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Transforming sadness October 31, 2008

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What would our lives be like if we experienced extreme joy all the time? Would we get bored being happy all the time? Would life be nearly as exciting without all the lessons and challenges we face in our daily lives? No. Life was designed to take us to our limits and test us so we could experience life more fully.

I use to fight bad days like the plague because I hated being unhappy, but as I got older I realized bad days were actually gifts and were meant to be embraced and honored. I stopped trying to fight off my emotions and instead learned to acknowledge and make peace with them. Every day was a new day and I never knew what was going to come up over the horizon as the sun rose to meet the day. It is not about moving past your lower emotions…it is about transforming them in to higher more divine emotions like love and happiness.

The body has a way of shutting down around suppressed feelings until eventually the body expels them by way of disease or some other physical ailment. The only way you can truly transform your emotions is to honor them, which means feeling sad when you are sad and angry when you are angry. It’s important to create a space for sadness, anger, loneliness, and all the other emotions that surface during trying times. If not, you could very well end up letting your emotions take over. 

I almost allowed this to happen one day last week, as I was having one of those days where life didn’t seem fair and the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I felt sad and my heart heavy. I kept hoping the rain would wash away the grief, but instead, it loomed over me like a dark cloud. I gave myself permission to spend the evening on the couch watching television, drinking wine, and eating comfort food. I allowed myself to cry and feel sad, but the next day was a new day and I wasn’t about to sit around feeling sorry for myself so I had a choice to either let my mind drive me absolutely crazy with negative thoughts or I could do something to transform my feelings into something more positive.

It wasn’t easy, as the mind is quite powerful, but I refused to lay on the couch another day so I made myself some hot tea and got in touch with what I was feeling. I realized it wasn’t just sadness…I was feeling alone and a little insecure, but I also knew I wasn’t trusting in the divine plan or in my higher soul.  I knew I needed to put some action behind my intention to transform these lower emotions so I thought about what I could do to make me feel happy again.

My heart was telling me to go on a bike ride, but my bike was in storage and inaccessible. This left me feeling frustrated, as I knew getting out of the house and going for a ride would bring a lot of joy to me so I had to come up with a different plan. I tried borrowing my roommate’s bike, but that didn’t work out so I called a friend to see if I could borrow her bike. I didn’t hear back from her so I went on-line and looked up bike rentals and found a place at the base of the Silver Comet Trail where I could rent one.

It was exactly what I needed to get my power back!!! I rode hard for 14 miles and loved every minute. It was an absolutely beautiful fall day and the weather was perfect. The sun was beaming yet the air was brisk and invigorating. It felt refreshing to be outside and empowering to be on a bike racing down the trail with the wind by my side. Either side of the trail was adorned with wild natural growth of varying shades of green. The trees were ripe in fall colors and there were butterflies and insects fluttering across the fields. As I rode, the sadness dissipated, the loneliness turned in to connectedness, and the fear transformed in to trust. It was magical!!!

The Universe can’t give us what we want if we are stuck feeling sad or if we don’t put some trust in our higher power. We have to transform our energy and in return the Universe supports us with divine love and blessings. Don’t try and outrun your emotions…give yourself a day to sit and process them without feeling sorry yourself. Once you’ve made peace with them, transform them by doing something to create the opposite of what you were feeling. Try it and see what happens.

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Acceptance…the final stage… October 17, 2008

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Everyone experiences loss at some point in their life, whether it is the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. Everyone responds processes and handles grief in their own way because we were raised differently. Our emotional response depends upon our personality, culture, spiritual beliefs, and religious practices.  The one thing that stays constant is the process, as everyone goes through similar stages of denial, pain, anger, sadness, loneliness and then acceptance. Anyone who has grieved knows there comes a time when the pain finally subsides and you are free. It’s almost as if it happens in an instant…a single moment in time.  

I don’t know what determines how long a person will grieve, but I do know that when it’s done, it’s done. There are many beautiful gifts that arise out of the final stage of accepting and letting go. There’s an awakening of consciousness and liveliness about your being that radiates from within because once the pain is gone, the body has a spaciousness the whole world can see. You feel magnificently alive and you have a new profound sense of self.  It’s absolutely beautiful to witness someone letting go, as the freedom shines right through their eyes.

