Friday, October 13, 2017

CRASH

                             



Life is always giving us exactly what we need when we need it. Such a difficult truth to remember when LIFE is throwing some challenging lessons at you.

I just completed five years as a full time yoga instructor, and I've been taking a trip down memory lane to SIGNIFICANT moments on this teaching path.

One HUGE lesson came on June 21, 2013. The Summer Solstice. Big day in the yoga world! I'd been teaching less than a year and still at a place where I was pretty much saying YES to any opportunity floated my way. Perpetually swiping RIGHT.....

So on this day, I was slated to teach beginning at 8 am - poolside yoga at Lifetime Fitness in Warrenville all the way through to a joint collab with my great friend Brian Dunn at 8 p.m. at Lifetime Fitness in Burr Ridge.

I was flying HIGH! Feeling so damn lucky to be teaching my art and my passion and making an impact in people's lives.  And I had reached a crossroad - my old way of living converging into this new path where I truly wanted to live and embody my yoga. But, at that time, I felt so many remnants of this 'former' existence were holding me in limbo.With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that those little lifestyle choices are actually irrelevant to what truly matters. But I could not see that at the time.

At that juncture, I was still driving a sweet, sporty black Mercedes which back then brought my human ego so much pleasure and it was such a beautiful, smooth and powerful machine. But I found myself feeling a bit self-conscious as I would walk out of a studio chatting with students and stop short so they wouldn't see my car. Who cares right? At the time, I did for some inexplicable reason.

So for a few months I'd been seriously thinking about getting a different car, but it was a fleeting thought as I was so busy teaching like crazy that I didn't attache a ton of concernment to it.

So back to the summer solstice of 2013. After a full day of teaching yoga and after a lovely dinner with Brian and some of our students, I headed home. Happy but pretty exhausted. As I was racing home to rest knowing in less than 8 hours I'd be teaching another four classes, I switched lanes and too late saw the car in front of me!!! 

CRASH! CRASH! CRASH! 

I rear-ended the poor guy in front of me. Both sets of airbags engaged: shins and chest from the steering wheel. The front hood popped open! Literally the HAND OF GOD must have been on my steering wheel to guide my totaled car safely across three lanes of traffic to the side of the road. I was discombobulated. Somehow, not sure how long it took, I disengaged my seat belt, crawled to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and literally spilled out onto the ground. I was groping around for my cell phone to call 911 - I couldn't even remember that I had locked it in my glove box to avoid distractions for my exhausted drive home.

And then my Angel appeared. Her name is Char. She witnessed the entire accident, took the next exit and circled back around to check on me. By the time I was in a heap at the side of the road, she had already called 911 and was by my side. A complete stranger. And the best friend I could have hoped for in that moment of my life.

As I searched frantically for my cell phone to call 911, she calmly informed me that she had already done so. She said she witnessed the entire accident and the man did not have his lights on, which explains why I didn't see him! I finally located my phone and was contacting MB roadside assistance, knowing fully well that they would send a flatbed tow truck and that at past midnight on a Friday night, there would be about a 2 hour wait. All I could think of was that I had to be at work in just a few short hours!

As I was on my phone call, the fireman/paramedic was yelling at me to get in the ambulance so he could check me out. I didn't want to delay the tow truck process, so I was trying to wrap up my call. I was becoming agitated by the dick-like behavior of this "first-responder," and before I could even muster a reaction, there was my Angel Char again having my back. She told him she would bring my right into the ambulance as soon as we dispatched the tow truck to the scene.

My other concern was that I didn't have health insurance. City of Naperville had graciously extended my Cobra coverage for me, however, it was nearly $1,000 per month at that time! Another struggle of the free-wheeling, happy-go-lucky lifestyle of a full time yoga instructor - lots of passion and gratification, but not much financial compensation. However, he checked me out and wanted to rush me to the emergency room. At this point my shins were severely bruised and triple their size. But I foolishly still believed I was teaching four classes in a few hours, so I refused to go.

So now I was just waiting for the tow truck, and at this point the Trooper said he would have to leave for another call but he was concerned about leaving me at the side of the road. Char stepped in (yes, she was still there!) and promised the officer she would wait with me for my ride. So I sat in her car and just began thinking about who the heck I could call at what was now past 1 a.m. Mind you, this was 2013, just before the advent of Uber and Lyft! Before I could formulate any viable thoughts - you quickly figure out who your true friends are when you are IN NEED) - Char offered to wait with me and drive me home!! Which she did!


                           

So as I finally got home well past 2 am, so grateful for Char and to God for allowing me to walk  (hobble) away from a huge crash, it slowly dawned on me that I was in no shape to teach the next morning. I quickly shot out emails to Brian (he covered my 8 am at Lifetime) and to the lovely teachers and managers at Yoga By Degrees. My classes were covered and I was able to REST.


                                       

The biggest lesson that I learned from this CRASH was how futile it is to WORRY. God/Universe (whatever you BELEIVE in) will always provide exactly what you NEED exactly WHEN you need it. It is the truth, you guys!

                              


ABUNDANCE is surrounding YOU ALWAYS! No need to worry. Let go of your FEARS. Open your HEART and TRUST and BELIEVE that you are right where you need to be. Just always do your best in any given moment. Everything else will be sorted out. Continue to do your DHARMA and you will get exactly what you need and deserve.

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!









  


Friday, July 7, 2017

Dead Branches

                                        
                                         



I was walking in the forest preserve as I love to do these days. It helps me feel more connected to reality and to practice the art of mindfulness. For me, it's an attempt to EMPTY my mind - to mentally flatline so I can see and feel and hear and taste and smell what's REAL.

As I was admiring the magnificent sounds and sights all around me - especially the TREES! I could stare at their shapes and growth patterns and majesty for hours upon hours - I noticed a beautiful tree that was almost unremarkable amongst the legions of other trees where it grew. Except that it had a huge dead branch.

The dead branch just hung there, slung across much of the tree. Dead weight. Heavy. The image was the perfect analogy for knowing when to hold em, when to fold em. When to ... you know the song right?

Recently, there was someone who came into my life quite unexpectedly, and we became very close very quickly. A fast friendship that brought immense happiness and laughter and joy with it!

You've experienced that too, haven't you? In fact, many of my friendships and relationships begin with a spark and a bang! (Not necessarily that kind of bang, gee-zus - wtf is wrong with you?) 

It was such a blessing. Truly. Until it wasn't. 

I have come to believe through my personal experience that each chance encounter and connection is never an accident. It's always an opportunity to learn, grow and I think in this situation, this person came into my life to help me heal. 

