Episode 67 – Moving Through Pain and Holding Space For Growth
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Rachel begins this episode by sharing the immense feeling of gratitude she has carried with her lately. Currently immersed in leading a yoga teacher training, she speaks of the deep bond of sisterhood that has been apparent since this new group stepped into the shala. Sensing an overall shift in the feminist movement, Rachel shares how inspiring it is to be surrounded by women that uplift and support one another.
As we all move along our journeys towards healing, it is crucial to have a community we can turn to that will listen to our struggles and give us tools to move through them. Only by working through the dark and defining moments from our past can we begin to create real change in the world. Rachel dives into the pivotal moments of her life that have shaped her, and how they changed throughout the years, as she was able to open up about them. She ends the episode with the single most defining moment of her life today – and how it is different from all the rest.
[001:16] Hi and welcome to another episode of From The Heart: Conversations With Yoga Girl. I am, right now, in the middle of some really spooky stuff! (laugh) So, I’m sitting in my house, I’m in our guest room which is at the very top floor, and I was in the middle of recording this week’s podcast episode, and then I had this moment where I felt like, “I need to really pause and take a deep breath,” and what came to me immediately was, “I feel so much gratitude for this moment!” And then I articulated that, and the moment I said gratitude, like, halfway through the word, the entire house went completely pitch black. Like, all the lights just flashed, buzzed, totally wild. And then the entire house just shut down and we just completely lost electricity in the house. And the timing of that was just so … so intense.
[002:10] And now, I have hunted around the house like a maniac looking for batteries. Who uses, like, AA or AAA or whatever it’s called, AA batteries anymore? I don’t think I have unpacked a pack of batteries in forever. But it turns out that this recording device thingy that I have to record this podcast on actually also has this backup thing for battery use. So, praying a little prayer right now to the technology gods that these batteries last me for an entire hour so that I can record this podcast sitting in a pitch black room right now. I lit a bunch of candles, so it’s super cozy, I’m all fine. Of course, living in Aruba, any time our A/C goes out it gets super hot, super fast. So let’s see how I live through this.
[003:05] It felt like a very serendipitous moment to have that … the whole entire house lose power. Like, flash, flutter through the lights, and then lose power. Because my whole day today has been really centered around gratitude, feeling super grateful … for so much! I actually don’t even know where to begin.
[003:24] First of all, speaking From The Heart right now, I’m scared to say the word gratitude, because I don’t want something weirder to happen here in my house right now. But speaking of gratitude, I am in the middle of our Yoga Teacher Training right now. And it’s so forking amazing! I mean, it’s … so beautiful! You guys, I wish I could just share, somehow, through social media like just a tiny, like, five percent of the emotion and the release and the realizations and the letting go, and the … that happens in our Luna Shala with our teacher training group. It’s so amazing. And I’m just … I’m really bad at staying engaged through social media while working with a group. Anytime I’m in a retreat or leading a training I completely immerse myself and the social media stuff is the last thing that I do in a day. It’s just, I can’t focus on it. And even when massively huge things happen, like this week has been so full of just amazing stuff that I should be able to share, that I could be able to share, I just can’t really find the words for it. Like, twice this week I’ve sat down and I’m like, “Oh my god, this is … I want to write about this! I want to share this moment with the world.” But then it just doesn’t flow naturally to me, so I just don’t. And I think part of that is that the magic that transpires in these types of groups, it’s just meant to stay in the room.
[005:00] So, if you’re wondering about my sort of distance through Instagram and social media right now, it’s because I’m extremely, overwhelmingly present with the 52 people that we have in Aruba right now at Island Yoga moving through 200 hours of Yoga Teacher Training. And today is, or was, Day 7 out of 23. So, we have 23 whole days together. And it’s … I honestly, I don’t know how to describe it. Of course every group we have at the studio is totally different. No group compares to another group. Every group, you know, brings their own energy, their own vibes, their own challenges, their own history and past and some groups are just completely super easy going and light hearted and fun. Some groups there’s a ton of trauma and hardships and heavy things that we’re all working through together. And some groups are just completely immersed in learning, right? So just wanting to dive deeply into yoga philosophy and yoga asana, and yeah, everything we have on the curriculum.
