Life in Pictures

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Life in Pictures

I recently completed an Instagram challenge in which I posted black and white photos for 7 days, with no words.  As I finished up day 7 yesterday, I felt sad, I wanted to keep going.  I felt like it was the first time I was putting up pictures that really represented me in the moment.  One picture a day with no words can say a a lot, I often thought what will I post today? And then the thinking stopped.  I snapped my picture and looked at it, nothing else.  I did not have to judge it, analyze it, defend it, basically write about it and explain it to anyone else.  I just posted it.  I discovered freedom.

It got me thinking about what else is possible if I just see life in pictures.  I look, I listen and nothing else.  Each moment is an opportunity of brief stillness to take in what is happening in the outside world and I can leave it there.  I do not need to look, listen and then analyze, judge, defend, explain and narrate it at all.  Just see it, let it come up and let it go.  What is possible is that I will discover freedom everywhere, not just on Instagram. And I will not miss out on any of the pictures, if I am constantly looking out here to the world, not going inside to narrate, then I will not miss anything and my life in pictures will be full of endless possibilities. 

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Our Stories

Our stories are tricky little things, they like to creep up on us when we least expect them. When we think we have them kicked. When we have convinced ourselves that we "have got them", they get us. My biggest story is that people leave me.  I have done enough work to know that it is a story, one I made up, one I created to justify and prepare myself for when it happens next.  A story that allows me to feel and sometime wallow in grief when I feel sad. A story that explains just how my life is and it is what happens to me.  It allows me to say "see, here we go again" so that I can move into my default reaction and keep the cycle going. But what I have discovered is that it is a choice.  Yes the story may creep back in, but I get to choose whether or not I listen to it.  It can be the loud voice that drowns everything out or it can be the background noise that I ignore and goes away with time. 

Reality - people do not leave me.  It is not about me, nothing is. It is extremely selfish and egocentric to take anything personally and to dare think that anyone does anything purely because of me. Things happen and stories appear simply so that we can explain them. Consider that we do not need an explanation! That is what I have learned. I do not need to know why? I do not need to ask for a justification or explanation. It is none of my business.  It is not personal.  The power in this is that I do not have to take anything personally. That I do not have to explain for justify anything. That I do not have to play a role in other people's stories.  I am the source and I have the choice. Within this power lies freedom and this will last much longer than any story I make up.

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Easeful Rigor

There was a time not so long ago that the concept of balanced action was well out of my reach. It looked like working 10-12 hour days several days in a row just to crash on the couch for an entire day to recover.  Practicing twice a day for a week just to skip practice three days because I was too tired. Staying on top of everything and everyone, focusing on all the details or throwing my hands up and saying none of it matters. Writing my blog on a regular schedule regardless of my motivation or inspiration or not writing for months.  It was an all in or all out mentality and space.

What this practice and work has taught me is that balanced action, the balance of ease and effort, is always available to me if I choose. That I can create easeful rigor in everything I do.  That working hard is not the same as being disciplined and committed.  I used to feel that if I was not all in and all out all the time, I was not committed. It is just the opposite.  Commitment looks like coming back over and over regardless of how it turns out. It is being disciplined to stay and move through what comes up with rigor and ease. Rigor allows me to stay on my path, to stand in my alignment and be for who and what I love.  Ease allows me to not take myself or anything else seriously or personally. Ease allows me to stay in flow when plans do not work out.  Most importantly, ease allows me to forgive, to support and to be of service for others. 

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Growing up in the south

I am sitting here writing this story because I am privileged. I have the privilege to have been born into a family who had parents with good jobs, and their parents had good jobs. I have the privilege of being able to vote as a women, not because I earned it, but because I was born in a time period in which it is acceptable for women to vote.  I have the privilege of putting my thoughts on paper and publishing them without fear of being jailed or executed by my government because I was lucky enough to be born in a country that allows this, again I did not earn it, it was chance. I have the privilege of telling this story you are about to read because I happened to be born in the south, and was born white.

I am now 40 years old, live in New Jersey and I own a yoga studio where I teach.  My core values include integrity, community, love, and equality. I am a leader. I believe that every person on this earth has a purpose and their life has value.  And though, it was not always this way.

I was born and raised in a small southern Virginia town just outside of the Appalachian area. It was the home of Nascar, moonshine, Friday night football, biscuits and gravy and sweet tea. There were some truths that I was taught as a child, you dress up and go to church on Sunday, you say yes ma’am and no ma’am, children are seen and not heard, you hunt on Thanksgiving morning, you respect your elders, you do not have sex before you get married AND you should be careful on the black side of town.