Spending time with this person began to trigger some deeply rooted fears and long forgotten past situations that had never been dealt with and certainly never released or healed. 

Memories from my past surfaced that had been buried deeply. I've realized that most of my life has been experienced through a state of survival mode. Just getting through each day in tact with as little damage as possible. 

I think that's why we yogis oftentimes appear unstable and emotional. Because as we start to deprogram from the narratives that have been ingrained in us, as we open up and re-connect within, all of our "shit" surfaces. We are constantly dredging it up and trying to let it go. 

Relationships obviously have the same effect. The more vulnerable we become, the scarier it gets. And it's my job to look deeper and figure out how to fix myself. It's also my job to know when to pour more energy and hope into growing something beautiful or when to recognize the branch is already dead.  

Once I made the decision to sever the ties to this relationship, I felt an immediate lightness throughout my entire body. My heart, mind, shoulders; everything felt light. It was as if all the energy I was pouring into the dead branch was redirected back into my own body in order to heal. 

What had been a relationship that brought me back to life, had shifted dramatically into a source of sadness, confusion and just overall feelings of shittiness. 

There's no one to blame here. I think we both cared deeply for one another. And I of course still care deeply.  So much gratitude for this mate to my soul for elevating my consciousness and leading me towards healing. 

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Friday, February 10, 2017

21 Day Detox - for the SEVENTH TIME

                                     

Since 2012, I've SEVEN times done a 21 day detox where I remove all animal proteins, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and gluten. Each time I've approached this cleanse with resistance and resignation. My first time was during my 200 hour teacher training - talk about resistance - I think I drank and smoked MORE during that first time just because I could. And because fuck you, you can't tell me what to eat and drink!

The next six times, believe it or not, I actually led groups of people through this same cleanse. Because of my accountability to lead each group, I actually resisted less and strived to be a good example. But I still felt a bit out of my element, as I didn't truly practice what I was preaching outside of the 21 day window.

Each time I've cleansed, I can honestly say that I was able to make some modest shifts. But I would always, always, always intentionally go right back to sugar, caffeine, animal proteins, alcohol and gluten. Never was there a thought to NOT do that. The 21 days was more of an act of discipline and will power rather than an attempt to make permanent lifestyle shifts.

This last cleanse, however, and FINALLY was totally different. I was READY for it. I NEEDED it. I was actually looking forward to it in order to find some boundaries and structure in my life. I was even more prepared for it, because I had canceled the previous one set for Fall 2016. And it has truly made all of the difference.

How you do anything is how you do everything, so taking something as complex and constant as your daily habits and rituals surrounding food can be an amazing opportunity for insight and awareness. If you are truly open to it. And finally, I truly was READY.

To where and what can I attribute this shift? Firstly, it's probably a function of age: you know, we just can't abuse our bodies like we did when we were younger! I was horribly unhealthy in my 20s and 30s in terms of nutrition and getting enough sleep, water, exercise, etc.  but still maintained a tight, lean body somehow! As I became more engrossed in my practice in my late 30s and early 40s, I can honestly say I was definitely in the best shape of my life. And I was still eating bullshit and had really unhealthy habits like hardcore caffeine, alcohol and smoking. Secondly, I didn't afford myself any downtime. I was always on the GO. GO. GO. GO.

Well if you have read my Fat Yoga Teacher blog, you know what happened from there. Crash. And Burn. I am a true believer in the mind-body connection. As I look back on the time of my burnout, I can very clearly see that I so badly needed to be GROUNDED. All of that frenetic energy was circulating around with no stability or structure or direction. And the only method that my poor body had to effectively slow me down was to literally pack 30 lbs of weight on my 5'2' frame! The weight gain and the exhaustion finally caused me to slam the brakes. And it forced me to take a long, hard look at where I was. And to understand how and why I got there.

And I stayed there for some time. It's been almost two years, and I'm finally seeing a glimmer of hope again. I know, I know - so flippen dramatic, right? But I totally trust in the process of life. These past two years, I've learned about my introverted side. How amazing it is to actually sit home by myself and RELAX! How the constant chaos and drama was actually just a deflection technique to avoid doing the real inner work.

I used to think that nobody loved me more than ME. I denied myself NOTHING. I indulged myself on every whim and desire. If I wanted chocolate, I would eat it and enjoy it guilt free. If I wanted a new pair of ridiculously expensive shoes (or a handbag, or a suit, or a dress, or whatever!) I would be on a mission until I got it. Usually as a gift. :-) I would blow off things and people and anything else that didn't suit me. I always looked out for myself - or so I told myself!

During this last cleanse, it became so apparent to me that indulging myself is not truly loving myself - it is feeding my EGO. I'm just now, four and a half decades into this life, beginning to truly love myself. And it is a constant, daily struggle! But cleaning up how I nourish my body has allowed some clarity into other aspects of my life. While I've always been pretty damn good at cutting people out of my life that don't uplift me, I'm getting better at walking away from situations that don't support my long-term growth. Like, giving up several classes (and income) in order to have sufficient time to rest, re-charge and balance my life out in other areas.

I've also been able to determine how EASILY and AUTOMATICALLY and MINDLESSLY I've used food as a drug, an elixir, a temporary distraction, a panacea. And on the flip side, I am so aware of how FUCKING GOOD my body feels when filled with clean fuels! No more aches. No more lethargy. I receive clear messages from my body that are not filtered through sugar and caffeine and processed foods. So when my body is tired, I rest. My energy doesn't spike as radically as it once did. I'm also better able to observe my emotions and try to understand where they originate rather than reacting and externalizing.

And I've also lost SIXTEEN POUNDS since the beginning of the year. For sure I attribute the weight loss to taking better care of myself and predominantly my diet. But I've also been able to see where my body clung to the excess weight for stability and grounding. I am feeling so much more grounded, and in response, my body is steadily shedding the excess weight. And unlocking more REAL energy; not the faux energy I've been flying on all these years.

Like everyone, I still have to work very hard to love myself and accept myself exactly as I am right now. It's easy to love yourself when you're at your ideal weight and your doing everything "right." The real struggle is accepting your own intrinsic value that is so much deeper than the outside package.

Like my yoga practice, I strive for just a millimeter of growth each day. A deeper glimmer of awareness. A stronger connection to atman.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

From Politics to Yoga


Four years ago, I was at the cusp of my new career as a yoga teacher. And I was transitioning from a very partisan, aggressive, righteous, competitive and holier-than-thou place.  Being a bit of a go-getter, I barreled right into this new role as a yoga dealer, expecting nothing but success and a smooth segue.

