When Something Clicks

The body has the incredible ability to reveal truth and accuracy… if you know how to catch it. I am extremely sensitive when it comes to feeling emotions. I really feel them. When I hear a statement that resonates with me on a deep level, I immediately have physical affects: I get tingles down my spine, the hairs on my arms stand up, and often my eyes will get watery. When this happens I know that something has rang true for my whole being; subconscious, waking, intellectual, emotional, the whole nine. If I catch this happening I know I need to jot down what I heard and save it. God knows I’ll dissect the hell out of it later.

I believe that it is easy to confuse agreeing with something and experiencing the phenomenon of true resonance. Similar to  when you hear good music; a Led Zeppelin masterpiece, David Bowie and Queen’s Under Pressure, whatever that is for you, something happens within our being that is beyond thought. It is more than just thinking “I love this song!” or “I really like what she just said”. It’s a remarkable sensation that very clearly says this is right. Something clicked. I believe it is in these moments that we can discover our creative potential, make the clearest decisions, and discover our truth.

I had the privilege (I’ve sure been using that word a lot lately!) to participate in a two hour segment of an Ashtanga yoga workshop with Greg Nardi last night. Greg is one of the original cofounders of my favorite yoga studio and my proud place of employment, Miami Life Center. I first practiced with him when I was fifteen and only did so for less than a year. It was within that short period of time that I was deeply touched by his humble teachings and intuitive insight.

During last nights session, I continuously had the aha! moments where something clicked.  I would sit up a little straighter, the goosebumps would start, and I’d take a deep breath. All those actions happen without instructing thoughts, at least on a conscious level. They just are. If I catch this experience I then know in my mind that this is something that needs my further intention… there’s still work that can be done.

One thing in particular that profoundly clicked for me last night was Greg’s definition of yoga. “Yoga is learning to see things as they really are”. He said it with such love and honesty and allowed for a long pause. Goosebumps. Even writing it makes me experience the same sensations. My whole being is saying YES! to this statement. So not only am I choosing to jot it down, but I am writing an entire thought-scattered blog about it.

Yoga is learning to see things as they really are. The bending is nice. The acquired strength is great. Improved health and state of being is fantastic. But really it’s not about that. It isn’t about the physical plane, at least that is my humble opinion. It is about our own individual and personal journey through self discovery, for lack of a better term. It is with long dedication and perhaps a bit of quietness that we can embark on the road to clarity, to rediscovering our true selves, to seeing things  as they really are.

When something clicks, it’s important to catch it, to pay attention to it…to dive just a little bit deeper into it. You never know what truth you’ll discover.

Good luck dissecting my arbitrary thoughts, I promise I had goosebumps the entire time! 😛 Visit Greg’s website for more information and to keep up with him and his husbands travels through India and Southeast Asia. For more information on upcoming workshops with world renowned teachers, check out Miami Life Center.

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Let’s Get Personal: My Disease, My Practice, and Learning To Breathe Again

We all have those things that get us. Traumatic past experiences, stress, memories… Such simple things can make the walls of our security come crumbling down. I find writing in these most intense moments can help ease the chaos. Chaos that isn’t necessarily real. Isn’t it ll about switching your perspective to be more positive? I can see where this can become more like a journal entry than a blog, but I’m choosing to go with it anyway.

I have a crazy genetic disease called Hereditary Angioedema. My father and all my five siblings have it. It’s actually quite fascinating- we’re one in fifty thousand in the world with it which means it earned its right to be featured on an episode of House 😉 The gist of it is basically that we all lack or have a malfunctioning version of the blood enzyme that counteracts swelling. These lead to “attacks”. Without treatment, attacks last three to four days in one specific usually isolated area of the body, such as the hands, entire extremities, face or the airway which can be fatal.

I’m experiencing an attack at this moment in my right elbow. Before I decided to take a moment and reflect, I felt myself going to that unclear space in my head where all the mental chatter goes on. I experience intense emotions of resentment for having this disease, I believe that my entire day is over, and that basically I suck. Then I finally come to a place of calm, which I actually found as I started writing, where I realize that it doesn’t have to be so dramatic, that I can still have a good day, and that within a few hours of giving myself my treatment, the swelling will most likely go down- instant relief.

This disease has been such an incredible learning experience for me. The onset of Hereditary Angioedema is usually between the ages of 15 and 20, which means you have to learn to cope with it during some of the most intense and vulnerable times in life. My first airway attack happened when I was eighteen which is about two and half years ago now. Thankfully, the stars were alined in a perfect way- I was able to get to the ER of Mount Sanai just in time to be intubated and medically induced into a near coma for 6 days until the attack went away.

