On Monday, November 1st I found myself in a traditional Mexican indigenous sweat lodge.
I was scared, in fact I was terrified and almost didn’t go, but if there was one thing that trips to Mexico has taught me, it is to do the things that scare you, or you may regret it. Three years ago I came on this same trip and didn’t do a couple of things and only by the grace of goodness was I able to come back and try those things again. Those two things, jumping in the cenote and swimming the Pet Cemetery Centoe were easier to do (still scary) but my fear of missing out a second time made the fear a little less overwhelming. However, the sweat lodge…when Trista first said that she wanted to do it I jumped on the chance but as the days to the trip crept closer I got more and more anxious. In fact, at one point I wasn’t going to go at all.
What was I so scared about? Well the unknown mostly. However the thought of being in a confined, dark space in extreme heat is like one of my worst nightmares. Also, the unknown of how my blood sugar was going to react was also messing with my mind.
After talking with my dear Trista she promised me that I could leave at any time and that it would be perfectly acceptable. And then she asked me what I would regret more, not going or going and trying it and perhaps needing to leave. Well after regretting my cenote trips three year prior, I realized that I needed to at least try.
Later that night I saw an internet post that said something along the lines of, on the day that you have 40% and you give 40% than you still gave your 100%. It made me realize that all I had to do was try and that was giving it my 100%.
So, we loaded up into vans and after a while came to a gated area in the jungle. We were met by Eduardo, the Shaman that was going to be leading us on our journey.
We began the ceremony with a blessing, and us giving thanks to the four directions of north, east, south and west. On our way into the lodge we kneeled and pressed our foreheads to the earth, asking for the experience to strengthen our relationship, I also threw in a quick ask for health. We then crawled into the low dwelling on our hands and knees, one by one finding our way around periphery of the lodge.
They then began adding the grandmother stones to the lodge, which had been heated to 500 degrees. They placed in fourteen stones for each person in the lodge and as they did we paid our respects to each stone with gratitude, thanking them for their wisdom and presence. When the last stone was placed they closed the door.
The heat was immediate and overwhelming, the panic started immediately and all I wanted to do was leave. And this is where the lesson began for me…
Eduardo started the ceremony by talking about us being in the belly of mother nature and how this was a ceremony of rebirth, that we were coming in one way and would be leaving another. He then started talking about healing the relationship wounds in our past, beginning with our parents. And its not that I couldn’t use some healing from my past but my experience started to take on a whole new meaning. It became all about presence.
Honestly I didn’t hear much of what Eduardo said, I went to a place deep within, where the most important thing in the moment was to listen to my body and not my thoughts.
My thoughts would constantly arise…your too hot…you cant breath…you’re going to faint…your blood sugar is too low…you need water…you cant do this…you cant stay in here…your body cannot maintain sweating this much. So each time one of these thoughts would arise I needed to stop the thought and ask myself what was true in the moment. I would place my hands on the stone floor of the lodge and feel the ‘cool’ stones underneath me, grounding myself to the earth and present moment; I would tell myself that I could in fact actually breath and that in the moment I was safe. As soon as I thought about bolting I would ask myself to just try for the next moment, not the next five minutes, but just moment to moment.
I know that Eduardo worked through forgiving various people of our past as well as forgiving ourselves but honestly that was not the lesson that the universe wanted me to learn in that moment.
Some how I survived my time in the sweat lodge, which I think was close to an hour and a half. But I cannot explain to you the feeling when they opened the door. I was expecting it to be relief, I was expecting to clamor my way out, but rather I felt peaceful and calm, knowing that I could handle being in the lodge for a few more minutes until it was time to exit. Pure peace. Eduardo asked us to think of a spirit animal that we wanted to have with us for the rest of our lives, before I could even think the idea of a beautiful female deer came into my mind. Strong, yet peaceful and gentle, resilient, yet protective.
As we left, we again placed our foreheads to the earth in gratitude for our experience. And as we exited, we were given the gift of the most glorious water dumped gently on our bodies, along with another blessing. It really did feel like a rebirth. As they poured the water on us, we proclaimed who we are and what spirit animal was now with us.
