The title of this post is the answer to the question I've been crying out to the universe in desperation for the past few months.
The question is, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?
Now, "do nothing" is not the answer I wanted, but it is undeniably the answer I continue to receive.
I've gone through some major upheaval in my life recently, and this is essentially a euphemistic way of saying that I have blown it all to shreds over the past couple of months. I was beginning to notice that the structure of my experience was taking on all of the meaning and purpose that should have been comfortably tucked away in my heart; I was identifying too strongly with my ego and not serving my soul, and I also noticed that I was keeping myself comfortable but limited by remaining where I was. So, in typical Sarah fashion, I made some drastic changes. I started to (*truly*, dedicatedly) listen to my heart/intuition/gut/dreams/guides, and I could not escape the resounding message that I simply was not living in alignment with my heart's purpose -- this accounted for the inescapable dissonance that had become the soundtrack to my life.
In the spring, I left the yoga studio I was working at because of ongoing issues within the industry that I felt no longer able to accept. I quickly found what appeared to be a great job - a Coordinator position for a local no-profit - but I ended up leaving after four days because of inexcusable treatment from the Director. That entire experience was intense and very difficult for me, but the way I handled it was incredibly empowering and helped to remind me of my inherent personal power.
At this point, my love and home life had been suffering for some time and I was really struggling to make any improvements in these areas. Cam and I had some big fights and long discussions and ultimately determined it was time to split. I still have so much love for him as a person, a friend, and essentially family, and I have no intention of making him a villain here; our experience will forever be ours, between only us, and I'm so grateful that he was a part of my life in this way.
Certain relationships began to take on new energy and help me navigate this difficult path: my dearest friends and family stepped up with incredible love and strength and clarity when I felt lacking in these areas myself. A year ago, I would have told you I had nothing and no one supporting me. But a year ago, I was kind of an asshole stuck in a victim mentality. My relationship with Self has also taken on an entirely new dimension, and I've been doing the serious, gritty, challenging internal work with more vigour and determination than ever.
This was the stuff that really scared me, facing all of the shit that kept me in a low-level version of my life. But I knew there was work to be done, and this was absolutely the time to do it. So I started breaking everything down and cutting out anything that just didn't feel like me.
After a little while, the most beautiful thing happened: I became reacquainted with my Self. And I remembered how to properly love her.
Now, I'm done hiding. I'm done playing it safe. And I am done minimizing my power to suit my fear.
If I sound empowered and inspired to take action and start seriously changing my life, it's because I really, really am. But, here's the problem (ie. solution): everything right now is telling me to slow down, even to stop moving completely:
Maybe this sounds counterintuitive to you - it certainly did to me - but over and over again, this is the answer I've received to my constant badgering of the Universe ('what do I do now???').
I've been particularly in tune with my intuition lately and have felt more connected to Source energy than ever before in my life. Prior to asking this one big question, I had been asking many smaller ones and receiving the answers with clarity and acceptance. But with this one, the big, important one, I resisted so hard, convincing myself that I was simply not getting anything back - not receiving any transmission at all - when in reality I was rejecting the message because it didn't offer any direction: it was not what I wanted to hear.
I was desperate, flailing, screaming and begging for a lifesaver from the Universe. (You don't need to be religious to have had this moment at some point in your life - and if not yet, you will - of begging some higher power for help...)
I kept asking, praying, begging for an answer, and the Universe gently whispered, "do nothing."
So I protested: "NO! I NEED TO DO SOMETHING!! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO???"
I picked up Miriam, Toews' beautiful novel, All My Puny Sorrows, at the Vancouver airport while waiting for my return flight home. I looked around for quite some time before I chose a book (this is actually one of my favourite mildly guilty pleasures: the airport book purchase; it feels important... chosen... sacred... ) and I'd read (and loved) A Complicated Kindness years ago, plus I'm into supporting Canadian female authors, so it just felt like the right choice.
The sisters in this novel could easily be two sides of my own personality (the relationship is not so trite as the simple contrast between darkness and light - it's more like a lesson in loving all of these parts of ourselves through chaos and grief and uncertainty), and in seeing myself through this story, I began to speak to my own shadow sides, bringing them back into the light, and asking them to forgive me for their banishment. (And you know what, those shady bitches always come back home, despite the attitude.)
At one point in the book, Yoli recounts a dream she had in which everything is falling apart around her (literally) and she's filled with deafening anxiety and gut-wrenching despair, and in a moment of perfect peace and clarity, she hears (or thinks, or whatever): DO NOTHING.
I put the book down, closed my eyes, and took some slow, deep breaths. And of course, being the sensitive flower that I am, I began to cry.
