Perfect Love

There were really very few things I enjoyed about being pregnant with my daughter. I was sick every day, all day for six months. I spent the first three and a half months laying on friends couches and puking in their trashcans while we looked for a place to live. I hated the giant boobs (little did I know they would get even bigger when I started nursing). I didn't like the constantly changing body. I was a magnet for unsolicited, arrogant and annoying commentary and advice. I literally couldn't walk or go anywhere without a chorus of voices. I had fleeting moments of excitement and happiness during my pregnancy with Olive, but not the kind that so many women in my life told me I was surely having or should be having.

What I experienced the most in those months was free-fall. For the first time in my life, I had no choice but to stop fighting and just listen. Listen to what I needed in a way that I had never been able to do before. I became completely unapologetic about my needs. I became unabashedly unafraid to disappoint and be myself. Because my Self no longer belonged to me. In fact, I became secondary. I became a vessel. I became the earth for someone else. And so I learned what service felt like in a way I couldn't have ever had before. I did not feel excited or happy nor did I enjoy this process.

But I accepted it. And in the acceptance, I let go. In the letting go, I received the experience fully. In receiving I drank it in. In drinking it in I made good choices. I let myself be consumed by it. I allowed transformation to happen.

I really disliked being pregnant. There I said it. Like I basically hated it. So much so I actually do not look forward to being pregnant again one day.

But here is the thing. I loved giving birth. I loved giving birth so much that I still have dreams about giving birth. I dream about giving birth to other peoples babies. I'll do the pregnancy thing again just to give birth to another human again. The most wonderful experience of my life was birthing my daughter. And guess what? My birth did not go to plan. I transferred to the hospital at forty two weeks and a few days after spending months planning a home birth. And I managed to have an incredibly empowering birth experience despite this change. I think it was in part the great education I had received from my midwife and I felt totally capable of speaking up for myself. I think I also felt total relief that I would no longer be pregnant.

The idea that perfect mothering comes from perfect pregnancies is a horribly unhelpful myth. The idea that our children are damaged if we hate being pregnant with them is also a myth. Because they are also marinating in all the other feelings and self-talk too. Like surrender and acceptance and fortitude and grace. Our babies do not need to marinate in the perfect soup of hormones. They need to marinate in Love. And by Love, I mean that "deep okayness". By Love I mean, that sense of wellness, not perfection. That sense of peace. I felt a lot of that during my pregnancy even though I struggled a lot.

My toddler has a deep capacity for emotional regulation and is perfectly healthy and fine. She didn't get a perfect womb. She didn't have the perfect birth plan. She wasn't born on her due date. She doesn't have a perfect mommy.

One day she'll need to reconcile with her body. She'll need to learn to love it even though it feels yucky sometimes. She'll need to accept all her parts. She'll need to love herself. She'll have to reconcile my insane love for her and the fact I didn't love my pregnancy with her. I hope I've taught her about love, juxtaposition, reconciliation and wholeness. My kid needs a whole mommy. Not a perfect one. My pregnancy wasn't enjoyable, but it taught me self-love. Olive taught me self-love. She taught me about being whole.

Birth is the ultimate reckoning. 
Of Love.

I'll never forget the moment I realized Olive was going to come out of my body at any moment. I had reached down and felt her head.

Something inside said, "stop pushing."

So I did.

Some Thoughts from the Path

Something you may not know about me is that at times I suffer from debilitating anxiety. I choose to use this word "suffer" because when these moments hit, I am indeed suffering. I am totally suffocated by my own neuroses. Lost in the land of can't breath and can't think. 

I lose myself. 

Last week I called my husband to come home from work because I was on the verge of a panic attack and needed help with our daughter. When he arrived I simply began crying. Olive, our two-year-old is incredibly perceptive and empathic. She began to cry too. And my husband as our rock, calmed us down and then proceeded to make us run through the sprinkler and lay in the hammock. Which reset everyone. (More on why this resourcing works further down the post)

I suffer from an anxiety that has two distinct streams. The first is this: 

I have always been incredibly sensitive and moody. I can pick up on others thoughts and emotions very easily. I have had to create impeccable boundaries and have been called uptight, rigid, unable to relax and bossy more time than I can count. But I am also incredibly sensitive and accommodating. And when I get out of center I do not always speak for my needs. I give my power away and then I am lost at sea, drowning in so many feelings at once that I choke back the anxiety until I can't anymore. Sometimes I do not realize I have been suppressing these feelings until my body breaks down or cries out. Honestly, I have observed that this has been made worse by social media and the easy way we compare via this medium. It is too much input for my system to hold. 

