perspective.  Our lives take on varying degrees at different times.  Tonight, as hundreds of mourners stood together in silence, powerful fear and tremendous sadness, the stunning reality of a life taken so young, we each personally awake to what we do have.

Each other.  Today.  The Present.

For me, this silly cancer could go on for two years, six+ years, who knows, but I will work in between, love my daughter, get my life back on track, fall in love again, and pray the end comes at some point.

It will likely not take me from my family except for the annual bear-cave routine, and if it did, I would know life sent me magical moments and gifts beyond anything a blog could express.  I am blessed with beautiful souls who have stood by my side, the courage to wake up and reevaluate an authentic me, unconditional love and friendship when I wasn’t so lovable, what makes me tick on the inside not just the “on”side, what toxic means, and what real perspective is…..

Today, the second parent my age in six months will say goodbye to a child, and there is nothing anyone can say that helps – except to cry with them and let them know we are here – nor can we ever truly know that heartache unless it is us.

Pain is like that.  It can’t be compared.  It shouldn’t be.  

My speed bumps of a silly marriage and divorce, miscarriages that surprised then passed, and now a few trips over the river and through the woods for next week’s again “she’s not a pharma rep but  a patient” radio iodine treatment, seem like nothing when perspective takes a greater meaning like my friend’s family endures today.

God has gifted me a loving, clever, smart, charming, type A, sometimes smarty-pants (as she should be at this age), beautiful, amazing daughter, and for that I am grateful for recognizing what I have.

That it takes loss, meditation, prayer and silence to remind us is the sad part.

Cheers to a beautiful angel who teaches me a lesson I needed desperately to hear when anyone and everyone has said the same thing for the last 12 months, and I couldn’t hear those closest to me.  Or I chose not to listen, because I wasn’t ready.

Sometimes, lessons come from where and when we least expect.

The countdown to the now annual “glow” begins.  A week from today, I will be given the “dose”, measured with the Geiger counter, body scanned again and given instruction on the next steps toward healing, but you know, it will be a-ok regardless of what they find, as the mack truck in me will shine again.

Now, that is perspective I didn’t own until this week.

White lights,

Mel

Living two lives. Thank heavens it is a Monday.

So, I’m just home after an 11+ hour day on a Monday.  My sweet daughter is working on homework.  I am however entering the second part of my double life.  The part where reality hits a home-run.

In front of a group of physicians, colleagues, city officials, students, large clubs, toastmasters, BOD involvement, the c-suite, etc., I am “on”.  I was raised to be “on”.  What I wasn’t cleared for was the slap of pain that is called my second life.  It happens on weekends, evenings without my  daughter, any time frankly, when fear and a hit or reminder of what loneliness means to my new path, strikes.

A loneliness I hadn’t seen in many moons.

I’ve said to several people lately, I live two lives, but few- very few!- see both.  One life is polished, confident, capable, knows how to market just about anything and meet/greets like she is running for office.  The other finds safety in her bedroom cave, can sleep away full days without leaving or eating, enjoys a teary eyed afternoon for release, and keeps trying like hell to accept this new phase of life.  Partially, I’m just exhausted because raising a 6th grader, living with a cancer that won’t leave my body, and working long hours is just plain tiring (to be fair, I thrive on the craziness and stir), but tonight, when I should be able to just enjoy a little reading or a no brainer TV show, I am again engulfed by the reality of not accepting a divorce that is inevitable, nor something I chose, wonderful friendships I have damaged along this windy road, family I barely see because I am humiliated about what has happened, and a daughter who rightly so, is mad at the world because of what has happened in our lives in two years.  (She is also a new teenager, and with that, comes new pangs that even a healthy mama with a brain that works 100% can’t navigate. :))

The reality is I live two lives.  Monday-Friday, 6am-6pm is life one.  And when my sweet girl is with me, I go into “on” mode, but otherwise, the second life path is a struggle and few know my boundaries, expectations for myself, perspective on what is important today, my new questions and fears of commitment, what fierce loyalty means to someone ill, questioning if a porch swing partner can maintain a promise, questioning faith, the messiness of changing my last name and identity for marriage in the year 2012, and the biggest of all – questioning my own choice for a lifetime commitment of unconditional love and friendship.

Thank heavens today is a Monday.  The second life is dark until week end.

I may be the only person who genuinely celebrates the work week, because it is safer on my heart.  (And ironically, I am in charge of crisis communications in an industry that is fourth most dangerous for work place violence (just next to liquor stores and taxi cabs).  Sounds fitting for a Mel-like story,  right?)

Cheers to a productive and happy Tuesday.

Om Shanti, Mel

The smack down of STL humidity is a lot like life. It just happens.

….and we embrace, endure, unleash our creative spirit, and take the journey back to ourselves.

I tend to run at 100mph most of the time.  It’s perhaps an escape mechanism, long legs and heels, or perhaps it’s just type A madness from which I cannot escape.  But regardless, I too must crash from time to time to refresh, renew spirit and ask for spiritual alignment.