I've been crying a lot over the past couple of months, because I'd been feeling sorry for myself. I'd taken some time to feel what I felt and grieve and heal, and I figured enough was enough: time to get shit done. But these tears were different: they were soft and full and fell off of my cheeks like perfect droplets of grace and love. Like an offering. Like a blessing. Not rushed, fully welcomed, and just perfect in their existence.
So much has changed in the past month - I keep changing, becoming more and more like myself - and while I'm remaining open to direction and ideas and inspiration, I'm not overwhelmed with anxiety about the future anymore. I don't feel like I need to have everything figured out right now, or tomorrow, or next week. I'm staying present, saying yes to things that feel expansive and no to anything that gives me the bad juuj; I'm carefully cultivating my experience without becoming rigid in trying to control everything.
I need a new job. And I need a new home. And yes, these are basic requirements for stability and produce an incredible amount of stress when not properly met. However, I executed what I needed to at a critical time - I focused my energy on something that I could do - and the settlement agreement (that we completed in under a month) ensures I'm supported in this transition and equipped to take on a brand new life, as soon as it's ready for me (or when I'm ready for it, or however this works). I continue to apply for work that seems really well-suited to who I am, and not necessarily based on what I've achieved.
And I feel really confident that I'm going to find my way through this, coming out the other side of it much better than before. This is not arrogance or laziness or expecting things to perfectly fall into place; it's putting complete trust in something bigger than myself, and then in myself. It's a deep knowing that I'm precisely where I need to be in every moment.
I'm not angry at anyone or about anything. I've spent so much time working through my suffering and my baggage, and I've found a new lightness and optimism from this beautiful opportunity to begin again. After all, when it comes down to it, that's what this really is: a new beginning, a chance to dream more wildly and listen better and connect more deeply and follow my heart.
I've been using two particular mantras during this period, when I start to feel down or anxious about my circumstances:
The first is pretty self-explanatory. The latter, of course, required a blog post for me to properly digest and express.
"DO NOTHING" doesn't mean you're giving up: it means you're not fighting against the natural flow of life.
"DO NOTHING" doesn't make you lazy; it creates space for your dharmic path to unfold.
"DO NOTHING" is complete trust and acceptance - and this is how we liberate the spirit.
When you stop scurrying to fix everything you deem to be wrong and trying to address every thought that crosses your mind, you become reminded of that endless well of compassion and peace that exists at the centre of yourself:
It's safe here, and everything is perfect, exactly as it is. There is nothing to do.
We are not given enough time here to accept a life that is less than what we deserve. And we all deserve to live an extraordinary life.
Imagine taking your last breath with the tension of a lifetime of regret; I don't want my final moments here to be tinged with that sort of longing.
There is a heaviness that builds up over time when you ignore the messages you receive about your dharma. (From the gut, intuition, from spirit guides - however you identify with those transmissions, it's all the same - when you feel something deeply, you just know.) And I'm telling you this now, because I've lived it and I don't want you to make that same mistake; I hope it can be a lesson for someone else who needs it.
The weight is manageable, at first; it feels like a duty but also kind of an honour to carry on with that burden. I think we sometimes take on a sort of martyr attitude when we make these concessions to live a life that's not truly in alignment with the heart's purpose, as though we're making this huge sacrifice of self for some greater design. As we keep moving along like this, the weight becomes too much and we must ask ourselves what we can afford to keep and what needs to go. We must also ask ourselves:
For whom (or what) are we really sacrificing our lightness?
Why are we rushing the spirit through the brevity of the human experience?
Why do we give up on ourselves so easily?
Who asked us to be less than we are?
Who convinced us that this is a normal (proper, even) way to live?
And for what purpose?
I learned (am learning) over time how to be close with change. I use this language because there is a friendliness, a warmth and an openness that is required to truly move through change (especially the really difficult types) with grace and love in your heart; you cannot just accept it: you must fully embrace it and actually learn to love it.
When you begin to strip away the fear from uncertainty, you can see with clarity that some limitations and borders have dissolved, allowing you to move in so many different directions. And when this leads you into new territory, there is often a physiological survival response -- the brain searches for familiarity so it can problem-solve its way through whatever you're going through. I don't know how much we can truly train the body to be properly discerning in these moments of stress, and how much is a tempering; a constant practice of moving out of the mind and returning to the heart.
But, I have noticed, over time, that I have softened to change; I'm better now at gently welcoming it in when it turns up unexpectedly, and even inviting it into my life (knowing full well that it could make a huge mess) when I feel I'm veering from my right path. I have so much respect for my life and my time on this planet (*now*, after a lot of work) that I refuse to settle for a low-grade version of this grand experience that was not truly meant for me. I decided, a little while ago, that it was time to level up. Change came, made a big mess, and I'm cleaning house in the most beautiful ways; it's essentially become a full renovation.
