I took my last yoga class as a 24-year-old at 7 am this morning with one of my beloved teachers, Jerome Mercier. As we moved from pose to pose I meditated on the fluidity I am seeking in my transitions. Recently, getting from one pose to the next with consciousness and some seriously focused breathing has become the main focus of my practice, on my mat and in the world. In yoga, we talk a lot about the alignment and expression of poses – what a “finished” posture looks like, or rather the mistaken notion that there is even such a thing. My favorite teachers have always taught that a full pose is an expression of growth, of rooting down to rebound up and out, and that, perhaps most importantly, the idea of balance is actually about navigating the moment-to-moment gracefully in the midst of incredible movement. My practice helps me access a place of stillness within the flow of my physical and mental body that has influenced the last many years of my life, and this past year has been no exception. It keeps growing and evolving and I am grateful for it.
Here are just a few of the things I have learned in this quiet.
I have to fling myself over the cliff. It's just the way it is. I count my lucky stars for the most amazing family that I could ever hope to call my own. Composed of friends, teachers, relatives, and one-time-strangers-turned-dearly-loved, you people are the tops. I take such relief and joy in this. And while I would be blessed to stay within this nest for any period of time, amazing things happened in my life in the last 365 days that were in response to my being out of my comfort zone.
Shortly after I turned twenty-four, I journeyed to Montréal for six weeks with a seven-month-old baby not knowing any French. I found a deeper connection to my smallest pal, my own independence, and most probably related to the latter, a lovely romance. I also found chocolate almond croissants, warm from the oven and layered with all that is holy. I made friends with long, grey afternoons and rainy walks to my new sangha: light wood, exposed brick, heat, and live music. I went to concerts, museums, and cafes by myself, and with a teething infant ready to help me indulge in the quotidian treat at the drop of a hat (us gals have to stick together). I unplugged from my usual routines and developed new ones within the structure of adventure and a dramatically colder environment. When I look back on this time, nostalgia casts a warm, cozy filter over any memory of snow and ice. It was all worth it for the settling down.
I began my next several hundred hours of yoga teacher training. I was nervous to set this new chapter in motion, at once feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility and guided by the opportunities that kept clearing the way for me to participate. I let go of the obligation to do it and the doors leading down the path swung open. I took two weeks off from work, sugar, and a social life to devote myself to a Viveka intensive with my teacher, Annie Carpenter, and twenty-some fellow practitioners and soul friends. Funny enough, the journey towards detachment – of going beyond the various sources of color in my daily world – invited me back into an awakened and vibrant connection with my life. My body was stronger, my head was clearer, my heart was lit, and I was ready to show up. It hit the refresh button just in time for spring.
I took up surfing quite simply: by buying the necessary supplies and throwing myself into the sea. I now look forward to frequent board meetings with my dear friend and fellow nest-pusher-outer, Jackie. We refer to our sessions as our personal office hours #POH and our productivity is reflected appropriately. While the ocean is actually a place of great comfort to me, looking like a complete and utter idiot amid the sea of veteran surfers of Tower 22 reminded me of one of the best bits for coping: crack a smile. Laugh as you both try to “catamaran!”* your boards by each stepping a foot on each. Take pleasure from the face plant in two feet of water. Oh, it can be done. Enjoy as you drop into that perfect wave and ride it to shore as the sun sets behind the Santa Monica mountains, foam and warm currents reminding you that you are a rubber duck in a giant bathtub. Bow humbly as you try to remove your wetsuit and reveal your birthday suit. Then collect the money that is rightfully owed. You’ve got a happy hour to get to.
I began working with a woman who helps artists transition out of the grind of a regular work schedule into more creative time and space, with the ultimate goal of devoting oneself over to her soul’s endeavours fully. She believes the world needs more artists and I believe the world needs more people like her. Much of our work has been about chipping away at the layers of fear that re-direct – if not paralyze – my process, mostly in my personal life and history. I'm learning that all of this runs into my creativity, but it doesn’t have to dominate it. The alchemy of turning fear into motivation, experience into insight, and the muse into the perceptible is a gold I continue to mine. At times it has made me feel dejected, heartbroken, anxious, depressed, malnourished, physically ill, short of breath, fearful of my choices, fearful of germs, fearful of heights, fearful of falling, agoraphobic... (What About Bob, anyone? Sidenote: cinematic genius.) This, too, I recognize as part of the reckoning. The past year’s experiences have emboldened and legitimized my right to feel all of the feels, look at them, and watch what happens as I let them go, one by one, in favor of my gypsy core. The idea that a truly sustainable, creative life has a place waiting for me to step into it is still a brave assertion on my end. Onward I dare.