The experience left me honestly so humbled. While in the lodge I learned that I do have control of my thoughts, and my anxiety. That I can think one thing and change the narrative to a truth that is more aligned in peace than panic. I have that choice. My thoughts are not in charge and are not always the truth. I learned that I am much more powerful than I was giving myself credit for. Fuck you anxiety.
I also learned that with the support of people who love me, I can do hard things. I was so grateful to have Trista beside me the whole time, knowing that I could reach for her hand if I needed. Also knowing that Paul was supporting me while on his own adventure and doing his own hard thing.
If there was ever a lesson in empowerment, this was it.
So, I was wondering where and when this was going to show up again in my life and it wasn’t that long until I found out. Yesterday was the travel day from hell, and whereas I could get into all of the nitty gritty details I will spare you and instead tell you that I was able to keep it together. The couple of times that I would feel my old nemesis of anxiety arise I was able to remember the feeling of my palms on the cool earth and feel grounded, feel calm and be able to control the thoughts. In fact, I made it all the way home without Ativan, which is a huge win for me, especially with all of the travel complications we had.
From now on, in times of anxiety I will remember the feeling of my palms on the earth, the coolness in the heat. Thank you, Mexico, for the most amazing lesson.
PS. A quick google search of the Deer as a spirit animal says this: the deer combines both soft, gentle, qualities with strength and determination. An ability to move through life and obstacles with grace, being sensitive and intuitive, vigilance, the magical ability to regenerate, being in touch with life’s mysteries.
Do I see a new tattoo in my future? I think so.
If you have seen some of my more recent social media posts, you may have noticed that I have been talking a lot about deliberate rest, and I am being deliberate when I use the word deliberate. When was the last time that you let yourself rest? I mean truly rest? Not with your phone in your hand, not with Netflix on, not while thumbing through a magazine. Resting without distraction. Resting without an agenda and even resting without sleep. I know it may sound crazy and foreign to you, but it is something that I have been doing that has drastically changed me, let me explain…
A couple of months ago I was on a zoom call with a group of ladies from my yoga therapy program, we were meeting to co-teach and learn from each other about how we can become better yoga therapists. So, it was my turn as the role of the client, and I started by explaining to them that I have a pain in my back (you may have read my social post about this the other day); so, the other girls were taking turns offering me yoga therapy movements to try. One of my dear friends saw that in the background of my yoga room was a giant yoga or exercise ball, she asked me to get it and to lay on it, on my belly and just allow my back to round, to allow the ball to hold me up and support me. Well, I sat there for a while and the tears started to well up in my eyes, I was feeling such a release of tension. The other ladies got quiet and just watched and held space for me while I cried and rested. That is what was happening, for the first time in months I was feeling a sense of rest. When I was ready, I was able to tell them that I honestly don’t ever let myself rest, that I don’t know how, and it makes me uncomfortable.
Sure, I meditate. Yes, I do yoga. Of course I sleep. Sure I read, but sitting in rest without the phone in my hand is not something that I do. And if I am being perfectly honest, I am either forcing myself to sit still, moving or sleeping. I can sleep like the dead and I always thought that an extended afternoon nap was resting. And again, with the honesty, I’m not talking about a twenty-minute nap, I am talking about a two-to-three-hour comatose sleep. But I wasn’t sleeping to rest, I was sleeping to hide, to run away, to withdraw, to avoid and to dissociate. My friends suggested that rather than trying to fix the pain in my back, that I should start with rest. Deliberate rest.