I fully believe that you can (and should) be deeply in love with your life. And if you honestly cannot say that you are, perhaps it's time for some change.
It's back for another summer! We had such a great time practicing in the sunshine with you last year, Dorothee and I have decided to offer all-levels outdoor yoga practices again for the next couple of months! We'll be starting on the west side again, utilizing some of our lovely park spaces in the Crossings; however, we're happy to take our outdoor practices to different parks around Lethbridge, by request!
These classes are by donation (maybe $5-10) and don't require pre-registration. I've created a schedule for July so that you can start to plan which days you'd like to join us. Of course, all classes will be weather-permitting and class style/instructor might change from time to time. Dee and I are leading the charge on this, but we'd be happy to support other local teachers who'd like to share their practice - just reach out and we'll find a good place to add you to the schedule.
You might like to bring a yoga mat or towel, some water, sunnies and sunscreen, as well as any props you like to have around for your practice. We highly encourage you to explore this practice in your own way; come as often or as little as you'd like and always take it at your own pace.
We truly can't wait to practice with you outside again this summer, YQL - we hope to see you on the grass!
Life isn't linear and it doesn't stick to a plan. Sometimes you're up, and sometimes you're down. And sometimes that, too, can change in an instant and you find your world irreparably altered (not for better, not for worse).
I think a common error we make as humans is to assume that if an intention is 'pure' and we've set it in place, the work is already done. While intention is necessary to develop the framework of a particular goal or aim, it simply doesn't end there: every single day, we have important choices to make. Every day, we're faced with numerous challenges, big and small, all threatening to throw us off our game at any point. Every day, we can give up or go on.
So this is why we practice yoga.
We meditate because the mind is immeasurably powerful and equally complex, and it takes consistent effort to still the constant chatter of consciousness:
You let something go.
You hold on to something else.
You remind yourself of the beauty of your humanity and the fierceness of your spirit.
Similarly, we move through asana so that we can create a safe and sacred space to encounter and explore our full experience in these bodies. We learn through this practice that not achieving something is not the same as failure, and sometimes the thing we truly need is in the process rather than the achievement. We fall, but we get back up--
We ALWAYS get back up.
I've been doing this practice for over a decade now, and there are still times when I find it exceptionally difficult to be positive, kind, determined or focused. The struggle doesn't disappear just because I practice:
I practice to cultivate more strength for the times when the struggle inevitably arrives.
Each day can feel different from the moment we open our eyes and step back into waking life, and it doesn't take a whole lot of awareness or intention to feed whatever energy we happen to be sitting with (especially if it lands somewhere on the nasty side of the spectrum). If I wake up moody for no good reason and don't check myself pretty quickly, I'm completely at risk of derailing my entire day with negativity and self-pity.
Sometimes I find myself questioning my progress with this practice on the days when emotional stability and kindness is a challenge; I ask myself what I'm doing wrong, why these feelings are showing up at all, and how I'm not automatically a more loving and balanced person. But this is totally unhelpful because it lacks context, as well as a basic sensitivity toward myself for all the many ways I experience my own humanity (it's not always pretty, but it's not supposed to be).
Regardless of the normal fluctuations of our inner landscape - or perhaps because of them - I think it's important to continue the work daily, never assuming we've reached some critical end point of growth or progress in our own yoga practice, nor abandoning the devotion that we've been building through intention and commitment all this time when fear and doubt come calling. We practice simply to weather storms, not to prevent them from blowing in.
“Sometimes gain comes from losing, and sometimes loss comes from gaining.”
Tao Te Ching
So, then, what is the best approach? For me, it's been not deciding how I feel in every moment, trying to spend more time in my body and less in my head, noticing the dance of my breath with the space around me and through the inner landscape of my respiratory system, truly tapping into the way that intermingling feels. It's been loving myself unconditionally through my emotional ups and downs. It's remembering who I am in the grand scheme of things when I experience setbacks or feel disappointed with myself. This is essentially the practice of centering -- like coming home to yourself when it's storming. Like offering your wounded heart a warm blanket and a cup of tea.
This is, ultimately, an act of love.
(an update, and a thank-you)
Do you know where it is that people often hurt themselves in a yoga practice?
It's in the transition.
We do this in our lives, too, but often without any awareness that it's happening (just as the physical injury is the result of a lack of awareness and/or proper self-care during yoga practice).
It's hard to stay open while we're healing, and while we're changing. And it's easy to become distracted by the pain we carry with us, the fear of uncertainty, or the constant call of the ego. In yoga practice, the mental chatter and fluctuations are highlighted, as though placed under a microscope and suddenly we become aware of all that we believe ourselves to be, and this can be heavy. All of the details of our lives - the daily interactions, the inner dialogues, the nagging of our future plans, the swirling of our thoughts and feelings - are tagging along, just waiting for an opportunity to steal us away.
