The Gentoos

The zodiac boat pushed through thick slush and ice chunks as we made our way through the Antarctic Ocean. The air was crisp and silent except for the ice crackling and snapping against the rubber boat as we got closer to the shore. The landscape was covered in white with gray rocks peeking out from under the innocent blanket of snow. The only footprints seen were the “penguin highways.” These were trails penguins made from walking them so much. They essentially create their own highways to totter in single file lines on.

The black tuxedos of the Gentoo penguins stood out against the white snowy backdrop. Some penguins appeared dead; they were draped across the snow on their bellies unmoving. They were actually molting, and during that time, they fast and conserve all their energy. Some groomed themselves with their bills in the shallow waters and on the shore. Others were slowly meandering about with their flippers pulled back behind them and their chests puffed out.  The quickest moving penguins were in the water looking like miniature porpoises as they dove under water and broke the surface in rhythmic arches.

I sat on the edge of the boat barely blinking. The cold air made my eyes water making it seem even more dream-like and mystical. When we arrived to shore, the handful of people I rode on the zodiac with decided to hike to the highest peak on land. I stayed behind wanting to experience the penguins by myself. I didn’t want to intrude, so I found a comfy rock at a safe distance away from the colony of penguins. I was close enough to see the water shimmering off their feathers, but far enough away to not let my presence impact them.

I watched this penguin playground for almost 20 minutes when one penguin walked over to me and stopped five feet away. I froze paralyzed with joy. My mouth fell open slightly like an ajar door, as a smile cracked through on my lips. The only other time I caught a glimpse of a penguin was when I was kayaking in New Zealand, and the Korora penguin zipped through the Marlborough Sound waters past my boat.  Now, I was face to face with a wild penguin as I sat on the shores of Antarctica. I took in every detail of this Gentoo as he invited me into his world.

I always imagined penguins to be smooth like black onyx, but I was wrong. This Gentoo was fluffy. I watched him run his bright orange bill, outlined in black, all across the damp feathers on his body. He stood just over two feet tall balanced on two orange webbed feet with black claws. His ankles were wrinkled liked sagged, aging skin. The white feathers above his eyes looked like a maniacal unibrow, and he had a tuft of longer black feathers sprouting out for a tail.

I took a few pictures and made a quick video, and then I sat with the penguin one on one. I wanted to be fully present in this moment with nothing between us but a few feet of distance and air. I became absorbed in the moment. I felt the air surrounding me like a cool cocoon; my arm hair rose with excitement; a smile etched on my face. I felt a surge of gratitude hit like a rogue wave. I couldn’t believe I was being allowed to have this experience. My eyes reacted to this rush of emotion, and I felt tears dripping like salt water off the penguin’s back.

Every second was a revelation, and in that moment I felt what mattered.

Finding Home (Part Four)

Astoria(Home: Astoria, Oregon)

It hasn’t been uncommon throughout my life for me to doubt myself. My insides will be screaming with wants and needs, pulling on the shirttails of my heart. Yet I ignore the inner pangs and internal beggings wanting me to listen. Listen to what I really want, to what my soul wants, and to listen to my own destiny. For so long, I stuffed down those longings like cramming clothes in a dirty hamper. And old habits tend to cling; they burrow their claws deep, grasping to keep hold.

Even after procuring my apartment in Oregon, I still knew I could withdraw my offer and not move. I don’t think I really thought of that as an option, but I also couldn’t believe I was going to pack up my life, leave my boyfriend, and drive almost 1,400 miles to Oregon with just me, my dog, my Subaru and a small U-Haul in tow. I now had two weeks to follow through on one of the biggest decisions of my life.

I had decided not to tell my boyfriend of my plans. He later would call me a coward, but at the time I saw it more as protection. A person can only share so much of herself, and not be received, understood or loved, before she closes off. I was officially closed like a door tucked tightly in its frame. I didn’t want to have any more discussions. I didn’t want to share my plans, my dreams, or the next stage of my life. I felt like a mother protecting her young.

I secured a U-Haul for 10 am on October 19th. I spent the next two weeks going through “our” stuff, “my” stuff, just accumulations of stuff. I decided to leave almost everything behind. Most things felt tainted or infected. So I took time to organize those items I did want. I met with the two friends I had made while living in Colorado, one was a previous student and one was a fellow teacher, and I told them of my plans and said my good-byes.