The second stream is this: 
I come from a lineage of survivors. Transgenerational trauma if you will. This lineage has granted me a very vigilant nervous system and a severe lack in the ability to feel safe. My cellular imprint includes captivity, hiding, terror, migration and a real fear of death due to mere existence. It has worsened since our political climate has deteriorated. And since having a child and becoming more indebted to my lineage, to this world and to my body. As the love has increased, so have the stakes. And some days, the existential fall is too much. 

These streams manifest in the kind of anxiety that includes visceral terror even in the presence of privilege, health, and safety. I panic. Sweating. Crying. Sure I might be dying. Or something is wrong. 

For me, my anxiety and panic manifest in a hyper-vigilant neurosis of my body and what is happening inside my body. Can I breathe? Is this ok? What's this bump? Should this be here? What if it's not ok? Whats that sensation? Is that ok? It's a neurotic checking. Checking. Checking. Prodding. Poking. Checking. Am I alive? Am I real? Am I ok? 

I share this with you because there is still a way we believe that yoga magically heals. That it removes suffering and pain. That it makes us immortal and incapable of becoming sick. We still think it can solve problem therapy can't. 

This is not true. Not true at all. It is not that simple.

For some people going into the body and its sensations is incredibly resourcing. It supports the nervous system to relax and orient. Using forms and shapes gives a safe container to feel. After years of being out and frayed, it is time to recognize we have a home. A body. A sensation. Feelings. Some people need to go I N to wake up.

For other people, they are already drowning in themselves. In every sensation and every feeling. So when we ask them to feel, they get flooded by all that's in there. It is not a relief. It is a suffocation. For those of us, who tend towards hiding inside our own sensate vigilance, we need to peer
O U T and towards nature. We need to lay on the ground, feel the cool water on our skin. Feel the contact of another human. 

I share this with you because I am hearing that as somatics becomes more of a trend in our yoga culture we are leaning into sensation tracking more than before. This is wonderful. It is taking the practice of yoga into a deeply human and present time. Making yoga about embodiment and life. Not one of dissociating and going up and out to someplace more ideal. 

But this process is incredibly nuanced and I want to help us refine our awareness of how the nervous system works and what we are doing when we talk about resourcing and developing the sensate world. (more on that another time) 

I share this with you too because we also need to continue to dismantle our own shame and hiding around our wounds and lineages so that we can be freer to teach, lead and learn from our souls. Not a single teacher of this practice is free from a wound. And most people I know, myself included, put on a good front. It's not cool to talk about anxiety or depression or addictions or abortions or flailing marriages or being rageful at your kids. It's not cool to admit that the yoga hasn't cured us of our humanness. It's not cool to say we need something else besides our daily dose of #yogaeverydamday or being #heavilymeditated.

We need these practices to refine our consciousness so that we can see our fears, anger, grief, and joy and all our experiences as normative--until they aren't. These practices can help anchor us in a truth and give us an "Island of sanity" that nurtures our emotional and sensate experiences. And these practices can help us create meaning where we otherwise feel lost. 

Last week I felt really lost. This week I feel found and tender and real. I feel contacted and located inside my truth. Which means I had to see some hard dynamics in my family and have a tough conversation and admit some hurt. The yoga helps. The dance helps. The trees help. Music helps. Speaking the truth to friends helps. 

As one of my teachers says....

Lather. 
Rinse.
Repeat.

All The Mommys I Cannot Be

So this one deserves a little context.

One of the ways I work with my own Shadow material is to work them into characters of myself. By taking impulses, feelings, movements, patterns of relating and seeing them in a crystallized way, as a mere one-side or character of my full self, I am able to add some humor where there is often lots of grief. 