And that is how this journey to rest began, taking a couple of minutes everyday to rest on my exercise ball. Then I began to explore some different restorative yoga poses, even though I am a restorative yoga teacher I rarely took the time to find the poses that I truly love and feel nurtured by (here’s a little tip, each restorative yoga pose will feel different for each person, one’s ultimate rest pose is someone else’s princess and the pea). The hardest part of deliberate rest was not so much the laying still, nor was it so much the quieting of my mind (I’ll touch on that in a minute), the hardest part of deliberate rest for me is letting my body relax. As soon as I stop moving, my legs tense, particularly my left leg, and if I don’t catch it in time then my glute muscles tense, and then surprise, surprise, my back starts to tense. If I am really hyper and wound up then my tongue pushes up into the roof of my mouth, hard. So I may look relaxed, but my body is fighting it whole heartedly.
It has taken me lots of trial and error and patience to “yoga therapy” myself into deliberate rest.
First of all, I had to learn that deliberate rest is not about quieting my mind, that is what my morning meditation is for. I had to give myself permission to let the thoughts come and go, some of them, I give airtime and let myself go deep into a thought if it needs to be thought. During my time of deliberate rest is sometimes the perfect time to think the thoughts that need space and attention.
Secondly, I needed to learn that it is okay and actually very, very restful to listen to a guided yoga nidra while I’m resting. Yoga nidra is designed specifically for that reason.
Thirdly, I needed to learn that there is a place for me to rest that is not in my bed. As soon as I lay in bed, I fall asleep. The remedy to this was to again explore restorative yoga poses, using all of the props that I have, using lots of pillows, blankets and support, or using the ball.
I have also learned that making my rest a sacred time, a sacred tradition of sorts has helped it become something that I relish in. I go into my space, I light a candle or use my diffuser, I close the curtains to soften the light. I listen to my yoga nidra or a carefully curated instrumental playlist. Also, my phone is on do not disturb. My family knows that this is not the time to talk to me and to even open the door. I try to rest in the afternoon, usually at that time when I am starting to feel stressed and frazzled.
What I have learned is that giving myself this time is not only good for me, it is important and can change the trajectory of my day. Also, because of my new resting regime I experience less back pain. This is not to say that the pain is gone completely, but rather it is no longer an everyday problem. It sneaks up on me once in a while, and when it does it surprises me. When the pain does come up I am more able to handle it, I get less frustrated because I have more bandwidth to be able to deal.
Deliberate resting has become a bit of a soapbox topic for me. As a society we do not allow ourselves time to rest and it is affecting EVERYTHING. By running at the hectic pace that we do we are running to the point of complete depletion or burn out, and when that happens our bodies react with dis-ease and sickness, costing us days at work or time lost with our loved ones. By taking just a few moments throughout your day to focus on what you are feeling internally, how you are breathing and your true mental state at the moment you can avoid the consequences of end-of-the-day exhaustion.
Deliberate rest does not have to be a forty-five yoga nidra, it can be a five-minute, self check-in in the stairwell of your office building. It can be what you have time for. Not everyday do I have the time to rest for a long period, but by doing so when I can I am gaining space between the days that I need to. What I am trying to say is that because I rest as frequently as I can, I have more good days between the rough days. Let’s say that I was having a rough day every other day (and by rough, I mean physical pain or mental and emotional exhaustion), now because I practice the art of deliberate rest I may have one or two rough days a week, and not even full days, but moments.
My deliberate rest practice has also made me a better human, honestly. I am a lot less reactive; I have more patience and an overall sense of peace. In fact, at the end of every practice, whether it be five minutes or fifty minutes I remind myself to carry the feeling of peace with me through the balance of my day.
And in the spirit of honesty, I can say that my rest practice is keeping me going right now; you see I have started with a new therapist, and we have been looking at my trauma. And because my trauma is so in my face right now, I need to rest all the more. Taking the moments of rest is allowing me space to process or not. I can choose if that point in time I want to deal with my trauma or set it aside for the time being. The beauty of the practice is getting to make the choice between the two, rather than random traumatic thoughts hijacking my day.
This rest experiment of mine as been happening since the spring and I truly believe that it has changed my life for the better. I know that I deserve deliberate rest. I know that I am worthy of that time and investment in myself. If you are still reading this, I urge you to find some time for rest. At least once this next week can you schedule yourself rest? It doesn’t have to be meditation, it doesn’t have to be a massage, a bubble bath or a walk-in nature (although all of those things are lovely), it can be five minutes in your car, in silence, before you go into the house at the end of the day. You too a worthy of rest, make the time for yourself, you wont regret it.
