What do a Reiki Master/Yoga teacher and Personal Stylist have in common (aside from both being fabulous, I mean)? Unfortunately the answer is that in both professions the issue of low self worth is common in clients. Body image woes seem to plague people from the Yoga mat to the closet and everywhere in between.
On the afternoon of May 14th, 2014 I was laboring in a tub at The Birth Center in Beverly.
This was my first time doing the whole “pushing a human out of my body” thing, and despite all of the books I had read, mothers I had spoken to, and videos I had watched about what giving birth is actually like I was still completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) shocked by how painful the contractions were.
I was doing my best to handle everything as calmly as my body and mind were allowing, but I was also dealing with back labor (side note: back labor is the opposite of a good time) and getting fatigued. During all of this I had music playing on my phone from the playlist I’d compiled carefully weeks before. Continue reading “No Apology Necessary”
One of the main aspects of being a Reiki and Yoga teacher I value, perhaps even treasure, is that people feel comfortable opening up to me. I have heard stories of anger, exhaustion, uncertainty, grief, hope, and joy. I have had folks come in and not say anything, but quietly permit some likely long overdue tears to fall.
There is nothing on my intake forms suggesting clients need to share the personal details of their experiences with me, but more often than not, I do get blessed with the background of these souls. They are trusting me to listen, and I do. I listen, I empathize, I let them share whatever they want or need to.
I hear them.
I hold space for them.
Personally, I have been through ordeals in my life so intense, so weird, and/or so frightening that I absolutely had to release them in some way. I have needed someone to hold space for me.
I learned fairly quickly the person I chose to be my confidant had to have some qualifications: they had to possess the ability to refrain from passing judgment on me (though an occasional eyebrow raise might have been permitted if the story truly warranted it–they’re human), they had to grant me the freedom to express myself with any and all emotions (if they can’t handle me at my snot and tear stained face, they don’t deserve me at my glowing elated face), they had to listen without going rogue and trying to figure out a solution for me, because holding space is about providing support, not trying to “fix” things or find answers (those are my responsibility), and they had to allow me to talk (or not talk) without feeling expected to do anything else. Despite this laundry list of demands, I came to trust a few people with this role.
Why do we need an outlet like this? What is it about exposing our true selves to another that helps us abandon our internal narratives for a while? Maybe we are organically releasing some of the weight of our burdens, and maybe that release creates room for relief, however brief. Maybe sometimes we just want to feel heard.
Our problems or struggles may not vanish, but by sharing with someone willing to listen we are granting ourselves permission to let go a little. Sharing a small part of our genuine selves with confidence is priceless, and having someone willing to accompany you without judgment is a gift. Each time someone in my life graces me with the opportunity to free myself of my challenges for a short while, I see them as a lighthouse in the middle of a storm. They are a beacon for me when things feel like they’re falling apart.
The act of holding space for someone is one of true kindness and compassion. Allowing a person to become vulnerable in your presence, whether they choose to actually speak their mind or not, is a significant responsibility.
Can you hear their words without injecting your own opinions? Can you sit with them and simply let them feel? Can you bear witness to a small piece of their journey without asking for anything in return?
Try. Someone will be grateful you did.
You get a jar, and YOU get a jar…
EVERYBODY GETS A JAR.
Disclaimer: this post is a bit of a far cry from what I usually write about, though its still rooted in the ideas of cleansing and mindfulness. It’s not about Reiki. It’s not about Yoga.
It’s about putting things in jars.
Okay, correction: it’s about putting EVERYTHING in jars. If you have already rolled your eyes and decided this clearly is not what you are into, then hear me out. I have cherries in a jar in my fridge right now that are perfectly sweet, with just the right amount of bite to them. They taste extremely fresh… and I bought them over three weeks ago.
That is why I wanted to write about this, because I, personally, am someone who buys grapes or those expensive organic cherries for an arm and a leg and then only manage to eat five before they’re destined for the compost. Yet, here I am. Enjoying those ridiculously priced cherries to the very last one. All because I put them in a mason jar.
I have been putting dried goods in jars for years (please enjoy the photo below of my prized pantry from 2015 as proof) but it never occurred to me that the same principle could be applied to produce. I happened upon the Instagram page of @brownkids and learned of TheJarMethod that they created. After reading about how long they made their food last, and how much money it saved them, I was immediately on board.
