Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does Pain Equal Intimacy?

I used to think so. To some extent, I still do, but I think that maybe my paradigm has shifted slightly. I think that in my my distorted view of things, being able to share my physical pains with others was my attempt to expose my own vulnerability while still holding on to the illusion of my own invincibility. It was an attempt to say, "Hey, I'm just as fucked up emotionally as you are" while still being a hardass. I was chasing that emotional intimacy through the exposure of my physical pain, but it was an invitation to that intimacy without actually having to become intimate with someone. Clearly, this hasn't worked out very well for me.

I would do the same with fear. It has always been more comfortable for me to expose my fears in physical manifestations (skydiving, driving too fast, getting drunker/more fucked up than anyone else in the room). Those sorts of things have always been easy for me. Put on a parachute. Walk to the door. Jump. Grow wings on the way down. Simple. Everyone is afraid in that situation. It is a very comforting sort of fear because of that (just for the record, I am still planning to get a skydiving license, CM).

But physical pain and fear are easy. They can be found without really looking or trying. They are fleeting compared to what you can feel emotionally.

What is truly frightening to me is standing completely naked with someone. But that can't be forced. It takes time. It takes trust. And I am starting to believe that it takes a lack of sex, for a while at least. Of course, I am obviously speaking of romantic relationships, but I am starting to believe that before we have THAT sort of physical intimacy, the emotional intimacy has to be in place. In order to BE naked with someone, you have to STAND naked with them first. That's fucking difficult, for me, anyway.

I kind of had this song on the brain while I was writing this post. I've liked this song for a long time and I think that the sentiment is great, but it seems to me like it would be better to stand naked regardless of whether someone is going to stand naked with you. Details, I guess. It's just a song.

One last thing that I have to lay out there. This has been a purely intellectual exercise for me so far (as far as I can tell, anyway). Furthermore, I have exactly zero idea of how I am going to get this out of my head and into my heart. On some level, I think that this blog is helping me to do that, but I also think that I will actually have to go out and have a relationship with a real, live human being and actually allow myself to be vulnerable within the context of it.

Peace and love,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Value of Vulnerability

I kind of feel like this post has been a long time coming. I have started a few other posts, hated them, then scrapped them for being fraudulent. I think I even posted one or two that were fraudulent. I apologize. I am afraid of my own vulnerability.

A dear friend and teacher of mine brought to my attention today that I need to find the space within me that is vulnerable. This isn't necessarily news to me, as I have huge difficulties with allowing myself to cry.

For example, my yoga teacher training came to a close on Sunday. We made up a class on Saturday that would be taught in different sections by different people on Sunday. I got to go last. I felt responsible to end the three months with something inspiring, yet still weird. So I decided that I would read the last page of Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson and then follow it with some kind words about what these people meant to me. I got through the reading without a problem. But when it came time for me to be a real human being with feelings, I totally bitched out. I fucking punted. Thinking about it actually makes me want to vomit a little bit. As soon as I got to the end of the reading, I started getting choked up. I felt the tears welling up. And just like the tough guy that I am, I swallowed them along with whatever emotions may have brought them to light. What would people say if they saw me crying?! I will tell you what they would have said. They would have hugged me and given me reassuring words and told me that they felt similar things to what I was currently feeling. But instead, my emotional constipation continues.

I can look back on the situation intellectually and know that I would be far better off if I had just let it all out. Hindsight is 20/20. I can even make the decision that I will never hold back my feelings again. Unfortunately, vulnerability is not at all an intellectual matter. It is a matter of the heart and not of the mind. And so, I have found where my path will take me next. I have to teach my brain to shut up enough to let my heart be vulnerable, to let myself get hurt from an emotional standpoint. And even more importantly, to let myself heal from an emotional standpoint.

In the past I would have just started asking what I needed to do to be vulnerable and then acted that way. But I can't do that anymore. I have gotten to a point where I have to find authentic vulnerability because the fake shit makes me sick. The thing that gets me is that this process is going to be a slow one. Any of you that know me have the understanding that I am a rip-off-the-band-aid, give-me-a-parachute-and-kick-me-off-the-plane-I-will-grow-my-wings-on-the-way-down sort of a guy. Unfortunately, again, authentic vulnerability isn't covered by band-aids or found by growing wings. I'm not even the least bit sure where to start looking for it. I do know this much, though, it's going to be a hell of a ride finding it. You are all welcome to join me. I may need a shoulder to cry on somewhere along the way.