My supervisor teases me that as an extrovert, I am in my element when “on”, and as such, the energy pushes me through even the toughest of anxious situations.  But these moments do test my ability to be “on” in the same way I have always known, when my personal life “storm” isn’t as obvious publicly.  So, sometimes the crash is even harder on my spirit.

Frankly, at work, with my sweet girl or with a close friend or family, I can either escape totally from the “storm” or be candid about the real me.  And here too, I get that same release in some strange way.  But when the escape moment is over, there is not a metaphor more suitable than like walking outside into the STL humidity that smacks you in the face to bring you back to the reality of our lives.  The wall of heat that hits you hard as you walk out of a cool, safe place.

We all carry “stuff” with us on our journey.  Just this week, I learned of a peer who has been facing an emotional wound he keeps close to the vest.  And while his family enjoyed incredibly loving and optimistic news to remedy this wound just this week, it reminded me again of how we break a leg and stay home but an emotional wound hits, and we still get up, drink coffee, make the bell for the early morning meeting and go home to that reality.  It’s all around us, and yet we don’t know who embraces what and what path they take to heal themselves.

It affirms I am where I am meant to be, meaning the people who cross my path at a given moment and reach out to ask if I am ok even when they don’t know the big picture.  I am incredibly honored by the folks that read this blog and tell me when I had no idea it reached as many, and in as many ways as it has.  My original intention was a cathartic way to reach anyone when I was overwhelmed by my own loneliness, and instead, I learned so many of us face these same anxieties, fears, loss on a day by day, and sometimes moment to moment basis.  You are not alone, my friend.

Yesterday was a vulnerable day.  Last weekend was full, lovely and healing.  Folks see me and forget I have cancer, OR know the other losses, and assume the cancer is gone because the early treatments are done.  And yet, I can’t forget either.  They are my personal humidity smack down, and no one can live in my shoes but me.  The road ahead is long and windy…..and frankly, still pretty damn scary.

But my daughter and I are just two entities in God’s plan.  And we are still keeping it together- day in and day out.  My daughter is my role model for resilience and acceptance.  And she doesn’t even know the strength and love she gives me each and every day to get through this madness and mess.

I remember the first time I could see myself in the mirror after Lasic surgery years ago and thinking “where did those wrinkles come from- they weren’t there before”….lol.  I guess life is a lot like that.  We take off the glasses and reality presents itself in full view.

And then we move forward with vulnerability in some moments, with grace in others.

Om Shanti,

Mel

“The well lived life of a beautiful young man.”

Privileged to work for the kind, loving colleagues, I do, I was again reminded today what is important in our lives.  Priority.  Love.  Family.  Faith.

As I embraced both heartache and celebration of a true hero’s life today -a near 16-year-old boy who has endured, battled, embraced, taught and loved through 8+ years of Leukemia, I was reminded that while my own challenges through mud continue, others too have their own muddy mountains that slip and slide.  We also have hands that reach for us in the dark, heal our heart over time and with amazing courage, love us through darkness and light.

We were not surprised that this young man indeed “practiced what he preached” as his dad shared that M’s words to his middle school graduates just a year ago included the following:….(messages from which we all should live and take on our individual journeys…)

1.  “Help others with disabilities.”  They are not defined by the disability.

2.  “Contribute to your community.” M was always in the corner of the disadvantaged.

3. “Always be kind to one another”.  Kindness matters.

We were graciously offered that M. knew “the power of his purpose was to inspire others to do good”.  And how can you not want that when seeing those bright eyes and big grin flash a spirit so real, piercing and full of faith and adventure, even through fatigue, challenge, change and the unknown?

Cancer is a curse and a blessing, and this young, amazing and ingenious man knew and lived this through his Faith and sharing that which he felt with others.  “It is a curse because of the suffering. It is a blessing because of what flourishes from its presence.”

And finally, what struck me most personally, was a line that flashed on a beautifully prepared memorial video on M.’s life. “Family means never being left behind or forgotten.”  

My friends, love those in your life today.  Ensure they understand you will not leave them alone when frightened and unsure of the journey ahead.  Pray. Hope. Believe. Love. And fierce, fierce loyalty always, as this brave family has done for their sweet M.

We are honored to have known you, M, or know those who love you.  We are stronger for the gifts you have given and the messaged coins you have showered upon our hearts.  We are gifted your presence and belief in a higher power that “asked” you to suffer for a reason I believe you know today in a more peaceful setting.

Today touched me, and I am thankful from a place that even I don’t understand.

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” – Albus Dumbledore.

Om shanti, my young man.  Some day we will meet, and you will tell me how and why the mountains make us whole again.

Melissa

Humility at 30K’ feet.

I’m just one tiny being in this amazing entity. We all are, right?

Think about the next time you are on a plane, and as your altitude ascends, look down- your city, your neighborhood, your house, your friends, your fish….they all become something very tiny, then a flash, then just clouds…..

