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Today will hold magical moments.
Be on the lookout for miracles.
Invite in beautiful, quiet, sacred moments.
When you first step into the shower, notice the way the warm water feels on your skin.
At the end of your practice, sink into Shavasana. Let go.
When you pull someone in close for a hug, pause. Notice how every cell of your body feels.
Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.
- Light a fire in the fireplace, or the firepit in the front yard.
- Take a walk in the woods, or around your neighborhood.
- Light a candle.
- Read a magazine in the sunshine.
- Have a glass of wine.
- Watch the sun set.
- Take an epsom salt bath.
- Journal for 15 minutes.
- Practice relaxing yin yoga postures.
I live with Chronic Lyme, which is really tough condition! For me it looks like some combination of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and chemical sensitivities.
My capacities vary widely: sometimes I can cycle and hike, sometimes I need help getting to the bathroom and back or getting covers over my feet (and just about anything in between).
Having a yoga practice through this means that I cannot strive to a next level or even know, in the morning, what kind of practice I can do in the evening. It means that I have to see what movement is going to support my body and its healing in the moment of my practice: is it an active standing practice, is it a slow practice that allows gravity to release pain and stiffness, or it is simply using a bolster to support the opening of my breath and release of tension?
Being present with what supports where I actually am in my body on a given day supports my ability to connect to my chronic illness warrior self and finding the capacity for self-love.
Connecting with other people with chronic illnesses is a huge source of strength for me. This January I ran an eight-week program called Living Chronically, a group for people living with a chronic condition—pain, disability, illness. When living with chronic pain, it’s easy to become isolated and easier still to then feel as if we’re doing something wrong and judge ourselves for not accomplishing everything we would if health issues were not a barrier.
When spending time with other folks with chronic illnesses and exploring our relationships to aspects of ourselves as whole people—spirituality, sexuality, community—I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the inner strength and badassedness of the people around me. This community reminds me to hold myself in this light as well. When I’m in too much pain to live my life as I wish, when I have to cancel activities I was looking forward to, I am reminded that I share the struggle with kickass friends.
Our pain is not our fault; our fortitude is to our credit.
This sense of shared struggle is part of why I have my blog, the Chronic Yogi: On Being a Chronic Illness Healing Badass. I have had folks contact me to let me know that because of a post on relationships and chronic illness someone has been able to revision what they bring to a partnership as someone with disabilities, or that a post on triggers has helped a person stop blaming themselves for changes in friendship networks that they have experienced since getting sick. This feedback inspires me to keep working to shift cultures in which people with chronic illnesses often end up isolated from community. Pretty badass.
What has shaped your journey to this point in your life?
There are so many things. Being a survivor, I’ve had to work to develop a sense of connection to myself and sense of safety inside my own skin. My yoga practice has been a huge part of this! Being queer has been so valuable to this work. It has given me access to vibrant counter-cultures that celebrate a wide range of having a body—fat bodies, hairy bodies—and different ways of communicating around intimacy and sexuality that does not make assumptions about what works for everyone.
Having Chronic Lyme has been such a challenge to this work! Since the condition is not recognized by the CDC and treatment is not covered, I have had to spend a lot of time and energy living with intense pain and distress while facing not being believed by health care professionals. This has brought up so much hard history and been such a source of struggle. Holding a PhD in Gender Studies has helped me to be able to research, push back, and continue to seek adequate care and treatment for my health as well as advocating for and supporting others with Chronic Lyme (or those with conditions such as Fibromyalgia, MS, Chronic Fatigue, Chemical Sensitivities and other illnesses that often have symptoms that are the result of un-diagnosed Lyme disease).
What practices help you stay grounded and help you rejuvenate?
Being in nonstop pain is freaking rough. It takes so much energy to keep getting through the day and keep striving to get well. It’s easy to focus on my body as a problem to be solved. My yoga practice helps me to make a space where I can experience a sense of home in my body. I write more about this here and here.
I have been trying to develop a practice of cultivating small, everyday pleasures. Finding moments to go to the ocean and watch the waves, appreciate eating raspberries off the vine, or sit and have tea with a friend. These moments, however small, can rejuvenate my energy and commitment to working through pain.
What would you tell a woman who needs help tapping in to her inner strength?
I think many women, in many circumstances, need to hear, “This is not your fault” and, “You are not alone.”
So often women are made responsible for circumstances they did not choose—from bring abused to getting a chronic illness—and are asked to examine how their own actions caused their pain. To women facing this, I want to stress, “This is not your fault.” You can and will heal but this is not your fault. You did not cause the pain you are in and you do not to be worn down through examining what you could have done differently to avoid it.
