Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Radical Acceptance

Acceptance - when a person agrees to experience a situation, to follow a process or condition without attempting to change it, protest, or exit.

For many of us, acceptance can be a challenging concept. It means relinquishing control over a belief or an idea we have and allowing a situation or a person to simply exist as they are without attempting to change them and to sit without judgment. 

We are complicated creatures and all of us crave acceptance from loved ones and peers. Within this sphere of acceptance, we feel safe to explore ourselves, to try new things, to realize truths...

Most importantly, true acceptance means giving someone permission to fail without fear of retribution or ridicule. It is only through failure that we are able to become our most authentic selves.

So, what is radical acceptance and how do we implement it in our lives?


For Caya, radical acceptance is one of our core tenants. 

To us, it means trusting each individual to know what's best for them. It means welcoming failure with open arms and providing support as people try, try, and try again. It means acknowledging the wisdom that lives within all of us and nurturing the potential each of us has in our hearts.

We understand that to be accepted exactly as you are now, imperfections and all, leads to liberation and empowerment. When someone feels "seen", they gain a sense of importance and confidence which leads to innovation, adventure, a bold willingness to seek truth and joy...and this kind of positivity reaps immense benefits.

Here are a few things to consider if you'd like to practice radical acceptance within your community and relationships:
  • Give people a chance to talk and really, truly, actively listen. Take in their words, soak in their tone, study their body language, listen for things going unsaid, and breathe in what they're sharing with you. Don't start preparing for what you're going to say in response, don't let your mind wander to your grocery list or make mental notes about things you don't want to forget to say...these are all symptoms of NOT listening and don't convey a feeling of safety.
  • Welcome new ideas instead of challenging others to acknowledge that you're right. Encourage dialog. Share something about yourself that leaves you vulnerable to inspire confidence in others to do the same. You'll be surprised at the beauty you find.
  • Leave judgment at the door. It's okay to disagree or have completely different outlooks on life. By giving someone the freedom to express themselves without fear of attack, you give them permission to explore and dig a little deeper. You might just help them uncover a new truth or idea!
  • Love without expecting anything in return. Love isn't about what you get. It's about what you give and how you give it. Simply love people for where they are (however flawed) and they will enjoy spending time with you because they feel nurtured and cared for. They'll feel safe.
  • Instead of hoping for change and pushing for self-improvement, focus on self-awareness and lending a kind ear as people peel back the layers to discover what's inside their hearts. Their journey might just spark something within you.
  • When someone rejects you for any reason (not everyone is ready for acceptance, kindness, or love without strings attached), don't take it personally. Remember that you can only control your reaction to a situation and you can never control anyone else. As long as you remain genuine, authentic, and kind, life with always find a way to shower you with blessings. Life isn't a competition. It's a journey that we share together.
What other things might we do to inspire acceptance and safety within our relationships and community?


This past weekend was the annual Washington, DC Capital Gay Pride celebration. At the Pride Parade, I had the immense pleasure of seeing PFLAG (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) come through.

If you want to talk about radical acceptance, this is a perfect example of where to find it. In the face of discrimination, these people shout their love from the rooftops. Pure inspiration.

Imagine how much more balanced and kind all of us would be if our parents and friends marched in a parade declaring their love and acceptance for our differences? 

Wouldn't it be a beautiful world indeed?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Exploring Transpersonal Hypnotherapy

As a certified transpersonal hypnotherapist, I find that most people only hear “hypnotherapist” and either assume I’m a magician or a therapist.

Quite the contrary, a transpersonal hypnotherapist is a holistic therapy that integrates mind, body, and spirit to transport clients into the deepest levels of the human spirit. The focus is on the individual and the divine that lives within each of us. We just need a little reminder from time to time on how to tap into that power.

If you’re looking for change, then transpersonal hypnotherapy is a deeply relaxing, non-invasive approach to discovering a new you.

There are extraordinary myths and misunderstandings when it comes to hypnotherapy. So what is it, exactly?

You know when you zone out while you’re driving and suddenly you can’t remember the last few miles of the highway? Or if you’re sitting in front of the TV and you get completely absorbed and suddenly, 10 minutes have passed in the blink of an eye? That’s basically hypnosis. It’s when your conscious mind begins to quiet and your subconscious mind begins to listen.