While intuitively I seek peace, stability and togetherness, as I think we all do, I've learned that it has not been as simple as flipping a switch for me. It has been a long, slow process of detoxification and deprogramming. It has taken an incredible amount of sometimes brutal honesty with myself. Practicing awareness and mindfulness - learning to pause before reacting and really thinking things through. Many have mastered these crucial abilities; this past election cycle has shown me my modest growth in these areas.

Four years ago, I was very vocal about my political beliefs. I downloaded on anyone who would listen. I lambasted anyone who dared to disagree with me. I rubbed it in people's faces when they were wrong and where they were wrong and how they were wrong. My political beliefs were so brilliant and wise and obvious. And boy was I PASSIONATE (that's a kind way of putting it) about what I felt deep in my soul to not only be the RIGHT way but for the love of God, the ONLY way. And man was I PISSED off and disappointed and sad during the previous two presidential campaign cycles.

When I teach yoga, I often remind students that we are looking for the teeniest, tiniest most subtle shifts and growth each session. The idea is to practice consistently with minute refinements until we look up one day and find ourselves deeply ensconced in a pose that once seemed unattainable. As I look up following this election cycle, I find myself in an entirely different countenance than four years ago, one I never even imagined.

My experience on my yoga mat once felt like an escape which I now realize is the exact opposite - it's a coming home. It's an inner journey and a reminder of who I really am beneath the surface and veneer and conditioning and posturing. I remember that underneath it all, I am filled with love and compassion and acceptance and tolerance and HOPE. And as I touch that part of my soul, I am reminded that ALL of us are ALL these things too!

As we all woke up this morning to the realization that we have elected a brand new President, my initial feelings were of compassion and understanding rather than a sense of victory and winning. The purpose of this post is not at all to espouse my personal political views, but rather to verbalize this vast open new space where I now find myself. 

Maybe it's because I've sat this election cycle out in terms of active campaigning and electioneering. But I've also spent the last four years striving to create a space for healing, growth and nurturing in my yoga classes. The invitation in my class is ALWAYS to come exactly as you are - and that will always be enough. Sure I still may have healthy differing views than others and vice versa, but the ultimate goal continues to be to find the common ground. To search so hard for what unites us rather than divides us. To CONNECT rather than isolate. 

I've become so familiar with observing others' limitations in both their physical practice and also their emotional struggles. I see people at their most hopeful and vulnerable. People share intimate details of their lives, their past pain and even their bodily functions with me. And I am learning to stay steady and grounded for everyone - I don't have to judge or agree or disagree - my role is to hold space for that person in that moment on their journey.

I've found that it is far more important to me to build a trusting relationship than it is to pummel people into submission or to be "right." So I can see that my personal politics are irrelevant to everyone but me. So there is no need for me to broadcast who I voted for and why. And I also see that it is not my role to point out the flaw in someone else's logic. Or to revel in their misery.

Now that I have finally found peace and solitude and happiness within my own heart, I can offer up compassion and support and love to the individual person and whether we agree on politics or not - I can connect to the humanity within him or her. I can respect and accept you for who you are without reservations. 

I'd love to say that I am ALWAYS in that space - but that would be an outright lie. But I can honestly say, I find myself there more and more frequently.

Whomever you voted for, however you feel today, I respect you and clear the way for you to express yourself in any way you see necessary. Because I know underneath the fear mongering that we call our modern political system, we are the same. We want what's best for our families and our children. We want to be loved and understood. And we recognize that true POWER cannot be transferred or created - it is our God-given birthright and it resides WITHIN.

God Bless America.  







Wednesday, September 14, 2016

45






So I turned 45 years of age today. Everyone has been asking: "What are you doing for your birthday?" I know it's just a simple question, but it touches against an interesting place within me. The answer is that I'm going to have a typical Wednesday, teach both of my classes, blog a little bit, purge more stuff from my life, see my son after school; and all I really want to do is head to the city to take a yoga class with Carmen Aguilar. And then if I can be in bed like a normal adult by 11 p.m. - BIRTHDAY SUCCESS!!!

So funny how I think it's a disappointment to people. Obviously it's my birthday and I am spending it exactly how I want to, but I feel like my response should be that I'm doing something fabulous with my life and my birthday. Flying to Paris! Huge dinner with family and friends! Extravagant spa day! The truth is, my life is pretty sweet. I am finally at a stage in life where I'm really opening to the miracles and the love and the blessings that surround me each day. So while my birthday is a reminder of Tempis Fugit Carpe Diem Memento Mori, it is also just another day that I will try to enjoy and live with gratitude and humility and grace.

As I am typing this blog, I have more than  600 FB birthday messages! More than 30 texts and a dozen phone calls! What a great reminder that I am SURROUNDED by love each and every day of my life! My morning class brought with it flowers, breakfast, coconut water, coffee, birthday cards and the loveliest SOUL SISTER mantra band. So unexpected and such a reminder of my blessings.

A student greeted me HB at my noon class and asked, "Where are all of your friends? I thought this room would be packed!" And again I felt that tinge of not measuring up to her expectations. But I quickly brushed aside and thanked her for her greeting. It's a life long practice to accept our own worthiness and know that it is and always will be ENOUGH!! 

Since I've slowed down my lifestyle and as I've taken more and more time in solitude and quiet contemplation, I'm discovering a deeply introverted aspect of myself. Spending my birthday in peace and stillness and solitude is exactly what I need today, and it is my gift to myself! I spent my 41st birthday in a 10 day silent vipassana retreat - best gift I've ever given myself! 

Each day I strive to look for the good, look for the love. look for the reasons to be happy and to remind myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. That my thighs are the exact size they should be. That my stretch marks and dimpled skin are gorgeous. That there is abundance everywhere! That there is soooooo much love around me. Some days - ok who am I kidding - most days - I have to remember it's there behind the third time I lost my phone in my own house and had to go to work without it. It's underneath that super crabby person who just flipped me off in traffic. It's lurking beyond the annoyances and challenges and just plain BS!

The truth is that each challenge has the seeds of GROWTH and TRANSFORMATION and LETTING GO of the past. And my greatest teacher has been learning and practicing mindfulness and stillness and SILENCE! When we can slow down and be still and silent, all of the NOISE - especially the noise of our own crazy thoughts - recedes and here is the space we need for true healing and nourishment and guidance. Yet we run from it, we fill this inner wisdom with food and wine and activities and TV shows and Instagram and so many other distractions. Of course, none of those things are wrong or bad, but we can see how they are used at times as an AVOIDANCE of true joy and quiet gratitude.