The doubts that had been lingering like storm clouds continued to drift away. My boyfriend had progressively grown reticent. He continued to lie and hide truths from me. He continued to spend his time wrapped in his own personal world. Even if I didn’t have every inch of my body and soul telling me Oregon was where I needed to be on my own, our relationship had run its course regardless. So I kept my focus on what I knew was right for me.

October 19th arrived, and my boyfriend left for work. It was strange saying good-bye to someone I had spent almost two years with knowing I would never see him again. But I was saying good-bye to my whole past, to an outdated way of being. I had found the perfect spot in Astoria, Oregon surrounded by forests, trails, rivers, the Pacific Ocean, artists, community, and a sense of belonging. It was the place I needed to develop my relationship with self.

As soon as my boyfriend left, I went to pick up my 4×8 U-Haul trailer.  I arrived back home and nervously loaded my Subaru. The passenger seat was flooded with my loose clothes on hangers. The backseat was set up for the dog: a pillow, a blanket, and toys; I also had my peace lily plant named Baps. I was given this peace lily at my mom’s memorial service. I named her Baps after my mom’s initials (Beverly Ann Passero). Baps had moved from Tennessee to Colorado with me, and she was now about to join me on the next journey of my life. Boxes of my books and shoes filled the rest of the car. My kayak was loaded on top of my car. The U-Haul had my bike, more clothes and shoes, artwork, more boxes of books, outdoor gear, and a few memories from the past.

Before I drove away, I sat in my car. I looked in my rearview mirror as the U-Haul tagged along. My heart palpitated like rocks skipping over a lake’s surface. I felt the ripples through my body as I drove away.

I have been in Oregon for almost 4 years now. I am still in Astoria in my same purple Victorian home. I continue to gaze at the beauty of the Columbia River. The tree-lined shore of Washington State greets me every morning as I pull the shades up. As I get into my car, I gaze at my license plate and see “Oregon” on the front plate with the row of Douglas-firs. I am still filled with awe and elation to realize I am here. That license plate is a symbol of answered dreams and a followed destiny. I waited 37 years to feel at home within myself and within a place. Any concerns I may have had about never being able to feel content or whole have subsided.

The daily gratitude I feel to be where I belong has not faded but grown with time.

me hiking

Finding Home (Part Three)

BeachIt was time to see if Oregon was my answer: to truly belonging somewhere and to finding “home.” I needed that place that knew me and accepted me. I wanted to fit neatly and perfectly in the curvature of a place like a jigsaw puzzle piece. I needed to know if Oregon was the home my soul had been longing for. I had not been to Oregon in five years; her beauty, comfort and peace could have all been an illusion. A faux answer for a life I was no longer enjoying in Tennessee or Colorado. I wasn’t sure if I was I on the run. Running away from the skulking shadows, or if I had issues with monotony and routine which wouldn’t allow me to be happy or content anywhere. I needed to know the truth.

I left for a quick five-day trip to Oregon. As the plane landed in Portland, I felt the freedom greet me as the plane wheels met the runway like a firm handshake. I wasn’t sure what my agenda was now that I actually landed in the place whose memory I tucked away like a delicate keepsake.

My mind kept wondering what I was really doing there. I had an apartment in Colorado with a balcony that overlooked Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, and I had just signed a new one-year lease with my boyfriend. I had a job, and I was teaching English at the local community college. My mind started to second-guess the feelings of my heart. It questioned my undeniable connection I had to Oregon. It tried to talk louder and tried to use its reasoning for me to accept its logic.

But as soon as I was driving on the roads of Oregon again seeing the Douglas Firs for miles, the eagles soaring overhead, and the elk gangs wandering in fields I knew all reasoning was lost. No amount of yelling my mind was doing could outdo what my heart knew. I was home. I was breathing deeper into my belly. My lungs filled with fresh air. I had my driver side window down letting the cool wind whip my ponytailed hair in circles.

I still didn’t know if I was going to go through with my plan. It felt like being in a trance. It was me who was driving, but when I looked at my hands on the steering wheel they felt like they belonged to someone else. This moment had built up in my mind for so long that it felt like a foggy dream. I had two sides to myself. One side was pushing and making all the arrangements for me to get to Oregon, and the other side was trying to hold back being timid and fearful. Was I going to take my dog, pack up what I could fit in my car, and leave everything else behind in Colorado? Was I going to leave my unsatisfying relationship and my boyfriend? Was I really in Oregon right now to decide on which city I wanted to live in and find an apartment to live in?