If you’ve ever meditated or done guided imagery, this is another example of light hypnosis. With transpersonal hypnotherapy, you are in complete control at all times, and you end up in a deeply relaxed state where your subconscious is given an opportunity to communicate through images or sensations, and you can begin to reprogram old behaviors or thought patterns that no longer serve you.

Regardless of what work is being done, or to what outcome, clients always report feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and empowered at the end of a session.

What’s in it for you, though? What would you employ a transpersonal hypnotherapist for?

If you have thoughts, habits, or behaviors that you’d like to change, then you can tap into the power of transpersonal hypnotherapy to re-program your subconscious. This technique allows access to your higher self and the innate wisdom we all have available to us.

A short list of common programs include:
- Smoking cessation
- Stress/anxiety reduction
- Breaking habitual behavior like nail biting
- Experiencing deep relaxation
- Past-life regression
- Overcoming fears and phobias
- Learning a new behavior or skill
- Dealing with grief, loss, or enhancing relationships with loved ones
- Uncovering a personal truth or to find the answer to a question
- Healing and pain management
- Spiritual development

The sky really is the limit, but the beauty of a transpersonal hypnotherapy session is that you work with your therapist to customize a program that is completely tailored to your needs, likes, dislikes, goals, and personality. You can go as quickly or as slowly as you feel comfortable with and it’s 100% safe.

We’ve had tremendous success with clients and smoking cessation. In each past-life regression, I’ve sat with clients who relive amazing traumas and come out feeling relieved and healed and I’ve witnessed profound change in the period of an hour or two.

For folks with chronic stress or anxiety, transpersonal hypnotherapy can be incredibly empowering and liberating. Pain management begins to seem attainable. Questions that have long gone unanswered suddenly seem to have crystal clear answers or the questions lose their power and focus can be shifted to something useful.

If nothing else, experiencing a past-life regression or simply floating in the deepest levels of your mind can be liberating and insanely interesting.

Hopefully, this answers a few of your questions, but if you have more please let us know and we’d love to share the dialogue with others. And leave a message or email us at caya.comeasyouare(at)gmail.com if you'd like more information about a private session.

Watch for a free guided meditation that we’ll be posting in the next few days. It’s a perfect little session that you can use for times when you are stressed and running out of patience and you just need someone to hit the Reset button. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Yoga 101 – What are all of these different styles of yoga?

 Most folks that are unfamiliar with yoga, or are fairly new to the practice, are surprised to learn that there are dozens of various styles and practices to choose from.

So what do they all mean and what might be a good fit for you?

Here’s a brief overview of some of the most common styles:

Anusara – one of the fastest growing disciplines in the U.S., this hatha yoga system teaches students that everything in the entire world (including your voice, your pain, or your car) is an expression of the Divine. Largely derived from Iyengar, Anusara emphasizes movement that marries with the energy of life to increase alignment with body, mind, and spirit. High emphasis is placed on correct alignment for optimal benefits in each pose.

Ashtanga – for the intensely physical and athletic. Ashtanga folks practice a prescribed set of asanas while concentrating on visual focus points and internal body locks. Sometimes called Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, this is a sequential moving practice of high intensity. There is also a deep connection with the founder of yoga, Patanjali. Many classes open with a chant in Sanskrit dedicated to his name.

Bikram – also known as hot yoga, this style of yoga is usually practiced in a room pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Expect to sweat and expect a challenge. Using the same 26 postures in every class, the heat helps the body eliminate toxins while helping muscles to relax. Brought to the U.S. in 1971 by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga is perfect for people who don’t mind repetition and want to work towards mastery of these powerful poses.

Iyengar – a style of yoga that progresses from basic to very challenging, Iyengar focuses heavily on proper alignment in order to reap the true benefits of each pose. Created by B.K.S. Iyengar, it brings together the disciplines of proper alignment, proper prop usage, and a variety of breathing techniques. Look to develop strength, flexibility, stamina, and balance with regular practice of Iyengar.

Jivamukti – perfect for the yogi that likes physically challenging asanas as well as a strong focus on meditation, chanting, and learning the sacred yoga texts. Cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon wanted to marry their Ashtanga backgrounds with a more spiritual approach and thus, Jivamukti was born.

Kripalu – simultaneously challenging and approachable, Kripalu yoga focuses on spiritual awakening, psychological growth, and physical healing through inward focus during practice and a strong awareness of breath. Kripalu yoga is perfect for people of all body types, but especially individuals looking to transform their lives. Kripalu yoga has a variety of styles within this school of yoga including Gentle, Dynamic, and Moderate.