The aftermath was the biggest struggle. After coming home from the ICU, I had lost almost my entire body strength. I couldn’t walk in a straight line, take a deep breath, or remember something that happened two minutes before. It was a very long recovery that lasted almost a year. One of the most tragic struggles for me during this time was the “loss” of my yoga practice. The idea of attempting synchronized breath with motion would make me burst into tears. Yoga was something that was so sacred and special for me for such a long time and it was physically impossible for me to attempt.

It was a little more than a year ago that I started to get on the mat again. I constantly faced the struggles of being too weak, not flexible, tight, cracking joints and having to breathe. In Ashtanga yoga, we do something called Ujjayi breathing as we practice. In kids yoga we call this Darth Vader breathing because the sound of restricted breath sounds just like Darth Vader. This breath basically happens by moving the glottis as the air passes in and out, allowing the throat and the airway to become narrowed. Just this act alone would send me into panic, as it was so close to the sensations that I was experiencing before being intubated. I had a negative memory linked there so my initial solution was to avoid Ashtanga yoga all together.

Somewhere in the last six months I have found the emotional ability to return to Ashtanga yoga. I have a very humble practice based in the primary series, where I am steadily building strength and relearning to connect to the Ujjayi breath. I don’t experience the same panic as I did before, although my thoughts still go there from time to time.

As it always is, yoga is a practice where you learn, grow, and flourish and that is exactly what I’m experiencing now more than ever. Initially when I sat down to write, I had a negative view on my “situation” and I almost let my day get ruined because of it. Now, after writing through this process, I feel a huge sense of gratitude and motivation to just keep going. I hope that anyone who reads this can gain some inspiration to learn and grow.

I find the symbolism of the Lotus flower can best embody what I’m feeling right now. Buddhists.org offers a great explanation on it:

“The mud represents an importance in the meaning of the lotus flower in Buddhism. All humans are born in a world where there is suffering. This suffering is a vital part of the human experience; it makes us stronger and teaches us to resist the temptation of evil. When we banish evil thoughts from our mind we are able to break free of the muddy water and become one with the Buddha. The mud shows us who we are and teaches us to choose the right path over the easy one.

Finally, the lotus flower represents rebirth, both in a figurative and a literal sense. The rebirth can be a change of ideas, an acceptance of Buddha where there once was none, the dawn after one’s darkest day, a renaissance of beliefs or the ability to see past wrongs. In a literal sense, the meaning of the lotus flower in Buddhism represents rebirth as a reincarnation, such as in the Buddhist religion, when a soul leaves this world in its present form to be reborn in another.”

Happy rebirthing 🙂 

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag

When I hear the word “family” I experience a flash of warm feelings. Gratitude, acceptance, love, and open-mindedness are all qualities that my biological and extended family possess. Considering that the majority of my family resides in North Carolina where the words republican, homophobia, and religious are thrown around with pride, I’d say that I’m pretty darn lucky. Unfortunately this is not the case for many homosexual (we all have to label things nowadays, don’t we?) people living in conservative places throughout our country and all over the world.

I got a phone call from my father who lives in a small town mountain city in Arkansas yesterday evening while I was driving. “Do you have a second to talk?” my dad asked. He seemed emotional. I immediately was overcome with worry. It sounded serious. Someone died, I thought. “Of course dad, what’s up?” I asked. “When I was in my senior year of high school, living in Seoul, South Korea on the American military base…” I already knew where this was going. I had heard this story countless times before. You see, my dad is someone who will enthusiastically tell the same story over and over. I never stop him because no matter how many times I have heard them, they never fail to captivate me. “…we used to have to have to recite the pledge of allegiance every morning. My two friends and I did not stand up. They called all of our parents. No one could understand why we didn’t stand up! And when we explained that it was because of the last line of the Pledge Allegiance ‘freedom and justice for all’, they still didn’t get it. ‘Our best friend is black, and we wouldn’t stand up because he doesn’t have the same rights as us’ they didn’t know what to do.”

The whole time that I am hearing him express this story with as much earnestness as if it happened yesterday, I have a smile on my face. These defiant, humanitarian, activist qualities were all traits that passed on to me. It has gotten me in a lot of trouble, especially in school, but it is something that I am most proud of.

“I want you to know that if I had to rise and say the Pledge of Allegiance today, I wouldn’t stand because of you.” My eyes got watery. I know that my dad is accepting of my “homosexual” relationship. I quote homosexual because even though I am in a relationship with a woman (a very amazing one at that!) I don’t like using labels. I like to say that I am just attracted to awesomeness is people 😉 . It makes me emotional not only to hear once again that I am supported for just being me, but also for all of those that aren’t as fortunate as I am.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Studies show that LGBT youth who are rejected by their families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide; however, all it takes is one ally to dissuade high-risk youth from attempting such a horrendous act.