And all of our duties and obligations and the demands of our relationships and roles in life do the same as we move from one phase to the next or make a major change. There is always a pulling at the heart and the mind, as long as we keep moving and breathing, and this is why it's so important to stay centered, in asana and in life.
A recurring theme of my life for a number of years now seems to be that everything changes. I've always struggled with letting go of things, especially the things I really love. But my practice has been to remind myself that I'm never actually losing anything by changing or moving on; life asks us to make space for new growth, and that often requires a release.
The past year or so has been full of change, sometimes by choice and other times not, and it's forced me to relax the grip I try to maintain on all corners of my life. It might have taken me a really long time, but I've come to understand what I most need to support myself and continue to grow, not just as a yoga teacher but also as a Soul.
When I was 22 and working in Vancouver I was interviewing for an exciting (non-yoga) job. I didn't end up getting it, but the experience was valuable, and the recruiter was a very kind woman who made sure to tell me, "You know exactly who you are, and that's so rare, especially at your age." I was shocked, because at that time I felt completely lost without any understanding of who I was or where I belonged. I still feel like that sometimes, a decade later, but the small, quiet voice inside gets louder by the day, and I don't feel like I'm forging ahead so blindly anymore.
I'm right in the middle of a pretty major life shift, and while I'll reserve some of those details for a future blog post (maybe?!), I want say that I'm so full of gratitude for all of the beautiful relationships and incredible opportunities in my life. I'm constantly reminded how much love surrounds me these days, and it carries me through those difficult transitions.
I'm stepping away from the work of full-time yoga instruction, as it hasn't provided the sort of consistency and stability that I need in my life. I gave it a really good shot, for nearly a decade, and I feel both proud of the things I've accomplished and blessed for all of the sweet experiences this role brought along with it. Fortunately, I have an amazing opportunity to continue working with the community in a meaningful way, and I can't wait to step into this next phase of my life. I've been emotional, because, let's face it: change is good, but change is hard. Of course I'm a little nervous about some of the uncertainty that lies ahead, but I'm also more excited about life than I have been in a very long time, if ever.
And I think this is truly what matters.
A little while ago, on Instagram, I asked for poetry requests; I received a whole bunch and wrote as many little poems for you as I could. I had lots of fun doing this - let me know if it's something I should continue on a more regular basis!
I know this is supposed
to feel like freedom,
but I’m having
I’ve always needed
a point of reference
to keep me from drifting
away with my fears.
Space is nothing more
so why does it make
me feel so small?
there are certain scents
so inextricably linked
to our memories
that they allow us
to relive them,
if only for a moment.
some of my most
frequent and powerful
scent memories come from
anything that smells like
a My Little Pony toy
from the 80s and 90s
this is never the source
but it doesn’t seem to matter--
the scent triggers something
like internal time travel
and suddenly I’m back in
my four-year-old body
haikus by request (anger.water.stillness)
it’s not encouraged
for women to be angry
though sadness is fine
i want to learn how
to move like the river does
not forcing a thing
underneath all of
the chaos and the chatter
it is always there
it is our fractured parts:
the unresolved pain,
the uncomfortable things
we look away from,
the unloved, rejected parts
all the places we’ve been hurt
and have not healed,
the shadowy corners
and the wounded animal parts
that lead us to our samskaras
these are the walls
that are built taller and stronger
with every intention and action:
a fortress of habits and patterns
we become trapped by addiction
but never lost--
there is a way back,
beyond the samskara walls
and it is this journey of dismantling
(so raw and brutal, so necessary)
that clears the way for
an unclouded view of the Self
when we see who we truly are
we cannot help but love
the divinity resting within,
once trapped and obscured from view,
but never lost.
Moving From Dark to Light
it’s the grey area
we find so terrifying
when moving from
darkness to light
there are many meetings
between the Shadow Side
and the True Self here,
epic battles, muted resistance
and there is a fire that
always needs to be stoked
if the Self is to
find a way back home
you can’t burn up
your karma in this one
but you can raise it up
to light your path
proof of love
proof of devotion
to my heart’s purpose
proof of meeting my fears
over and over and
never backing away
proof of life
proof of the power in my existence
proof of something bigger
bringing me back here
over and over and
pushing me to grow stronger
proof of hope
proof of that undying fire
that burns in the
center of my belly
fueling my love for
all parts of this practice
proof of resilience
proof of keeping that promise
I made to my soul at birth
(to always follow my own path)
and trusting that the journey is
guided by some higher dharma
it’s in these small, simple moments--
the decision to arrive,
the laying out of the mat,
the intentional meeting of my feet
at the front line,
ready for another beautiful battle
that i’m reminded of
the incomparable power of
this practice in my life--
this is my proof of purpose