Kundalini – one of the most spiritual forms of yoga, Kundalini is intensely emotional and spiritual. Most of the physical exercises are done seated or on the floor, however, Kundalini yoga is also one of the most powerfully transformative styles of yoga. Called “the yoga of awareness”, Kundalini uses long, challenging repetitive movements to free stress, energy blockages, and mental blocks in order to allow the powerful energy at the base of your spine to release you into a spiritual high. While it’s important to find a skilled and trustworthy teacher, this yoga is definitely a favorite for us.

Sivananda – a five-principled discipline focusing on proper exercise (yoga); proper breathing (pranayama); proper relaxation (Savasana, or Corpse Pose); proper diet (vegetarianism); and positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (dhyana). Founded by Swami Sivananda, this somewhat vigorous practice focuses on 12 postures to increase strength and flexibility of the spine while releasing stress and energy blockages. Look for a Sivananda Fundamentals course if you’re looking for an introduction into the style.

Svaroopa – a restorative practice, Svaroopa is a no-impact style of yoga that looks to support your body into healing and removing pain. This style is perfect for folks with little-to-no flexibility, significant injuries, high levels of stress, or chronic illness. Using props, Svaroopa is a restful and approachable practice that nurtures your body and your injuries towards healing. Expect to feel deeply relaxed and at peace during the practice.

Viniyoga – created by T.K.V. Desikachar, this gentle practice recognizes that each person is on a completely unique path with completely unique needs. The poses are used in combination with breath, but the sequence is entirely determined by the practitioner depending on individual needs and ability. Considered an integrated practice, Viniyoga is perfect for the person that’s on a quest for change and growth on a path towards self-realization.

Yin – all of the yoga’s mentioned above (with the possible exception of Svaroopa) are considered Yang yoga – they are focused on muscle release, muscle strength and conditioning, and muscle flexibility. Yin yoga is a deep, slow practice but it is not restful or restorative. Yin practice focuses on opening up the connective tissues deep within the joints. Poses are held for long periods of time to allow the muscles and bones to relax so that the connective tissues can be reached. The practice is not physically strenuous, but your body definitely feels the effects after the session. A nice balance to a more standard Ashtanga/Yang practice.

But, how do you pick a style that’s right for you?

It is best to do two things:
1)      Try each of the styles
2)      Try each style with a few different teachers at a few different studios

You may find that you love Iyengar with one teacher and don’t connect with the style with another teacher. So both the style and the teacher are very important.

Consider mixing a restorative practice with a more rigorous practice, and if you’re a beginner, find a nice Fundamentals class and go through the program 2-3 times until you really feel like you’ve mastered proper alignment and increased your strength. From there, the sky is the limit!

And always, always, always remember – yoga is about self-awareness, NOT self-improvement. Yoga allows you to settle into your body exactly as it is in this moment, so don’t push it or judge it or you’ll be missing the point.

We’d love to hear from you what your favorite styles of yoga are and whether you have questions about any other styles or disciplines that you’ve heard of!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Overcoming Insincerity

 Lately, I’ve been faced with an extraordinary amount of insincerity. I know I’m certainly guilty of it, too, and it stems from fear, exhaustion, or insecurity. Over the last few months there seems to be a growing epidemic of insincere sentiments and unkind words being tossed around like water balloons on a hot summer day.

I’ve been working hard to cultivate compassion, patience, love (for myself and for others), and kindness. Some days these things come naturally. Other days, I find myself struggling to stay afloat and maintain inner peace in the face of sarcasm, criticism, negativity, anger, and more. The onslaught can feel like a physical attack at times.

So what is insincerity and how do we cope with it?

Manifesting Words

The energy that we carry with us manifests itself in life by attracting like to like (similar to the Law of Attraction as discussed in books like “The Secret”). If you think positive, if you believe positive, then you emit positivity and thus positivity finds you…just like two magnets clinging together.

If everything in the universe is composed of energy, then we can deduce that thoughts have energy, sounds are energy vibrations, and spoken word is a powerful manifestation of thought and vibration.

Modern sage Russill Paul speaks of the power of words in his workshops. Each word we utter carries with it the power to manifest powerful energy.