Is there a lesson in humility – meaning we are just a tiny piece of the bigger picture and our every day chaos is small when viewed from 30K’ feet?  Should we ask ourselves “what will this mean to me next year”?  What will this mean to my neighbor or the next generation?

Think of all we miss in terms of this moment to “just be” when ordering the cocktail, ignoring the flight attendant with the mask (I can, I know it by heart), calming the kids with whatever gooey candy is at the bottom of the bag, or starting the head bob sleeping motion because the plane’s white noise offers a peaceful moment where no one needs you. (I fully admit this traveler’s flaw.)

Instead, next time.  Look down and recognize your place.  Tiny, but with amazing capability.

Kindness matters.  Pay it forward when you get off that plane.  Pull down someone else’s luggage.  Let the rushed passenger before you go ahead of your seat.  Smile at the lady who instantly pulls out her cell phone when landing (and probably fits what would be a Seinfeld “loud talker”), but just be in that moment with those folks, and embrace your place in this big world and the problems, fears, joys and movement the people around you are also facing on their own personal life journey.

Many folks believe all things happen for a reason.  I am one of those people, but I respect that not all do.  For me, music, language and symbols appear, and these elements have always been something I can see and place together.  Do I always listen?  No.  Definitely not as I should.  Sometimes my ego gets the best of me.  But, I’ve noticed  since my recent “perfect storm”, the same word has been coming at me for several weeks – and through different teachers, music, books, church, even a movie…..  The word is “rebirth”- an awakening of some sort.  I don’t completely understand it yet, but I do think the diagnosis and the recent loss are connected.  And perhaps a tie to the Lenten season is timely.

Someone once told me that life is like a tapestry.  We don’t always understand why things happen as they do until we look back at the design  The story will then make sense.  (I’m not really seeing the story yet, and I soooo want to pull that orange thread, but I’ll let you know )

Humility takes all of this greatness, love, forgiveness, authenticity and raw “heart” and weaves together that tapestry (story).  And isn’t that what the greatest storytellers do anyway?  Teach.

BUT, we must be open to listen and not just hear. Me included. And in the last x many months at least, I haven’t listened as my own storm was brewing.  Only through quiet time for me, do I feel that gratefulness and now, humility.  These last few weeks have given me that opportunity.  Who in their right mind would say a cancer diagnosis was a gift?

Me. 

– I have been gifted knowing how many people love me- people I took for granted and/or didn’t tell directly what they mean to my life.  A network so much larger than just email or professional connections of LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook- real people with real lives and real stories that make us all human.

– I have been gifted the ability to ask for help and take action to work on being stronger, both emotionally and spiritually.  “….finding my spiritual alignment…” as one colleague suggested might be necessary.

– While I no longer have the house I sold just a few months ago, I am grateful for my “intimate” condo that provides shelter for my sweet girl and me (without the yard work and ’21 tree threat’ of falling on my house again).

– I am grateful for a professional world that took care of me in my darkest hour  – a hospital that saw a scared patient and took me under their wing of care – and even today, wants only strength and a healthy me prior to my return.

– I am humbled by the beautiful blue skies and warm winds that four weeks ago seemed impossible with snow on the ground.

– I am humbled for the health insurance I do have after seeing the medical care in both Chile and Brazilian acute care and long-term care facilities.

– I am humbled for that which I can feed my family, and the culture I can share with my daughter after traveling to areas of the world without such gifts.

– I am humbled that I have been saving for college for 10+ years, and while it likely still won’t be enough, I have the choice on how to save our funds.  (course, she might be paying for my long-term care at some point.  Cycle of life, right? 🙂

– I am humbled that my daughter continues to thrive amidst the waves of change of which she had no control.  And intuitively just knows all will be well.  (now, if getting the dog out without her rolling her eyes  were only that easy).

I am grateful for my healing.  I am humbled by my blessings.

“Humility like the darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.”- Henry David Thoreau

Namaste’,

Melissa

Grow a goiter, get a goiter.

Four years ago in an effort to win a work halloween costume contest, I created a character.  I don’t have a Crazy Aunt Delilah, but I thought something bigger than life and more creative than the standard Target purchase was a must.  I was, afterall, the quirky (or I liked to imagine) head of the Marcomm team for a medical equipment company.

I visited the local thrift shop and selected a lovely floral housecoat but jazzed up my look with hot pink lipstick (over the teeth of course), many pearls, a flowing black Hannah Montana wig and a fantastically designed goiter with those awful nude colored pantyhose no woman ever chooses unless she is over 80.  (forgive me grandma, your knee highs were darling, and we loved you for being fearless to wear them as kneehighs.  You, HS, rocked a pair!). Crazy aunt Delilah, not so much.

The New York accent was a hit and the boa got me many hugs and several bizarre looks from the uptight stiffs in the office.  Nonetheless, $100 at stake, and I wanted that prize.

I only took second.

HOWEVER, the goiter crafted by pantyhose actually became a real goiter two years later.  Karma or Murphy’s law?

I should definitely get my $100 now.

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