My birthday wish is for YOU to know that you are here for a beautiful purpose far greater than you can imagine. To know that there are no accidents only lessons. To remember that each DAY each breath each moment is a GIFT! The biggest impact on our lives happens IN THIS MOMENT. Your past choices have already manifested into today's karma - where you are NOW is a result of what you have chosen in your past, so no need to relive it and re-open old wounds. Your FUTURE will be determined by what you say and think and do TODAY! THIS MOMENT is the seed of your future. And all we can each do is to look for happiness in EVERYTHING, feel LOVE for EVERYONE, feel GRATITUDE for each moment.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Polarity Therapy Session Two: Healing My Inner Child


My second session with Christen cut deeply to my core. Since my first session, my body had been experiencing physical "pain" or intense sensations in my right hip/thigh area and my shoulders and neck were super tight and painful. The lovely director of Essencia Yoga allows Christen to use their beautiful studio space to practice her craft, and this time we were set up in the basement for our bodywork. It seems as if that darker, more cocoon-like space may have played a role in my experience on the table that morning.

Christen started on my feet and did some work on my legs - the thighs represent strength and forward motion. After my first session, I'd been experiencing a burning and throbbing release from my right psoas through the meaty parts of my thigh - front and back - and down through my knee. Intuitively I knew it was a releasing of stored anger. Thighs hold repressed anger and feelings of helplessness, which are two-headed beasts - where you find one, you generally find the other.

During this session, long-forgotten memories from my childhood were bubbling to the surface. In reliving these memories, I could clearly see that feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability from my childhood had been transformed into rage and anger. A few pivotal memories were at the seat of lifelong feelings of instability, never feeling truly safe nor beautiful nor worthy. I began sobbing uncontrollably on the table and these memories were spilling out of me toward Christen, who so compassionately listened to me and consoled me. This experience was so far out of my comfort zone! Crying and showing vulnerability is something that I have spent a great deal of energy in blocking - yang energy.  Also, these experiences had not been surfaced for many years, as I had literally been repressing them and pretending they didn't even exist.

When Christen got to my neck and shoulders, again I experienced intense physical sensations. Prior to Christen, I had worked with the amazing Everett Ogawa of Integral Bodywork, and he always described me as being "karmically ripe" for the deeper bodywork. What he meant was that my body is primed to release these stored memories and traumas because the pain has risen to the surface. Many people's pain is repressed so deeply that their bodies have become hardened and resistant to sensation. More than a decade on my yoga mat has helped immensely.

Upper back relates to the heart chakra - how we are able to express and receive love and what I've been finding out more recently, how well we are able to love ourselves and to express and receive that love. Neck relates to the throat chakra - how do we express ourselves? Do we say too little or too much? Do we feel supported when we express ourselves and so important: do we love and support ourselves enough to speak our highest and most personal truths? Shoulders are where we carry our burdens - we tense up when we feel stress which leads to chronic pain. A shift in persectve is helpful in this area: What are we carrying and how much of it is necessary? Are we reaching out for the help that we need?

Thoughts of compassion were dominant during this session. A realization that we are all doing the best that we can. That I am doing the best that I can. As I was experiencing the resurfacing of long-abandoned memories and hurts, Christen told me to release all resistance. I was trying (there goes that yang energy again) to release and change the experience. She told me not to try to change it or even release it. To just sit with it and let it run its course.

In those moments, I felt a softening through the right side of my body. The left brain controls the right side body - the yang - for me that side was my masculine energy that had been protecting and defending my inner core. My left side (controlled by the right brain) had been overshadowed all these years in efforts of right body to defend. It made so much sense that I was experiencing the deepest releases in the right side of my body.

This session was physically and emotionally draining, but I left feeling lighter and much more open to vulnerability and a deeper awareness of my intuition.

My assignment was to dial down and rest my central nervous system over the next week. Christen also told me to make sure my meals were nourishing and healing - not only in what I was ingesting but HOW I consumed my meals. She also gave me a lovely water chakra meditation to try each morning to help balance my overactive yang.



Annica! Annica! Annica!! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!







  







Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Polarity Therapy - Session One: In Touch with my Driving Force, Kali MaDurga

                                           




I've embarked on a new bodywork journey called Polarity Therapy. The overarching philosophy of this bodywork is that there are imbalances in the human body/mind/spirit resulting from blocked or misdirected energy. By acknowledging the effects of thoughts, emotions and subconscious programs - as well as those of diet, physical environment, lifestyle patterns and spiritual inclinations - Polarity seeks to encourage the free-flow of life force (energy/prana/chi) within the human system. This is achieved through three types of touching: static touching targeting the cranial-sacral system; deeper tissue i.e. acupressure and reflexology; and rocking motions. This modality creates a comforting and grounded space for the body to do what it needs to do to re-calibrate itself and to release.

What is exceedingly more remarkable than this brilliant modality is the practitioner: Christen Bridgwater. I have worked with Christen for a couple of years now, and I can honestly say that I have not met anyone as grounded and fully present in reality as Christen. She has a very soft-spoken innocuous demeanor that belies such a manifestation of true power and strength. I am fortunate to have crossed paths with her and can honestly say that I have experienced tremendous spiritual growth through my association with her.

Prior to my first session, she instructed me to meditate on what I needed from the bodywork and from her specifically. Over the next several days, the answer that arose (not from my mind but from my body itself) was that my body wished to be healed, deprogrammed and released. It was seeking a hard factory reset: to be restored to its original condition before my mind had learned to fear and hate and to judge. This goal articulated itself early one morning, and then there was a torrential downpour all that morning. A universal sign of the cleansing that had already been set in motion more than a decade ago  when I first stepped onto my yoga mat. Perhaps even prior to that.

So the initial session began with a lovely chat to touch base and Christen shared some mantras for me to concentrate on during the session to help my body in releasing and healing. The mantras: "You are worthy." "Thank you for loving me." "You are loved." She coached me to be open and receiving - two very challenging states for me to soften into.

Once on the table, Christen gently but firmly held my ankles for some time, inducing stillness to help me relax. As I paused in stillness here, Christen later told me that she could feel me stopping my cranial rhythms for long stretches of time to facilitate a release in my deep nervous system. I experienced lengthening sensations from my hips through my toes. She then began to manipulate my ankles, flexing them and holding them. She then (painfully!) cracked and stretched out each of my toes. Although it was intense sensation, I began to reframe the experience in my mind where at the point of "pain," I concentrated ALL of my retained hurt and pain to that point and worked to release it through my toe.

That's the key to FREEDOM I believe we are all looking for on some level - to be able to let go of stored pain and trauma and open back up to the world and to all life has to offer. To deprogram all of our social and learned conditioning and to experience each moment as it unfolds without needing reference points or to categorize or label or judge. To come back to a place of wonder and amazement and appreciation. It is a space where we remain open and vulnerable.

