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Falling Through Thin Air

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I first noticed it a short time ago while on retreat – I don’t like feeling empty.  This plays out in a number of interesting ways.  For instance, on this day, I realized that I never fully swallow my food before I reach for the next morsel, or place food in my mouth.  There is always something that remains in the space; it is never completely empty.  It’s been months since I made that discovery and still, every day, I catch myself doing this same thing over and over again.  Never empty.

I also do this in my daily practice.  I find myself not fully releasing the breath.  I begin to move towards the next pose or sequence before I’ve finished my full exhale.  I’m contemplating what comes next instead of being with what is in the moment.  Never empty.

Last week I handed in my final paper for my Yoga therapy training.  I waited on tenderhooks to hear back from my teacher, fully expecting to do revisions, almost hoping for them.  Nope.  Instead, I was congratulated on accomplishing the task and that was that.  There was nothing left to do.  No more reading assignments.  No more case studies.  No more exams or presentations or written reports.  Nothing other than the pure joy of going in to the studio to attend class, but that’s not work.  All my work is done.  What does that mean?  That means S  P  A  C  E.  Emptiness.  Great blocks of time with nothing in them.  It means the freedom to do as I wish.  It means…………panic.

Panic comes after the grand question, “So, what now?”  Sneaky beggar, that one.  It takes me away from my experience, away from how I’m feeling, and it provides me with the illusion of taking up space.  Instead of floating in the pause, as I often encourage my students to do, my mind goes straight into planning mode.  According to Overactive Mind, if we do not plan and pursue and strategize, why, we’ll end up being a Masters student working at Harvey’s.  *sigh*  And my Wiser Self says, “Oh dear.  This again?”  It’s not like we haven’t been here a bazillion times before.

Reaching into the future instead of easing into the uncomfortable sensation of floating into space.  Reaching for that morsel of soul food to fill the gap. Creating a new project so I don’t feel the deep sadness that comes with this ending, the loss, the fear, the loneliness, and the sudden sense of isolation. My heart is broken.  The future is full of possibilities that I have yet to realize.  There is no ground beneath me and I am aching to fill up space.

I caught myself in the midst of this yesterday, pacing around my room, unable to settle into any one task, and I had to smile.  I was at it again – creating illusions in order to avoid my fear.  For the first time ever, I found myself softening to the experience.  I heard myself say, “It’s okay.  I’ve got this.  I’ll take care of you.  I’m not abandoning you this time.  Let’s just breathe together.”  All the things I would say to a beloved student, I finally said to myself. I committed to caring for my own fear….and anger….and bitterness….and any other emotion or sensation that I dislike and wish to banish. Pema Chodron writes in When Things Fall Apart:

To stay with that shakiness – to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge – that is the path of true awakening.  Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic – this is the spiritual path.  Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior.

I’m not certain I would ever call myself a “warrior” but I am getting the knack of catching myself, and staying with myself, when things feel tough. It’s still an awkward and uncomfortable experience but how can I not do this?  If not for me, then for my students and for my loved ones.  How could I ever sit with them through their grief and fear and discomfort if I continue to abandon my own?  We’re all in this thing together.

May we catch ourselves running away, and invite ourselves to stay.  May we catch ourselves when we cling, and invite ourselves to loosen the grip. May we cease trying to fix a situation that is not broken.  May we stay with ourselves in all situations.  May we float gently on the current of “being”. May we be free.

All the best, friends!

Tabitha

This is absolutely brilliant.  Enjoy!

Tabitha

Squeeze, please!

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I recently wrote an email to my students talking about female incontinence.  It was requested that I share what I wrote with a wider audience, so here I am doing just that.  I hope it helps!  (There seems to be a formatting issue that I cannot resolve.  Please excuse the “clump” of information.)