It took me a long time, but I finally let go of the relationship that ended almost a year ago.  I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but something magical happened. It was if the universe pulled the remaining feelings out of my heart and freed me from the pain and hurt I was still harboring. I never loved another man the way I loved this man. He was absolutely everything to me. It was love at first sight and there was no doubt in my mind he was the one for me, as we talked about marriage and the possibility of creating a family.

I spent the past year trying to understand what happened…trying to understand why the Universe had other plans for us…trying to understand why our paths couldn’t be one. I was mad at the Universe for taking my love away…mad at myself for being committed to a spiritual journey that took me in a different direction. When it was all said and done what I realized was that it didn’t matter what happened between us and nobody was to blame. It was about the beautiful time we spent and the memories we created. It was about the intensity of our love and the life we shared.

There comes a time when you have to accept the fact that perhaps you’re not always meant to be with the person you think you’re suppose to be with in the terms of forever. Everyone is on their own journey and your life’s purpose may or may not take you in a different direction.  It’s possible for two people to share a life together and walk along different paths as long as the relationship is supportive and nurturing. It’s important to continually grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally so a relationship shouldn’t hold you back or inhibit you in any way.

People waste precious time blaming or faulting their partner for stuff that doesn’t really matter in the end. It’s not always about this or that, but something much greater than you or I. If it’s not working, it’s not working. It’s nobody’s fault. It just may be the inevitable. Be grateful for the times you shared together and for all the beautiful things the relationship brought in to your life, but then accept and honor one another when its time to part ways. We are not always aware of the greater plan so it’s important to trust in a higher power.

Our love was a gift I will cherish forever. The hardships we endured and the challenges we faced broke me down to the core of my being. In my struggle to understand and through my anger and pain I was able to break through the hard shell I built around my heart. I prayed to God for many years, as I wanted to find my self. I wanted to let go of the roles I played in an attempt to be loved. I wanted to walk my path and not the path set out by others. I wanted to be safe to explore the inner depths of my soul. I wanted to let go of anything that was holding me back from achieving oneness with my higher soul. I wanted to release and let go of the insecurities that weighed heavy on my heart. I wanted to let go of my fears and anger. I wanted to embrace my inner child and learn to love my self…my true self. 

Part of my prayer being answered was falling in love with this amazing man who walked in to my life and shared his heart with me. He reflected things I needed to see about myself and he was a catalyst for the lessons I learned. My relationship with him was a blessing…a gift from God.  Not only did I find myself, I emerged from a dark cocoon as a butterfly with wings of brilliant light.

I feel free for the first time in my life and I mean free as a hawk sailing high in the sky. I would not be here had it not been for this amazing man, the yoga teacher training, the trip to India, and for all the incredible work I did in between. Some of it was extremely painful and harder than anything I’ve ever endured, but the light was worth the blood, sweat, and tears. 

I was beginning to think I was broke…that I would never be able to let him go. My heart was with him every day. There wasn’t a moment that went by when I didn’t think about him or wonder how he was doing. When we broke up, I didn’t want to believe it…I felt anger and hatred I never felt before…I felt moments of sadness that left me wanting to take my life…I felt alone and scared and now almost a  year later, I am finally done…I am free.

In honoring my feelings and allowing myself to feel the pain in losing him, I was able to finally let him go and it was in an instant…just like that and not a moment too soon. I will never stop loving him, as he had a beautiful spirit, but I was finally able to accept and let go. I am grateful as the grief is finally gone and I can now sit in a place of gratitude and divine love for what we shared. Love and loss can be painfully grueling, but if you allow yourself to process in due time, you will find the journey to be insightful and enlightening.  


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Trip to Agra October 14, 2008

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The trip to Agra was quite the adventure. Our driver just about side swiped another vehicle ripping off the side mirror. The guy, who was driving his employer’s car, motioned for us to pull over, but our driver refused. They didn’t have “auto insurance” in India so accidents weren’t handled in the same manner as they were in the US. 

I was actually surprised we didn’t see more accidents while we were there, but I’m sure they happened all the time, as the drivers were absolutely insane. I thought we lost the other car until there was a loud whack on our driver’s window and I looked over to see the driver of the other car screaming and waving his fist. The next thing you know, both drivers were at each other’s throat screaming obscenities in such raw anger.  It was extremely unsettling, as I’ve never felt such frightening energy between two people.