A while ago, I was guest on a pod cast created by me friend Christina. She uses this platform to discuss self esteem and self confidence, she asked me to come on because she felt I embodied those two things…..ummm wow. Its funny because when talking about myself I wouldn’t say that I have particularly good self esteem nor am I particularly confident, in some things. Let me explain.
When I look back at photos of myself when my children were younger, I feel the pain of the girl looking back at me. I had no idea who I was. I was not confident and had zero self esteem. I was a bit of a chameleon. When I worked at the flower shop, I pretended to be a young urbanite, when I worked at the office, I faked my way along and pretended to be a boss lady. When I worked at the scrapbook store, I adapted to fitting in there, and when I taught playschool yet again, I was a different person. I loved all of these jobs, but I was not authentically myself at any of them. I was playing a part, for better or for worse. I was anything but authentic.
Here is an example. I hate animal print, personally its just not my thing. If you do, more power to you, this is not a judgment on character. Anyway, when I worked at the scrapbooking store one of the women that worked there LOVED animal print, and she also loved anything with bling, sparkle and crystals. She was a ‘girly-girl’, she always had her nails done, makeup on, hair perfect. She dressed so well put together and polished. She was always wearing jewelry and something shiny. After working there for some time, I started to take on that persona. I went from not really caring about what I looked like to having the nails, dyed hair, fancy clothes (more than just jeans and t-shirts), nice shoes, jewelry and wearing make up. I convinced myself that I liked to wear bling and color. Now again I want to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is not who I am. And in fact I couldn’t be more opposite of that now. I remember a few thing particularly, one was a teal shirt with big swirls of bling on the front, another was an animal print necklace that I used to wear (cringe). I used to have rhinestones imbedded in my nails, my glasses had rhinestones on the side, my purses were flashy and some even pink. I remember feeling like I was trying to be something, like I was trying to fit into this person that the world would like. I was not living authentically.
Also, about this time I remember an afternoon that I was looking for clothes. Pinterest had just come out and I had started a board all about my style. Nothing that I was pinning to my board was remotely close to how I was presenting myself to the world. And I remember crying because I felt so disconnected from how I wanted to be. (I was also crying because being a fat person, the option to dress the way I truly wanted to be was not accessible to me, but that’s a post for another day). I must tell you that this was not the first time that I felt that way. For years I had felt as if I wasn’t really being myself. I didn’t feel like my outsides matched my insides; I wasn’t portraying myself authentically.
So, fast forward a few years later, I am finally beginning to feel like my outsides match my insides. I am finally living my authentic life.
First let’s talk about physically. Being a fat women, clothes are only just starting to be diverse in what is offered. I now feel like I can dress the way that reflects who I am, I wear a lot of black…whatever that means! I tend to wear clothes that are simple, plain, casual and sometimes even boring. My favorite jeans are ripped, my favorite t-shirt is a black scoop neck. I rarely wear shirts that say anything. In fact I have three, one says Free Mom Hugs, one says Invest in Kindness and the other says that I am a member of the True Crime and Murder Club! (Although I do own a lot of band shirts and hoodies) Ha! I like to wear boots and shoes that are practical yet still somewhat cool. I have an amazing pair of what are now vintage Doc Martens. What has changed the most since my days of unknowing is that I am now heavily tattooed, I have piercings and my hair is jet black (I am no longer trying to be blonde). My tattoos are an extension of me, all deeply personal and one of my most favorite things ever. At 43 years old I finally feel like my outsides match my insides. I finally feel like the world is seeing me for who I am. Take it or leave it. This is me.
Now living an authentic life is still and always will be a work in progress. It took me many, many years to find out what that meant to me. To me living authentically is all about doing the things that are in alignment with my values and boundaries.