Peace and love,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meditation is Fucking Hard

It's true. Meditation is a difficult thing to do. The ego continually wants to define it, label it, write a little story about how we do it/get to it. That is part of what makes it hard. The ego. So we sit. And sit. And sit some more because we feel better when we do. It energizes, relieves stress, calms, allows us to learn how to let go, allows us to make friends with ourselves (yes, even the parts of us that are assholes), allows us to learn about ourselves, allows us to feel pain.

Feeling pain is important, regardless of whether that pain is physical or mental or emotional. It allows us to heal. If we ignore the pain, does it really go away? Do we eventually just go numb? Does that really allow us to get past whatever caused the pain in the first place? My argument is that ignoring pain will not allow us to heal it. This is why meditation is so fucking hard. Sometimes it makes us feel pain. We, as humans, tend to avoid pain whenever possible. Many people that I have talked to tell me that they are afraid of this aspect of meditation (granted, usually they don't come right out and say, "I'm afraid to meditate because I'm afraid of what might come up"). Those emotions are there to serve you. Releasing them will only allow you to grow (growth is scary, I know).

I ran across this today a few hours after I started writing this post. It seemed like an interesting coincidence to me.


Peace and love,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Fear

Hunter Thompson talked about it. He knew it well. Of course, he referred to The Fear in the context of losing control of the drugs one is using and finding It. Most will never understand this. Most wouldn't be able to come back from It, I think. It takes someone as truly depraved as the good Doctor was to go looking for it in the first place. He learned how to use It to his advantage. I think the final page of "Hell's Angels" illustrates his use of It the best.

"But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right... and that's when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to you ears. The only sounds are wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it... howling through a turn to the right, then to the left and down the long hill to Pacifica... letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge... The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others - the living - are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.
But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it's In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions." - HST "Hell's Angels" page 271

I am by no means trying to advocate the use of LSD (I am by no means advocating against its safe use in moderation, either). Nor am I advocating taking a motorcycle to speeds anywhere near a hundred miles per hour. And I am certainly NOT recommending you try mixing the two activities (please don't, you will probably die). What I am trying to get at, though, is that somewhere deep inside each and every one of us is our own personal Hunter S. Thompson with his or her own hundred mile an hour acid trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. What I am advocating is that each and every one of us find that Fear within ourselves and use It to liberate ourselves.

I got to thinking about The Fear because a friend asked me yesterday if I was afraid of anything. I was describing a recent trip to Mexico (it was awesome) where I took a zip line tour (also awesome). The guides asked us if we would like to go upside down. I told my friend that I obviously did. Then came the question. The simple answer is, yes, I am afraid of a great many things. The least of which is talking to pretty girls. I digress, though. My point is that I was afraid to take a zip line ride upside down, but I did it anyway because I knew the benefits I would reap from it far outweighed any perceived risks. I felt The Fear (or maybe a very small facsimile of it) and I used it to enrich my life.

Now, dear readers, comes time for my challenge to you. Go out and feel The Fear. Embrace it. Let it free you from your safe little box. The world will look different when you get back. Or maybe you will just see it in a different light.

Peace and Love,

P.S. I saw a short documentary about 9/11 today. Here it is. It is tangentially related.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Things that inspire me part 2

I wanted to put a little bit of love out there for you before I left for Mexico. My cousin is getting married this weekend there and I thought that some things that I love would be appropriate. So, with no further ado, I give you some music that I love.

Sunshine by Atmosphere. The beat just makes me smile. It is pretty fantastic lyrically, too.

I'll Be There by The Jackson 5. Do I need to say anything more?

Knock Three Times by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Not only is this song completely amazing for many reasons, but the haircuts and fashion choices are mind blowing. I'm not sure what kind of drugs these people were on, but I bet they were pretty fucking amazing.

Rock Me Gently by Andy Kim. More great drugs, I'm sure.

I am going to finish this little musical excursion off with a poem by one of my favorite hip hop artists. It is called Ode to JT by B. Dolan. It is certainly off the vein of this post because it isn't a very happy piece at all. But if you view it as a piece that is done tongue-in-cheek that is a piece of comedy more than the angry poem that it sounds like, you will enjoy it more. It makes me laugh every time I hear it. NSFW!

It's a really well written poem.

I'm off to Mexico.

Peace and love,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Being Alone

I am re-blogging something today because it has sort of hit home with me and my life as of late.


We have become a culture with a need of constant stimulus and entertainment. To a point, we need to have entertainment. We need to be able to relax and unwind and let loose. What I see happening, though, is that we have become afraid to be ourselves with our selves. Most people no longer take time to get to know themselves. How often is it that we find ourselves waiting for a bus, a train, a class and we immediately whip out our smart phones and start texting or facebooking or internetting? I am surely guilty as charged. How often do we see friends or family members who are single having dating problems? How often are those friends or family members stressed because they "should have a meaningful relationship already?" How many of us have meaningful relationships with ourselves? How many of us can truly say, "I know what I want and what I don't want and I am open to the needs and wants of another/others?" How often do we judge others for things that we ourselves are guilty of? How many of us have been or currently are that shitshow?

