Embodied Alchemy

IMG_4020-1-241x300This election has wreaked havoc on me. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I am simply not the same as I was six months ago. I feel heavier, weaker, more anxious, and less hopeful about and connected to the world around me.

I know that I am not the only one.

I spent the first few weeks after November 8th oscillating wildly between poles. At the one end, I felt energized and ready to organize, at the other I felt despondent and hopeless. I dealt with this polar experience by drinking heavily, eating comfort food, binge watching Harry Potter, and withdrawing into isolation.

I also organized. I also taught. I also tried to connect. But what I found, after weeks of abusing my body and mind, was that I felt less able to do the things that need to be done. The revolution seemed unlikely when daily life was such a fucking chore.

I questioned everything. I questioned whether revolution was even possible. I questioned living in America. I questioned our so-called democracy. I especially questioned my role in all of this. The world is on fire, I thought, and I am teaching a fucking yoga class? Who cares?

And then I realized: I am not doing anyone any favors by feeling weak, scared and powerless. When I doubt my self worth and the value of my contributions to the world through my vocation, no one wins. Not me, not my students, not the revolution.

It is no new thing to state that the personal is political. But it feels true. And the political is also personal. Right now, I feel the political as a force that moves through my body, my mind, and my soul. And it feels threatening, a virus that is capable of turning me against myself.

I am not going to tell you that self-care is a revolutionary act. This has been said better by others, and I believe them. What I want to say is that without self-care, revolutionary acts cease to be possible. Drunk hermits don’t change the world, except perhaps in poetry.

In order to resist, we must be strong enough to do so. We must be strong enough to take care of ourselves and each other. We must be strong enough to carry heavy burdens and light enough to know when to rest. We must be the change, with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts.

It is increasingly obvious that the State will not take care of us. Many of us may soon be without access to basic healthcare. This will inordinately affect those most likely to resist the current regime: women, POC, undocumented citizens, LQTBQ folks, and the poor.

We cannot allow our resistance to be quelled.

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The first battleground is our bodies. That the first act of the incoming administration is to remove our access to healthcare proves this point. They shot the first arrow.

When forces of oppression choose our bodies as the arena, how will we respond? We could do what is expected of us: wither into weakness, addiction, and, inevitably, submission.

Or we could get strong. Continue reading

DEADLINE EXTENDED!

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Hey, y’all! I am really excited about all the rad submissions I’ve received so far and I really want to thank everyone who is supporting this humble zine project. I’ve extended the deadline because I would really like to hear from more of y’all.

And while I love love love all you straight, white, cis-gendered ally types, I am hoping to hear from others, particularly those who are feeling pretty Other-ed right now.

It is so fucking important that marginalized voices get heard. 

So if you have something to say or show, please email it to me ASAP at tracey@moreyogalessbullshit.com.

Please share widely.

Getting Over Stranger Danger

stranger danger

Culture teaches us to be scared of strangers.

Strangers hand out poisoned candy, set off bombs, and abduct children. Oh wait, that last one usually happens with someone you know.

Oh wait, even people who set off bombs and hand out poisoned candy aren’t strangers to everyone. They are neighbors and husbands and friends and co-workers.

Yeats is famous for saying, “There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet.” I’m not feeling quite that Pollyanna-ish, but seriously, we all know that Stranger Danger is just a revamped costume for the bogeyman. So, then, why are we scared of strangers?

Lots of reasons that I could get super philosophical about. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the familiar. Blah blah blah.

But, the real reason that most of us don’t interact with people we don’t already know is that we think that we may not like them or they may not like us.

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I’m Scared of Silence.

silence

I spend a lot of time alone.

Partially because the work I do (teaching and writing about yoga) is solitary work, for the most part. Sure, there are classes and bodywork sessions and workshops and whatnot, but the bulk of the behind the scenes work is just me and my mat or just me and a pile of books.

I’m also an introvert. I need to spend a lot of time of alone in order to be the kind of person that can help other people. I love the buzz of the social world, but I recharge alone.

I also work mostly out of my house, don’t have a car, and live in a place that is not that convenient for car-lessness. So, even if I wanted to work in coffee shops, which I sometimes do, it’s not the easiest option.

Most of the time, I really get off on my solitude. Recently, though, I noticed that when I’m not working, I am almost always listening to something: an audiobook, a podcast, the radio, whatever. I have even developed an elaborate audio pairing system. Love + Radio is great for gardening. The TED Radio Hour brings out all the nuances of sweeping and mopping. Dishes pair with murder mysteries. NPR for the car. WWOZ for early mornings.