The course leader got out of the bus and stepped between the two drivers to see if he could get them to calm down, but there was no getting through to either of them. Sriram tried paying for the damage just to make peace so we could be on our way, as it was his nature to be sweet and loving in the midst of conflict, but not even Sriram could bring peace to the situation, as it became an issue of pride. The driver of the other car could have lost his job and been in a lot of trouble because it was a really expensive vehicle, but a man’s word was a man’s word.  

There was nothing anyone could do except let the owners of the vehicles figure it out even though everyone saw it and knew it was our driver’s fault. It was awful to be in a Foreign Country and witness such hostility and extreme aggression between two men and all because of ego, as neither one of them wanted to be wrong. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait for the owners to figure everything out. The transportation  company sent us another bus to take us the rest of the way.

It was a really rough four hour trek, as the roads were not paved and the cars drove  like they were in the line of fire. I think all of us were car sick at some point, but we were definitely distracted by everything happening around us. I don’t even know how to explain half the stuff we saw. It was like watching some bizarre movie like the Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

There were pigs trudging through the garbage, kids walking up and knocking on the windows for food, naked children laying on the sidewalks starving to death, tractors carrying flat beds of women coming home from working in the fields, vehicles broken down on the side of the road with huddles of men grouped together trying to repair them, houses of cow dung with thatch roofs, poverty worse than New Delhi, camels wondering by, herds of sheep, wild hungry dogs, bicycles hauling mounds of stuff whether it be lumber, sugar cane, fruit, or beverages, and market style shops that sold anything and everything under the sun. 

Along the way we stopped off at the Swami Narayan Temple. It was enormous…not like anything I’ve ever seen. I was amazed at the level of security around the grounds, as there were actually men with automatic weapons standing guard. We weren’t even allowed to bring our purses in and even then we were still thoroughly searched.  Thankfully the females were handled by women because they pretty much felt up our entire body.  

We had a private tour set up, which turned out to be really cool. I enjoyed the experience, but I have to say it was HOT. I just about passed out. I was dehydrated, hot, and hungry…not a good combination. I remember seeing white spots and every one’s voices getting really far away. If it hadn’t been for one of the girls coming up and putting a wet cloth on my neck I probably would’ve collapsed.

Thankfully we just ordered lunch so food and water were on the way. We all ordered veggie burgers because we thought we were getting an American Style Burger, which we desperately needed after all the Indian food, but even the veggie burger turned out to be a lentil curry burger fried, topped with creamy coleslaw, and served between two pieces of white bread. It wasn’t the slightest bit healthy, but nobody said a word, as we were absolutely famished. 

After lunch I found myself in the nastiest bathroom I’ve ever seen and without toilet paper or soap to wash my hands. I usually carried a travel roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer in my bag, but everything was in the car so I wasn’t very happy.

We were given a sweet biscuit-like-thing before we left. It was suppose to bring us all prosperity and divine blessings, as it was blessed by the Swamis of the temple. I was really looking forward to eating it until I realized mine was also being blessed by two little ants, which came crawling out of the box just about the time I was ready to put my mouth around it. The only thing I could do was laugh, as I didn’t know which was worse…the filthy bathrooms or the “blessed” ant infested biscuit.

Even though I was still dehydrated from walking around in the heat all afternoon, I was scared to drink any water because there didn’t seem to be any place along the way to pull off. It was as if we were in the middle of a past life regression taking a rough dirt road through someones past. Even so, the drivers found some run down place to stop, which turned out to be a set up. 

Apparently the driver’s hook up with certain vendors and make deals to bring tourists to certain places so they spend money. The drivers receive kickbacks on whatever the tourists spend so they were very pushy to the point of aggravation. We noticed it back in New Delhi, but gave them the benefit of the doubt, as maybe they were just trying to “help” us out by telling us where we could find the best deals.

The place we stopped was full of treasures that looked like they had been around for ages. Everything was dark and covered in layers of dust. The prices were ridiculous and the drivers kept pushing us to shop. None of us bought anything, but it didn’t matter. We still had to stay until the drivers finished their meal, as it was all part of the plan.

A lady even came out of the middle of nowhere and in to the bathrooms when we first arrived to hand us TOILET tissue to dry our hands. She obviously didn’t care how ridiculous it was to hand someone toilet paper. The only thing she cared about was getting paid for the service, which was common in India. People would walk right up to you and help you cross the street or bless your forehead with a bindi or take your bags to or from a taxi. They were not doing it from the kindness of their hearts. They wanted money…plain and simple.