Being alone with ourselves gives us time to reflect. It allows us to get to know ourselves. It allows us to open our hearts and our minds to the wondrous world around us. Being alone with ourselves allows us to become friends with the parts of ourselves that we may not like very much (the same parts that we may be a little bit afraid of). It allows us to understand that we are all weird and to embrace our weirdness. It gives us confidence to expose our inner weirdo to someone who might be interested in being weird with us. Really, what is a meaningful relationship if not the ability to be comfortably open and weird with someone else who has the ability to be just as comfortably open and weird with you?

When, dear readers, was the last time you sat on a park bench alone and started a conversation with a stranger? When was the last time you were walking down the street and looked someone square in the eye and smiled at them? Said hello? Told someone they looked pretty or handsome or stunning or dashing and meant it (outside of the context of trying to sleep with them)? When was the last time you felt an actual, real connection with another human being? When was the last time you were genuinely kind to someone for no other reason than to make their day better?

My challenge to you, dear readers, is to be with yourself for ten minutes. Be completely alone. Turn off the tv and the cell phone and the computer. The panicking will end. You will be fine. I promise. Open yourself to your self and see what happens. Then go out and use what you have learned when you interact with people. See if you can make someone's day. This is a tall order, I know. Many of you will make excuses that it will be too difficult or you are tired or you are afraid. To this, my friends, I will make only one argument. Spending a tiny bit of your own energy for the benefit of another will allow you to reap rewards that you may not understand yet. You will be surprised by how uplifting a stranger's or loved one's smile can be. Furthermore, the Universe, similarly to Santa Claus, is making a list and checking it twice. The more good you do for others, the more good that will be returned onto you.

In closing, many of you will read this and think that I'm weird. I am. So are you. And on that note, I would like to leave you all with a quote from the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. "It never got weird enough for me." So go out and get weird this week. Do something that makes you uncomfortable, like making someone's day.

Peace and love,

P.S. I realize that I started out this post by telling you that you should be alone and finished it by telling you that you should go out and be with people. The logic behind this is this: By taking better care of ourselves, we can take better care of others. Being alone allows us to take better care of ourselves. Helping others also gives us a boost. By taking care of ourselves, we can better take care of others; by taking care of others, we can take better care of ourselves.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A New Journey Begins

Yoga Teacher Training: Weekend 1, complete. I have barely had time to let it all sink in. Life has been non-stop. And that has been interesting, but I would like to be able to just chill for a few minutes and contemplate the weekend.

Friday evening started at 6 pm. We all just sat together and sort of went over what we would be doing and did the introduction/ice breaker stuff. The energy in the room was palpable. You could feel that there were 20 something people that were excited to start a journey and who were all trying to rein in that energy. I was certainly one of those people. My class consists of 21 girls and 5 boys. One of the instructors, Quinn, mentioned that he was happy to see that there were more men in this class than in previous teacher trainings. Win?

Saturday started at noon. We opened with two hours of asana practice.  Then we sat and talked about yoga, meditation, and other things that go along with the life of yoga.

Sunday started at noon again. We did some asana practice, but it wasn't a class like we did on Saturday. It was more of a breakdown of Sun Salutation A. It was very enlightening and got me thinking about my positioning during my practice on Monday. Then we went on to meditate for a while and more talking about meditation and teaching yoga.

We are required to meditate for 30 minutes each day. I have been finding this difficult to do because I am more of a free-form meditator. I sit when I feel I should sit. And although I have been sitting everyday for a few months, it has been difficult for me to set a timer and sit for thirty minutes. I have been sitting for as long as I felt I needed to. When I was finished, I stopped. No timers. No rules. The regimentation of it has been tough for me to deal with. I'm sure it will get easier, but for the first time, I found myself not really liking meditation very much. Just growing pains, I assume. I still enjoy my meditations and will continue to do them. I'm just being a baby about it because now I have to. Clearly my distaste for authority and rules is coming to light. I probably just need to learn how to discipline myself. The funny thing about it is that I could certainly blow it off and just pretend like I have been meditating everyday. But I will not do that. I will throw myself whole-heartedly into this endeavor. For better or worse.

Peace and love,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Things that inspire me Part 1

Warning: This post will take about 45 minutes to get through if you are going to watch all the videos.