Tabitha


It’s delicate territory I’m about to enter – the territory of female incontinence – but it’s important territory.  If discussions such as these make you uncomfortable, be kind to yourself and hit “delete” now.  For those who are interested, read on.
If you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know I push back against societal messages such as, “Oh well, it’s an age thing.”  Commercials of women bouncing around and giggling as they leak into their pants (or hygiene product) sets me on fire.  There are many things that happen as the body ages, yes, but things like incontinence are not inevitable.  For sure, there are medical conditions that create this circumstance in the body, and sometimes surgical intervention is the only way to go, but, outside of a medical issue, if you think you have to pee when you sneeze, think again.  Yoga addresses this issue with great success.
It’s all about the pelvic floor.  Most of us have heard about this area of the body, but it’s a difficult space to access.  Here’s a very concrete exercise I have used that, when practiced consistently, works at helping women to find and strengthen this area.   I call it the “mid pee hold”, and it goes like this:
When seated on the toilet, lean all the way forward so that your belly is resting on your thighs, or fold forward as far as you can.  Keep your seat engaged with the toilet so your thighs are at rest, and you can really get a sense of the area in which the work is happening.  Begin to release urine, then squeeze all the muscles involved to get the stream to stop.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Release urine again.  Squeeze again.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Continue until the bladder is completely empty.  Then, move on with your day.  Repeat this process throughout the day, every day.  For those who like schedules, I recommend every other bathroom visit.
You may find, in the beginning, that you are struggling to stop the urine.  All I can say is, stick with it.  Change comes.  This is, by far, the most effective way to access and strengthen the pelvic floor I have seen to date.
Best of luck to those who give this a whirl.  May you no longer be afraid to laugh, cough or sneeze.  😉
All the best,
Tabitha

Zen Time

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Hello everyone!

It has been a long time since we’ve visited with one another.  Too long.  I miss this place, and I miss all of you.  I miss my little spot in the world where I can be free and creative, joyful and cranky, where I can make an offering and trust that it will land in the right lap (or heart) at just the right time.  I have, however, been boring down into the depths of Yoga Therapy training with all of its exotic Sanskrit terms, its treatment protocols, and its little hand-drawn stick figures that have become the bane of my existence.  I love it and hate it all at once.  Like an old-style can opener, it is prying open the creaky parts of my mind, and like the greatest teachers, it is pushing all of my buttons, forcing me out of my comfort zone and prodding me to evolve as a human.  Waking up this morning, the day before exam number 2, I realized I…am…tired!

And along came this little video.  I love when the most precious and necessary medicines get dropped in my lap at just the right time.  I calm right down just watching it.  My shoulders relax.  My jaw unclenches.  My breathing slows.  Heck, I even dare to smile!  🙂  

May I present to you, Mike the Hamster.  May he touch a part of you that needs calm, that needs healing.  And may we all learn to be as Zen as Mike, completely content with the most simple things in life, like a blanket and a carrot…and, of course, someone who loves us enough to provide us with said blanket and carrot.

Until we meet again, enjoy and be well!

Many blessings,

Tabitha

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Warning:  F-Bomb Alert!

Let me begin this post by saying that I have the utmost respect for guided meditations and their ability to calm a raging mind.  However, let’s get real.  Some days have a razor’s-edge sharpness to them that seem to whittle away at your good graces and calm behaviour.  Some days we just need something a little….bit….stronger.  If you’re having one of those shit-kicker days, this one’s for you.

(If you are at all sensitive to strong language, just turn around and walk away.  This one is NOT for you.)

Enjoy!

Tabitha

Dog-Bite1

I’ve been paying close attention to sarcasm lately.  I grew up in a world soaked in sarcasm so it wasn’t something that ever really blipped on my radar; it was commonplace.  Didn’t everyone everywhere throw these cleverly disguised statements around?  No, apparently not.  It took a student of mine to reveal that to me.  There have been times after class when everyone’s together, putting on their coats, and someone throws out a zinger.  Four of five people would be heartily guffawing while one sat looking confused.  In the most beautifully innocent way she revealed, “I don’t get sarcasm.  It goes over my head every time.  I just don’t understand it.”  That one statement gave me pause and invited me to really observe this thing we call sarcasm.

