On Sunday of last week, Mr. P. and I attended a beautiful memorial service for Dr. Martin Wohl, the patriarch of a family that we are very close with. There were 5 people who reminisced about Martin, each sharing such lovely, inspirational stories that brought me to tears while at the same time opened my eyes to what truly living a full life means. The first speaker was a lovely man who was a dear, dear friend of Martin and who knew him to the core. He talked about Martin’s motto of creating “life enhancing experiences,” words that resonated with me to the point where I took out my pen and began taking notes on the back of the service program. Dr. Wohl created these life enhancing experiences by doing what we all should do: slow down to take pleasure in all things. He took vast amounts of time listening to and treating his patients with total disregard for the clock. He explored museums and art galleries, listened to beautiful music letting it become a part of himself, consumed fine food and wine, lived an elegant lifestyle, threw lavish dinner and Christmas parties, gardened, spent time with friends, summered at his home in Nova Scotia, and most importantly, was devoted and utterly in love with his wife.
Hearing all of this instantly revealed to me that the only attribute I currently have with Martin is that Mr. P. and I are deeply devoted to each other, (and have a love of fine shoes). While this is most important to me, I want more. I want to possess Life Enhancing Experiences like Martin-not the kind I’m currently living where each day runs together with no special memory or connection to truly feeling. Why, at 49 years old, being an empty nester who loves being with her husband, am I not sucking the marrow out of everything that exists around me? Why am I not eating at fine restaurants and tasting the food that I consume? Why am I not seeing plays and going to the vast cultural events that exist here in Minneapolis? Why am I not spending more time sharing my home with dear friends? As these questions came to mind, I had no answers, just more excuses. So to jump right in and begin this endeavor, I joined the Museum of Russian Art, (something we’ve talked about doing for years), and signed up for their opening reception and gallery talk about Winter Holidays in the Soviet Era. Before this event, dinner reservations have made at Cafe Grand, yet another place I have wished to visit. I created a list of museums and art galleries in this fine city as well as restaurants, cultural activities, concerts, etc., that sound interesting, and signed up for their email newsletters. It’s time to stay on top of things, my friends. Time to connect and absorb.
I choose to live Life Enhancing Experiences. I choose to taste. To feel. To see. To absorb. I choose to LIVE. I choose to be like Martin to the point that when I pass I will have intensely connected with everything I have experienced.
We all have choices to make. We can either let the weight of the world pull us down or we can let the light of the world lift us up. I choose to be lifted.
The last month has been excruciatingly hard for me in that I lost two uncles, had an aunt get very ill, and had my beautiful daughter receive a neurology diagnosis that knocked the shit out of all of me. The black cloud of “life” swirled overhead yet there was peace. After my daughter’s diagnosis, I took her back to school so she could continue work on her PhD in an attempt to keep her mind occupied and not let her fall behind in her class work. The first night at her apartment, I was reading Spirit of Mind magazine and praying when a physical feeling of heat began to ignite in my stomach providing a warmth that melted away fear. I heard God tell me that she was going to be fine and that the diagnosis she received wasn’t fully correct. I trusted His words and while still agitated and mentally exhausted, I knew. I believed.
For two weeks, our family worked to regain normalcy before she had her second appointment with an amazing doctor at the University of Minnesota. The story of how this doctor came into her life is a miracle in and of itself as he wasn’t scheduled to take care of her-another piece of Gods amazing puzzle if we open our eyes to His placement of all beings and all things. Mr.Perfect and I went with her and listened intently on every word her new doctor had to say. He was brilliant! And he confirmed what God had told me and placed in my heart: that she didn’t have Parkinson’s Disease but rather a different muscle movement disorder that is much easier to deal with. While it’s still a pain in her ass and stems from a car accident that wasn’t her fault, we all broke out laughing at the sheer and utter relief that we weren’t dealing with Parkinson’s.
As the week of glory and grace progressed, it became more evident of the love and light that exists all around us-if we choose to see it. People around me shared the excitement of her diagnosis. We adopted a lovable kitty who was scheduled to be euthanized because that’s what we do-fill our home with stray humans and animals when needed. I was blessed to experience a very special yoga class led by one friend and practiced with another. To lay at the end of a yoga class knowing that the teacher’s words and dharma are intended for you while holding the hand of a dear friend laying next to you is one of the most spiritually connected and universal gifts I have received.