Spoken word poetry:

Sarah Kay happens to be one of my absolute favorite poets on the face of planet Earth. I have a huge internet crush on her and hope to be able to see her live at some point. Maybe I will go to NYC one day and see her at the Bowery Poetry Club (if ever in NYC, I will make it a point to go there).

This next one reminds me of my sister, who also inspires me, more than she will ever know. It is another piece by Sarah Kay.

This is Taylor Mali. He is a badass and makes me wish that I could be young enough to be in his class.

Next up is Buddy Wakefield. I saw him perform this piece live once whilst on mushrooms. There were two other performers with him at the time, but it was similarly moving and amazing. Also, it involves Sarah Kay (see above for my thoughts on Sarah). "Pretend you live for a living."

The last piece I will post this time is the piece that really made me interested in spoken word poetry and hip-hop. It is a piece called "Mullet" by a gentleman called Sage Francis. I have heard/read this piece called a lyrical history of hip-hop from (a year I forget) to (another year I forget). It is awesome as a spoken word piece, but it also has some absolutely sickeningly good beat boxing involved.

These are some of the pieces that I regularly go back to on youtube because they move me. I hope you liked at least one. If you feel like lovin' me, if you got the notion, send me a link in the comments!

Peace and love,

Bonus video because I love you all that read this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Life, Death, and Rebirth

A friend's mom passed away recently. It has gotten me thinking about death and life. Mostly death. What's more, I just finished reading "The Wisdom of No Escape" by Pema Chodron. In it, she speaks of death as a privilege. It is weird how these little coincidences have been happening to me more often lately (friend's mom passes while I am reading a book that talks about the privilege of death - co-inkydink, savvy?). But coincidence is not at all what this post is about; it is simply what brought it about.

We have all lived a couple different lives. Even if you only see your lives as your progression from child to teenager to young adult to full on grown-up, you can see that you've lived more than one life. Some of you will look back and see different chapters of your life as different lives you've lived. Either way, you will recognize what I mean. We have all been through a birth, life, and death cycle at some point. Sometimes, these cycles are really difficult to deal with and we sink into a deep depression. Sometimes these cycles are uplifting and we rise to our full potential.   I guess the point that I am trying to make here is that I do not look at death as morbid and frightening. I look at it as something to learn from, a way to better myself and help those around me.

I will argue that after death comes rebirth. After you have moved on from one thing, you start another. Death and rebirth. After you are given the privilege of a death, you are given the privilege of being born anew. I am in the midst of a re-birth right now. My life at the Board of Trade is over. I gave it a shot. It didn't work out. I have been reborn into something that gives me peace: yoga. From death to re-birth. And so it goes.

I spent most of this weekend around people I love, doing things that I love to do. It occurred to me how privileged my current life is. I don't mean from a monetary perspective (trust me), but rather, from the perspective of the caliber of person near whom I have been allowed to spend my time on this planet. It occurred to me as I looked up at the end of the day on Saturday, to see the moon completely full, that I was truly living just then. I just stopped and stared for a minute or two.

Peace and love,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The best routine is to have no routine at all

The transition to my new job has been interesting. I haven't waited tables for somewhere around five years and my body has forgotten what it was like to be on my feet for extended periods of time. I very simply haven't walked around for five or six consecutive hours for a very long time. And even though I have gotten back into a daily yoga practice, my body aches. My hamstrings are tight and sore when I wake up. My shoulders are sore and I find myself having to remind myself to roll my shoulder blades down my back. I have to be MUCH more aware of my posture. This is all weird to me. Is it possible that I have gotten so used to feeling great due to yoga and diet that I have forgotten what it is like to feel like shit? I'm thinking/hoping that this will only be temporary until I get used to being on my feet all the time again.

My old routine for dealing with all this was to go to work, make some dollars, American, then go out and get as wasted as possible before the bars closed. Go home to sleep. Wake up, repeat. I am certainly not going to fall back into that routine. My thought has been to avoid having a routine at all. Things will stay more interesting that way. It will allow me to be more present. It is far more difficult to worry about the future if you are uncertain of what the future will bring.

On that note, I decided to pick up a morning shift tomorrow (with the condition that I could come in late enough to get a yoga practice in beforehand). That's not selfish, is it? I scratch their backs, they scratch mine. Seems fair enough. Post it in the comments if you disagree. I haven't yet figured out how to post comments to my own blog, so I may not be participating in the discussion (or maybe I will be).

Peace and love,

Monday, August 29, 2011

Life lessons from a BIG toe

I know there are some folks out there that read the title and are saying to themselves, "Self, our toes are stupid and quite possibly ugly. How could one teach us a lesson?" Well, dear reader, let me tell you a story about how my toe taught me lesson. It was the big toe, which I deem to be the smartest of the toes. He is their leader, so to speak.