I am always in search of new ways to make my life feel less cluttered and less stressful (both physically and mentally). I definitely cannot label my home as truly “minimalist”, but that’s the ideology that I tend to lean toward. I value order and organization, and the more complicated a space appears, the more stress and lack of control I feel. I learned early on that it’s not enough for me to just do massive cleaning/rearranging sprees every month or so to feel centered and chaos-free; I have to implement systems and consistently maintain them.
Some of what I do these days stemmed from reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2015. If you haven’t heard of this book, in a nutshell consider it an interesting approach to clearing out all that does not serve you in your life (at least in terms of physical possessions). Some ideas that have stuck with me are seemingly simple ones, but they have had a lasting impact. For example, I remove all of the little sticky labels from all of my produce as soon as I get home. Oddly enough, that small act creates a little bit of calm. Seeing bananas in the basket just looking like bananas, without the visual clutter of barcodes or brand names, somehow elicits a peaceful feeling within me. Following that same vein, I remove strawberries and blueberries from their plastic containers, and scallions and spinach from their bags. After they’ve all been washed and patted dry, I put them all in their own jars and then they find their home in the fridge. I chop up the scallions first, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward process. This is my course of action for ALL produce now. Lettuce: jar. Medjool dates: jar. Tomatoes: jar. Everything gets a jar (I wasn’t kidding).
Aside from the fact that I am saving my family money and creating less food waste by keeping our food fresh longer, I also just like that I can see all of our food so clearly. Less distractions = less ugly in the fridge. Less ugly in the fridge = more room for happiness. How much more cleansing can something get?
Marie Kondo tells us in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that we should remove things from our lives that do not bring us joy. It’s easy to apply that idea to things like a wardrobe or old knick-knacks, but who knew it would have just as strong as an effect on food packaging?!
Taking part in this new routine has really reignited my belief that small acts of mindfulness can restore us in ways we didn’t even realize we needed. Am I a stress-free, radiant, homemaker goddess as a result of this? Perhaps not (yet), but the difference it has made in my life is undeniable.
What small acts are you willing to do to create less chaos in your own life?
Let’s try an experiment.
I want you to look at the word I’m about to write, and take note of what first comes to mind when you see it. Ready?
This magical word is: self-care.
What did you see? Did you envision yourself getting a pedicure, reading a book in the bath with lit candles around it, or maybe getting a luxurious massage? In this day and age, the term “self-care” is often synonymous only with activities such as those…but why?! Those are all fantastic examples of self-care (I would practically kill for some alone time to read a book without constant interruption), but let’s not forget that tending to the needs of your body and mind can also just mean closing the bathroom door on your kid so you can pee in peace for once, or choosing not to answer any of those 57 emails until tomorrow when you’re ready to, or even as simple as taking a few deep, cleansing breaths. At the end of the day, the act of taking care of ourselves comes in many shapes and forms. It’s about creating a sacred space for you to cultivate healing of your mind, body and soul, whatever that may look like.
Continue reading “Recharge (with Style)”
At my last yoga teacher training weekend a couple of weeks ago, our class was asked, as homework, to think of a person who has hurt us, and see if we can arrive at true forgiveness after considering our role in the situation, as well as the ignorance involved from both parties. We were asked to look at it objectively with discernment, and ask ourselves if we can take responsibility for what is ours, and release what is not.
Are you still with me?
Suffice it to say that literally no one was comfortable with this assignment. Nobody. Who wants to revisit a difficult situation, and then look for where YOU were wrong?! Yeah, no thank you. Still, I gave it a try.
I had a couple circumstances that immediately came to mind, but I settled on the one that felt still somewhat unresolved to me. This option is not nearly as emotionally difficult as the other I could have chosen, yet somehow it seemed infinitely harder for me to really admit my fault in it. That lead me to question why. “What exactly am I resisting here? The idea that I was wrong?” But I was wrong! For parts of it, I was extremely wrong. Yet looking at the problem from this perspective changed things considerably, and I am not good with change. I’m getting better (yoga has helped me with this quite a bit) but I am still very much a creature of habit, who feels the urge to control everything whenever possible. Unless I am the instigator of the change, I tend to only see it as a frightening wrench in my carefully laid out plans. This usually results in my anxiety arriving to take over. Good times.