We all know from first hand experience that human speech can bring about prosperity, make dreams come true, and inspire people towards great things. But, speech can also instill fear, hatred, disgust, pain, and isolation. So how do we increase the former while reducing the latter?

If a word truly represents its subject, then saying the word “hate” manifests hatred into your life in some way. Additionally, the person that HEARS you say the word “hate” receives the energy you are emitting and takes it into their body and soul.

Take a moment to think about how you use words on a daily basis.

I know much of what I say is sarcastic, flip, or dismissive. In other words, I am giving sound and energy to something insincere when I use words in a misleading way.

So, how to we start working on changing ourselves and what do we do when we’re faced with a situation of insincere negativity?

Facing the Truth to Stimulate Change

What was the last thing that you said to someone? What was the energy behind it and what words did you choose to use? Was it a sarcastic remark or a thinly veiled lie? Was it said with love and compassion and did it make your heart swell with joy?

The words we use and the way we use them has a tremendous impact on our daily attitude and disposition.

If our speech is littered with complaints about the people in our lives then all we’re doing is making ourselves miserable, insincere, and unkind. If we constantly focus on the negative aspects of our day, we’re bringing more of those things to us for the days to come and showering our loved ones with the same negative energy.

What would your day look like if every word you uttered came from your heart?

What if in the face of a frustrating moment, you stopped and thought about a way to change things for the better using words? Imagine how energized you would feel if you sincerely worked to uplift and serve everyone you encountered by offering compassion, patience, and genuine words of love? What if you turned a forgiving word towards yourself and accepted yourself without judgment or ridicule?

Can you even fathom such a thing? Does it terrify you? Does it seem impossible? Or does it feel like something you want to embrace and roll around in?

Here are a few things you can look for in your daily interactions with others (and with yourself) to identify insincerity:

-          Sarcastic replies
-          Telling lies when the truth is uncomfortable
-          Cursing and using violent language
-          Complaining about others
-          Focusing on the negative instead of highlighting the positive
-          Rudeness and frustration towards others
-          Gossiping

I’m certainly guilty of doing many of these things several times in a single day. And it’s typically when I’m having a bad day.

I challenge you to try an exercise in sincere communication.

Try it for an hour or a day and see how you feel at the end of it. Challenge yourself to think and utter words of acceptance, love, kindness, compassion, and joy especially when faced with challenging or frustrating situations. Offer up heartfelt compliments. Give yourself some praise when it’s deserved. Look for the positive in a tough situation and focus on it with your thoughts and words as you try to come up with a solution.

Changing thought patterns and habitual words can seem like a monumental obstacle. And there will always be times of passion or anger when emotions rule a situation (at least for me), so don’t set an unattainable goal by expecting perfection.

Even if you consciously practice positive, sincere thoughts and speech for only a few minutes each day, you’ll notice that compassion, kindness, and positive change will begin to crop up in your daily activities like little spring flowers poking through the snow after a long winter.

Try it. You’ll like it.

The Company You Keep

One final thought I’d like to leave you with is when you find yourself in a situation where loved ones are constantly filling their conversation with negative or insincere energy.

The first thing to remember is we can only control our reactions to other people’s actions.

Secondly, if it’s truly harmful to you, then remove yourself from the situation. Violent and rude language shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, so don’t even chance it and just leave.

But what about the friend that constantly speaks negatively about your mutual friends? What about the family member that only seems to complain about every moment of their horrid day? These are people you love and care for, yet the energy they’re sharing with you can be irritating and deflating.

The best thing you can do is to listen and love them, but tell yourself ahead of time that you are completely protected and separate from their situation. By mentally shielding yourself, you can help stop that negative energy from seeping into your thoughts and words.

Don’t encourage their behavior by agreeing or egging them on, especially if you’re only doing it because you aren’t sure what else to say. Silence or a smile can mean “I’m listening” without having to lower your inner joy in any way.

If someone asks you to join in with gossip or complaints about someone you know, change the course of the conversation by offering something positive about the person. Often times, it immediately stops the conversation dead in its tracks and you can broach a different subject.

It is not our job to try and fix or change anyone else in this world. The only thing we can do is to work on ourselves and hold everyone else in compassionate love.

So while I have been finding myself surrounded by insincerity and negativity lately, I am working on fixing myself and my outlook, finding positive ways to frame situations, and offering loving kindness to people in pain without internalizing their situation as my own.