Growing up, my father was a very sarcastic man.  I would watch him throw out statements at my mother that silenced her instantly, made her cringe, and seemed to make her grow smaller.  All the while he laughed and seemed to expand.  The same thing would happen with me.  He would toss out a line that caused him to chuckle but hurt when it landed in my ears.  You see how that can be confusing to a child?  I desperately wanted to please my father, to gain and sustain his attention, so I picked up his habit of sarcasm, met him on common ground, and never gave sarcasm a second thought, except to know that when I used this verbal tool, I felt good.

What I never really solidly considered is that my aim to feel good was making someone else feel bad.  Not until recently, that is.

A short time ago I was wasting precious moments of my life on social media, scrolling through meaningless memes, trying to get to “real” posts written by people I care about, when it became glaringly apparent to me that everything I was reading was dripping with sarcasm.  All of it.  Political posts.  Current event posts.  Memes filled with cute little cartoon characters backing acerbic sentiments.  It was overwhelming.  Sarcasm seemed to be everywhere.  Strangers on the street spoke to one another sarcastically.  Friends would have exchanges over the fence and out came sarcasm.  It seemed inescapable like that clingy, freaky person on the bus who’s decided you’re their best friend.  I felt like I was going nuts!

My vision broadened from there and things became even more real for me.  I noticed two things:  1)  how sarcasm feels when it lands in the body and the psyche, and 2)  how often I used it as a tool.

When I am at the brunt of a sarcastic attack, I feel pummelled.  When I use sarcasm, I mean to pummel.  It is as simple as that.

I’m not sure sarcasm is as innocent as we make it out to be.  I don’t think it warrants cutesy little cartoon characters to back it up.  I think the picture above is far more suitable because sarcasm not only has bark, it has a serious bite.  Although it’s used as humour, I’m not sure the true nature of sarcasm is funny at all.  I think it’s a weapon.  The whole basis of sarcasm, if you look at it honestly, is to strip someone down, to humiliate them, to cause pain.  Sarcasm is a verbal sucker punch.  I know when I use it I’m operating from the lowest, most base part of my person.  I am feeling small and trapped and angry.  I am feeling helpless so I will use what I advertise as my intellect as a way to spin a web, to trap you, to slam you in your tender parts, to make you look stupid so that I can feel good about myself.

There’s nothing funny about that.

I know that when I am sarcastic what I really want to say is, “You’re an asshole/a bitch,” “You’re an imbecile.  In fact, you’re so stupid you won’t even know I’m publicly calling you stupid,” “You are inferior.  I am superior.  I am better than you,” “I feel helpless so I’m going to lash out at you,” and “You made me suffer.  Now I will make you pay by making you suffer.”  Of course, I know saying these things is wrong so I twist things around, I come in through the back door and I use innocent words to hide a vicious ambush.  No canned laughter can mask this underhanded reality.

One statement, “I don’t understand sarcasm,” leads me to a line of inquiry that ensures I will never look at sarcasm the same way again, and I will do my best not to use it.  I have made a commitment to myself to make my use of sarcasm conscious.  It will be a long road.  44 years of use will not end overnight.  What I do know is that every time I use it as a tool, I will feel it land inside of me, it will hurt me the way it hurts the recipient.  And if I can’t say what I mean directly because I know it’s a horrible thing to say, coming through the back door is also not an option – I will work to say nothing at all.

What shadowy parts of yourself have you discovered lately?  Are you willing to sit with it, to work with it, or are you shoving it back into the dark corners?

I wish us all the courage to dig deep, to shine the light into the shadowy corners of our Selves, and to heal.

Blessings,

Tabitha

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Warning:  This is going to get personal.

I’ve been having a really hard time with my body lately.  I’ve woken up in the middle of the night pouring sweat with my heart pounding like I’ve never felt it pound before.  Anxiety.  Terrible stuff.  I’ve taken the information to my teacher who looks at me relieved and says, “Your body is working through the material your mind won’t touch.  I’m glad you’re having these moments because the energy is moving through.  The body is wise.” Surprisingly her words were reassuring.  I could set my mind on the course of “ride it out” and I knew it would all be okay, it would pass.

