Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Om Hari Om, the year of the horse and the great circle of life

In the past four years that I have taught yoga, no class has been more important or special to me than the one I taught this past Saturday night. I hosted a memorial donation based yoga class at my studio Qi Denver to honor the life and celebrate my friend Cara. Her family was able to make it from out of town for the class as they were also coming in town to pack up her apartment and her things. The word yoga means "to yoke" or to bind and that's exactly what it did for all that could attend saturday - it gave us a reason to come together and to say good-bye.

The class itself was amazing and powerful. We sat in a circle, we held hands, we chanted. Cara's family brought her ashes and that of her dogs which were placed in the center of the circle where we had candles and flowers. I don't think Cara would have enjoyed being the center of attention but I do know she would have enjoyed having her dogs and family and friends together in one spot. She did her donation based yoga classes for an organization called, "Dogs with big paws" in that very same room a few years ago. Life is circular like that. We end where we begin. To have her brothers, sister, mom and dad and aunt there meant so much to me and the Qi community. To be able to talk with them and share stories about their daughter and hear stories from them and see photos they had brought gave me (and I hope others) a sense of peace. To see a community coming together to honor the life of one special person who hadn't even lived as many years as I have now was truly amazing. I don't think you every really process death or loss but you can send someone off right and that's what I wanted to do.

The day after Cara's memorial yoga class I had a baby shower to attend. While at the shower I just kept looking at the mother-to-be and thinking how happy and excited she looked for her adventure ahead. Here was a woman about to celebrate the life of a little baby girl and the day before I was with a family grieving the loss of theirs. When I look at my own daughter now, I cannot begin to think how I would feel if someday I lost her. Parents are supposed to die before their children and that's the natural circle of life. Yet, the burden of being a parent is that you cannot always protect your child and sometimes they pass away first. How hard it must be to go on living after that. To see one mom so happy and full of hope and joys for her daughters future and another so grief stricken by the loss of their daughter was almost too much for me to handle in one weekend. I was reminded that for everything the universe seems to give to one person, it also takes away from another.

2014 is the year of the yang wood horse. According to Karen Carrasco from the Western School of Feng Shui, there might not be a bigger shift of energies in the entire 60 year wheel of Chinese astrology than this one coming up. It is a shift from two Water years of deep introspection (2012 the year of the dragon and 2013 the year of the snake) to the extroverted year the wood horse brings. The past two years were about letting go (involuntarily or not), destabilization and chaos. This year being led by the horse is about stepping out of the clutter, stored memories and letting go of regrets. It's supposed to be a fast ride on this horse where we have to quickly become in tune to what we desire. The past few years were about destruction and saying goodbye and the new year is about starting over with a green wood cycle.

I see this shift in the cosmos all around me. I've lost friends and family members these past two years. I've had a baby and lost a piece of myself. We made the decision to sell our house and after the new year got it sold and here we are planning to move on to a rental house and towards our goal of financial freedom. I have friends all around me who are pregnant and heading full steam ahead towards their new lives and Charlotte herself is starting to crawl and become more independent by the day. The circle of life and of the universe begins anew and the feeling leaves me breathless.

When I look around at my house and think about leaving and moving I remember that I'm taking the memories with me. As Cara's family prepares to pack up her house and move her belongings back home with them I hope they realize the same. As Chad's grandfather paces around his house where Chad's grandmother use to be I hope he holds on to the memories he made in his 63 years of marriage as well. We have to trust that we have this new and hopefully energy to build on this year. As Karen Carrasco says, "Our hearts have had to endure a gauntlet of deconstruction through two Metal and two Water years, but the fiery Horse is about to change all of that. Within the extroverted "Green Horse" year, we will not only branch out with new growth, but we will be able to stoke the Fire element of love in every area of life."

My feeling after this weekend was the realization that all that matters in this life is love. Love is everything and it's all we have. It's what heals us through times of sorrow and it's what elates us in times of joy. The Beatles said it best: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

During Cara's memorial class at the end we chanted led by my friend Melissa. The chant was Om Hari Om which is the universal mantra that removes suffering. Perhaps that's why almost everyone told me after class that they were in sobbing tears as they chanted that night because it was so powerful. In our circle we were chanting to leave the suffering behind, to acknowledge the circle of life and how it pulses through us. Om Hari Om. What an appropriate way to say good-bye to everyone and everything we leave behind these past two years.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Letting go of 2013 to let in 2014

As I sit and reflect on the few days left of 2013 I cannot help but be reminded of the intention I set at the beginning of the year. Instead of making resolutions I focus on goals or intentions which, in my opinion are much easier to maintain throughout the year. My intention for this year was to let go, enjoy the journey and trust in the process. I started out the year about 7 months pregnant so I knew that 2013 would be a year in which I would have to surrender control. No longer would my days be about myself but they would come to revolve around taking care of another human life. I knew my baby would change my life I just never knew how much of an impact it would be. As I stand on the edge about to say good-bye to 2013 now I have a clear picture of just how much I have truly had to let go.