It’s a challenge for me, but I can only do my best each day and learn from my mistakes. It’s the best any of us can do.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Office Cubicle Yoga – Desktop Down Dog to Desktop Plank

I’m a huge fan of making up yoga poses when I’m trapped in my office cubicle. I’m sure there are books and workshops on office yoga, but discovering interesting ways to incorporate yoga while I’m sitting in my cubicle on a conference call just tickles me to no end.

If you’re trapped in an office or a cubicle each day, then I hope you’ll join me as I share some of our favorite variations of Cubicle Yoga.

Desktop Down Dog to Desktop Plank

Going into a full Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) in my very small cubicle in a fairly high traffic area just isn’t feasible (or safe).

So, I’ve come up with a nice modification that involves utilizing a desktop.

Start with your hands on the edge of your desk. I tend to put my fingers and palm face down on the top of the desk with my thumb hooked over the edge to prevent sliding.

Step back about 3 feet and on an exhale, fold at the hips.

In the pose, I keep my head between my elbows, broaden across my back and shoulders, engage my arms, bend my knees slightly (to start) while pulling up on my abdomen and lengthening my back.

It’s a very active pose with my arms, legs, abs, shoulders, and back all thoughtfully engaged. And while it’s not a full inversion, I can feel a nice stretch and it instantly quiets my mind.

I hold this for a few breaths and then push through my arms and legs to a modified plank with my arms extended straight, legs straight, back long, abs engaged and head in line with back (only do this if your desktop is strong enough to hold most of your weight – my desktop just barely holds my weight so I’m careful to move slowly here…I don’t need to topple the entire 6-pack of cubicles with my cubicle yoga). This modified desktop plank puts you at a nice 45-degree angle somewhere between standing plank on a wall and full plank on the floor.

If I feel my neck and shoulders getting tight from a stressful meeting or a long period of sitting, this is one of my very favorite Cubicle Yoga postures. I’ll do it 4-5 times (or as long as my cube-neighbor is away from their desk) and it’s an instant pick-me-up.

It’s extremely important to find time for yoga every single day, even if it’s 10 minutes of pranayama in the car or a quick Savasana before bed.

Cubicle yoga is an excellent way to bring mindfulness and peace to a place that often yields stress, anxiety, frustration, or a lack of being present in the moment. We hope you’ll give a try and report back on your favorite cubicle modifications!!!

*In our next Cubicle Yoga post, I’ll be sharing an Uttanasana (Forward Fold) modification and a modified Chair Sun Salutation (beware if you’re on wheels!).

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Women's Unity Retreat Workshop

I had the immense pleasure of giving a yoga workshop at the annual Women's Unity Retreat just outside Annapolis, MD this weekend. Despite a week of debilitating illness, I pulled myself together enough to get my butt to the retreat and it was so worth it.

The retreat is a women's only 3-day event and two friends have attended several years running. Getting an invite to participate in this empowering and unique experience was such an honor.

Though our plans to hold the event indoors (with air conditioning) were foiled due to noise and activity in the main hall, we made due on the basketball court and worked with the blistering heat...nothing like a little sweat to get the energy flowing!

The challenge for me was catering to a wide range of yoga experience (from none at all to fairly practiced) and a wide range of physical abilities in a large group of about 25 while offering a rewarding, rejuvenating hour that fit everyone's needs.

Overall, it was such a great time. All of the women were so welcoming! My voice was only running at about 40% from being sick, but as with all yoga, we made the best and found alternatives to all of the hiccups we encountered.

I had so much fun sharing my passion for movement and I hope I brought a few moments of peace and joy to this wonderful weekend.

I have to thank H and E for helping me with set-up and packing the car with a bazillion yoga props before and after the event and I hope to hear from some of the attendees in the near future.

As workshops go, it was a success - I got such heartfelt feedback at the end that I know it was well worth everything that went into it.

And...it is one more step on our road to realizing Caya...

*Many thanks to the Women's Unity Retreat for embracing me in your special time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Birth of a dream

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt


These words perfectly define the path that we find ourselves on...in the near future, we will take a huge leap into a vast and scary void of the unknown. We are hopeful that the net will appear and we will embrace success. Regardless of what challenges face us and what failures we may suffer, in the end, having dared to work for our dream will make it all worthwhile.

One baby step towards that dream is a workshop I will be giving in a little over one week at a women's retreat. The focus will be on the power of now, of settling into your body through breathing techniques, meditation, and movement. We will be breaking a sweat, but we will also honor our bodies for whatever limits or sensations it may experience in that moment in time, without judgment.