I had three cities in mind: Portland, Seaside and Astoria. Even though I had Portland as an option, I found myself driving to the coast as my internal compass directed me. The closest I had ever lived to the ocean was 8 hours, and the closest beach was the west coast of Florida. Portland was an amazing city, but it had expanded so much and was like a saturated sponge drowning in water. It was also 90 minutes from the ocean. Seaside was a town of 7,000 people, and Astoria was a town of 10,000 people. The small town feelings seemed like a reprieve for me emotionally and spiritually. I sensed my soul needed the healing energy of the water. It needed the quiet comfort of a small town. I still was nowhere near done processing the death of both my parents, and the last year I spent with my boyfriend unsettled me.

I ended up staying in a hotel in Seaside; it was beautiful to be so close to the ocean, but the town wasn’t fully resonating with me as a place to settle. I really struggled finding any apartments. I found myself driving to Astoria every day to enjoy breakfast, the Columbia River, and the freeing, artsy nature of the town. One morning, I sat at the Blue Scorcher Bakery at the long bar table on a stool staring out the large picture window as I journaled during breakfast. I knew I belonged there. Not only in that moment but in the future.

I started to realize what I was going to have to do. While I felt the tingle of excitement pinging in my stomach, I felt like I was going through the motions of looking for a place to live. Even though I knew this was right, my mind was dreading what it was going to take to get me to Oregon permanently. Old wounds and fears opened as I knew I had to shed what was no longer good for me, what was never good for me. Stepping into who I was and who I had discovered was scary. Announcing to the world, “Here I am!” for the first time ever. That time was quickly approaching, and it began with this choice.

I only had three days to apartment hunt because I arrived in Oregon later on my first day there, and I was leaving in the morning on my last day there. It seemed my apartment hunt was fruitless, demoralizing, and not very synchronous. My mind began to wonder if this was a sign that I needed to accept my life in Colorado, that this was the wrong path for me.

On the second day of hunting, I decided to look at Zillow, and there was a description of an apartment that seemed unique and fitting for me. When I called to inquire about seeing the house, I found out I was in luck. That was the one day they were showing the apartment to prospective tenants.

I arrived to my scheduled appointment time to be met by an old Victorian House built in 1900. The house was divided into a top and bottom. The top half was used for an Airbnb, and the bottom half would be the apartment. The apartment had two bedrooms and one bathroom. It had large picture windows throughout the house, and it overlooked the Columbia River. It had stained glass windows in the doorway of one bedroom, green carpet throughout the house, and gold wallpaper in the living room, and it fit me perfectly. I always wanted to live in a unique house that inspired creativity and wonder. I felt a sense of calm as I walked through each room, and I couldn’t stop smiling.

I didn’t have time to think anymore. It was time to act or neglect my true path. I wasn’t planning on moving until November, if I had the guts to move at all, and it was early October. Part of me just came on the trip to see if Oregon was the same to me as it was 5 years earlier. I half thought it would be a mirage, but it felt like home again.

I thought the process of attaining an apartment would take longer. So I put in my application and expressed my interest in the apartment. The next morning I had a response already. The landlords wanted me to move in, and they wanted the move in date to be 4 days later. They were ready to accept the first month’s rent as well as the security deposit.

And I did it. I still had this battle going on inside, but the momentum was too strong. I signed my lease, I mailed my rent and deposit check to them, and I had the option to move in 4 days.

I started to feel freedom. Through my entire life, I lived for other people. I started living for my parents as a child. Then it transitioned to living for the men I was in relationships with. Once my parents passed away, I didn’t feel like I had to answer to anyone, until I met my boyfriend. I let him dictate a lot of our relationship, and I tried to deny my own feelings out of habit. But as I lived in Colorado, as I continued with therapy and learned to connect with my true self, I started to live and answer to myself.

And now, I only had one option.