I made a genuine effort with the assignment, and eventually came to feel like I had made a small bit of progress. At the very least it forced me to let go of some (likely misplaced) anger I was holding onto. A meditation I use when teaching Reiki includes the instruction of “letting go what no longer serves you”, and I think I had failed to practice what I preach in this regard. I chose not to share my experience in class, mainly because of the complex emotions I have associated with it, but listening to other people sharing was really eye opening. It was heavy. I cried (what else is new). If you are reading this and feel like doing something super uncomfortable but potentially productive, I urge you to revisit a painful situation of your own, and see if you can gain a new perspective on it after accepting responsibility for what is yours, and letting go of what is not. Can you arrive at true forgiveness for the other person? For yourself?
One other aspect of this particular weekend that was intense for me was the chant that we normally do. I feel a strong connection to this chant (it is called Śrī Guru Pādukā-pañcakam if you’re interested) and I practice it on my own frequently. I took a couple of recordings of the class doing it in the past so that I can sing along in the car or at home.
My teacher had asked me to lead the chant during one weekend, and while it was a little nerve-wracking, I enjoyed it because it just meant that I got it started, and then the whole class chanted together as one. On this most recent weekend, however, things were different. Marc (my instructor) pulled me aside before we began a long meditation, and asked if I would lead the chant again. I agreed, thinking it would be the same as last time.
Marc led us into a quiet meditation, as we all laid on our mats with blankets covering us. He came over to me after awhile and let me know it was time for the chant. I started to get up into a seated position and quietly asked him if I should ask the rest of the class to do the same. He said no.
I was confused, but not panicked yet. “So… he wants me to sit up, but everyone else will chant lying down. That seems strange, but okay.” I sat up with the words to the chant in my hands, and then finally, after probably a century, realized that I was meant to chant BY MYSELF. To the room of nearly 20 people. If you don’t know me well, let me explain to you that I have extreme social anxiety. I’m doing better with it lately, but regardless I was honestly shaking with cold sweats.
It’s funny how you can come to find what you are truly passionate about when you are faced with something so scary. Through this experience I have learned that I am really and truly passionate about chanting, because I managed to put those feelings of impending vomit and fainting to the side, due to how badly I felt the need to perform the chant. I began with the traditional opening of “sadgurunath maharaj ki jai”, and then went through all five stanzas of the chant in Sanskrit clearly, without faltering. I felt so much lighter afterward. So much happier. So, hi. My name is Katherine, and I am a devotional chant nerd.
This chant in particular is translated to English to read as though we are worshipping someone’s sandals…I can see how that seems very odd. The sandals are just a metaphor, though. They represent those of us that have walked the path before us. With this chant we are honoring that path, and its traveler. When I first learned this in class, it resonated with me immediately. Each time I practice this chant, I devote it to someone new that has walked the path of yoga (or life in general) before me. I never run out of people to choose from. I am learning from everyone around me, all the time, and to me that is worth honoring.
So there is my wrap-up of my latest YTT weekend. The usual tear-shedding, but thankfully no embarrassing loss of consciousness episodes to speak of. I have only 3 weekends left (1 next month and 2 in May) and I’m excited to finish, but also trying to properly savor my time in this experience while it lasts.
This past weekend was another yoga teacher training session for me and lo and behold, my floodgates finally opened and tears spewed from me like bats out of hell. I have already expressed that heart openers/backbends affect me greatly, so really it was only a matter of time before this deluge happened, yet I was still overwhelmed and beyond embarrassed.
On Saturday we were yet again working on urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose) and my instructor asked me if I’d be willing to volunteer so he could demonstrate the ways for a teacher to help align a student in the pose. I believe my enthusiastic response was, “not really”. He asked why and I explained that heart openers in general are difficult for me. Not letting me off the hook, he pressed further and asked if I meant they were physically difficult, or difficult in an emotional way. I said the latter. Even as I said that and finally agreed to do the pose, I felt myself tearing up. I was so hoping that would be the extent of things. Continue reading “There’s No Crying in Yoga”