My job is in alignment of my value of being of service to people, yet also providing me with nourishment. I have had many jobs. Being a florist allowed me to be creative daily, being a playschool teacher was good for my desire to be a leader, being an office manager allowed me to use my organizational skills. Being a yoga teacher, yoga therapist and business owner is allowing me to do all those things, but with the added bonus of also enriching my life with spiritual growth and learning about myself as a person. I finally feel like I am working authentically and that my purpose is defined.
As for other areas of my life it has taken me some time to find that authenticity that I have been after for so long. Being a parent is a trip, no body is prepared to be a parent and so you kind of fumble your way along for the first little while, picking things up to try from here and there, whether it be parenting books or friends and family. It took me a long time to become a parent that I am at peace with. I have realized that I do not need to be the mom that bakes my kids birthday cakes from scratch. I do not need to be the parent who does all of the activities that my kids do, I can happily cheer them on from the sidelines. I try to show my kids that being a parent doesn’t mean that I cannot be myself. My kids don’t have to love yoga for me to love yoga, just as I don’t have to love skiing. Me being authentic gives them permission to do the same. I hope that my example will allow them to become their authentic selves at a much younger age than I was.
Being an authentic version of myself has had its effects on my friendships over the years. The friends that I have now know exactly who I am. They don’t have to guess. AND I am no longer giving every inch of myself to have friends. I am aware of my boundaries, and I hold firm to them. When my friends upset me, I tell them and when I’ve done something wrong, I will apologize rather than make an excuse. My friendships have become deeper and more enriching to my life because I no longer am trying to be something that I am not. The people that are in my life now are here because they appreciate me for who I am, not how I serve them.
So I view authenticity as an extension of self esteem and self confidence. I am not always confident, when learning something new or trying a new activity, I may not feel confident in myself and my abilities, however if I can remain authentic to who I am then I wont ignore my values or blow past my boundaries to do something or be something that I am not. I can try new things, know that I may not succeed but know that I will remain true to myself while I try.
As for self esteem, I would actually say that mine is not that great. I have a very mean voice in my head that says some awful stuff to me. There are some things that I know I excel at, somethings that I know my worth and my value, and then there are lots of ways that I doubt myself. Self esteem may be one of the lessons that I am meant to learn in this incarnation of my life.
For the past two years authenticity has been one of my Core Desired Values (for more information on this check out Danielle LaPorte). It is a value that I strive to uphold everyday. How I present myself both publicly and to the people I love, needs to be done authentically or else I feel like I’ve let myself down. I cannot and will not try to make myself fit anyone else’s definition of who, what or how I should be, I’m over that. When I am older and living the last of my days I want to be able to look back and say that the second half of my life was lived on my terms, that I did it my way.
All this talk about authenticity may have you wondering what the point is, and you may be feeling like I’ve got it all figured out, but like I said it’s a work in progress AND I am still trying to figure out what authenticity truly is. I have wanted for some time to start a podcast about exactly this and this is the introduction of that.
I am starting a podcast in which I will be talking to people about what authenticity means to them, how they live authentically or if they are still trying to. My desire of the podcast is that it may help those that are struggling to find themselves. To understand what it means to them specifically and how living that way can help them find an essence of freedom. I am going to leave the self-esteem and self confidence discussion to my dear friend Christina and her podcast. This is going to be about finding your true self and living unapologetically.
Details about where to find the podcast will come out soon, stay tuned into my Facebook and Instagram.
This morning at 7:30 we got the news that we have been trying to avoid for two and a half years; Brandy is positive for COVID.
It started on Wednesday when the school called to say that she was coughing so hard on the bus, that it turned around and took her back to the school. When I went to pick her up they said that she had started coughing earlier in the day. Throughout the night on Wednesday she seemed to get worse and by Thursday she was fully symptomatic. Because of her co-morbidities we were able to book her a PCR test for Friday morning, and again because of those same things they expedited the results; and this morning I got a text saying it was confirmed. Last night Paul and I both started to feel gross with sore throats, body aches and nose complications, we both woke up this morning feeling worse. We have since both tested with a rapid test but have come back negative, which I don’t believe for a single minute, and ill explain why in a little bit. Marcus was next to wake up and he tested positive. Amelia and Noah both have symptoms (she more than him) but they have both tested negative.