We got in to Agra late and I was exhausted, but thankfully we pulled in to a nice hotel with a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal and it didn’t smell like moth balls. The bed was comfortable and the shower lovely. It felt so good to wash the day away. We all met downstairs for dinner and then it was time for bed, as we had to get up before sunrise to see the Taj. None of us wanted to get up that early, but we also knew it would be much hotter and more crowded if we waited so we all agreed sunrise was best.

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Not so tough afterall October 10, 2008

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As I was writing about my experiences in New Delhi, something dawned on me. I always thought of myself as someone being tough because of my upbringing. I grew up on a Farm…I watched animals get slaughtered…I was raised with brothers who were rough on me…I was taught how to use a bow and arrow and how to shoot a gun before I was ten…I’ve gone 4-wheeling and driven a tractor…I’ve built a fort in the woods and changed the oil in my car. I learned the art of taekwondo and found a love for kick-boxing. I moved to Japan without knowing the language and traveled around the world. I camped in the woods and cooked on a grill. I wrestled boys and played basketball in heels. I was hit in the face with snowballs and shot in the back with a bee-bee gun. I was raised in an environment where people thought I had to tough and “get over things” instead of “feeling things.”

I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest when my best friend in the whole world moved away. I was seven years old and felt more alone than ever the day her family left. I was laying in my bed crying and wanted someone to come tell me it was going to be okay, but instead I was told to “get it together” and clean up my room…that crying wasn’t going to bring her back.  I was met with a similar reaction when my dad died. I was fourteen years old and absolutely devastated. I needed to grieve, feel and honor my feelings, but was told to be strong instead. Nobody seemed to be able to handle my raw emotion so I cried alone behind closed doors in the dark of night. 

I remember my brothers use to say, “don’t mess with my sister…she’s tougher than anyone I know.” I never really believed it, but it became my identity. I wanted to be a lover, not a fighter. I didn’t want to beat anyone up. I didn’t want to be tough. I didn’t want to “get over it.” I just wanted to be myself…my sensitive loving self. 

I didn’t like confrontation or things that made people hurt. I didn’t like things that were dirty or messy.  I didn’t like foul smells or musty odors. I didn’t like creepy crawling things in the night. I liked things that were pleasing to the senses. I liked pretty things and girly things. I liked sweet things and things that made you smile. My heart was tender and full of love for life yet I lived my whole life trying to be this tough girl because that’s who everyone made me out to be. 

I went to a 3rd World Country thinking I would be okay because I was a tough girl, but I wasn’t okay and I wasn’t “tough,” but it didn’t make me a weak person. I was still strong, determined, and resilient…just not “tough” in the way that might enable someone to endure the physical unpleasantries and hardships of traveling around a developing country where there weren’t a lot of comforts of home. 

I didn’t need to be tough in that way. It’s not me and it feels really good to be able to see and honor a different side of myself. What can I say? I like nice things and I enjoy being comfortable. It’s not to say I can’t endure because I’ve lived through a lot of suffering and pain, but I’ve worked hard to get to where I’m at and I like the sweeter things in life and I enjoy being pampered. I don’t have to go to a poor city to meditate and grow spiritually. I can do the same thing in Mexico on a beautiful serene beach with mystical sunrises and sunsets. It’s not to say I wouldn’t go back to India…I would probably just skip over the poor cities and go straight to the mountains.

It’s exciting to know I can now honor parts of myself that have been denied for so many years. It’s amazing how we can become and behave in ways characteristic of those who had the most influence during our formative years or how we can get stuck in patterns like thinking we have to suffer in order to grow. We become what we are told or what is expected of us. Self-realization is about honoring your true self and being comfortable with being you…the real you. It’s liberating and freeing in a way I can’t even describe.

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New Delhi October 7, 2008

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I’m usually never at a loss for words yet every time I try and write about my trip to India, my mind shuts down and nothing wants to come out. I still feel a heaviness in my body and it’s unsettling. I’m usually pretty good with processing things that happen to me, but this trip seems to loom over me like a dark cloud. 

I wanted more than anything in this world to go to India and absolutely love it, but the truth of the matter is that I didn’t and I’m having a hard time admitting it. People are so excited when they ask me about my trip and they have the same light of curiosity and wonderment in their eye, as I had before I left, but I can’t lie nor deny my feelings. The trip was really hard and the truth be told…it wasn’t blissful and it wasn’t nirvana.  