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I’m Afraid of Hurting Myself.

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I’m afraid of hurting myself.

I come by it honestly. I have been in terrible car and scooter accidents. I have broken my nose playing roller derby. I have torn muscles and I have sprained them. I have had road rash on my face.

I once spent three weeks in this pink bunny suit recovering from a particularly bad accident. You can read all the gory details here if you feel like it. The short version is that you learn a lot about how you’re living from maybe almost dying.

Let’s have a little reality check here, though. We ALL hurt ourselves, all the time. We bend, break, and overstretch. It can be painful. We all know this. We all get through every day knowing that bad shit happens.

But for some of us, our constant awareness that something bad could happen to us at any time can be paralyzing. We live in constant fear of reckless drivers, balls we can’t catch, and injuries that we can’t heal from. We spend warm beautiful days indoors avoiding injury.

I wasn’t always like this. Ten years ago, I was the kind of person who was regularly described as “reckless” by people who thought I was dangerous and “adventurous” by people who thought I was fun.

I don’t even know what changed. Somehow, I went from being your mother’s worst nightmare to being the chick you call to take care of your mom when she has a cold and needs some eucalyptus oil. On the one hand, awesome, I want people to trust me. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so careful with my fragile flower of a body that I never let it bloom.

So I made a resolution for October to do one thing every day with my body that scares me.

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What Are You Afraid Of? (And How To Deal With It)

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October is my favorite month.

It’s not my birthday. It’s not my wedding anniversary. I don’t get to go on vacation. It’s way better than that. It’s Halloween.

Sure, you could just celebrate Halloween on the 31st and be all half-assed about it, but what a waste. October is the new January. The weather is better and it provides an awesome opportunity to explore something really important: FEAR.

This year I decided to face my own personal fears head on. I made a list of all the things that I’m scared of. It’s three pages long and running. Spiders made the list twice, so far. Not surprising. Everyone is scared of spiders. And people who aren’t scared of spiders are superheroes or crazy.

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There is Nothing Wrong With You

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“I think that what underlies all my other fears is the fear that I am not worth loving.”

As her tears fell, I let the room fill with silence and discomfort. The truth is uncomfortable. It needs space to unfold.

What I felt was gratitude. Gratitude that she had the courage to be so vulnerable and gratitude that she had said so neatly what I hear so often in so many other ways.

“I’m lazy.”

“I’m weak.”

“I’m too fat/thinny, quiet/loud, impulsive/rigid.”

The root of all our fears is that there is something wrong with us. It is something that cannot be fixed. It is something that cannot be loved. And it is something that in all situations and at all times, we should hide.

I can relate to this fear.

Do you know the story of the scorpion and the turtle? A scorpion sits on the bank of a river that she cannot cross alone. She sees a turtle and asks to hitch a ride.

“Are you crazy?” says the turtle, “You will sting me and I will drown.”

“Why would I do that?” asks the scorpion, “If you drown, I drown.”

The turtle sees this logic and agrees to the ride. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the turtle and they begin to sink.

“Why did you do that?” asked the turtle.

“I can’t help it. I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”

I once told a friend that I was scared that I am the scorpion, that there is something inherently wrong with me, inherently bad and inherently unloveable. She made me this:

scorpion

Thanks, Gayle. You’re a turtle.

I wasn’t always like that. Once I was a young, carefree twenty-something living on the beach with no concern for the future or the past.

I remember a beautiful morning in Miami. I must have been on the way to the store. Or on the way back. It doesn’t matter. I was walking. I wasn’t in a hurry. Maybe I had coffee, maybe I was high. I was just walking.

And suddenly I had an intense realization that I was okay, that life was good, that I didn’t need to do anything to be good, that I just was, that my existence was inherently valuable.

I was overcome with contentedness. It lasted for weeks. Continue reading

Life by Accident

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November 21, 2011

“Who’s the President?” the EMT asked.

I rolled my eyes.

“I’m a teacher, I know who the President is!” I insisted.

“Okay, then…” she smiled.

“Clinton.”

Zero alarm showed in her face when she asked, “You wanna try that again?”

It took me ten minutes to get to Obama. I had a concussion. I had broken my arm in two places. I had a broken eyesocket and a broken cheekbone. I had torn the outer casing of my spinal column. I had a badly dislocated jaw.

I had a beautiful, but totally totaled almost new shiny red Aprilla scooter.

It was bad.