After returning from the holidays (and the mind map of goals I made during a particularly fantastic New Year’s Eve in a yurt on the Point Reyes National Seashore - another Yes Woman experience) to Los Angeles, I began making a semi-regular trek a few hours south to record ideas for my EP at a friend’s home studio. I had recorded all four songs the summer prior during a weeklong house sitting stint in San Francisco, but an exquisitely timed and well-built virus shattered my hard drive, taking with it all audible evidence of that work. Cheers! Lesson learned (sort of – I mean, should I have two hard drives now? Because I don’t. But I do backup a fair amount more in the cloud and Dropbox… feel free to leave any pearls of wisdom below. I didn’t learn a thing, did I?). I digress. I recorded an EP! After several years away from my musical endeavours, I slayed the dragon to get back on that wagon, armed with love and encouragement from what I imagine to be you, my dear readership. I didn’t know how or when the project would be completed, but piece by piece, month by month, the songs unfolded as I leaned into the unknown with a discipline of its own, culminating in the final session’s spontaneous arrangement, “Loose Ends.” That is how it happened. Writing it, making it, releasing it, and playing it (now in multiple states) reignited my love for music in a profound way, and helped me re-imagine a creative life I thought had, in many ways, gone the way of the wind. But wind does an incredible thing to things that chime: it turns storm into song.
Ten other things I have learned this year, in no particular order:
1. It’s healthy, positive, and a sign of self-awareness to set boundaries, even in your closest relationships. It doesn’t mean you take away a smidge of your love. It means you can ultimately give the best of yourself without losing yourself (or your sanity). This is really hard. It’s also really valuable to the longevity of relationships, and the well-suited ones seem to navigate it in the end.
2. If you still find yourself with a doggy after eight months of fostering him, he’s probably here to stay. Let him be your totem, let him walk you, and let him be your dear friend on a weekend while everyone is at Coachella and you have the flu or food poisoning or most succinctly want to die. You ultimately get the better deal.
3. Sign up for the “Do//LA” newsletter and then actually DO LA. Get out wherever you are and do things. Keep your chin up in the smog. Smile. Be authentic. This one is still a work in progress but I have made remarkable strides since finishing “Friday Night Lights” and deleting Pot & Pan Thai from my contacts. Buy the tickets when you see the link and then move your work around to accommodate the outing, not vice-versa.
4. Walking to the sea at 3 am might not cure insomnia, but it will at least remind you of your place in and of the world. Just don’t make this your new habit in addition to the mid-night waking because then you will need to uncork the codeine cough medicine that works on your constitution like the infamous potion of Friar Laurence.
5. Be a YES-Woman.
6. “You have to stay later than you want to at the party for the time being,” – my brother. This one I learned from one of my older siblings, who recently moved home with my incredible new sister-in-law after several years in Barcelona. (And the Spaniards know how to party; a nap is included in their work day). You don’t want to be the first to leave, and you certainly don’t want to be the last to leave. At least on a regular basis. As he tells it, you’ve got to wait for that sweet spot when things get a little weird but people get a little more true, and maybe there’s some clarity and/or a boyfriend to be gained in that haziness. See #3. Interpret as you will.
7. Drink more water and eat more plants. Also don’t forget to water your plants.
8. Follow up with people. Crack the whip. Make reasonable requests (or maybe even “unreasonable” requests – use the theory of relativity and a general sense of respect) multiple times if need be. Most of the time people aren’t reluctant, they’re just extremely distracted. You might be too, but your allotted quiet each day will hopefully reflect that back to you. React.
9. All things subject to change.
10. To close with a final message from my previously mentioned beloved yoga teacher: “Go slow. Feel more.” Enjoy whatever it is that you love, or want to love, or even once loved: for what it does give you, will give you, or has given you. It’s all happening and if we don't sit down to savor it, who knows where the experience will go or travel or disappear to next? All we have is now.
And now is pretty f*&@ing amazing.
*Not a verb, nope. Go with it.