My mind has been chewing on a lot of material lately.  My grandmother and her last few months in her body have been the strongest focus for me. There’s so much for me to work on, to try and find some peace, the task seems insurmountable.  I find myself feeling too traumatized to even find the words to describe what happened.  Enter again – the body.  

The night before last was the first time in weeks I slept through the night without any pounding heart or roaring sweats.  It was paradise until…..(and here’s where we get very personal)….6:30 in the morning my eyes whip open in panic.  What IS that agonizing sensation in my belly?  It felt like my intestines were doing a wild Can-Can in spiked heels all through my lower abdomen.  Lower abdomen…..second energy centre in the body….place where we store energy around family….*sigh*  Always the yoga teacher.  Whatever the definition, all was not well in lower abdomen land, and as I whipped through the apartment like a wild woman on fire, I understood why we call the experience “the runs”.

I would eat and within minutes the cramps would begin.  It got to the point where I was afraid to eat.  I still am!  All day long it was me doubled over on the porcelain god.  My last round of fire-in-the-belly found me speaking out loud and saying, “I feel like I’m channelling my grandmother.”  And that’s where everything changed.  Things slowed down, the veils parted, and I was experiencing things as if I was my grandmother.

The last time I saw my grandmother alive was during Thanksgiving weekend.  She was in a pod in the emergency room, days after being admitted, waiting for a bed to become available.  We were all there – Mum, K and me.  When K and I approached her to kiss her hello, she resisted.  “No, don’t come.  I stink.”  My grandmother was sitting in a diaper full of her own shit as she had been for hours, hours after she had hit that help button in a panic, feeling the familiar grip in her belly, knowing she was too weak to move herself to the commode.  Terrified that she would fall again if she tried.  When the nurse eventually arrived, my grandmother was told that she was wearing a diaper so she could just shit herself, it would be okay, the nurses were used to it.  And off she went. What choice did my grandmother have?  Her body took over and did its thing.  And there she sat in her own shit, acids from her excretions eating holes into her flesh.  Happy Thanksgiving!

And this wasn’t the first time.  I held her crumpled body in my arms after she desperately tried to get herself to the commode but collapsed before she could get there.  The phone calls, “I tried to make it to the bathroom but I made a mess.  Such a mess,” humiliation coating every word she spoke, and us trying to take away the pain by telling her it was okay, things happen.

Sitting on the throne, afraid to eat like my grandmother had been afraid to eat, afraid of the next round of cramps, afraid I might not make it to the bathroom on time, I realized how nothing we said or did could have brought comfort to the woman.  In fact, we sounded like assholes.  She, the Queen of her family, was forced to sit in her own shit!  Instead of being in that experience with her, we tried to make it all go away for OUR comfort, not hers. I wondered if all of these experiences brought her back to the times in the camps where I’m sure sickness forced bodies to purge, and humiliation was a daily thing.

That’s when I “woke up”.  Something in my mind snapped open and I saw what I had.  I saw that I had the pure physical strength to hoist myself out of bed, through an apartment, to a bathroom before I soiled myself.  My grandmother did not have that.  I saw that I had that same physical strength to clean myself after my experience. My grandmother did not have that; she had to have her own daughter or some stranger wipe her bum.  I had the privacy I needed and deserved in order to have this painful experience.  My grandmother did not have that.  I could flush my toilet and walk away.  My grandmother did not have that.  She had to sit beside full commodes.  (“Here’s your lunch, Mrs. Jacus.  Oh….did you poop?”  Can you imagine?!)  I could change my clothes if something happened.  My grandmother spent her last days sitting in her own waste.

I had my dignity.  

My grandmother did not.

In that moment I had everything.

My grandmother had lost it all.

Waking up comes in the strangest of places and you simply cannot predict when or how it will strike.  It took several episodes of the shits for me to begin to see everything that was around me.  It took merging with my grandmother and seeing all she had taken away from her, all she no longer had, for me to see and understand all that I DO have.  It took watching my grandmother die for me to understand the gift of what it means to live, intestinal cramps and all.

Whatever it takes, however it comes, may we all wake up.

So may it be.

~ Tabitha

 

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