Finding Home (Part Two)

gardenofthegods(Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO)

By the middle of 2011, my job had become a barred cage. A narcissistic, child-like woman was promoted and had been my boss for about a year. She led people by fear and on the waves of her ever-changing emotions. It was similar to being supervised by a 3-year-old child who needed a nap. If she was having a bad day, then she made sure her employees were having a bad day. If she was in a great mood, then she invited her employees to laugh and joke with her. At one point, we lost close to 20 employees in a month because working for this boss was like being in an abusive relationship. Employees had to walk on tip toes hoping not to step the wrong way in fear of sending the boss into a spiral of anger and abuse. At least half of the employees spent their work days looking for other jobs in hopes of escaping.

It was during this time I planned a week-long birthday vacation. I decided to go to Oregon. I stayed in Portland, and I was going to run a 4th of July half-marathon at Sauvie Island. ( I am in the process of running a half-marathon in every state, and I randomly decided Oregon should be next). When July rolled around, I needed a break from my work, from Tennessee, and the everyday monotony of my life.

While in Oregon, I went to a Blues festival and watched fireworks over the river, I went to local bars and restaurants, I ran my race at Sauvie Island, I went to the coast and played on the beach, I went on hikes and runs, and I did anything else that caught my attention like visiting the vibrant Rose Garden. The summer weather was perfect. It lacked the suffocating heat and humidity of Tennessee. The sun shined every day and the sunlight didn’t fade from the sky until after 10 p.m.

I loved how open Portland and the people were and how beautiful and natural everything was. People were allowed to be exactly who they were. I breathed in the authenticity in the air. I began to shed my own deceitful layers. I rediscovered myself in this city. I had come home to myself. It was as if I had been planted among the rose bushes and stumbled upon myself blooming.

When I went to the coast, Oregon officially had me in her grasp. I love the water, and I especially love the ocean. The closest I had ever lived to the ocean was 8 hours, but I was always drawn to go back to the ocean every year; it was one place I had to go. So to be on the coast, frolicking in frigid waves with rocky shorelines made me realize I didn’t just need to visit the ocean every year, I needed to live close to it. The waves whispered to me, and other times they were screaming, rushing faster towards the shore yelling for me to no longer ignore them and stay. Stay in this magical place. I listened intently. The language they spoke was inviting, it made sense to my confused mind, and it felt right. While I was enjoying the beach, I found my first sand dollar. It was an offering from the ocean herself. An invitation to stay and enjoy all the gifts she had to offer.

On the last day of my trip, I sat high on a hill overlooking Portland. I felt an ache inside. I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t a typical “oh my vacation is over, and it is time to go back to reality” feeling. It was a deep pain, and I cried. I felt like I was being torn away from the one thing that ever understood me.

While it was still another 5 years before I moved to Oregon, I now had focus. I knew where I was going. I just had no idea the path I was going to be led down to get there.

Over the next 3 years, I did leave my abusive job and embarked on a new career. I lost both of my parents to cancer, and I also fell in love. When my parents passed away, there was nothing tethering me to Tennessee anymore. I had no responsibilities, I was financially secure, and all I saw was the open road. I even told the man I was dating that I was leaving Tennessee as soon as my parents’ house and my house sold. Both of the houses sold within a month of being on the market. I told the man I was with that I was getting out of Tennessee; he was welcome to come with me or stay behind, but I thought he should know because that may affect our relationship. He decided he wanted to move as well.

When the time came to discuss where it was we were moving to, there wasn’t much agreement. I automatically vetoed living in the South. He vetoed the North and the New England area. So we were left with the West. He absolutely refused Oregon. I was disappointed, but I was in love with him and I was just so happy to be getting out of Tennessee. I told him I enjoyed Utah as well, but he seemed to have his mind set on Colorado. Colorado seemed like a pretty amazing place, but I didn’t realize at the time that another “home” was being chosen for me.

Once we settled on moving to Colorado, we had to choose a city. I really was wanting to move to Boulder because I thought the vibe of the city would fit me, but I let my significant other choose Colorado Springs, and so it had been decided.

I moved out to Colorado first, a month before my boyfriend, and got everything set up and settled. I started to feel relief, and I was able to take deeper breaths. I felt the shackles Tennessee had me bound in fall away. Our apartment had views of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. The mountains rose up towards the sky; their peaks reaching their jagged fingertips towards the sun. Nature and the outdoors were all around and so easy to access. I had whole trails to myself to run and hike on. There was a great running community and many races to run throughout the state. The weather was my favorite because there were four clear and separate seasons, and I loved being back around snow again. I found a beautiful yoga community, and I started to discover the things I really loved.