Christen then worked up to my neck and shoulders and then to my hips and thighs. Each part of our body has a corresponding elemental association. The yang and yin are in constant motion, seeking harmony and balance always. The body also seeks to balance itself by communicating, for example hips harmonizing with shoulders. The body also contains all of the elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, again seeking harmonious existence within.

I have a very strong yang imbalance, meaning my body must balance out its fire, high energy and heat with less DOING and more BEING. Seeking situations where I can soften and listen and receive rather than driving and striving and pushing. This is scary stuff for me! To accept that I am WORTHY exactly as I am; that my intrinsic value is unaffected by outward accomplishments, success and material possessions. In order to find this yin space, I realized that I somehow must release my big, strong, protective ball of anger.

This inner burning ball of fury has been my main survival mechanism for decades. To release it means to acknowledge the role it has played in my evolution and honor that it was what i needed at the time. But my heart's deepest desire is to exist in a space of peace, tranquility and equanimity where that anger is no longer needed. Anger is a powerful, driving energy that can be channeled to fuel success but can also be unleashed at inopportune times causing pain and wreaking havoc.

Over the next week, I felt intense throbbing sensations moving from my right psoas, through my hip and my knee. I knew it was a downward release of all the anger that had been stored in my gut and my hip and my thigh. The sensations were extremely intense, often times even painful. The thought that continually surfaced was to abandon my inner life and be fully grounded in the present.

My moods will fluctuate daily and even several times a day, but in spite of my temporary mood, I must strive to be steady in all of my interactions with others. Drop everything within and be present. So many people around me are hurting and need my support. Forget my inner thought life and be present for others. Live in THIS moment.

Stay tuned for Session 2!

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!








Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding Balance

   



So my last several blog posts have been pretty fucking deep and dark and redemptive. That's where I'd been kinda stuck recently. As I look back, I kinda feel that I've been overly dramatic. I mean, seriously, whining about having to teach soooooo many yoga classes each day, every day and how it sucked my entire soul. Don't get me wrong - that's exactly what it FELT like and ALL feelings are valid. But something about putting some distance between your emotions and your reaction time lends a clearer perspective. And also the simple act of identifying your imbalances and working to correct them.

So as I dumped a bunch of classes and have had EVERY WEEKEND OFF since Memorial Day weekend, the pendulum has rapidly swung the other way!!! I've morphed back into one serious party girl again! In the city every weekend with my 20-something squad! Living life loud and fast and slightly on the edge of control.

It just feels so good to feel good again, ya know? To allow myself happiness once again. To make time for myself and my friends. To get a bit crazy and out of control. No need to go into huge details here lol! Just suffice it to say that the month of June 2016 has been round two of my 20s! Fortunately on a much more restrained level, mainly because my 20-something squad has much less energy and sense of adventure than me! Sorry Migle and Alexus - but you know I'm right!!

After working my assana off the past few years in my new career as a yoga instructor, I put almost EVERYTHING into building it. Cultivating a solid base of students. Building my own knowledge base. Rigorously trying to hang on to my personal practice. Most importantly, trying to make it financially solely through my own sweat and effort and work ethic. I've finally reached a point where the sheer FEAR of making "enough" to sustain myself has been overshadowed by exhaustion and burnout. Which turned out to be the best thing ever for me.

It has forced me to pull back. Balance it out a little more. Sometimes I don't even know how to act when I have TWO days off in a row! Saturday mornings have been when I do my "long" run, and you only show up hungover for that kind of thing ONCE - or if you're ME, TWICE. Then you soon learn to lay slightly lower on Friday nights! But it certainly beats laying low because you know you have FOUR classes to teach on Saturday. And then Saturday night you're so exhausted and crabby that it makes no sense to try to do too much.

Now, my Saturday nights are rockstar events because I've already gotten up and RUN and probably done some yoga ... guilt-free night with my squad! I've literally been in love at least three times this past month! Perhaps love isn't the best word.... But I digress.

This post is about finding balance. Isn't it something that we all struggle with? I've flown through most of my life; my only stabilizers have been relationships. Oftentimes, those of us who avoid being grounded and stable are actually running from pain. To be grounded means to be rooted in our physical bodies and that's where we store so much pain and grief and trauma. THIS is why as yogis we are always working out different emotions and coming to so many realizations about ourselves.

I get it - not all yogis are recovering heroin addicts. But through my own personal practice and my experience as an instructor, we certainly all have room to let go of some shit and find space where there once was pain, tightness, illness, regret, whatever!! 

And it all comes back to seeking balance. It's pretty easy to live in the extremes. All in or all out. Go hard or go home. Do or die. Fight or flight. Balance is standing your ground while chaos swirls around you. It's knowing when you've lost it and recalibrating yourself back to your center. It's realizing that you can do ANYTHING just not EVERYTHING. It's doing your best without beating yourself up. It's having fun while still taking care of yourself and respecting your body. It's knowing when to hold on and when to let go.

As our circumstances shift, our experiences transform us, we are forced to adapt in order to maintain our balance. And it is a constant, daily, lifelong practice. 

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!







Wednesday, June 15, 2016

From My Heart to Yours




Have you ever occluded your heart? Closed it for an entire season? Shuttered it up and safely secured it and just left it alone in stillness? Have you ever done it for so many seasons, that you didn't even realize what you'd done? You just went through the motions of living and practically FORGOT you had a heart and what it felt like to FEEL?

The thing about your beautiful, amazing heart is that it is infinitely patient. It keeps beating in the background until you are STRONG enough and BRAVE enough to re-open it. It doesn't care how long or why. It waits.

You stay super busy. And work until exhaustion. You avoid it. You project onto others. You beat yourself up. Repeatedly. You attack others as a defense mechanism to keep them far away. You shove down any little murmurs from your heart with whatever is close. Food. Sugar. Alcohol. Sex. Prescription drugs. Non-prescription drugs. Shopping. You immerse yourself in the PHYSICAL practice of yoga or running or lifting or whatever. You try a new type of bodywork. You get engaged. Several times. Married a couple more. You have your chakras aligned. You do a 10 day silent retreat. You see a therapist. You have a reading done. You chant. You do a detox. You go gluten-free. You become vegan. You try all types of supplements and essential oils. You buy some more Jimmy Choos. You change careers. You become a yoga teacher. You have an Ayurvedic consultation. And on and on and on.

And then one day, you look up from the grindstone and it occurs to you: I'm fucking miserable! And you start to look a little closer at this sham of a life you've created where you've only been fooling yourself! And you start to quietly listen in stillness to hear your heart's deepest longing. It doesn't blame you for wasted days, months, years, decades. It simply reminds you of what you already knew.