And now, I am traveling to Boston to share in the memory of a wonderful man with his wonderful family. As I reflect on my family, friends whom I consider family, work, and life in general, I am blessed. We are blessed. We all have shit and we all have the choice to accept is a such or look beyond it to see the oneness and light we all share.
Sometimes, I look at being vulnerable as being naked while standing in the middle of a crowded shopping mall. It’s just that intense for the woman who has spent the majority of her life, (both as a teenager and as an adult), being guarded and building up beautiful, strong walls. These walls, mind you, were perfectly decorated. Some had flowers and vines growing up them, some had different colored stones, and some had soft light, but nonetheless they were walls and they kept me safe.
As I have grown in my yoga practice and life in general, these walls have started to come down and there I am standing buck-ass naked on the other side. And you know what? It’s flipping liberating!!!! Seriously, being naked isn’t so bad! Yes, there exists a bit of fear that someone is going to look at me and hurt my feelings by putting a scowl on their face or worse yet, saying something that I of course will take personally, but truly this openness is really a blessing and I feel raw and alive! Alive in that I feel–I am not going through the motions of life. I am not telling someone that I love them when I really don’t mean it. I really look at people and I love with my heart and my soul and not with a surface, guarded love, but with a totally liberating and open love that is truly the most glorious feeling I have ever known.
I often tell Mr. Perfect about this new open feeling I have and he chuckles and I know he thinks, “it’s about time, woman.” And as I have opened up, God has put vulnerability in front of me more and more frequently as what I think is my reminder to stay naked. For instance, today I was guided through one of the most lovely yoga classes that cultivated vulnerability. Michelle, one of the most gifted teachers I know, wove vulnerability into the postures and into the meditations. It was glorious as we opened our hearts and our hips, nearly bringing me to tears a couple of times, yet there was nothing bad to cry about but rather this feeling of ultimate gloriousness and liberation.
So the hell with fear and walls. I choose to be buck-ass naked and love without restriction!
Today, I choose to dream! For a long, long time, I haven’t been able to dream about anything, (how the heck did that happen and why?), but today, I sat down to write a draft of this post on dreaming, got stuck getting the words out, so paused to go out for a walk/run and listen to my favorite podcast called Walking the Talk with Rev. Jennifer Hadley. The podcast was an interview with Kandace Jones called “From Stress to Peace” which obviously resonated with the post I had been working on. It’s so beautiful when you recognize how God puts thoughts into your mind and then solidifies and strengthens them by surrounding you with more support and information. So today, God heightened my resolve to dream, and I will take one step forward to open my heart and change my attitude toward doing so.
To share my story and how I got to the point of not knowing how to dream any longer, years ago, I just started going through my days being a wife, mother, employee, friend, daughter, etc. I lost the ability/desire to have those big, think-outside-the-box dreams as if there was no fear and nothing holding me back. Before this, I used to dream all the time, with the strongest being one where I owned my own little company, (I didn’t know what it did, but I knew it was creative in nature), and my office was located in the warehouse district in Minneapolis. I knew the exact building where it was located, knew everyone I passed on the street, knew where I parked, and I envisioned myself walking from car to office looking snappy and always carrying a great handbag. I knew what my office space looked like and I was happy and full. I smiled all the time and was involved in so many things that made me flit from one meeting/engagement/happy hour to another with anticipation.
Somehow that dream, along with all others, faded and I became stuck in existing from day to day only thinking about the to-do list and tasks at hand. I stopped dreaming about this little business, about traveling, furthering my education, and about anything long-term because it felt like such a waste; I wasn’t going to get there anyhow. There were bills to pay and a family to run and in that process, I lost me. I really did–I lost my spark and my passion. I became numb. I couldn’t tell you what I was truly good at, couldn’t tell you what difference I made in the world, and definitely did not know what my purpose in life was.
Thankfully, slowly but surely, things are changing and little dreams are coming back now that we are empty nesters and the level of responsibility has diminished. There still exists fear-fear that I’m too old to dream and plan, too old to invest into a life of entrepreneurship, and fear that I’ll shake up the status quo and people around me won’t desire to be a part of my dream. I know fear is just my pea-brain trying to get the best of me and I am working every single day to kick that fear in the fanny and today, is no different. Today I dream without limit. I choose to dream of writing. Choose to dream of traveling throughout this world with Mr. Perfect and meeting beautiful people. I choose to dream of financial security and a life filled with abounding love and freedom.