Please support your local gay-straight alliance and the young members that are struggling in your community. Visit the GSA Network website to discover how you can get involved. You never know whose life you could be saving.

Writing about LGBT activism is something that always comes easily for me, but never without intense emotions. I am so incredibly thankful to have such a loving, accepting, and inspirational family. I recognize that sometimes I can take it for granted, nonetheless, I am forever grateful.

Happy coming together 😉

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Yoga Through The Teenage Years

 Oh the teenage years. It’s a time for fun, learning, and getting to know yourself… and perhaps a little awkwardness. Just writing that puts a smile on my face. For most people, thinking of being sixteen sends us to a lovely and nostalgic place; first loves, first screw-ups, first road-trips… a lot of firsts. It can also be a time of immense difficulty. Anyone who says it wasn’t hard being a teenager, surely had it easy. Your hormones are raging, there’s never enough sleep, and school sucks (but hey, don’t you miss it now 😉 ?).

I guess you can say that I didn’t have a very normal teenage life. When I was fourteen, I left school because of increasing anxiety; I just couldn’t handle it anymore. No one was themselves, I had no idea who was and it was driving me mad. Every morning before class would start, I literally had the sensation that I was suffocating. Being raised by a hippie, yoga teaching, buddhist-ish mother, who was already pretty against the public education system, getting out of school was not an issue.

Within two months of a lot of rest and a lot of learning, I enrolled in my very first yoga teacher training course. This was definitely the most significant experience of my life up to that point. Everyone was older than me by at least a decade but I still managed to develop strong bonds with almost all of them. They became a part my family, something that was so valuable for me at that time. My body went though crazy changes. I began to build strength and flexibility that I never imagined was possible. I also had a new sense of self-esteem and awareness. However, the challenges of being a teenager didn’t just disappear. I still struggled with school-work, getting enough sleep, and being organized but since I did have a positive self image, the challenges became less of a big deal and more of a lesson.

By the time I was fifteen, I was teaching four classes a week, and had traveled Europe with money I had saved from teaching and baby sitting. I went to high school only for my junior year. Through out this entire time of many life challenges and experiences, I always had my mat to run to. Like I wrote in my previous post, your mat becomes a haven. A place that you can turn to no matter what the outward circumstances are. In Ashtanga yoga, it is said that one of the reasons why we do the same poses everyday is to see the ways in which we are different. This is something that is extremely valuable in our ever-changing, random teenage years.

Since yoga is now a fad, you don’t need to worry about being made fun of for doing it! Many public schools and local gyms now offer yoga and usually offer  discounts to teenagers or students. So if you want a better life, more strength and flexibility, and an overall smoother high school experience, get on the mat now!

Happy growing 😉

Check out my very first Ashtanga teacher that I practiced with when I was fifteen!

Getting On The Mat

What makes up who we are? Is it learned qualities that stick with us after a period of time? Or is it predestined traits that have stuck with us through lifetimes? I was sitting in my therapists office on Lincoln Road. After expressing to her that I was having ongoing issues with commitment to my yoga practice, she asked me “Where do you feel this ‘issue’ with your practice stems from?” Without hesitation, I began to go in to my “story”. You know, the one we’ve all invented for ourselves to justify our actions or make us feel safe? “Well, I’m a very lazy person and,” “Who?” I didn’t expect to be cut off…”Who what?” I asked. “Who says that you’re a very lazy person?”

That simple question really struck a chord with me. It’s a very realistic question- Who says I am a very lazy person? do. It hit me like a smack in the face. I mean, I’m all about self examination, constantly questioning things, always staying challenged. But somehow such a simple phrase “I’m lazy” became wired into my programming over my life’s journey without me realizing it.

It is so easy to find an excuse to keep you from doing your practice, whatever your practice may be. I choose to make my practice yoga; which is why the statement “getting on the mat” works for me. When I hear the mental chatter come up about all the reasons why I don’t want to practice, I choose to just “get on the mat”. Learning this dedication begins to make your yoga practice a sacred journey. Your yoga mat, that little, rubber, rectangular, space becomes a haven that you can come to at any time. It’s a place to feel safe, a place to feel challenged, and a place to grow.

Part of realizing the way this works is falling off the path. Forgetting your practice, avoiding it, finding things that are “more important” and then realizing once again that answers come when you just get on the mat. You just choose to go there anyway.

I want to inspire anyone who reads this to create a practice for themselves. Whether it be yoga, walking, dancing, or swimming, just do it. 