[006:06] This group (laugh) … I’ve been trying to pinpoint them, like, to find words to describe this group. The only thing that really captures it, for me, is sisterhood. It’s just the best word to describe just the feeling that this group evokes in me. Already, from day one, it’s been this sort of magnificent, totally wild and crazy thing. Because the first first first circle that we had together that was, I mean, so how it works is that people fly in from all over the world, we have people here from 15 countries, so from all walks of life, all ages, all backgrounds, all levels of yoga. Really everything from semi, not complete beginners, because it is a Yoga Teacher Training, but very varying levels of practice, for sure. And they sort of, you know, we have an application process, so they apply to join, and then we have this process that we move through to decide who gets accepted. And mostly, you know, to be able to take 23 days off of your life, I mean, that’s a massive commitment. Huge! So some people quit their jobs to be able to attend Yoga Teacher Training here, this intensive. People are leaving their lives behind, people have families, kids, friends, stuff. You know, it’s not just like going on a little vacation. It’s a huge, huge life commitment to be here.
[007:34] What that means is that there are a lot of big emotional components to all of this. We’re moving through something very life changing together. And not everyone who decides to attend the Yoga Teacher Training is there with the intention to teach. You know, of course, for many people, that’s the goal, and maybe the only goal, to want to take a practice that has been immensely healing to ourselves and want to share that healing and that magic with the rest of the world. That’s a big piece. But some people are not at all in it for that and just want to be here to deepen their practice, or to learn, or to learn things about themselves, or to heal. It makes for such expectation. I mean, can you imagine? So I think the earliest people signing up for this training, they signed up over a year ago. So it’s been a year of saving up money, of getting time off, of rearranging life, making this all possible. And the person who attended, the last person to sign up, we had a last minute cancellation the day before the training started, and we were able to fill it with a spot from the waitlist. And my mind is just blown! You know, with one day notice this girl was able to just jump in and attend.
[008:49] So, some people have been waiting for this for a year, and then there’s a girl who just was kind of thrown in last second who is just completely, you know … (laugh) Still kind of in shock that she’s here, I think. But what it does is, you know, already from the first day, we do this welcome circle in the shala on the first day where everybody gets a chance to share a little bit about why they’re here and what’s brought them here, and anything they want to share about what brought them to this moment. What happens usually in these circles, and I do these circles all the time. Not just for Yoga Teacher Trainings, but retreat groups, last year we had nine or ten … crazy, but we did so many retreats at the studio, and every beginning of a retreat we’d do a welcome circle like this where people would get to share. Usually, you know, because it’s new and it’s new people and it’s this new experience and people are nervous and feeling vulnerable or emotional, so standing up or just speaking up in the middle of a circle with 50+ new people can be a really daunting thing.
[009:52] And there’s always emotion in that first circle. Like always always always emotion. But with this group there’s something so special, that during that first circle, every single woman, and it’s an all woman group, every single woman was just immediately stepping up to, for me at least, a new level of complete and utter support for one another. Immediately. I mean, I didn’t have to do anything to create that bond. Normally in a group, we move through a ton of different exercises and learning how to trust each other, and we do sharings and different things that we do on the mat, and working in partners. We have this sort of buddy system where people pair up to have each others’ backs. And a lot of the sharings that we do is a big component in terms of building trust with people, because that’s a huge thing! I mean, it takes a lot for people to trust other people. But with this group there was something so trusting, and not just trust towards me and toward the team at Island Yoga and everything we’re about to do here, but trusting each other right away. There’s a level of unconditional support and total acceptance, and, like, womanhood power. It’s so frickin’ inspiring. I haven’t seen, I mean, this is Day 7, I haven’t seen a shred of, um, of ego. Sometimes, especially working with women, and women in big groups, we tend to rub up against each other. I mean, it’s inevitable that that happens, and I’m sure it’s going to happen with this group. Eventually we’ll have, like, a little something.
