Thursday, August 6, 2015

Badass Women: Sarah

Meet the lovely and fierce Sarah, featured today in the Badass Women series. When I started this series on the blog, Sarah was one of the first women I thought of... not only is she an incredible yoga teacher, but she is also a martial artist and expert pastry chef, a singer, a soon-to-be-mom, and a generous friend. 

Even without knowing all of these things about Sarah, when I first met her I knew that she was someone I wanted to spend more time with. Her wisdom and playful sense of humor are infectious, and I'm grateful that each time I see her I'm reminded to live in the moment, and to make no compromises. 

Thank you, Sarah, for your humble and open heart, and for sharing your story.

What does it mean to be badass?
To me, it's resourcefulness. To use whatever means you have as fuel, sustenance, building blocks, and to make things work that aren't supposed to - whether it's color combinations in art, or beating the odds in a situation. 

There's a verse from the Yoga Sutra that's always stuck with me, that 'One who is firmly established in yoga, could tell a lie, and it would become true through the power of their conviction.'

It's an alchemy of using the imagination, combined with real blood, sweat and tears to create the self we want to be, and the world we want to live in. Meditative discernment + unglamorous diligence = badassery. 

What badass things do you love to do, or have you done? 

I don't "love" to do badass things. They come out of a place of defiance. I had a choice early on in life: break down and be crushed by circumstance, or find a way to survive. Survival necessitated a certain level of what some people might call badass-ness, but I just did what I had to. I lost my family and my home, was dropped into a foreign country, knew no one, didn't speak the language. I didn't adjust well. I resisted everything.

I found creative outlets, difficult teachers, and pushed myself beyond reasonable limits, mostly to distract myself from my life. I write music. I do martial arts. I make wedding cakes. I ride motorcycles and pilot aircraft. I learn languages. I go to comic book conventions. I study military history and natural sciences. I've walked in freshly excavated fossilized dinosaur tracks in Texas. Ive had art exhibitions. I've performed on a movie soundtrack with a 200-piece orchestra backing me up - from Prague. I was a paramedic/firefighter. I learned handguns and knives from a French Foreign Legionnaire - from Austrailia. 

I've moved around, constantly, to gain new experiences and learn new skills, but I always knew it was a crutch for my inability to be still, and let myself feel anything. Yoga studies, Buddhist logic, a lot of reading and meditation held up a mirror to all that, and I've been working on being still since 2002. Most people's challenge is to break free of their attachments. Mine has been to allow myself to be free of my "attachment to non-attachment", and to feel like I deserve to make a home for myself in the world.

What advice have you been given by badass women in your life?
Jennifer Arfa, author and Buddhist yogini, told me, when you find the man you think you want to marry - tell him, you're "just not sure... Not ready to commit... Maybe should just be friends." I thought it sounded inauthentic and conniving at the time, but it happened for me. I told my (now) husband "I wasn't sure, that he should date other people, it might not work out"... And he committed to pursuing me like his life depended on it. I was honest when I told him to scram; I just didn't anticipate that, when I was ready to let the relationship go, that moment was the catalyst for it to get stronger than we ever imagined. Both Ed and I reflect that if we hadn't had that dark period, we wouldn't understand how deep our commitment could be, or what we were truly willing to do for one another. 

My Grandmother told me to go to nursing school. I didn't exactly follow it, but it was good advice. 

My Catholic, Sunday-school teaching mother told me, that God doesn't just shell out talents to just anybody, and that if you have a gift, you are obligated to use it - or it's a sin of ungratefulness towards God. I was seven. I said "so if I don't sing, I go to Hell?" She replied squarely, "yes". I got the message, that Hell is knowing you're not living up to your potential. And that heaven, could possibly be using your skills to the fullest here on Earth. 

My mother died when I was thirteen. That taught me never to take anyone, or anything, for granted. She taught me a lot without teaching, in the way she lived and died. No complaints. Simply moved forward, along a difficult path, with a humility, strength and grace I can only aspire to. 

What advice would you share with others about how to live life to the fullest?
Get knocked down. Hit bottom so hard you don't know which way is up. Don't fight the fact that life hurts. Accept it, and fight for your breath. Don't complain. Take responsibility. Let yourself spend enough time in darkness that you understand how precious the light is, and then never let it go. 

I wish there were any other way on the spiritual path, but it's all unicorns farting rainbows until you've actually been battle tested by life. The grief of life is happiness playing hard to get, to find out how badly you want it. Don't settle. 

If you're angry with life, with God, with whoever, my mantra has been that "the best vengeance... Is to live a beautiful life." Don't let the bad guys win. Don't let mediocrity win. It's a war I fight every day, internally and externally, and it gives me cause to celebrate both my victories, and my noble failures along the way. Usually with libation. (That's the Irish in me speaking.) 

What things do you do to take care of yourself and stay inspired?
I exercise. I spend time admiring nature and sky. I read stories of brilliant human spirits - most recently, The Lions Gate by Steven Pressfield about the Israeli military during the Six Day War. I go to museums. I listen to music that  takes me unexpected places. I seek out the company of people I look up to and want to be more like. I eat simple at home, but love being a foodie when I'm out. I treat myself to froufrou skin products. It's a second chakra thing.

In the next year or two, what badass plans will you make a reality?
One of my teachers, Carolyn Myss, says "if you want to make God laugh - tell him about your plans." I am a planner—I strategize constantly—but, there are too many variables in life to really, truly ever know what's next. The life I currently live, is one I would have thought terribly unlikely only 3 years ago. That being said, it's a lot brighter than I imagined! 

I plan to have a baby (I'm 2 months pregnant with my first) but even that, isn't a given. I will be privileged and blessed if all goes well with baby. I plan to create music for a series of online yoga videos I intend to film. I'm planning to continue to make art out of sugar in the pastry world ( I plan to fall further in love with my husband Ed. I intend to keep a finger on the yoga pulse of Roseville to see where I can make history with the other pioneers. I plan to be surprised and grateful at all the things I couldn't possibly plan, and never saw coming. I feel like it's a great day when I can say, "WowI never saw THAT coming!" 

Thank you, Sarah, for your inspiring stories! I am so grateful for you. 
PS Read about more Badass Women. Cheers to living life fearlessly!

Photos courtesy of Sarah.

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