From the video Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen: “Do one thing everyday that scares you”… happy adventuring 😉

The Darkest Versions of Ourselves

I have a saying that somehow always sobers me up from the most stressful situations. It goes: “We are all capable of being the darkest versions of ourselves”. This isn’t intended to be a self-indulgent or depressing statement; it is a rational fact. Each day situations arise where we are faced to make decisions about how or what we FEEL. Because after all, we are the ones that get to choose our emotions. Choose our emotions? Sounds crazy, right? If you look at any given situation from one angle, it can be a horrible, damaging, and even traumatizing event. But if you switch your perspective, it can be a lesson, an opportunity, or even a humorous phenomenon.

Everyday there is an opportunity to allow stress, whether it be one particular matter or a snowballing accumulation of things, to get the better of us. One little trigger and we are set off into a deep and dark place that can take tremendous effort to climb out of. For those of us that are lucky, we can catch it before we go too far and we can sort of hop out of it and brush ourselves off. It is always that one specific moment where we are hooked; where the downward spiral begins. The tibetan word for this is shenpa. The usual translation for shenpa is “attachment” but it is much easier for me to understand it as “being hooked”.

When I’m in the midst of anger, trying desperately to validate MY aggressive emotions, I hear “…the darkest versions of ourselves,” and somehow these emotions that I was trying so hard to cling to, begin to dissipate. This is because once you recognize the fact that are hooked, it is much harder for shenpa to have power over you. I can step back and look at how just the sensation of being hooked can cascade into the most grisly place, making me the darkest version of myself. 

For me, just remembering this saying can help. However, there are times when it takes much more effort. Pema Chödrön is one of the most well known American tibetan buddhist teachers out there. I find that her practices are really some of the few that genuinely work for me during intense times of stress. From her book, Taking The Leap, she suggests the following steps for working with shenpa:

  1. Acknowledge you’re hooked (with humor, if possible).
  2. Pause, take three conscious breaths, and lean in to the energy (with kindness, if possible).
  3. Relax and move on.

Read more about shenpa and Pema Chödrön’s view on getting unhooked here:

http://shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1610&Itemid=0

The ups and downs of stress and emotions are apart of life. My point in writing this blog was mostly for my own personal healing. Genuinely admitting that we can all go to that place, the darkest place; that I go to that place… it’s part of what makes us human. But with work and dedication, we can instead become the best versions of ourselves.

Happy unhooking 😉

Attention Heterosexuals: We Want To Be Miserable Too!

It was only yesterday that I started this blog. While I knew I definitely wanted to discuss various topics on homosexuality, I didn’t think I’d be going there so soon. Everyone and their mom loves talking about gay marriage nowadays. One question that I keep hearing over and over is “Why do gay people want to be a part of an institution that doesn’t recognize them?”. I have been asked this by some of the most open and liberal thinkers that I know.

It seems that the first idea that people first jump to when they hear the topic of gay marriage is that gay couples want some sort of fairy tale wedding, united by God, in a church, the whole nine yards. And while I’m sure that is the case for many people, the majority of same-sex couples want to be married for the simple reason of having equal rights. It isn’t about wanting to be apart of an institution that calls us an “abomination”, it is about fair treatment. I always love stressing that this isn’t a GAY issue, it is a HUMAN issue. It is more about ethics than anything else. There are 1,138 protections and rights that are granted to straight married couples. Here is a link to the Human Rights Campaign where they list just a few of the federal benefits granted to heterosexual married couples:

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/an-overview-of-federal-rights-and-protections-granted-to-married-couples

So why not a civil union? While a civil union does offer some benefits within the state that you obtained it in, it does not offer protection from state to state, or allow joint tax claims, and denies many health benefits that a marriage license can provide. Lawinfo has a great simple breakdown of the differences between marriage and civil unions. Check it out here:

http://resources.lawinfo.com/en/articles/marriage-license/federal/the-difference-between-marriage-and-civil-uni.html

We are constantly being programmed. Every second of every day our brains are taking in information and deciphering whether or not we agree or disagree, whether it is right or wrong, so it is no surprise that a vast majority of our citizens agree that gay marriage should not be legalized when they are constantly being pumped full of information that it is sinful and goes against the bible. For anyone who questions the biblical interpretations on homosexuality, I highly recommend For the Bible Tells Me So. It is a very entertaining and informative documentary. You can watch it for free here:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/for-the-bible-tells-me-so/ 

I could probably write a thousand more points and debate endlessly about gay marriage. However, I have limited time and I would like to spend it watching TV with my beautiful girlfriend. You know, like straight couples do? 😉