[011:31] But of course, you know, normally for … we’re making a commitment like this, there’s always going to be reasons to be fearful, and sometimes that fear can translate into annoyance or it can translate into a problem, or, you know, I’m so … After having done this for ten years, I’m so aware of how this process works, and who needs maybe a little bit of extra reassurance or extra support in the beginning of a group. Because they’re nervous to be here, or they’re stressed from their job, or need an extra few days to adjust. And I can be like that too, oh my god. If I’m traveling somewhere or I have a lot of pressure, a lot of things to do, like a big weight on my shoulder like I feel like I need to perform or, you know … and I have that feeling a lot. Like, I can turn really bitchy sometimes. And Dennis is always the first one to call me out, like, you know, “Do you need a break? Do you need a moment? Do you need to roll out your mat? Do you need to step outside for a second?” To kind of put me in check, like, “Okay, wait. I am not the kindest version of myself. I’m not the best version of myself right now.” And it is because of something, you know? It’s because it has this really specific reason, and then I have to go check myself. I have to sit with that and like, “Okay, wait, what is happening right now? Am I actually annoyed at this person for doing that thing that, you know, isn’t a big deal, maybe, in the big scheme of things? No. I’m actually nervous about this thing coming up, or I’m worried about the baby.” You know, there’s something there. And then I figure it out, and I work through it, and I sit with it, and that’s, you know, how we evolve. That’s how I grow. So when we come to these groups, sometimes we have many people that arrive with that. Maybe, like, their flight was delayed and they had a really shitty trip getting here, or their bag is lost. Like, stuff happens. And then we can see sort of the first day in a group, sometimes, where we need to dedicate a little extra time and support to specific people because they’re super stressed out, and that can sometimes translate as a little bit of, like, like a wall up toward the rest of the group, or a little bit of attitude maybe, or a little bit of irritability. Let’s call it irritability.
[013:37] With this group there has been, like, I’m actually in shock, I’m wondering, where is it? There’s none of it. There has been zero complaints of any kind … about anything! I’m just waiting for … I don’t know. Everything that comes their way, they’re just rolling with it. And even in groups, because they’re also working in smaller groups, there’s such different, different women here. There is loud women and confident women and women who are just super grounded and standing up mega tall. They start to teach, we’re taking our first steps towards teaching now and they’re projecting their voice and they’re like very present. And then we have women who are just really soft and quiet, and the idea of standing up in the room is just so daunting. It’s like a mountain to climb. It’s terrifying! And we have, you know, and of course everything in between. And every single … that’s the beauty of this. Every type of personality has this amazing teacher within them already. Not just with this group, but I believe that’s true for all of us. It’s just about sort of fine tuning it and figuring out what’s in the way so that I can let myself be seen, so that I can find the confidence to stand up and speak my truth and just, you know, let myself, yeah. Being seen is a really big piece of this.
[014:51] But even in those groups where we have mixes of, like, loud people and quiet people, there’s been this total uplifting community sense of sisterhood where everybody gets space to shine. No one is talking over each others’ heads, or bulldozing anyone, or steering the ship too much or being too controlling. There’s nothing of that. Every time I sit down with the small groups within the group, I’m just in awe of this emotional maturity. I don’t know. And then I’m thinking, like, is this what is happening around the globe in terms of sisterhood? Because I’m, at least, like I’m sensing a shift. I mean, I’m seeing a shift in the groups that we have of all women, and we often have all women groups at Island Yoga. And then I’m thinking, like, is it me? Am I different this time around? I mean, maybe a little bit, but not that different. So I’m just thinking, like, we’ve been through so much shit, as women. I mean, come on, we’ve been through so much shit over the past, like, eons. I’m not talking, like, couple of years or decades or 100 years. Like, thousands and thousands of years of abuse and patriarchal structure, and a society that doesn’t let women take up space. So I was just reading an article about women’s right to vote, and the fact that the timeline and the years that, you know, the year that we were allowed to vote in different countries in the world isn’t actually even correct because it often did not include women of color. And that to me, that I’ve been blind to that, or ignorant to that, or uninformed about that, just completely blows my fucking mind! It’s something that I’m educating myself more and more, that equality does not equal the same thing for a white woman like myself the way it does for a woman of color. So, overall, looking at our past as women, I mean, and what still goes on in every part of the world, every part of the world today, the inequality, not just between women and men, but the inequality between women of color and white women, it blows my mind. The more I open the door toward our past, I mean, the past that we have, collectively, as human beings, I mean, it’s sort of nightmare-ish, actually. I get how it’s easy to turn a blind eye to that and continue about your day, but I feel like right now, it’s the time to get educated. So I am learning a lot. I’m learning a lot about the history of Sweden, which is completely, of course, different and separate to the women’s movement in the United States. And the fact that just, like, the facts that I’ve been given and what’s taught in school hasn’t applied to everyone, I honestly can’t believe it! Okay, I’m getting totally sidetracked here.