So please don't take offense to the list below. It's in good fun and shadow work should be fun. And its hard and dark because there is truth to it too. It's funny because it's also true. Not the whole truth or only truth, but a truth nonetheless. 

Lately, I've been feeling into all the archetypes, characters and stereotypes the word Mommy comes along with. I had a great laugh last night with Elliot when I described to him All The Mommys I Cannot Be. I put on quite a show. And of course, it was disarming to hear which ones he likes, which ones he hates, and which ones he instigates.

Sometimes I feel like I walk through my day, simply playing out one of these roles. Like the clothes I chose from my closet that day, I choose a mommy to wear that day too. And sometimes, depending on where I am out in the world I feel almost forced to put on one of these outfits. 

Of course, I am none of these and all of these. And I wish to be the me that is the deepest core to all of these. You see, I am not a mommy because I am a woman. I am a mommy because I am in relationship to my daughter. And for her sake, and mine, these are all the mommys I cannot be. 

~~~~

Introducing the newest line of Barbie dolls. Sure to give your children all their cultural introjects for a lifetime of psychological fun. Be sure to mix and match so as to solidify their play as neurotic expressions and idealizations of the feminine.

 

Perfect Mommy

High-heeled Mommy

Crafty Mommy

Homestead Mommy

Hipster Mommy

Yoga Mommy

Business Mommy

Intellectual Mommy

Sexy Mommy (sometimes also known by her other names as fuckable mommy and MILF)

Frazzled Mommy (comes with a set of talking Kens ensuring the Frazzled Mommy feels extra frazzled with her Emotional Labor and Mental Load tasks.)

Earthy Mommy (you'll love her flowing pants, whimsical hair, and gardening tools)

Cool Mommy (don't be fooled. Cool Mommy fits into your home perfectly. She has learned to morph herself depending on the situation she's in)

Working Mommy

Busy Mommy

Martyr Mommy (Warning: this one appears rather lifeless and comes with a chip on her shoulder, which has been known to be rather sharp.)

Hysterical Mommy (She even cries when you push the button on her butt)

Blaming Mommy

Shaming Mommy

Evil Mommy

Silly Mommy

Gorgeous Mommy

Hygge Mommy (which is actually a combination of several mommys including Crafty, Earthy, Hipster and Perfect. Be sure to get the whole set!)

Jackie O Mommy (Those glasses just never go out of style!)

Exhausted Mommy (complete with dark circles under her eyes)

Do-Everything Mommy

Organized Mommy 

 

Please note that each of these Mommys is sold separately, though we highly advise buying all the mommys for a complete and long lasting neurotic construct. Does not include matching Ken.  

The Psychologically Sound Yoga Classroom Part 3: Safety and Choice.

As we enter this year, let's pick up the thread we had started at the end of 2017, exploring the 12 Principles of the Psychologically Sound Yoga Classroom. 

I ask you consider Safety and Choice as fundamental features to your classes if they are to be "Psychologically Sound". 

Here is why. 

You really can't do much else, learn or engage in a challenge, let alone relax if you do not feel safe. Our brains are wired to assess safety in any given situation and experience. If we deem a lack of safety either consciously or unconsciously, the need for safety remains paramount and forces us to enact defenses to create a sense of safety even if temporary. Even after an event has passed, It can leave the nervous system stuck in patterns of hyper or hypo arousal.

Both a sense of safety and actual safety are foundational to facilitating our basic needs and therefore any other task. If you are on high-alert internally or externally, it is difficult to focus, directions may seem confusing, things can become overwhelming more quickly. 

We live in a world that seems increasingly unsafe in many ways. Some people coming to practice yoga have not had places of safety in their lives. Or are in current situations that are tugging at ties of safety. Some of you as teachers have had to find solace and sanctuary. some of you are learning how to repattern your own nervous systems and find solid ground within. Some of you are teaching in places and situations where the students have zero safety or where there is obvious lack of safety in the environment. 

If you want your students to learn and grow--if you want to learn and grow-- Safety is needed to do so.

I am not talking about creating a utopian environment for your students where they are safe from all triggers and harm. That is impossible and will drive you nuts. In fact, this attitude has in some ways become a shadow within the trauma-sensitive call to action for yoga teachers. Being trauma-sensitive and aware in your classes has in some ways become a drive to protect our students at all costs and often the cost is ourselves. A feeling of entrapment and fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. What I am suggesting is that trauma sensitivity is not the creation of utopian, triggerless environments without mistakes. But rather, an environment where the majority of basic concerns are met and when arousal and triggers occur they are faced, dealt with and repaired as best as possible.