The next thing I remember was being wheeled into the hospital on the gurney. I wasn’t feeling pain, but I could tell by the bustle around me that things weren’t going so well. I looked up at myself at a mirror in the hall and this is what I saw:

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That was my good side!

I did not consider the meaningfulness of my life or my relationship to God.

I did not wonder whether I was going to die.

I did not think about my loved ones.

I did not think about my afterlife.

What I thought was, “Oh shit. I might not be pretty anymore.”

That’s right folks. When faced with the prospect of my mortality or potential disability, I was worried about how I looked.

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What Is Personal Alchemy?

personalalchemylogoPersonal Alchemy is not a system.
It is not a system of beliefs or even a system of practices.

Personal Alchemy is a process.
It is the process of deep, embodied personal inquiry.

The process of Personal Alchemy starts with identifying the areas of your life where you want to make changes, gathering the resources to make those changes, plotting out a plan, and then taking steps to implement the plan.

We engage with this large process of change by breaking it up into small, easily implemented small habits and changing them one at a time.

There is a difference between thought habits and operational habits. Thought habits are your beliefs. They describe who you are, or rather who you think you are. Operational habits are the things you do. These two kinds of habits have an interdependent relationship. What you do becomes who you are and vice versa.

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Personal Alchemy is founded on the idea that thought habits, or beliefs, are the first habits that need to change in order to successfully implement operational habits into your life. Operational habits only stick when they are backed up by a belief system.

We have all tried to arbitrarily introduce a new habit into our lives and failed. Like that time you tried to go vegan and ended up paleo, or tried to lose 10 pounds in a week and gained 5, or signed up for a marathon you never ran. We’ve all done that. We don’t fail because we lack willpower. We fail because we make the habit our goal instead of making changing our mindset the goal.

The reality is that in order to change how you operate in the world, you have to change your the way you think about yourself first. You think a lot of things automatically that make your life easier, but some of those things also prevent you from doing things differently. We limit ourselves by thinking, “I’m just not the kind of person who…” or “I am the kind of person who always…”

When your perspective shifts, you can start to tune in to misalignments between who you want to be and how you actually behave. Changing your habits becomes easier because you know why you are changing.

It isn’t automatic, though. That part of the program is systematic. You are led through plotting out your personal transformation one tiny step at time. That may sound frustrating, but tiny steps make success actually attainable. Having internalized thought patterns that back up your tiny changes makes deep transformation possible. And likely.

If you want to change how you operate in the world, you CAN, but first you have to change your beliefs and thought habits so that you are not working from a constantly misaligned state.

Imagine a game of Jenga. It is possible to create a structure that does not immediately collapse out of a lot of pieces that are stacked haphazardly, but if one or two of those precariously placed pieces moves, the who thing falls down. Instead, the idea here is to build a stable structure that is so aligned that it can handle a few pieces being removed. Continue reading

What To Do When Yoga Is Hard

 

www.yogabywater.net

www.yogabywater.net

The earth moves in an orbit around the sun. That means that it gets all the way dark before it gets even a little bit light. We know this. We respect the natural rhythm of the movement of the earth. But most of us find it really hard to respect the natural rhythm of change in our own lives.

When things get hard in our lives (or in yoga, or in any process of change), we want to give up. We think that because there are obstacles and challenges that things aren’t “working.” But what if the presence of challenge means the exact opposite? What if it means that things are working?

There is a natural (and predictable) pattern of transformation. So, what if we can learn to appreciate that pattern and maintain an awareness of it that allows us to stay committed when we are challenged? Then we can use this information to propel ourselves through difficulty towards deeper levels of transformation.

This is how transformation works:

cycle of change

Memorize this. Get a tattoo.

We always want to believe that change has a totally upward trajectory, that things start out one way and then they just get better and better and better until they’re awesome! And it never works like that, and we never seem to learn.

We start out excited about something and we get a few gold stars. Then things get harder. But, if we stick out the hard part and work through it, the success we gain at the end of the cycle is much more profound than the success we find at the beginning.

As a yoga teacher, I have seen a lot of students come and go because they didn’t understand this cycle of change.

Let’s consolidate all these people into one student. Let’s call her Jane.

This is Jane.

This is Jane.

Jane goes to a class and she is totally stoked about it, so she runs out to Yoga Ripoff Warehouse and drops a bunch of dough and joins a fancy studio and starts going to class all the time. Things are great! Jane gets like one second of peace in savasana and she sleeps a little better at night. Jane is hooked.

And then…

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