It started out as any other Wednesday would. I woke up, went to work, and then off to the yoga studio for a meeting and a practice with my dear friend Batmanda*. I have to interject here and say that since about the beginning of June my practice had been dropping off a little bit for various reasons; none of which are apparent to me now. I will chalk it up to summer being awesome and my own busy-ness. I just wasn't practicing as much as I would have liked to be (I went from practicing six times a week to practicing two or three times a week). At any rate, Batmanda had been out of town for a while and I hadn't been there for her class for a while so it had been a few months since our paths last crossed. Needless to say, I was excited for her class. It started out as any class would have. Some sun salutations warming into sun salutation b's. That's when things started getting out of control. Batmanda, being the ever-creative being that she is, decided to challenge us (which is very much appreciated, btw). She took us through our sun salutation b very slowly so that everyone got the gist of it. It went Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Extended Side Angle, Half Moon (this pose does not involve showing off half of your behind-parts), Standing Splits, jump back to Chuttarunga. This is nothing outside of anyone's abilities. So we went through both sides and Batmanda set us free to shine our lights, as she so often does. I was TAKING my practice. I was really just feeling it and I got into the flow and I was pushing myself. This is not out of the ordinary for me, but once I got to the jump back part of it, I decided that I was really fuckin' smart. So I decided to add a few loops of my own. I was going to do the jump back one footed AND I was going to kick up into a handstand before the jump back. I'm so smart it hurts! :p I got through one side of this, which obviously meant that I am Superman. So I did it on the other side. I kicked up and came down. The problem here is that the very tip of my toe hit the mat. I heard it pop. I'm not fully sure if it broke or dislocated, but I know it hurt a lot. I knew it was fucked as soon as I hit the ground. It hurt like hell. Then I rolled off to one side and it popped again. The next few minutes are kind of hazy. I know I sat there and played with my toe for a minute to make sure it didn't need to come off (amputation was a very real possibility for a while there). I know Batmanda explained to me how to do it more safely, but what she said beyond that, I couldn't tell you. I know I walked out of the studio and looked at it in the lobby area. Then I walked back in and finished the session. Like I said, I'm fuckin' smart.

So what did my toe teach me? The list follows, in no particular order.

1. Be Present - This goes for life, in general, not just yoga. Be in the moment that you are in. Don't be afraid to experience it. Don't be afraid to be afraid. Don't be afraid to go for it, but at the same time, understand that there are times when you maybe should take it back a notch.
2. Don't Be A Hero - My dad has been telling me this for as long as I can remember. I never learned this lesson from him and he is a lot smarter than a toe, so I'm not sure this one will stick with me. In relation to my experience, if you haven't been in the studio as often as you would have liked and you are feeling the effects of that, don't go balls out crazy and try a one-legged jump-back from a handstand. This seems like common sense now that I have typed it out.
3. If you are going to try something that is above your current level of skill, be careful - I forgot this rule and was not careful about curling my toes so I would land on the ball of my foot. Yada, yada, yada, broken toe.
4. Be Grateful - For the little things, mostly, like toes that don't hurt every time you take a step. Or the ability to breathe deeply. Or for your friends and family and the friends that have become family.
5. Be Compassionate - Be compassionate to yourself just as much as you are compassionate to others. People often times forget to take time to think about themselves. Don't be selfish, be compassionate to yourself. Taking care of ourselves allows us to take care of others.

Peace and Love,

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And so it goes.....

My first post. Here it is. I sit here at my kitchen table trying to remember all the ideas I had on how to open this blog and I'm drawing a blank. C'est la vie. I guess I should tell my story.

I just quit my job. I moved back in with my mom. I'm going to be serving and bartending again while going through yoga teacher training.  I decided that I had to make a change. So I did. All of it. I had to stop doing something that was essentially killing me in order to pursue something that makes me happy.

I guess for what it is worth, I am cleaning out my life. My goal is to get rid of enough of the useless crap that clutters my environment so that I can think and live and love freely. This transition hasn't been as painful as I had imagined, but it certainly hasn't been without its trials and tribulations. Yoga is to blame for keeping my sanity through the process. Although, I had to say goodbye (temporarily) to my old studio in the city, I think I have found one in the suburbs that will be a nice fit for me. It's the little things, right?

Anyway, some things that I plan to post about soon: I am a non-smoker, lessons from my broken toe,  the new job, and obviously, yoga teacher training. Hopefully, I will be inspired to write some poetry soon (just a warning now, it will probably be dirty). Once that happens, I will post it here as well.

Peace and love,