When we feel we are to blame, it is easy to feel alone in our pain and struggle. We believe our struggle to be separate from the cultural conditions that make it possible for our pain to play out the way it does. But you are not alone. There are others who face the pain you face and whose struggles are similar to yours. You are not alone.
Where will you go from here? Any badass plans for 2016?
I will continue to develop the Chronic Yogi as a blog through this year. Often folks living with chronic pain, illness, and disabilities face mental fog that makes long reading too laborious. I am committed to writing the Chronic Yogi blog in short, accessibly written pieces. Over time, I plan to publish a Chronic Yogi book, keeping the commitment to accessible writing and chapter breakdowns.
I first started Living Chronically as part of my work as a UU Director of Lifelong Learning. When talking with people in the role of a director, I learned that many folks with disabilities and pain talked about not being “as much” a part of the community due to limited energy or not being able to contribute to committee work or the financial life of the organization as much as they would like.
Living Chronically was different from a support group in a medical context. It was led by and for those with chronic illness, with the goal of facilitating as sense of belonging and membership in a larger community, rather than with the goal of imparting new skills or beliefs. This year I will also be applying for grants to further develop the Living Chronically series, piloting the format in a variety of community settings. This project will also lead to publishing a curriculum and facilitation guide to support different communities forming their own groups… which would support larger networks of badasses!
Do you sweat a lot in yoga? Do you practice in a heated studio?
Well, this post is for you :)
(And by the way, I do both of those things, too!)
Here are some ideas about how to refresh before and after a sweaty practice.
Use a yoga mat spray like Mat Mist. This amazing, aromatherapeutic spray comes in scents such as Sandalwood lavender geranium, Thyme Douglas fir, Lemon myrtle peppermint vetiver and Colloidal silver water.
What's especially rad about Mat Mist is that all you have to do is spray down your mat after class, roll it up, and go. The essential oils will disinfect your mat without requiring you to wipe it down, plus, next time you practice, there's a little scent there to awaken your senses and encourage deep pranayama breathing.
Sponsored yogini Kelsie recently tried the product... she took it to class and not only did she love it, but she said all the yogis around her loved it and were asking where they could find some :) She also sprays it around her house because it's that good (!!) and she loves that it is all organic and natural.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Do you notice a shift with the people around you?
Do you see how gratitude increases?
Do things become more beautiful and clear, and do those around you seem happier, more stable, more open, and more loving?
I experienced an awesome shift this week. It started with a simple, conscious choice to share my gratitude with someone I love.
Want to try it?
Make a list of things you're grateful for, as they relate to someone you love. For example, I love days when we can get coffee together while you're in the middle of your work day, and I'm grateful for that extra hug you always give me, or, I'm grateful you're not afraid to call me out on my bullsh*t, and that you still say, I love you and I believe in you.
Write about the ways this person shows you that he cares, and why you're grateful to share life's little moments together.
Feel free to include little details and memories that only you two know about, or ones that you guys find funny. Or the things that haven't been easy lately, but that you've managed to get through.
Then, share your list. Let this person know why you're so grateful for him, or her.
Allow this experience to shift your entire day (maybe even leave the note as a surprise in the morning!), and carry this mindset of gratitude into the rest of your week.
How do you express gratitude? And what happens when you do?
PS More ideas on expressing gratitude:
Make a gratitude list.
Simple ways to cultivate gratitude.
Questions to consider in your gratitude journal.
When you get stuck in a bad mood, what helps you get 'unstuck?'
Some days, I want to crawl back in bed by 9am, yell at other drivers on the road, give up, cry in the bathroom, crumple up my to-do list, run away, throw my phone in the garbage, or just drink wine even though it's only noon.
Recently, while I was having a bad day, I stumbled across a post from Rachel Brathen (Yoga Girl) about having bad moments, not bad days. She had compiled a list of things that helps her move on when things aren't going her way.
I loved how she put it: "Own it. Feel it. Get out of it."
Such a helpful reminder! When we feel stuck in a terrible mood, we do have the choice to try and shift out of it.
So, I made my own list, and I'm planning to refer back to it the next time I'm feeling stuck. Hope these ideas are helpful to you, too (whether it's a Monday or not a Monday!).
- Breathe. Pause to notice my body. When I feel angry or frustrated, I tend to breathe less. Or, if I'm anxious, I might even hold my breath. Simply sitting down and choosing to take five deep breaths can make a big difference in giving myself the time to become aware of how my body feels. I do a quick scan, head to toe, to see what I notice. It helps to pause the thoughts, notice the body, and increase the breath.
- Get outside. Or at least get out of the house. If I'm near a walking path, a beach, or a park, I'll go there. I sit in the sunshine and notice the sounds around me. I try to notice the other people, too, and that I am not alone.