[017:59] But the movement that’s sort of rising now, at least I feel, since the #MeToo movement, the feminist movement that’s much more broadly accepted than it was a couple of years ago. Maybe it’s doing something for us as women, it’s speeding things up in a totally different way. The fact that we’re having these conversations with each other, that we’re getting involved politically, we’re having uncomfortable conversations with our girlfriends, with our husbands, with our parents, it’s creating a sense of community through hardship that has been largely ignored for a really long time. And I’m wondering, now that, seeing the groups of women the way I am, really privileged to see the way, like, this group is coming together for teacher training, for instance. This sort of community, lifting each other up vibration that’s there off the bat, immediately, everybody’s here to support each other, there’s no jealousy, no animosity, none of that. No gossip, no drama. And I’m seeing it more and more. And I’m thinking that because we are having these conversations we’re making it so much easier to connect with each other, to feel human with each other, and to not have to compete with each other. To get ahead or to grow or to pursue our passions. And I feel like that’s sort of been … that’s what it’s been like for us. (laugh) For us. And here I am speaking as, you know, the most privileged human being on the planet. But it’s true. It’s true. And more and more I’m recognizing this privilege, and I’m recognizing how things are shifting right now.
[019:38] So, I’m … I started off with gratitude, and I want to land in that just once more, because so much has been on my mind lately in terms of womanhood, in terms of women working together, in terms of women supporting each other. And also what it means for us, you know, this big group of girls diving into this journey of healing and yoga practice. Just this gratitude for the fact that we are able to be here. I mean, that alone is just wild. The fact that I get to do this for a living is sort of unreal. The fact that, you know, if you’re listening to this podcast means that you have, probably, I mean, you have the time to dedicate in your day to listen to things that inspire you, right? To grow, to practice yoga, to focus on healing and balance and growth, and that alone, just having the time for that, I mean, it’s a massive privilege. I think, more and more, we’re beginning to realize this. At least I am beginning to realize my own privilege, and instead of taking it for granted, I’m sitting with a lot more gratitude. And also this total will to change what isn’t working, right? And to support people that aren’t sitting with that same privilege. To me, that’s what this whole … I mean, that’s what the entire point of this Yoga Teacher Training is, it’s the point of everything. It should be the point of everything, wanting to create good things for the world.
[022:29] And when I started, I started laying the foundations for this YTT for a long time, I mean, long time. Years. People have been asking me for teacher training, for a 200 hour and I just couldn’t see the point for a really long time in doing that. Yeah, I could sell one. I wouldn’t have a problem filling one, I could probably make money off of one. I just, I couldn’t see the point. There are so many yoga teachers out there, I mean, there’s a massive industry. There’s yoga teachers by the thousands just being pushed out into this market of teaching yoga, into this business of teaching yoga, every single year. It grows and grows and grows, and I, for a long time, had a hard time arriving at, well, what would be the true purpose of me creating a YTT? Because it sounded wonderful and lovely, but yeah, it didn’t click for me, so that’s why it took me a really long time to do.