And you slowly, bravely, painstakingly peel layer after layer, barrier after barrier. And once you think you're done, you realize there's so much more to peel away. So you do the work. Make some significant lifestyle changes. Let go and release those things you've been clinging to. And this generates more energy flow from your heart center. You breathe just a teeny tiny bit more deeply. Your poor battered body and mind release stored tensions, stress, traumas. You start to find more ease.

As your battered yet somehow untouched and unbreakable heart continues to be liberated, it starts emitting its lovely frequency again. And it reaches and touches other beautiful hearts that are drawn into your life. Some are new. Others have been there all along, just waiting. And your heart continues to open and shed and it literally just buoys in your chest. So light that it would float away if it wasn't for your ribcage. But now your heart KNOWS. It APPRECIATES. It is filled once again with GRATITUDE and WONDER and AMAZEMENT at well, EVERYTHING! 

And your heart finally realizes that just because someone touches your heart or plays a song on your heartstrings, that person doesn't for an iota of a second OWE you anything. You are not bound to that person for life - though the connection will always remain. That heart may have come to TEACH you a valuable lesson. Maybe YOU were their lesson. They are not responsible for your happiness or well-being. Only YOU, beautiful, strong, brave YOU have that power and that gift.

We are all here on our personal quests, our personal journeys. Unique to us. Lived and experienced by us. It is a BLESSING when someone comes along and shares part of your journey. Maybe your entire journey. Maybe one lovely soulful evening. 

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!









Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Anatomy of A Yoga Teacher Burnout





For years, even before I became a yoga teacher, my name was synonymous with yoga for those who knew me. It was a blessing and a gift for me. I've been told by other instructors that they would literally see me come alive on my mat! I'd walk into the studio in a business suit and high heels with a very serious look on my face; and then this amazing, free spirit would emerge while on my mat. I loved yoga soooooo much. It did make me feel alive; so much so that all of my free time revolved around my practice. Pretty soon, even my work schedule became affected by my ability to practice at some point during the day.

And I was an entirely different person on my mat! Happy, calm, grounded, focused and determined. My practice made me feel STRONG, capable, beautiful, light-hearted, at ease and amazing! So I took a leap of faith and signed up for teacher training. Retired from the public sector. And looked forward to long days practicing and teaching yoga - deepening my physical practice and sharing my passion and the gift of yoga to every single person in the entire world.

So, the first ingredient of yoga teacher burnout (YTB) is to say YES to every single class offered to you! The 6 ams and the 8 pms. Preferably on the SAME day. And to teach SEVEN days a week! It was a slow build, but within my first several months of teaching, I began a 22+ class a week, seven days a week teaching schedule. And I did this for  close to two years. I've blogged about the process of Letting Go of some classes as well as how I devolved from Yoga Badass to Yoga Fatass so i won't go into detail on that here.

After teaching a couple of 6 am classes a week for a couple of years and then dropping them, the feeling of pure luxury and contentment in SLEEPING IN on those mornings until 6 a.m. (rather than 4:30 a.m.) is indescribable. Pure, sublime, blissful joy. It feels like the biggest gift ever! Same thing with finally taking Sundays off! Just one single day off during the week is EVERYTHING! So this new, lighter load of classes combined with a single day off during the week became my new norm. And the renewed sense of energy lasted for another year and a half.

Throughout this process, I stopped consistently practicing during my free time. The second ingredient for YTB - not renewing your source of inspiration, light and love. The bloom was faded from the rose. My mat no longer summoned me. In order to rekindle my passion, I committed myself to practicing each day for an entire year! It was my 365 Days of Yoga Journey and I learned so much about myself during that solid year.

So this new leaner schedule, 18 classes taught six days a week afforded me some breathing room. But I was still teaching all day and also evenings. I started finding a little more balance with work and life. But recently, the old burnout began to creep in again. So I gave up some evening classes late in 2015 to give myself Thursday nights off. And last month I gave up two more classes so now I no longer teach on Wednesday nights! And this Saturday will be my first Saturday not teaching four classes since 2012! This extra time and energy in my schedule has again freed up some much needed energy, positivity and released so much tension from my body.

Even though I would get huge chunks of "time off" during the day, it didn't truly feel like free time, as I was still anticipating teaching more classes during the evenings. So it still felt as though I was either teaching or getting ready to teach with still little energy leftover to carve out some leisure time for myself.

One of the biggest reasons full-time yoga teachers have to hustle so hard is because we are paid per class. We are mostly independent contractors, so most of us have no employer benefits such as health care, sick days and paid time off. If I don't work, I don't get paid. So the need to teach as many classes as humanly possible in order to survive in a field that you absolutely love is REAL. But somewhere along the way, chasing more and more classes becomes just too much. You must sacrifice to be able to physically, mentally, emotionally BRING IT each class. My biggest sacrifice has turned out to be taking truly great care of myself. Allowing myself ample time to relax and recharge. Providing myself opportunities to socialize and let my hair down in an environment that has absolutely ZERO to do with yoga. And these sacrifices have taken their toll over the past few years. Third YTB ingredient: not balancing work with the rest of your life.

I am currently down to a mere 14 classes each week, five days a week and only working two weekday evenings. This is my new normal for now. I'm allowing myself to take it light and easy this summer and see how and if my relationship with yoga can be rekindled. The biggest step for me now is to trust in the abundance of the universe to provide for me. Without having to hustle and scrape by.

And the universe does deliver! When I gave up my Thursday evening classes, I was hired to lead a private cleanse. When I gave up my Wednesday evening classes just last month, I picked up a regular weekly private. So important to trust in the abundance of life - and not get caught in the fearful cycle of scarcity. There is enough and even more than that! 

So I choose to move from love; love for myself and my well-being. I trust that everything is unfolding as it should! And I commit to using this new time and energy to once again find my inner strength. To create balance for myself. To learn new things. Build new areas of my life. The future is bright!

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!


Saturday, April 16, 2016

LA Yoga

Last time I was in LA (2009), I was not yet an instructor. So my perspective was definitely a lot different. In 2009, I practiced EVERY single day I was here from City Yoga in West Hollywood (don't think it's there anymore) to Exhale in Venice Beach to YogaWorks in LA and even CorePower in San Diego. Back then, I was OBSESSED with the physical practice of yoga. As my practice has deepened, my perspective has naturally shifted as well. 


As an instructor, my obsession with my physical practice has diminished greatly - I no longer measure my own sense of self-worth based on my poses; an illusion (maya) that was very dominant in my life at one point. I find my interest shifting toward my breath work (pranayama) and my meditation practice (dhyana). Oh. And actually getting to my mat to practice!!!