- Practice yoga. If the thought creeps in, "I don't want to," or, "I can't today," ignore it. I roll out my mat anyway. If I can get to the studio, I go take a class and I do my best to let the teacher and the yogis around me hold space for me. I do my favorite poses, ten minutes minimum. Sun salutations are great for getting the spine moving, which shifts energy in the body.
- Invert. Getting upside down has a physical effect on the brain, and it can help shift your mood. I like to take headstand for at least 8-10 breaths. Headstand doesn't make things perfect, or even change my circumstances, but it certainly offers me a momentary shift in perspective.
- Be around animals. Animals don't judge you, and they listen. They love unconditionally. Give your dog a walk, or a hug, and see if it can help you smile, even if only for a moment.
- Make a list. Start with the things that are bothering the most. Notice, how are they related to your fears or insecurities? When I write about these things, it tends to help me realize what negative thoughts are making me feel stuck. Sometimes I even like to write down those thoughts and then draw a big fat line through them, as a reminder that my mind is not in a truthful space. It's almost like telling my thoughts, "NO, you're wrong" and it helps me move forward. The alternative list you can make: shit I accomplished today! Yeah, taking a shower counts! So does getting dressed, eating a nourishing meal, and putting your dishes in the dishwasher!
- Rest. A lot of times I get in a shitty mood because I've been going too fast and too hard for too long. I'm exhausted. My body is suffering, or tired, or hurting. Taking a short nap, a hot bath, or a night off can make a big difference in getting back into a good mood.
- Get off of social media. Social media encourages us to compare ourselves to everyone around us. If I'm having a shit day, seeing other people smiling about all the happy things they're up to doesn't tend to help. One trick I use is to put the icons for Facebook and Instagram on a different 'page' of my phone, so I have to scroll a couple times to get to them. That way, I can't just mindlessly click to look at notifications. Trust that spending some time away from the stories and input of those around you will give you clarity.
- Talk through it. Usually the thing that helps me the most is to call, text, or talk to someone who loves me unconditionally. Opening up and voicing what my concerns are-- it really takes the pressure off. I try to be selective about who I talk to, and choose someone that is going to listen and be supportive, not try to change the situation for me or make me feel guilty, upset, or ashamed.
- Give yourself some small token of appreciation, or pause for a moment to celebrate. I like to wear jewelry as a reminder of what mantra I'm trying to keep in my mind, or put on a piece of clothing that makes me feel beautiful, or confident. Or I go to a coffee shop and buy myself a coffee, and focus on the fact that I deserve to feel good for a part of my day. It can also be helpful to pause and ask, "What's going well today? Anything?" and even if the answer is that I was able to get laundry done, I pause for a moment to celebrate that damn laundry.
- Let yourself off the hook for doing a whole damn list, and just do one thing that feels good. Maybe none of these things are going to help me get out of a bad mood today. So, move on from those, and do one thing that will help. When you take a moment to ask yourself what that one thing is, you'll know. Just go do it.
- And, because it's worth repeating, remind yourself: YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH, YOU ARE ENOUGH, YOU ARE LOVED.
Photos via Pinterest and by Justin Kral and Respiro Photography.
Do you ever make gratitude lists?
Un-put-down-able. Adjective informal
1. (of a book) so engrossing that one cannot stop reading it.
This book channels the inner nature of the self, and is a stunning body of work. Many of the poems are excerpts from the work of practitioners all over the world and their words embody my inner most emotions, most strongly, love. Its much easier to express my profound love to others with the help of Mala Of Love.
So true, so inspiring, so deep.
Here are a few excerpts from the book, to give you a sense of how it reads.
An excerpt from page 42:
An excerpt from the book's introduction:
The diverse voices form a mala, or a garland of 108 prayer beads. Although identified with Eastern traditions, the mala has been increasingly accepted as a sacred tool in other parts of the world. All the beads of a mala are equal, complete in themselves, and yet related to one another. Each turning of the beads steadies and deepens a connection to the Supreme. On a practical level, this collection — like the mala — is an interactive tool allowing the reader to commune with love. We can read the poems aloud in the same way we might recite a mantra or a prayer with a mala. Consistent use helps foster a shift in our neural pathways, so that eventually we become that which we meditate on. We become love.
I'm grateful when I receive emails about new books that are coming out, or I have the chance to read them or share them with the Sponsored Yogis team.
We'll be sharing some book reviews soon, but first I just wanted to share this sweet quote from Yani. I emailed her to let her know to expect books in the mail, and this was her response...
My initial response, knowing that these books are on their way... instant gratitude.
I love personal growth books. I geek out. I often feel that they arrive in my life at the right time, and I will be reading them at the right moment.
I cannot wait to dig deep and allow this new information into my mind.
What a beautiful thought, right? Instant gratitude. And, an openness to receiving new information at the exact right time.
Just had to share that with you guys :)