Letting go can be cathartic in many ways. You start to lose your attachments to what you think matters thus shifting your perspecitve on what actually does matter. The birth of my daughter Charlotte forced me to slow down. Sometimes I have to just sit on the floor and play with her for an hour to satisfy her need for my attention. When she needs to be nursed I have to take a time out and sit and nurse her and it's a process that can't be rushed. I started to let go of the idea of a perfect house, a perfect body and a perfect marriage. Not everything can get done in one day and I now realize I have to be OK with this or else I'm out of the flow. My day no longer revolves around gym time it's naptime and the only free time I truly have are the few hours to myself after everyone is asleep. I'm a night owl and a morning person now with few hours of rest in-between.

About eight months after Charlotte was born my hair started to fall out. The pregnancy hormones that once made my hair thick, shiney and soft were long gone and my hair was coming off in clumps around the house and in the shower drain. My hairdresser told me it was time to cut it off even though I was holding on to a sad thin ponytail of hair. Once she started cutting I told her to keep going. I wasn't afraid because it was just hair and hair can grow back. Why hold on to something that was no longer serving me? So I let it go and I walked out of the salon with a new short cut that looked intentional instead of a mess.

After the hair came one of the hardest decisions I've had to make all year. It was a decision I meditated on and thought about and talked over many times. The answer became clear after a yoga class one day and the realization that I once again needed to let go of something that was truly only a thing. We needed to sell our house.

Of course our house is more than a house it is our first home and the home of our first born child. We bought it four years ago after getting married and it is a house I thought we'd spend the rest of our lives in. Yet all of our problems could be traced back to the house. The universe was telling us to sell but I wouldn't listen. I couldn't listen. It wasn't until my husband accidentally fell down the steps holding our baby that I started to pay attention to the signs. Our house was eating up all our income and with daycare expenses it just wasn't practical anymore. Once I made the intention to listen to the universe and let go it became very freeing. The thought of moving and starting over and buying a new house is as terrifying as it is exciting. Once we sell our house we will be free to travel, to do more with friends, to enjoy our lives and not be stressed about financial issues. Maybe you have something like this holding you back in your own life and you aren't taking the time to see that by letting go you are allowing yourself a greater freedom than holding on.

The things I have let go of are only things - a house, hours spent at the gym or working and my hair. They can all be replaced with better versions or something more productive. What I cannot replace is the loss of friends and family I have experienced this year. Some friends I lost due to having a child and no longer having space in my life for them. They are friends who are now on a different path than I and so we no longer see each other. These are painful losses but not as much as the ones I lost to cancer, suicide and a car wreck. Those friends and family members can never be replaced. Four lives that were each special to me in their own way and all devasting. That is the consequence of loving and caring about someone that death can take away from you. In this case the art of letting go doesn't mean forgetting it simply means you come to terms with acceptance. Acceptance is the only way we can ever truly learn to let go.

Here we are now ready to let go of 2013. Saying good-bye to a year and accepting it for what it was and all the memories it held. 2013 may be a year in sum but it was made up of moments both every day and extraordinary. When you reflect on the year don't forget about the in-between moments. The conversations you had, the decisions you made, the sunsets you watched and the oceans and lakes your feet touched. Accept your losses and your heartache and the struggles you had. Each impacted your life in one way or another and once you learn acceptance you can learn to let go. Once you learn to let go you give the universe an opportunity to fill the void. The universe can't give you what you need if you're holding space for something unnecessary to your growth. While I know the loss of friends and family can't ever be physically replaced, the void in my heart can be filled with love once I let go of the anger, the regret and the hurt that comes.

Our attachements in life bring us great joy but the other truth is the more we love something or someone the more sorrow it brings when we experience loss.

Setting my intention for the year to come I want 2014 to be about making space for what is to come. I want to free up space in my heart reserved for sadness or hate to let more love in. I want to let go of the friends I thought meant something for the friendships that mean everything. I want to sell my house and detach my roots so I can have wings to fly.

I hope whatever intention you set for youself for the New Year you come to acceptance so you can let go of the old year. Treasure what you do have instead of focusing on what you don't. Know that while loss is never easy, each time you surrender you'll find a flow within the universe and a purpose to your own journey. Trust that what is ahead is greater than what you leave behind. Know that YOU hold the memories associated with people and things in YOUR own heart and in the end that's something no loss can ever truly take away.
"I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go. But what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye" - Life of Pi