Over the next few weeks, we will also be crafting a few experiential workshops and promoting them at local churches, yoga centers, meditation groups, etc. It's a way for us to begin to build confidence and momentum for Caya's realization.

I am nervous, excited, worried, hopeful, enthusiastic, and eager all at the same time.

Caya is in the process of literally being born and I want to enjoy every moment of it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ecstasy in Motion: Post JourneyDance Experience

True passion is intoxicating, sensual, mysterious, magical, energizing, and inspiring. Toni Bergins of JourneyDance embodies passion in dance and movement.

Our Friday evening workshop at Dhyana Yoga in West Philadelphia was pure joy. The group was much smaller and more intimate than a typical Kripalu group of 60-80 people, so the energy we raised was much more subtle. But it also gave us the opportunity to interact with each person, to share a moment or a movement with them, and to build a gentle trust.

The evening was guided by Toni and we slowly moved our way up through the chakras using movement and expression to experience a vast array of emotions and sensations.

Unlike many other types of dance, JourneyDance is a spontaneous community dance that takes on a myriad of forms and depends entirely on the energy and dedication of the participants.

Friday night, we did dances of love, of dreams, of healing and forgiveness. We danced and moved with partners, we floated through space as if with wings, and we acknowledged each other as beautiful and magical - no matter age, size, ability, or expression. It was pure love and devotion.


One of Toni's methods for using dance as healing is an exercise in playing a duel role as yourself and then as your own healer.

I threw myself open during this dance and found fear, pain, and doubt buried within, but I also found a deep river of hope and joy.

When I acted as myself, I found that my body was in pain from all of the years of abuse. I found that my heart held fear and doubt because of my neglect. It was scary, overwhelming, surprising...I was mad at myself, even.

But I also unearthed an amazement at this new life and path I've been forging. My soul was responding to the yoga and dance and meditation and the challenges of movement. My body was excited by the changes and hopeful that they'd continue.

And as I stepped into my healer role, I began to forgive. I felt my heart opening up towards the heavens, inviting the light, inviting wisdom, inviting acceptance and growth. I showered myself with love and attention; I opened an honest ear and listened; I sat with this knowledge with an open mind and without judgement. I also nurtured this inner joy and watered this seed of hope to give it strength as it continued to grow.

Moving from self to healer and back to self, I felt different with each transition. I felt more alive, more willing to accept this new future - for myself and for my community. It was exhilarating.


The power of dance, especially JourneyDance with Toni, is immeasurable. Connecting with people on such an honest and organic level is transformative! We created a totally unique and beautiful sacred space of love and happiness that the universe will never see again.

I am more excited than ever to continue working on my path towards teaching and sharing the joy of dance and yoga, healing and self-acceptance with our community. It has the potential to have such a powerfully positive impact and it excites me from head to toe.

If you are looking for ecstasy, I dare say that you need nothing else than to get up and move. Dance is passion when you do it from your heart. Toni teaches that lesson with such passion and I can't wait to share it...


*Special thanks to Raymond for including us in this powerful event. For Raymond's thoughts on the weekend, check out his blog post: http://blog.healthpanda.com/2010/05/joy-and-healing-through-movement-in.html

A few upcoming events with Toni Bergins (also available on www.journeydance.com):

- May 28-31 – Tribal Jam: Dance, Drum & Yoga @ Kripalu
- June 3-6 – Midwest Yoga Conference in Chicago
- July 18-23 & October 24-29 – JourneyDance Teacher Training @ Kripalu
- August 27-29 – JourneyDance weekend @ Omega Institute

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

JourneyDance on Friday

We are driving to Philadelphia on Friday for a weekend JourneyDance workshop with Toni Bergin. YAY!!!

It should be a nice reminder and refresher before our teacher certification in the Fall and then we'll be set to start teaching JourneyDance in the area. I can't even begin to share my excitement!

Any excuse to dance and move and challenge my body in new and exciting ways...

After that, I'm hoping to have about 8-10 months before yoga teacher training at Kripalu and then let the new life unfold for both of us.

We're starting to look for spaces for Caya, too. There are a few that I'm really interested in, but we aren't quite ready to sign anything official, so we have to keep faith that the right space will present itself to us when we are ready.