So it was such a checkpoint for me to come back to LA seven years later to observe shifts in my own practice and hence my life. 

DISCLAIMER: It's important for me to be perfectly clear that I have the utmost respect for all yogis- we are all in different places on our journey. ANY person that unrolls their mat and takes an opportunity to shine some light into the deepest, darkest places of their psyche and soul and hip flexors has ALL of my respect.  This blog is meant to chronicle my personal journey and is not meant to throw shade on any of my fellow yogis. Well maybe a little but only if she had it coming.

So fastforward to 2016. As I'm preparing for my 2016 spring break, I make plans to meet my yoga buddy Danny Sheu for a class. He sends me a link to an article chronicling the "8 Best Yoga Teachers" in LA. So of course, I pick the hottest dude on the list, and we go from there. No need to discuss the irony of the article itself.

I arrive at YogaWorks South Bay (with Julian) shockingly early for class! Danny says he"ll go ahead and set our mats up, so I take a quick walk over to Whole Foods to get my teenager acclimated to the area, since he'll be meandering around on his own for the next couple of hours (90 minute class).

I walk up the stairs and into YogaWorks South Bay and I'm greeted with such a warm welcome from the front desk receptionist. I'm not sure what Danny told the instructor Sean Gray about me, but he told Danny that I should practice as his guest! What a complete honor! Not to mention, I saved $22!
I walked into the studio and it looked EXACTLY like you would imagine a level 3 LA yoga class to look like! Filled with tight, toned, tanned amazing bodies. Predominantly white. Lotsa blondes. Average age of probably 30. There were a few people of color sprinkled into the mix, including Danny, me and some others. They too looked healthy and toned and VIBRANT with wellness. I felt like a fricken rebel in class when my chubby Midwest belly kept popping out of my pants!!!!

I settled onto the mat that Danny had set up for me in a seated forward fold with my eyes closed. It felt amazing to just BE on my mat. I suddenly felt and heard someone loudly smack their mat down next to me. There's an etiquette to participating in a group yoga class; generally being loud, obnoxious and disruptive is frowned upon. oh wait, that's in life, too.  I looked up and it was a skinny blond beatch with an attitude. I tried to smile at her (this was after all a YO-GAH class) and she responded by picking up a yoga towel and tossing it OVER MY HEAD onto Danny's mat next to me.

So. Here I was at a crossroad. I'd been in this scenario hundreds of times throughout my life. Different bitch. Same attitude. And except for that one time when I cowered before an older bully in middle school (or maybe BECAUSE of that) I would invariably STAND UP and GET IN A BITCH'S FACE. And trust me, the urge was so strong. But I paused. And I took a deep breath. And I ignored her.

First of all, I was in a GREAT mood and didn't want to give that cunt the power to ruin it for me. Secondly, I was the GUEST of the instructor. And thirdly, is that even a word? I was the guest of my FRIEND Danny. So I let it slide. And then Danny walks in and blondie jumps up and starts gesturing toward me. I interrupted them and asked Danny if we should switch spaces (so I wouldn't be stuck next to that rude hoe.) He said that it was fine and I could see him placating her. Whatevs. I was on my first vacay in two years and my first spring break in four. She was so not worth my time.

So as this grueling level 3 class progressed, I saw that the blond next to me had an absolutely AMAZING physical practice. She was absolutely lovely and graceful and so strong. And it just reminded me that the PHYSICAL practice means NOTHING if it doesn't pierce the layers of ego and pride and self-righteousness.  The discipline and dedication it takes to evolve the physical practice is meant to translate OFF of the mat and SPILL into your LIFE. So that you can be beautiful and graceful and lovely to actual people. Yoga is not about nailing a POSE. It's about learning the art of living.

About an hour and some change into class, we started working inversions and backbending, so I dragged my mat against the wall between two lovely yogis. At this point I was almost face to face with blondie who did not need the assistance of the wall. She busted out an absolutely breathtaking scorpion handstand (something I DREAM of one day doing possibly in this lifetime.) The thing about yoga is that the challenge of the physical practice peels away the unnecessary bullshit. So I called out to blondie and told her how beautiful her scorpion was. She responded with the tightest bitchiest whispered pastiche of a smile. Or maybe she just felt gassy from her vegan fiber-rich diet.

Against the wall, the girl to my right and I did our work in a comfortable and pleasant silent camaraderie. Then we started in a backbend facing the wall where we walked up to standing then used the wall to walk back down into backbend. The girl to my right and I were in perfect sync with our first backbend, but as I walked up the wall, she stayed down. I came back down and while we were preparing for round 2, I impulsively looked over at her and said "c'mon girl, let's do this." In perfect juxtaposition, the gorgeous young girl looked over at me and the first words she said were, "OMG, I love you so much right now. I'm so scared to do this." So we did it together and SHE DID IT for the FIRST TIME in her life. We started giggling together and chatting for the next few moments. I was just as happy for her as she was for herself. And Sean even made a comment about the two of us giggling in backbends.

We started the cooling sequence and went into our final resting pose - a well deserved savasana. After class, the young girl introduced herself and gave me the biggest hug. Her name is Helen, she must have been about 21 or 22. She asked me a ton of questions and was so disappointed when I told her I was from out of town. So though Helen does not yet have mastery of some of the more challenging poses, she ventured from her comfort zone and took Sean's level 3 class. She had been intimidated to take that class for MONTHS. And I feel so fortunate that our paths crossed because it was the perfect ending to something that had started out far less than ideal.

I caught up with Danny who introduced me to blondie; I won't call her out by name but she is actually an instructor at the studio where she was practicing next to me AND a "famous" IG yogi! She was extremely cool (ice princess not homegirl) and showed zero interest in actually meeting me. Danny later explained that he had also saved a space for her with his towel (ya know, the one she chucked straight over my head while looking me dead in my face) so she thought that I had stolen her spot. ummmmmm.... ok.

I get it. We all have bad days. We all react impulsively rather than thoughtfully at times. I'm actually glad that little incident happened, because it showed me that I always have a choice in my attitude and response, but there will ALWAYS be an unhappy person who lashes out; there will always be another BEATCH. I know that i have the discipline to take a deep breath and refuse to ENGAGE. Sometimes I can't simply walk away, I was anchored there with Danny for that entire class. And that was my yoga for the day! Maintaining my own equanimity. Still working on sending more love to people like that who probably really need it.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!