But even after being grateful for leaving Tennessee and loving the beauty of Colorado, within 6 months I felt a pang. Oregon was still calling out to me. Her voice was quiet and low, but her whisper spoke to the ears of my heart. I was committed though. I was committed to my boyfriend and to the move I decided to make to Colorado.

As months passed, I was my boyfriend’s insignificant other. He made decisions that suited his needs, we were more like roommates than loving, intimate partners, and I felt awkward and strange in my own home. I was in constant discomfort and neglect. There is nothing lonelier than being alone in a relationship. I could no longer stay where I never belonged in the first place.

Without a fulfilling relationship with my boyfriend or Colorado, I had a decision to make.

Finding Home (Part One)

illinois house  (The house on Clarence Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois)

I didn’t find it until I was 32 years old, but I was 37 years old before I could officially call it my own.

I used to underestimate the idea of home, and never understood its true power.  When I was younger, I didn’t have a choice in where I called home. It was chosen for me by my parents. After my four sets of great-grandparents left Europe, they all eventually settled right outside of Chicago, Illinois, except for one set, my dad’s mother’s parents, who decided on Southern Tennessee. Eventually my dad’s mom met my grandpa, and they moved to Illinois as well, and my grandma left her parents behind in Southern Tennessee. At that point, all my relatives were gathered around Chicago like a winter fire.

The first place I remember as home was an apartment in Berwyn, Illinois. When I was 5 years old, my parents bought our first house on Clarence Avenue in Berwyn. This was the house I grew up in until my parents decided to move when I was 14.

Illinois was the place where I learned about independence. When I was 9 years old, at the start of 4th grade, I no longer had to go to daycare after school or my Grandma Busha’s house for the summer. My parents decided I could start staying home by myself. My school was only two blocks from my house, so it was a quick 5 minute walk. After school I always had some sporting practice or game. I played softball, basketball, and was a cheerleader.

My parents were normally gone for 12 hours a day leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. and returning home again at 6 p.m. I had time to have adventures, play sports, read and write. One of my favorite pastimes was creating song lyrics about my cat Rocky and my dog Lady, singing them into a microphone and recording them on a cassette tape. It was these moments of getting myself to school and home from school, and having free reign to do whatever I wanted when my parents weren’t around that gave me the confidence as an adult to go out on my own. I was also an only child who had a lot of time to myself, so I always enjoyed my own company and doing things on my own.

In the summers, as soon as my parents left for work, I did my chores around the house and ate breakfast, which was normally something along the lines of Cocoa Pebbles, then I would ride my bike to the baseball field at St. Mary of Celle. The kids from the neighborhood and my Little League team would meet and play baseball. We would also meet at Lincoln Junior High School and play basketball on the outdoor courts and 16 inch softball in the open lot next to the school. Some days we mixed it up and went to the Maple Pool to go swimming. Other days we just rode our bikes all over the town.

At that point when I was younger, Illinois fit me perfectly. It was all I had ever known.

The summer before I was starting high school my parents informed me we were moving to Tennessee. Both of my parents wanted a change of pace from the hectic city life of living right outside Chicago. Two years earlier my dad’s parents permanently moved to Tennessee. They had a summer house there, but decided to move full-time once they both retired. My dad thought it sounded like a great idea as well. He would have access to fishing full-time, the drive home from work would be 20 minutes not hours, and nature would be more abundant and accessible.

I see the appeal of the slower-paced life now that I am not 14 years old. Even so, in the 22 years I lived there, Tennessee never felt like home. My parents moved to a small town in Southern Tennessee. The high school started in 10th grade, and there were two junior highs that housed the 7th, 8th and 9th graders. I was greeted at my new junior high school with white students who wanted to stage a walk-out because there were black students at the school. I was also greeted by “mean girls” who hung out in packs, and they seemed to hunt that way.