I was raised a racist, among other things. It was never questioned, never talked about, an understood truth. It was not until high school that I met many African Americans, but at that point I already knew everything, they were poor and on welfare, they were into drugs, they will cheat you, and they do not take care of themselves or their families. Of course there were exceptions and I remember fondly several black people that worked for my family business or did business with us, and what stands out was always “they are good colored folk,” mostly reminding us that they were the exceptions to the truth, but not many. And while the words were powerful, the actions were even more powerful.

My family owned car businesses and pawn shops and if there was ever a break-in the first mention was that it must have been a black guy. Our family was horrified to find out one day that one of my cousins was dating a black boy. I was even told to keep my horses away from black people, you see horses do not like them and they might get spooked. I just know I was constantly reminded of whether or not it was a black or white church, black or white school, black or white part of town – distinguishing black or white was as common as distinguishing night and day.

And yes, we talked a lot about heritage, I mean all the time.  It is important in the south.  By definition heritage means “something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition.” So yes, the confederate flag is part of the heritage.  It was handed down as a reminder that even though we lost, we will always be the south no matter what those Yankee northerners think. They took away our land, slave ownership and our way of life, they will not take our flag! They will not tell us what to do, if you don’t like it then don’t come down here. And our statues, they were “our people”, they got us and fought for us.  I can only speak from my experience, but every single “heritage” symbol I learned about was rooted in racism. And by the way, gay people are going to hell, Baptiste and Christian churches are the only good religions, we need guns to protect ourselves and you better not kill any babies.

And then I moved and went to college, then grad school, then an actual city and finally I moved to Philly. What I can say is that with each move my “known truths” were more and more challenged.  I saw, heard and tried new things constantly.  I listened. I opened up and broke down the wall of what I know so that I could really see what I did not know. My heart and vision changed. And I am extremely lucky and privileged to have met everyone that I have met who has shaped the new way in which I think, see, talk and act. I am overwhelming grateful to have the privilege to choose.

My heart hurts for what has been happening this past week, even more so as it is so close to home.  Charlottesville is less than 3 hours from where I grew up. I have been struggling with “what to do” and the answer is more rooted in “what not to do”, which is avoid and ignore. For years I have avoided talking to certain people and family members about certain things because I think “they will not get it” or “they were just raised that way”, and guess what, so was I.  I did not get it for a long time, I was raised that way. And it was not until I made a choice to educate myself, listen to other people, and seek out other experiences and my own truth that I was no longer someone who does not get it.  My beliefs and values have changed because others spoke out and shared what they learned so that I could learn and grow from it.

This is what I have learned, I was wrong. And I preach all the time that right or wrong is just an opinion and yet I strongly believe that when your opinions take away the humanity of another person our collective wrong must be seen as truth.  It is a truth I want to create, live in and believe in. That removing statues and flags does nothing to inhibit my way of living and all the privileges that I have. That taking pride in making someone else uncomfortable or even worse, leaving them in mental and physical pain is not ok.

I do not write this to try to prove anything to anyone.  I am writing so that if you are curious, if you have never questioned the values and beliefs that someone else “gave” you, maybe you will be inspired to listen and look. To lead yourself to a new place. To stop passing down traditions that do not serve you or greater humanity.  What are you missing out on? Where can your humanity see the humanity in others? Where can you let love move you as opposed to anger. Is it possible that you can alleviate all your pain and suffering by opening up and receiving versus fighting?

I am thankful for my family, for my hometown and for everyone who has shaped my life.  I would not be who I am today without every single experience that I have had.  My hope now is that I can take my privilege and use it to make a difference for those who do not have it.

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The Hustle

I have fondly labelled my default way of being as "the HUSTLE." You know, that way you get when you can see yourself talking, doing, running around like a crazy person, and yet you are not in control. You think you are, but the hustle itself is running the show. In reality, you have been sent to the bench and your inner critic (mine is named Kate) is directing your life and poorly I might add.

My critic's goal is to MAKE things happen. To work as hard as possible. To stay on the move. It looks like creating lots of spreadsheets, checking email every 1/2 hour, staying on social media all the time, double checking everything and everyone, and making up a bunch of work that actually does not produce any tangible results. She says I better say yes to everything, create more lists, compete harder, make sure everyone sees you, that you do not miss out on anything, don't let a single opportunity pass you by, especially the ones you really do not want to do.  Do those now so that you can complain about them later! All the while, make sure you hide as much of yourself as you can.  Do not show any feelings. Do not let anyone in, that should not be done. It would not look good if people knew you did not have your shit together.

When the critic is directing, the hustle is an excellent action-drama that you cannot get enough of.  It is like a good drug. And it is full of what "should happen" vs what could happen. It leaves me feeling anxious, alone, dis-satisfied (it can never get enough), fearful, and even more out of control.  It basically sucks.