In the networking world, we're starting to look for all kinds of professionals that might be interested in participating in our community-building efforts: massage therapists, yoga teachers, tai chi teachers, bellydance and African dance teachers, acupuncturists, midwives and doulas, chiropractors, even nurses!

So if you or anyone you know might be interested in joining our vision, send them our way!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Brutal Truth = Hurt Feelings - A Hard Lesson to Learn

Truth is a slippery thing if it's not wielded safely. Some people subscribe to the belief that all truth is good truth, but most of us know that sometimes truth can be harmful and mean.

Ken Nelson, a facilitator at our most recent Kripalu workshop, framed truth beautifully. He said we should welcome useful truth, not brutal truth.

It's something I've been ruminating on for the last few months. In fact, I've been chewing on a lot of concepts lately thanks to Stephen Cope's "The Wisdom of Yoga" and a series of other yoga-based texts.

Today offered me the chance to witness myself exercising brutal truth and it led to hurt feelings and guilt. Oh the discomfort of seeing myself as I am in all of my glorious imperfections...


Over the last several days I've been challenged with a pet peeve of mine via a dear, dear friend. Regardless of what it is, I was faced with a situation that left me uncomfortable, agitated, and in judgment.

Leaving one of my yoga classes, I was mulling over how to handle this situation. Should I start an honest but gentle conversation with this person or would that cause unnecessary drama? Should I accept that my friend just does this and let it go (who's to say what someone should or shouldn't do - I'm not anyone's boss, right)? I wasn't sure what the honest and compassionate path was...is saying something "useful" truth or is it "brutal"? Is not saying something skirting honesty for the sake of avoiding something uncomfortable? I really had no idea.

A while later, my friend and I were discussing things we were trying to work on and I literally felt myself step away from my body and witness myself rudely and bluntly say something like "You're famous for talking while someone else is talking and I'm trying to listen to them. You do it all the time and it can be kind of rude."

Internally, my jaw dropped.

Talk about brutal truth. I was surprised at how this judgmental declaration just came tumbling out.

My friend is painfully transparent. Every emotion & thought flashes across her face and I saw that I'd hurt her (not my goal by any stretch) and really, these minor irritants just weren't THAT important to me. Not if this was the price.

I felt guilty. She closed down and remained guarded for much of the morning. I don't blame her, either. It was rude and unnecessary of me to blurt out an uninvited observation.

I wanted to apologize to her and discuss my behavior, but Ego stepped in and instead I kept quiet.

On my long drive home, I marinated on everything.

Brutal truth had exploded from me in an instant - completely unplanned and unscripted; the antithesis of how I'd envisioned handling the situation.

The last thing I want to do is use brutal truth, especially if it leads to hurting people I love and value.

What was I doing to myself? Was I this insensitive or was something deeper going on? This kind of truth served no one but myself - and that means it was anything but useful.


Stephen Cope writes about the power of getting in touch with your inner Witness or your inner soul/truth. Witness does not judge, does not decide right or wrong...it simply observes and sees things as they are (instead of how Ego and Puppy Mind WANT us to see them which is OUR way or the highway).

I'm certainly not a master meditator or a wise yogi, so experiencing this Witness was a major event for me. Though admittedly, it's difficult to reflect on this kind of insight without sitting in judgment of myself.

As I think about my use of brutal truth, I see that it's something I've used in the past on a number of occasions.

Typically, it rears its ugly head when I'm judging someone I care about and I'm not sure how to communicate my thoughts without seeming rude...and then brutal truth comes blurting out in my desperation to be heard. Basically, it's all about me sometimes and that's when I cross a line from compassionate to self-serving.

It's difficult to learn these things about myself. I see how I've hurt people I care about because of a discomfort within myself that gets projected...

But, today I'm thankful for this insight. I'm thankful to the Witness for showing me a glimpse of something I need to think about and bring awareness to. I'm thankful to yoga for giving me the tools to self-reflect without putting myself down or questioning my heart and value.


Life lessons (especially those about yourself) aren't easy pills to swallow. As bumpy as the road may seem, each lesson teaches us something valuable that can lift us up and bring us closer to peace and serenity.

I suspect I have a few apologies to dole out and some hard work ahead of me.

But I'm simultaneously practicing self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-compassion. I cannot change overnight but I can put one foot in front of the other, mindfully, and see where I end up.