I will say I learned the most important lesson of my life in Tennessee. When I was 14 years old, I was jolted out of being self-absorbed. I guess I was like a typical wounded teenage girl. I sauntered around like I was special, I caused drama, and I didn’t necessarily care if I hurt people. When I moved to Tennessee and I was the new girl, there was no room for this attitude. I went from being a popular girl and a great athlete to being nothing. Mixed with the un-hospitality I received from the mean girl welcoming committee, I crumbled. But from this crumbling, it triggered empathy. I started to see people outside of myself and how they were affected by me and their surroundings. I realized that everyone wanted to be loved and accepted, and everyone wanted to feel special. It was the single most important lesson I have learned to date.

When I did get to high school, it was better, but I still couldn’t wait to get out of the small town. In Illinois, I had the option of being able to ride my bike, take the bus or walk to wherever I wanted to. I had easy access to friends and physical and mental stimulation. In Tennessee, everything and everyone was so far apart it made it impossible to do anything productive. The kids who had cars sat in parking lots and just drove around on rural roads listening to music.

Maybe my issue with high school had more to do with the fact that it was high school than the town it was in, but high school was my least favorite time of life. One positive was I knew there was more to life than what was in the walls of the school. I couldn’t wait to get to college. I knew I could find like-minded people, and break free from the oppressive town I was living in. Even dating wasn’t fun. I had nothing in common with the high school boys, especially high school boys who never saw a life past the boundaries of the county.

Of course I made friends in high school. But it is a strange to not feel like you ever belong. To feel alone even when you are surrounded by people. To feel even more alone because you are surrounded by people who just don’t understand you.

During senior year, I started requesting information from colleges in Louisiana, Maine, Florida, and North Carolina. When the pamphlets arrived, my dad guilted me into staying in Tennessee for school. He wasn’t ready for me to leave the state and he employed every tactic he could to keep me within the Tennessee borders. This may be the worst reason to ever attend a school, but I chose my university based on the fact that no one from my graduating class was going there, and it was 2 hours from where my parents lived. I figured it was far enough away to be able to breathe, but close enough to go home if I wanted to.

College was everything I had hoped and wanted it to be. The professors expanded my mind, the students were diverse, the freedom was palpable, and I was revived. To this day, some of my best memories happened while I was in college. But college still was just a distraction from the bigger issue: I didn’t belong in Tennessee. Yet, I still tried to force it to be my forever home. After I graduated college with my Master’s degree, I started living and working in Nashville, TN. I saved money, and I was able to start traveling more frequently.

One of my first joint trips with my mom was to Charleston, SC, and it was eye opening. I loved the vibe of Charleston. I loved that it was on the coast as well. One thing I discovered about myself was I loved the ocean. My mom actually talked to locals with me, and I was heavily leaning towards getting out of Tennessee. But, I got an interview for my first “adult” career as soon as we returned from our trip, and I ended up getting the job. Within the few first months of working, I decided to buy a house. In 2006, I moved to Springfield, TN in a corner lot house. Looking back, I think I felt Tennessee could feel like home if I had an actual home to call my own.

Over the next 5 years, I fell into a routine. I went to work, and I did my job to the best of my ability. I would go out with friends, and I had a few boyfriends and dated some. I played sports in an adult sports league, and I ran and traveled to other states to run races. I had my house: my supposed home.

But in 2011, I could no longer forget that I never belonged in Tennessee.

The Visitation

baby dragon

In September and October of this year, I went through a 4-week 200 hour yoga teacher training (YTT). Every week we focused on a different type of yoga. Week one was hatha, week two was vinyasa, week three was yin, and week four was restorative. I had no expectations for this training, but I was also ready for whatever might happen. I had heard stories of other yogi’s reactions and experiences while going through YTT, so I was prepared as much I could be.

Through the first two weeks of the training, I was coursing with energy. I felt like I was plugged into a socket, and I had an unlimited electrical current. When one practices yoga daily, I learned that it was not uncommon for the chakras to open, and the channels to clear to allow energy to flow freely. In the past, I had practiced yoga one to three times a week. During this training, we practiced six to seven times a week. Apparently, I had tapped into a continuous energy source.

It was during the third week I had a powerful and emotional experience. It was during this week, my energy changed. Yin yoga, or really any yoga for that matter, can bring about emotions. I think especially in Yin yoga because the purpose is to hold poses for an extended period of time. When we hold poses, it can help unlock trapped emotions. While I “emotionally” skated by in the first two weeks, feeling a positive emotional charge, it quickly changed in week three.