I’ve traveled around the world and visited developing countries so I thought I was prepared to see all the suffering, but nothing could ever prepare someone for the level of poverty that exists in New Delhi. Next to Tokyo, India’s State Capital is the world’s most populous city at 17 million and an approximately 8% of the population live below the poverty line.  There are very few places in the world where poverty is so pervasive and the city so dingy and untidy.  The houses were crowded together side by side and all of them seemed ordinary and drab without a lot of color or creative architecture.

The airport was filthy and the bathrooms nauseating. There weren’t many Western style bathrooms available and if there were, they were usually worse than the Indian style where you literally squatted over a hole and then washed yourself with a hose and not the kind of hose you would find attached to bidet, but a garden hose attached to an old rusty spicket with a bucket beside it. Rarely would you find toilet tissue and the smell of human waste seemed to fill the entire city.

My senses were overloaded and my nervous system stimulated beyond repair. The air pollution was oppressive and the honking horns grating. I can still hear the horns of every car, bus, taxi and rickshaw. Everyone drove a million miles an hour and not necessarily in a straight line. Drivers blew their horns every time they passed another vehicle and there were hundreds of vehicles on the road at any given time so all you ever heard the moment you walked out of the hotel was the sound of horns blowing throughout the city.

There was never a moment of stillness. The hunger, poverty, and suffering were so overwhelming to see, as I’ve never witnessed so many kids living on the street begging for money. There was actually a tiny naked baby laying on the sidewalk beside her frail mother who was barely alive. People defecated on the street, live stock wondered freely, and stray malnutrition dogs ate out of vile dumpsters.

There was no fresh air to breathe and although we stayed at one of the nicest hotels in Delhi, the rooms smelled like moth balls and bed bugs were still looming in the mattresses. I slept with socks, long pants, long sleeves, ear plugs, and an eye pillow because I was afraid something would crawl across me in the middle of the night. I said a prayer every night before I went to bed and tried not to think about anything but falling asleep and as fast as I could.

The shopping bazaars were nothing like Western Style Shopping Malls. The streets were lined with vendors selling anything you could possibly imagine. Jewelry, saris, fabric, pillow coverings, prayer beads, incense, wall hangings, statues…you name it. The vendors would accost you and follow you down the street. They yelled out prices and haggled over everything and nothing was ever final. It was exhausting and completely overwhelming.

Some of the people in the group loved the energy and found it exciting to bargain with the natives, but I hated it. I had to be patient and not have a complete meltdown, but at one point there were probably 20 women surrounding us trying to sell us cashmere wraps. They were not only in my space, but breathing down my neck. Their voices kept escalating, as they pulled on our clothes and I wanted to respect the culture, but I had enough. I had to physically walk away and get some water because my heart was racing and I was about the have a full blown anxiety attack. 

Between the noise, the heat, and being exhausted, I was ready to drop. All I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and take a nap, but we got stuck waiting for one of the people in the group who went to get water and ended up negotiating with one of the vendors. My patience was gone and I was tired of being mobbed by women and children who were homeless and starving. I had to dig deep to find the ability to hold on, but somehow I managed persevere.

I never got my nap, but we did go out to a really nice dinner that evening. It was so refreshing after all the buffet meals we had been served with oils, heavy creams, and lots of sodium. The restaurant was in a beautiful hotel adorned with fresh flowers, beautiful paintings and ornate furniture. The meal was incredible and much welcomed after the long tiring day, but then we drove back through the streets of starvation and poverty where people were sleeping on the sidewalks and suddenly I felt guilty for the amazing meal I just had and for all the comforts of the West.

How does one process such devastation? How does one stop from feeling so sad and helpless? I was told the people weren’t suffering as much as I imagined because they didn’t know any different, but how is that possible? How can anyone be comfortable laying on the street starving to death?

It was absolutely heart wrenching and I had a really hard time dealing with it. The noise, the dirty air, the heavy food was all starting to get to me. I felt helpless and exhausted and physically heavy. My belly was bloated, my head ached, and my body tired. The one thing I tried to hold on to was the smiles of some of the people who didn’t have anything, but the clothes on their back. How they managed to still find some remnant of happiness was beyond me, but somehow they had something in their hearts that allowed them to show some sign of joy.  



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