I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am to have yoga in my life...for the moments when I'm on the mat and I'm settling into myself and my truth and learning now to navigate this crazy world. Bringing this inner serenity into the outside world is a little more challenging, but I'm working on it. Because like all of us, I'm a beautiful work in progress.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Facing the Burrito Demon Through Self-Awareness

Last night in a particularly intense (for me) yoga session, the instructor said something that I found to be incredibly profound:

“Yoga is not about self-improvement. Yoga is about self-awareness.”

Her timing in sharing this little tidbit was auspicious since the intention I’d set for my practice just moments before was “Listen to my body”.

Listen to my body. Easier said than done - tapping into that self-awareness.


We don’t realize how hard it can be to really, truly, truthfully listen to our body when we spend most of our time rushing from one task to the next at home, at work, in life...largely in denial of neglecting our most precious resource.

I challenge you to listen to your body.

What does it say? What is it saying right now? What does it say when you’re stressed or anxious or angry at the latest turn of events?

-- Does your body sleep peacefully at night or does it protest and toss and turn?

-- Does your body enjoy the fuel you give it through the food choices you make? Does it stay happy for hours feeling strong and fulfilled or does it constantly object through grumblings and hunger pangs or bloating and indigestion?

-- Do you abuse your body with smoking or drinking alcohol or filling it with sugars and chemicals? Or do you lovingly provide it with precisely the fuel it needs for optimal health and wellness – things like water and tea and organic produce?

-- Does your body relax when you give it a moment to release or is there a perpetual tightness that creeps into your neck or shoulders or face?

-- Do you criticize your body for not being slim enough or strong enough or healthy enough or tan enough or smooth enough, wishing for a different body free from these imperfections?


I have a complex and many-layered relationship with my body.

It is out of shape, overweight, occasionally plagued with low back pain or pinching knees or protesting ankles and constantly tense/tight shoulders and neck. But it has carried me through life with as much grace as possible considering the abuse I’ve laid on it for so many years…over eating, under exercising, neglecting it at every turn.

So, how do I transform this life-long habit of abuse into love and nurturing and compassion and acceptance?

It’s a journey and a slow one, at that.


Last night, we were doing seated twists but my belly prevented me from getting into the position I wanted in order to get a full twist. I did my best to accept that this is where I am in this moment and I did my best to modify without judgment.

In moments when I’m on the yoga mat doing a yoga practice, I am given permission by my wonderful instructors to sink into this moment called “Now” and to settle deep within myself in order to have an honest dialog.

In challenging poses, I ask my legs for strength, or I ask my breath for precious air, and I do my best to listen to every single cell for cues on how to execute each move to the best of my ability.

Self-awareness comes with a price, though. Holding up a mirror of truth, I begin to see how I got here and it’s not pretty. I am challenged to face my fears, to walk towards them, and then come out the other side wiser and stronger for it. But it’s painful and scary, at times.


After yoga last night, I began experiencing symptoms of my panic attacks. It starts with a tingling in my left arm and chest so my anxiety attacks present much like a heart attack. This sends me off on a ride of worry – Is it anxiety or is it a heart attack this time?

Then, I plunge into anger and fear chastising myself for the latest poor eating choices or for not exercising more, blaming myself for the heart attack that I am now convinced will take me at any moment.

So what did I do in the middle of this panic and fear and self-judgment? I went to Taco Bell and got a burrito.

Yes. You read that right. I got a burrito and immediately started consuming it like it might be my last.

But, something amazing happened.

Halfway through that burrito, I stopped myself and listened.

I realized that I had just made a choice that was perpetuating this awful cycle of self-destruction.

I was scared and ignoring the fear. This pushed me into a desperate search for something comforting (food) which lent itself to the panic that had originally led to my fear in the first place.

In that moment, I saw the awful cycle that I’d created for myself for all of these years.

And while it was a relief to have this moment of insight, I was completely overwhelmed at the size and scope of this cycle that gripped me so tightly. How do you begin undoing a set of habits that have been a standby since childhood?

It all comes back to self-awareness, to being present, and in listening to my body.

It was a step towards healing. One of one hundred million, but it was one. And one step is profound.

“Yoga is not about self-improvement. Yoga is about self-awareness.”

Through self-awareness, I can begin to identify, heal, challenge, accept, grow, and love everything that is me. I’m not becoming aware of myself for anyone or anything. I am looking at myself with honesty and settling into the imperfections and seeing where I come out on the other side.