So now let me explain why I think that the negative results are bologna, you see our Brandy may be chronologically 12 but when she is sick she functions more at the age of a preschooler. She is very needy and wants to be physically held every minute of every day. She also has no concept of being germ hygienic. She regularly will cough or sneeze in our faces, she will put her finger in her nose and not use a Kleenex. Its intense. She will also drink out of whatever glass is closest and if you don’t realize that she has had her lips on your glass than its without your knowing that you are putting her germs in your mouth.
Being diabetic I have done my very best to do all of the right things. And with Brandy's heart condition and asthma we have done the same.
This morning when I got the news I was angry. I was mad at the government for telling us to send our kids back to school, mad at myself for sending her to school and mad at the parent that let their kid go to school sick. I was in my meditation space and I realized that my anger wasn’t doing anyone, especially me any good. And I am also choosing to believe that whomever B got covid from didn’t know they were contagious. I am not going to believe that people are infecting others on purpose. As for being mad at myself or the government, it was Paul and I together that decided to send her back. As much as I hate Kenny and Lagrange, I had every option to keep her home.
What I am allowing myself to be upset about is the way that people and the media talk about those with co-morbidities. And I actually read a very interesting article about it last night (www.leavingevidence.wordpress.com titled You Are Not Entitled to Our Deaths), in this blog she talks about how those with disabilities and co-morbidities have become the disposable commodity in this pandemic; and I agree with her. How many times have we heard news people or government officials report a death followed by, “they had underlying conditions?" I would like to state for the record that I am more than my co-morbidity. I am more than diabetic. Brandy is more than her heart condition.
Have you ever really thought about triage? This is what happens when you go to emergency, they decided who needs the help first, who is at greater risk of severe outcomes. HOWEVER, if there are two Misty’s one diabetic, one not, and only one ventilator they would choose to give it to the misty without diabetes because there is a greater chance for a successful outcome. This is not based on who is the better human, this is based only on who has a better chance of survival. So, diabetic Misty would be kept as comfortable as possible and would be a disposable human in the event of death. And then it would be reported on the news that she died because of a co-morbidity and therefore wasn’t as important. And you may say or think that is not what the news is doing but it is ableism in its finest.
So, for two and a half years I have been listening to people being dehumanized because of the exact same co-morbidity that I have, the exact same one. And not only that, but THE co-morbidity that is always reported first. Have you ever felt disposable? I have literally been feeling disposable for two years! And feeling like my daughter with an already dysfunctional heart, Asthma and FASD is disposable as well. That is a heavy load to carry.
For two years I have been dreading what would happen if I caught covid. How would the nurses and doctors look at me? What whispers would I hear coming from the hall? How many people would say to me, “well your fat and diabetic”? How would the news report my death? “oh thank goodness someone else died, but don’t worry, she was diabetic”. Its an awful feeling.
So here we are, positive. Thank goodness I am double vaxxed and boosted, as is Paul and Brandy. Marcus and Noah are both double vaxxed but not boosted yet. This morning I was feeling pretty okay but as the day goes on I am starting to feel worse; body aches, swimmy head, sore throat, cough, exhaustion; I cant help but be worried that I am going to need medical intervention.
I understand that everyone (well mostly) has covid fear, and I'm not suggesting that I am the worse case scenario, I realize that there are people far worse off than Brandy and I, however this fear is very, very real. I am the disposable asset. I am the walking co-morbidity that people would shrug their shoulders at loosing.
I’m not going to lie, my IG and FB highlight reel look pretty damn good, however just as anyone else’s, it’s curated to sound and look as though I’m living the most amazing life. And that’s not to say that I’m not living an amazing life, however, I have my stuff just like everyone else. I have my complications, fears, jealousies, and sadness.