When week three began, I was looking forward to it because my body was tired of the more intense physical yoga, but I got more than I was expecting. From the very first pose in Yin yoga, I found myself getting angry especially in poses like reclined butterfly, baby dragon, twisted dragon, fire-breathing dragon, frog and sleeping swan. I noticed I was the angriest when I had sensations in my hip flexors and groin. Luckily I knew emotions might arise, but it was still alarming to feel anger taking over for no apparent reason.

When I do feel anger, I know it is not a primary emotion. There is always another emotion trailing behind it that wants attention. I just have to be willing to converse with the feelings, let them surface and uncover themselves from their hiding places, and speak.

On one particular day, I felt more frustrated than usual. As I was holding the yin postures, I felt as if I had no choice. In yin postures, we are supposed to sit with the sensations we feel, as long as it isn’t painful, and just notice what is going on. As I was in dangling pose, also known as uttanasana, I felt anger crawling up through my spine and belly and making its way towards my throat. I felt mad because I didn’t want to feel the sensations that day; I didn’t want to hold the poses for 5 minutes. But I eventually backed off of the pose. While I was hanging, I rested my hands on blocks instead. Suddenly, I felt less angry and more like I had a choice. Once my body realized that, it actually started to open more.

As we moved through the yin yoga practice, anger kept popping up, and I continued to make the choice to sit with it. In one particular pose, baby dragon, I started to struggle. As I felt all the tingly and uncomfortable sensations in my hips and groin, the anger ignited like a fueled fire. As my anger peaked, I started to cry. It can be quite maddening to experience emotions with no apparent cause why. I was also battling with the fact that I was crying in front of other people. I have no issue with crying, as I find it to be a good release, but normally I am in the safety of my house and not in front of strangers. In spite of my reservations, I didn’t want to deny this release, these emotions, so I allowed it to happen.

As my tears fell, I started to feel my mom’s presence. My mom passed away in December 2014, and there have been moments where I felt like she was around especially right after she passed away. It was usually through dreams or symbols like songs on the radio, double rainbows, and birds and their behaviors. But over the last two years, there has been a drought. I have felt alone left wondering if I had disappointed my mom or if she had just simply moved on.

As suddenly as my anger appeared, so did my mom’s love. My tears turned to joy and sadness. As I held the pose, the feeling of my mom’s love intensified. I was in a cocoon of security and comfort like being in her womb. It energetically felt as if my mom had her arm wrapped around my shoulder. I hadn’t felt a reciprocated bond in years and certainly not like these feelings I was having.

My tears continued to fall taking my anger with it. I felt wrapped in love. We moved through our practice and more postures. My tears continued to fall because I missed my mom so much. My mom was there; her spirit was tangible, or at least her love was. As we settled into one of our final poses, reclined butterfly pose, I felt my mom again. I felt the actual weight of her love like an invisible blanket had been draped across me. I was able to feel, receive and accept her love.

There are so many times I just want to share my life with my mom. I miss talking with her daily. I want to hear how her day went and what she experienced. I miss having the one person who knew me in a way no one else could; the woman who gave me life. I will never share a similar bond with anyone else. What I am left with are saved voicemails from her, photographs that just keep getting older and a peace lily plant from her memorial.

To have this momentary connection of my mom being present again reminded me of our bond: the love of two souls who agreed to be a part of each other’s lives through birth, life, death and rebirth.

Solitary Confinement

wild thing

I am almost halfway through a 4-week yoga teacher training. Today my assignment is to disconnect from the world. I am supposed to try to not talk, I am not supposed to use my phone for any purpose, I should not use the internet or watch any television, and I am supposed to avoid any distractions that take me away from my “self.” I have decided throughout this day to blog about my experience because I am allowed to write, journal and read if it helps me to connect to my “self.”

I have no idea what to expect from this experience. I am not someone who shies away from alone time. I spend a lot of time in nature; I love to run, do yoga, write and journal, and I enjoy reading. But I already have this feeling of, “What do I do with myself?” I am one hour into my silence, and I have been home for 30 minutes. I already feel like I have so much time. Since I have been home, I have washed a load of laundry, I folded a load of laundry, I took my dog out to use the bathroom, I made breakfast, and I am working on this blog. My day feels like an expansive canyon that continues to spread out. I am able to imagine all sorts of possibilities and options.