Those of you who are parents know that there is a longing to protect your children from all of life's harms. But you also know that learning to fall and get up builds grit, resilience, and grace. So that is my call to action--to create a safe environment to fall and fail. To get ruffled and find center again. That's training for real life.

So Safety as a "Psychologically Sound" teaching principle is about creating a contained and boundaried environment for experimentation and sometimes repair. 

Safety ranges from the most basic elements, like are the props at risk of falling over on a student's head, and is the floor safe to walk on barefoot? To more broad cultural pieces like an election, world event, natural disaster etc. Safety can be alerting students to protocols and norms so they can be more at ease in the space and group. Safety can be creating a sanctuary in a concrete mess.

Safety also includes a mindset on your part that your students come from different situations and their lives are dynamic and thus the experience of safety can rise and fall. 

The practices of yoga and meditation are intended to provide a sense of inner safety in an ever-changing world. Though we can't change world events once they occur. Though we live in times of great uncertainty (and I believe every generation faces its iteration of this). Though we can't change events of the past that left marks of trauma within, we can reconstruct our relationship to these events and feelings through cultivating a sense of inner resource, ground, and belonging.

As yoga teachers, we have a distinct advantage in reminding and facilitating the direct experience of inner safety. Helping students return to the pulse of their heartbeat and the rise and fall of their breath. Facilitating an inner inquiry into pleasure, power, impulse, strength and rest. Encouraging students to find their own limits and praising not just those who go to the edge but those who stay really contained and close to their center. Providing a place to come and laugh and cry, to be shy and boisterous. 

All of these facilitate Safety. 

Once we have the basic spatial and environmental safety pieces in place we can venture into the land of cultivating inner safety more consistently. Here are some considerations.  

Be clear in your directions. Tell your students the "why" of directions. And give them pros and cons. Be clear about your own biases and opinions.

Contained, boundaried and clear environments yield healthy pressure to against which to push, experiment and make choices to gain feedback.

 Provide and privilege Choice. 

The last one is critical friends. Choice is what gets ripped away from you when you experience trauma. And thus Choice is a huge mitigating factor in healing trauma. Choice is also critical to becoming more skillful as an adult. When too many options are presented it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. And when no choices are given, unnecessary force and power-over come into play in the classroom. 

Being clear and direct does not negate your opportunity to provide and lead with Choice as paramount.

I have seen teachers lead in a way that is bossy, overpowering and fosters situations where students feel like they must obey, do not have a choice, or can't access their healthy no. I have also seen teachers lead in very direct ways within a context that everything happening in the room is a choice. There is a deep encouragement and fostering of the felt experience of healthy willpower and right use of Yes and No. 

I try to do the latter. I encourage you all to as well. 

You see, Safety and Choice go hand in hand. Healthy directives and boundaries can yield the ability to make decisions that are right for each of us. Even if it is not the same choice someone else would have made. It fosters independence and differentiation. 

I am not suggesting you allow your students to do anything they want. It is not a free for all. In fact, if you did allow that, I would wager that sense of safety would go down in your class. When you cultivate safety through clarity, boundaries, understanding, and warmth you can provide the whole class as a choice. They did choose to show up after all. 

I encourage you all to look at all the ways you can provide Choice in your classes, especially if the ask is at all triggering. For example, for more advanced poses, give options. Experiment with invitational language and direct language, tracking the impact it has. Ask students to commit to their own presence and inner inquiry. Stop taking it personally if someone does not do your direction. 

Also, do a safety assessment. Scan the environment in which you teach. Assess your cultural climate. Inquire about what's happening in the neighborhood.

The Psychologically Sound Yoga Classroom is infused with a sense of Safety and provides access to Choice. We all need those in our lives for health and balance. 

To all the good work we can do for eachother....
Onward my friends.