Monday, January 25, 2016

What I Learned from My Uncle's Death


Tempis Fugit, Carpe Diem et Memento Mori
Time Flees, Seize the Day and Remember You Must Die

One of my favorite uncles passed away recently, which served as a reminder to me that we all must die. We tend to not want to think about DEATH - we push it away and pretend that it may just pass over our house. Yet, what could be more natural? We know that anything living must one day die. In this way Death becomes the best and greatest teacher of LIFE.

My uncle was an exceptional man; an immigrant from the Philippines to this country; a husband, father, brother, uncle and friend to so many. A physician that treated thousands, including so many back in his home country that didn't have access to proper healthcare. He served as President of the Philippine Medical Society in NYC for many years. He loved life. He was an accomplished ballroom dancer and dance teacher, even choreographing his daughter's first dance with her husband and the father-daughter dance at her wedding. He was generous and funny and kind and brilliant. The way he lived his life, full and busy and brimming with activity, was exemplary. 

His death became a celebration of his LIFE; it brought much of our family together again, a challenging feat since we are scattered in LA, Portland, Chicago and Manila. It was something that I realized I sorely needed. A homecoming to remember not only my uncle, but to remember who I am and where I come from.

Life carries on, evidenced in the next generation of our family. Within these young souls, we invest our love and our hopes and dreams for the brightness and possibilities of their limitless futures. But we are also reminded that we are still among the living, and until we take our final breath and pass on, we too have endless possibilities with our remaining days.

So attending the wake, funeral mass and cremation of my uncle was of course bittersweet. Saying goodbye to Uncle Manny was a definite reminder of my own mortality and also that of my own parents. But what a blessing to remember to appreciate the days, minutes, moments and breaths that I still have with them.

Having to take some time off also provided me with some much needed perspective of where and how I am spending my precious time and energy, and I am not entirely satisfied with what I am seeing. It literally took someone to die for me to take some time off from teaching. A funeral should not seem like a vacation, but three days off in a row - basically a long weekend - felt like I won the powerball! And I even flew home on Sunday to lead a workshop that same afternoon. 

The irony of a yoga teacher needing to find balance in her own life is not lost on me! Anyone who works their passion to make a living can relate - it becomes a hustle to make ends meet while pursuing what you know to be your dharma, your calling in life.

I've realized it's about TRUST and LETTING GO. Trusting the ABUNDANCE in life rather than getting stuck in that endless frenetic cycle of teaching as many classes as humanly possible to make more money but then collapsing in a heap at the end of the day, totally depleted and resentful.

I'm still learning the art of living from my dear departed Uncle Manny. He definitely worked hard but made family life and simply living his life and pursuing his passions a priority as well.

Tempis Fugit. Carpe Diem. et Memento Mori.
Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!








Monday, October 19, 2015

21 Day Detox - FIFTH TIME


I'm on day 15 of my fifth 21 day detox. The first one was in 2012, and I did one annually in 2013 and 2014. This is my second time for 2015; the first was in January. The detox:

Vegan
No sugar
No gluten
No caffeine
No alcohol

Each time I've embarked on this journey, I've gained a keener awareness of patterns of consumption in my life. How you do anything is literally how you do anything. So observing my complex (and sometimes neurotic) relationship with food becomes a penetrating insight into all aspects of my life. 

Each cleanse is a drastically different experience, where each 21 day detox builds upon the last. Here are my insights and lessons learned.

1. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol are literally DRUGS that artificially alter moods, energy levels and even physiological responses such as bodily functions and hormone levels. Well, no DUH, right? We all KNOW that - but this time I had an acute awareness within the first day of how significantly different my body feels without those substances. It is a recognition that pierced through the mental cognition and connected with my physical body. A yoking of mind and body became a true Oprah a-ha moment. 





2. I've become aware of the distinct difference between filling myself up and truly nourishing myself. In the emotionally turbulent year I've had trying to bridge my new role as a yoga teacher with my former (and still lingering) patterns of mindlessness, I found myself consuming things that "fill up" my mind, my tummy, my time with junk rather than truly moving toward wellness and nourishment.

It's easier to go through the drive-through or grab a latte than slowing down to mindfully select how to fuel your body. This is also true with who we spend time with, how we spend our time and how we fill our minds. How many squandered minutes, hours do we devote to mindlessly scrolling the newsfeed of IG or FB or Twitter? How often do we go on autopilot to fill our time with activities and even people that don't truly nourish us?

Awareness of stale patterns is the first step to living more purposefully.



3. Complacency and comfort are oftentimes the enemies. Sticking to the status quo or living out of habit rather than true mindfulness and awareness is so much easier, more comfortable and safe. But is that the way you want to live your life? If the answer is yes, then I am happy that you are happy. But there is something within me that has been resisting the notion of societally defined success as my definition of success. Sure, in my lower moments, I realize that I could easily take the blue Matrix pill and try to return to a life where I am comfy, financially stable; or I could find a man to rescue me and take care of me (this old horse still has a few races left in her!); but I'm much more fulfilled when I can comprehend the true nature of self-reliance: that IS my stability, that is my ease and comfort and security. I can rely on myself to excel and to survive. This knowledge allows me to cease the endless cycle of worry, doubt and fear.

4. I've begun to pierce through my own layers of self-perception and realize that some of my own assumptions of myself are no longer valid! We like to label others and categorize them so they can neatly fit into our little mental world that we've constructed. We do this for safety reasons; we want to have control over our lives and those people and situations that enter our orbit must be controlled and safely and neatly dealt with and put away. We do this with ourselves too! Based on our past experiences, usually experiences that have hurt us or made us feel vulnerable, humiliated, sad, we construct mental parameters that define who we are. Based on this mental image, our minds work extremely hard to alter our perception of reality in order to protect our mental world.

I've come to realize that my own self-image is so dramatically tied to my interactions with others and their perceptions of me! This cleanse has provided so much clarity to me in the arena - how so much of my behavior and my reactions and interactions are tied to "expectations" and learned behavior. I've been slowly peeling away layer after layer to discover that I am so much more grounded and stable than I once thought or was told. 

5. Food and alcohol tends to be an agent of complacency and conformity. After all, we just want to be liked! And to fit in. To be accepted by friends, family, peers and colleagues. Much of ourconditioned socializing  surrounds eating and drinking! 

My previous forays  into cleansing included a lot of self-seclusion to stay strong and avoid temptation. This go-round I've found myself sharing many meals with friends where I'm truly not tempted at all by the crap they shovel into their bodies. 😂😂😂 

I've also responded to invitations to meet for coffee or tea with a yes, let's get together, but how about we walk instead? Or take a yoga class together? 

Each moment, each breath, each experience provides the opportunity to break the old patterns of habit before they become chains of dependency and slavery. 

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!