I want to run on a new trail I discovered. I want to take my dog for a walk. I want to write. I want to play on a new disc golf course by my house. I want to continue working on a puzzle I am in the middle of. I want to meditate and practice my yoga postures. I want to take a nap…But I realize part of this assignment is just to be. To be an actual human “being”, not just doing. But the things I truly enjoy doing connect me to my authentic self. I am not just trying to fill my day with meaningless actions.

I think some of the problems we experience here in the States are filling our time with things that don’t matter. We just try to fill “dead” space. So we zone out on the television. We spend hours down a Youtube rabbit hole. We will be on social media for hours on end. Then we find ourselves more disconnected from ourselves, and we wonder where the time has went. Another problem we run in to is zoning out on the things we have to do. We take ourselves out of moments like when we shower, when we cook, when we walk our dog, when we do laundry and so on. We let our minds drift while we do these tasks, and we just give moments away; we just give our treasured life away by not being present. So my main focus is to do what ignites my inner flame. To do the things that take me home within myself.

I also want to allow even more time for self-reflection. I am two weeks into my training, and I am realizing and able to see how much I have grown and learned over the years. Since this training began, I feel bad ass. I feel secure; I feel powerful and beautiful. There have been some obstacles, but I feel deeply rooted in my “self.” I trust myself, I trust my feelings, and I trust the things I know. I have not wavered. This isn’t in a “I know better than everyone else” or “I am always right” sort of way. This is in a “I know who I am, what my boundaries are, and what I expect out of myself and other people” sort of way. It is a strong feeling of self. Of feeling cemented in who I am.

***

I have now been in silence for 6 hours. I took a 90 minute nap which was refreshing. I also walked my dog through our downtown area. I actually felt like a voyeur. I was peering into this world, the people moving about, and the cars driving by, yet I felt separate from it all. Besides walking through the streets and past other people, I had no tether to my surroundings. I just felt like an observer.

I also ran the trail I found by my house. I have driven past this trail for almost two years, and I just started to notice it a year ago. This seemed like a great time to actually run it, and I love trying new running routes. I love the surprise of not knowing what is coming around each turn, what I will see, and what the terrain will be like. This run turned out to be quite fitting for my current circumstance. I didn’t see any other people on the trail. The trail followed the river, and it followed the outskirts of town. While I was on this run, I was once again a voyeur. I watched the cars driving over the bridge unaware that I was spying on them. I saw my town from a distance seeing it from a whole new angle. I was really able to see each individual house that was built into the hills of the city. I was also on the side of the river I had never been on. There were herons wading. Several times they flew ahead of me leading me along the path. A hummingbird zipped by stopping at a flower. The grass has been freshly cut and it awoke my sense of smell.

The trail ended up being 2 miles long, so I ran an out and back which made it 4 miles. I ended up in a moving meditation as well. I really connected to myself and my surroundings. I took turns focusing on my different senses as I ran. I listened to the sounds around me: car engines, plane engines, and bird calls. I felt the sensations in my body: my leg muscles tightening as I pushed off the ground, my arms pumping to the rhythm of my feet, the last of the summer breeze blowing through, and the air flowing in and out of my lungs. I focused on my sense of smell as well, but the freshly cut grass was so powerful it just dominated. I looked around me and devoured the sights: the shallow river with wading birds, the uneven trail with banana slugs and their slime sticking to the blades of grass, the green trees comprised of individual, unique leaves, and the mountains sitting in the skyline.

***

My evening is starting to wind down. I have some studying to do, and a meditation and breath work to do. But it has been helpful to write about my feelings and experiences as they happen. It is helping me deeply connect with the moment I am in. Writing this blog is bringing up a new perspective as well. This feels like my one link to the outside world. I have no contact with my loved ones. I have no real contact with the outside world. It is just my dog and I in this clear bubble, and I am not even conversing with my dog. But writing out my experiences knowing I plan on sharing them with others gives me a strange feeling of connection. It is like a spider web; I am the circular center and the filament branches outward connecting me to others.

I think we are also used to sharing  ourselves, our lives and our experiences with others. We either physically share moments with people, we talk, write or text our experiences to others, and then there is even social media where we can share our daily lives. Today has been interesting because at this moment, no one actually knows what I am going through or what I have done. But in this solitude, I have felt that invisible thread that ties every last one of us together.