What I have learned is that the only thing that can bring me out of the hustle is ME. That's right, we are completely responsible when we allow this to happen and we can only move away from it if we become present to that. We create our reality! We must become aware of what is going on.  What has gotten us here.  For me, it is the awareness that things have happened that I did not want to have happen.  That is what I must give up. There is nothing that can be done and I can choose to live in the events of the past or not. Now here is the tricky part, and the most important part, you must have faith and trust for this to happen. Trust that things will work out. Trust that in reality these small blimps in your plans mean nothing, that they were supposed to happen. And then faith that what needs to happen is not what you think should happen. If you believe this, then you can sit back, get present and allow it all to unfold. 

Consider that the very things that we are trying to control, resist or change are the very things that must happen now in order to get us to the bigger picture of what we want. That we will fall (sometimes hard) where we need to be and we will arrive where we want to be; it just will never look like we think it should look.

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Wanting vs Doing

I have wanted to blog everyday since my last entry.  That was on June 13th and today is July 9th, obviously wanting gets me nowhere.  That is the thing about wanting, it is super easy.  I can do it all day, anywhere, anytime, in any form and never get tired from it.  I can want as often as I breath.  What I have discovered is that the only thing wanting leaves me in is more wanting.

I recently had to get clear on my self-talk; I was given some homework around where I am not listening.  While there could be sooooooo many blogs around all those places, a big one was not listening to myself. I am not talking about the whole listen to your heart or intuition, I have gotten pretty good at that, but the listening to the default internal background stuff.  Really hearing my own words when I say, I wish, I want, I hope and all that other BS.  I have spent countless days saying, I want to write, I want to meditate, exercise more, walk the dog, cook more meals, etc, etc ,etc.  Very little of that actually happened, what happened was more wanting and thinking, along with a lot of sitting and feeling bad about not getting what I wanted (aka, pity party).

So, this morning I turned wanting into doing.  I walked the dog, meditated, taught class and then did a self-practice and most importantly filmed my class for my 500hr cert (something big on my want list).  And that's right, here I am writing.  What have I learned today is that doing feels so much better than wanting. It has a different energy, a different vibration with the world around us. And doing can only happen if you give up a belief that is between you and the thing you want.  For me it was I am too tired, I do not know how, I have nothing to say or I do not have enough time, all of which are total bullshit. I know because I tell people that all the time when they say it :)

What do you want? What is in your way of doing? What do you need to do to close the gap? For me, it was getting clear.  I wrote down what I want and the limiting beliefs that were in my way.  As soon as I put that out in the universe, the doing started.

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Heartbreak

Baron says, it is when you think you’ve got the pose, it gets you. I feel that this is the best way to sum up heartbreak, it is when you think you’ve got life, the relationship, the job, whatever….it turns around and gets you.  What got me recently, heartbreak.  You know that tugging at your chest, the lump in your throat and pressure in your head and nose, that is the heartbreak I am talking about.  What it really is, is the universe giving you a little reality check.  “Hey you, the comfortable, everything is going so well one – here you go, time to check your shit and see what you are made of.”

What I am made of is flesh, bone, muscles, blood and all that good stuff.  What I feel is hurt, sad, betrayed, lied to, and overall surprised.  Yep, that is what heartbreak feels like to me. It is the stuff that makes you cry in yoga class, even when you are teaching it.  It is the stuff that makes you come home at 10pm on a random Monday and drink wine, eat pizza and watch re-runs of Sex and the City until midnight.  It is the stuff that makes you wake up at 4am to right blogs.

Most importantly, it is the stuff that allows you to turn to what is most important in your life – community. While I recently discovered what if feels like to be hurt yet again, what the universe was really shifting my attention to are the people in my life that really have my back.  The people who cry for me.  The people who do not want to leave me alone.  The people who return my phone calls late at night.  The people willing to eat pizza late at night and watch old TV shows.

I feel like the universe decides to dose out what you need most, when you need it the most.  It is looking to get your attention off one thing and onto that which needs you the most.  This was it for me – attention shifted.  While my eyes and mind have been on people not around, I was missing those who are around.  Those who stand by me every day, who feel with and for me, who complete me.  Sometimes we are able to see clearly what is important in our lives and other times we are completely ignorant and blind.  It is in those times that we need the heartbreaking shift, that we need the universe to slap us in the face and say “wake the fuck up.” Where in your life are you getting that call? Where does your attention need to be shifted? What is possible on the other side of hurt, sad and disappointment? For me, more than a dozen people all their supporting me.  For me, more love than I know what to do with.

……..Dedicated (and so super grateful) to my tribe, those who cry with and for me and stand by me in my messiest- I love you all!

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Who Are You?