While sometimes I feel like I’ve been practicing yoga forever, the truth is that I have only practiced since March 5th of 2013 and something that has been hard for me to do is practice at home. I’ve always been blessed with ample space of my own to practice, yet while my intentions were good, I never made it into my space to practice. Until today.
For 45 minutes over lunchtime, I turned on the space heater, lit a piece of incense, shut off my phone, turned on my “Love” playlist, and flowed. Talk about glorious! While I’m still a lover of doing yoga in HOT HOT HOT spaces the tradeoff was that this practice was all about me. I effortlessly flowed connecting my breath to my postures which felt so pure and real. There were times I rode my breath all the way down in a forward fold which seemed to take minutes, and was completely amazed at how long and natural my individual breaths can be!
It’s funny how a little positive reinforcement can go such a long way. Feeling the connectedness of my practice in my breath, my body and my mind was all I needed to know that a home yoga practice is something I want to make a part of my routine. I’ll still practice in the studio and it will be wonderful, but now I know that when time doesn’t allow, or I just need to make my practice only about me, I can go into my space and do only that which serves me.
If you’re interested in this playlist, here it is:
I am in LOVE with the Alicia Keys song, “We are Here.”
Stop and think about it. Think about why we are really here? It’s not to accumulate stuff. It’s not to “win” against our brother/sister and world in general. It’s to spread love and light and make life better for others. Can you imagine our world if we all lived and loved fully and saw each other as connected and as one? As she sings, “Our souls are brought together so we can love each other,” I couldn’t agree more.
I am in love with life. I am whole because I love. I feel naked in my heart because the walls are stripped down to nothing and there is vulnerability but I’m ok with that because it sure the hell beats being a closed-up bitch who only cares about herself. How do I know? Because that was me. Me way back when when all that mattered was accomplishing more-bigger and better was the motto yet no matter how much I chased, I was never satisfied.
So today was this:
- Spending the afternoon with my precious Auntie Marlys watching her sleep and listening to her breathe as I journaled
- Successfully completing Day #3 of the #yjveganchallenge—with NO cheating!
- Playing with Kory and doing 7 loads of her laundry, cleaning her kitchen, and taking her to the fabric store
- Taking a yoga class and meeting a new friend here in Fargo
- Talking to my mother, husband, sons on the phone
- Making a root vegetable dinner
My blessings run so deep and I am so thankful for a husband who supports everything I do whether it’s a crazy-assed idea or not. He never judges. So thankful for a job that allows me to be flexible in where and when I work, as long as the work gets done.
Day #2 in Fargo with the last 24 hours spent in a mindful, yet weighted state of being. A quiet night last night, a bit of yoga this morning followed by a walk, and then being content doing very little but being present. Family, books, yoga, friends…what more does a person truly need?
I’m still saying “holy fuck!” when I think back about the last few weeks, (losing 2 uncles, nearly losing an aunt, and having my baby girl diagnosed with a not-so-nice disease), but there have been these beautiful rays of light that God has brought into each day that remind me of what is truly important. Last night, I texted with a beautiful friend who reminded me of God’s love for each of us and how His love is always around us, yet sometimes it takes heartache for us to fully realize His presence. I also discovered Brene Brown last night, and I watched her TED talk and fell in love! I bought her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and could have stayed up all night reading it. This morning, my dear friend and I talked on the phone and she always provides me with such beautiful spiritual insights, and this morning was no different.
I’ve been praying so much lately for God to lead me to what His perfect plan is for my life, and I also prayed that if I don’t hear His words, he can beat me over the heard until I do. Through all of the recent toil and tumult, the one thing that resides is a clearer focus that what’s most important and what makes me feel most fulfilled and truly joyful, is being there and doing good for others. I feel whole when I can help. I feel like I am shining His love and light when I give of myself to make this world a better place. If I have learned one thing, it is that we are all one; we are all connected and are all perfectly divine. When I can use my gifts to show that in this world, I am happy.