What I love about self-inquiry and my yoga practice is that it is the small things that hit you over the head and make you pause.  Recently I started my own Instagram account, separate from Moonshine Power Yoga.  I then paused and said, "what the fuck am I supposed to do with this?" Who am I without the yoga studio? What else do I do? Where do I go? WTF??????

It did not take me long to realize that I have lost myself in running a business and doing what I LOVE.  Yes I love it, but it is simply something I do.  Not 48 hours later my coach asked me, "Who is Gina?".  I was like, no shit, you don't have to bring this, up, I just realized my identity is in one place. My work now is to remind me, what do I love outside of yoga? What am I passionate about? Where do I like to go and what do I like to do? What else is there about Gina besides yoga and Moonshine?

Where are you lost in the roles you play and the things you do? Can you answer some of these simple questions about what you are passionate about outside of your work and responsibilities? Now that my attention is on it, I am super excited to be discovering myself again and finding out who I am. And most importantly, I cannot wait to share it with you!

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Change, with no change

Two nights ago I was sitting at home fighting a major sweat tooth, the battle was difficult and thirty minutes later I got up and went out in the pjs to the store and got ice cream.  The lady at the checkout said "it makes me feel good that you have a yoga shirt on and you are buying ice cream."

In conversation I often find that people are surprised to know that I get upset, I feel hurt, I have some very not nice things to say and yes I eat ice cream. That people expect me to be enlightened and have everything together.  Here it is.......I do not have anything "together". What I have learned in doing this work, is that not much on the outside of our lives change, it is how we see the world and how we choose to react to it that changes.

Before this work, I get ice cream cravings - I fight it for days - I give in and buy a 1/2 gallon of ice cream - I eat the entire 1/2 gallon - I feel guilty and excessively exercise.  Now, craving - stay with it a little to see if is passes, no - buy pint and split it with hubby, enjoy every fucking minute of it and do not give it another thought. Before this work, come up with an idea - perfect the idea - come up with all the ways if can go wrong - imagine how bad it could go - imagine every possible scenario and come up with a plan to avoid it - exhaust myself and decide not to do it or miss the opportunity.  Now, come up with idea - DO IT!

It is in the thinking that gets us wrapped up in our apparent "if we have it together". Guess what guys, we all have it together just enough and that enough is perfect.  If we did not have it together, we would not still be moving along on this planet. I started to look at how I defined having it together. It used to be all tasks completed perfectly, all emails and phone calls returned, perfect exercise routine, perfect diet, perfect appearance for each person in my life, and so on.  And at the end of the day, I was left in feelings of failure, to my own definitions of having it together. Now, if I get to the end of the day and all is well, regardless of what is or is not done, SUCESS!!!

On this particular day, success looked like enjoying my Ben and Jerry's with the hubby while apparently inspiring the lady at the store in a little "it is ok, eat the ice cream." Where can your day not change at all and end in success versus failure just because you shifted your thinking and perceptions?

 

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Mother's Day

Is a great day for flower shops, hallmark cards, brunch and other stores filled with men and kids trying to find the perfect gift. As depicted on TV, social media, and other primary ads, it is a day to rejoice, love, and shower each other with gifts. Not for me. Mother's Day for me is much like Valentines Day when you are single.

I cannot remember an actual Mother's Day that looks anything like you see on commercials and TV. What I do remember is confusion and sadness.  I remember as a kid figuring out how to balance the day between the mom I did not know or understand with the step-mom that I did not have a choice to be with.  Standing in the card aisle, I would spend hours reading through the options, not agreeing with any of them and not knowing what to buy.  How do you buy a card that pours out love, joy and gratitude when you feel none of that.  Fast forward into my twenties when I have it somewhat figured out, and mom is dead so when you want to say those things, there is no one to buy a card for, so the day is a reminder to the grief and loss.

Now as a stepmom, I feel even more awkward.  Does my stepson feel the way I did when I was forced to pick out a card? Have I failed him in the same way I judged my stepmom? It is another year of reflecting on what I do not have and what I have not successfully become. Recognition of failure as a daughter and stepmom, recognition that I choose not to become a mom myself. 

It is an interesting day when the world around you appears to celebrate something you do not and better yet do not understand at all. A day in which joy is not where you are coming from. And yet, as I write this on Saturday night, Mother's Day is not yet here.  I can choose to create my day tomorrow and I can choose to feel the same guilt, shame, and confusion as I have the past 25 years, or I can choose something else.  I will celebrate the women in my life who have given me guidance, faith, trust and love. I will celebrate the mothers in my life who share the feelings of shame and guilt with me.  I will celebrate the daughters in my life who have feelings of failure and judgment.  We are all in this together, being imperfect together.  Lets celebrate our imperfections, lets lean on each other when our feelings of judgment and sadness arise, lets be for each other when we feel like everything but celebration. Lets be real together and stop hiding.