[023:23] Then, you know, I had a big, yeah, a big realization. I had two big realizations! One was that arriving at my purpose in life, which sounds ridiculous and super cliché. We can have many purposes and feel purposeful in different areas of life. But I had this big epiphany, you guys know my favorite word is epiphany, where the point of everything I do, or what I want the point of everything I do to be is to support people on a path toward inner healing. Right? So dealing with our old wounds, our old baggage, old shit. Trauma, childhood, everything that inhibits us from living fully and feeling at peace and knowing that we’re enough, in this moment, the way we are. Like that work. But it doesn’t end there. That’s 50% of it. It’s not just yoga and therapy, meditation, and this holistic stuff. No, that’s half of it. And then once we arrive at that place, or we at least step onto that path, as soon as we start finding that healing and we start making that shift, it has to be about taking our … our cup will start overflowing. It has to be about taking that and then doing good shit for people that don’t have the same privilege as us. It can’t end with … it can end with me! I mean, oh my god. I don’t know, I think, I was, when I started teaching I was really young, and it’s been definitely an intense path for me, with lots of ups and downs, and I’ve had a lot of opportunity that I didn’t know what to do with, you know, social media and all that stuff, and I couldn’t really see the big picture, long-term purpose for a really long time. But when that landed in me, you know, for me, it doesn’t end with, “Okay, I want to feel better.” I want to heal myself. Physical pain that I’ve had my whole life, that was kind of how I started. Then emotional pain that I’ve had my whole life, and then that life keeps throwing my way. I want to find tools that I know what to do when the universe hits me with trauma and death and shit. I don’t want to escape it. I don’t want to, you know, drink myself into oblivion or smoke a packet of cigarettes every day, or drop into drama or gossip or be depressed, you know? Or feel inadequate, or kind of battle this dark, heavy, poisonous mind that just tell me every day how horrible of a person I am. I don’t want to go that route. I want tools to sit with my shit and to be able to look death, or, you know, pain or trauma or fear or anxiety, whatever it is, to look it square in the eyes and choose to stay. That’s the process that I need to move through.
[026:03] And yes, it involves practicing yoga, it involves meditation, it involves all of these sort of radical, experiential, controversial, weird ass shit that we do in these trainings, for instance. But it cannot end there, right? It cannot end with me finding peace in my own skin and feeling good, doing a bunch of yoga, probably drinking a bunch of green juice along the way, and then, you know, that’s it and I’m done? No! And I think that’s sort of the beauty of healing ourselves from past wounds and past shit is that as soon as we arrive where we start feeling whole again and we realize how abundant we are and how capable we are, and how fucking beautiful and strong we are, immediately that urge, it’s pretty natural to look around and recognize who isn’t there, right? Who doesn’t have that same privilege, or maybe who doesn’t have the ability to … who can’t get to yoga class, if that’s how you found healing, right? Or who can’t go to these groups or these trainings or these big, expensive things. Because yes, it is inaccessible, this type of work, it’s really hard. There’s a limit to how many people a group like this … I’m not just saying my own groups, but groups that I personally attend and my own teachers and healing groups that exist all over the world. There’s a limit to how many people can attend that, and it’s mega-privileged to be able to go, or for someone to see a therapist or a psychologist or, you know, to get actual, real help with heavy shit, it’s a privilege to even be in a place where we can ask for that.
[027:39] So the realization for me is, okay, wait, like I’m at a place where I feel really whole, or at least, you know, where I feel like I have enough tools and I know enough about how to deal with my own stuff that I don’t need to look everywhere for it all the time. I can kind of stop with that frantic search for peace, and I can work on it and practice it every day, on my own. It’s going to be hard some days, and easy some days, but I found my path. That’s sort of the feeling.
[028:08] Now, immediately, it has to be about turning all of that around and when my cup overflows, it’s how can I give it away? So there’s millions of people out there, and you can talk about this at different levels. There’s people who are cared for in material ways, that have food on their plates every day, that have a shelter and roof over their heads, and maybe even have, like, luxuries and a great life on the outside, that struggle immensely with the inner stuff, you know? Immensely. There’s so many people out there, it’s just so abundant.
[028:38] And then there is a whole level of … a whole level of pain and struggle out there in the world that we cannot even really, you know, recognize, I think, not having fully lived and experienced and grown up that way, people that don’t have enough food to eat every day, people that are starving, people that cannot even for a second imagine the type of lives that we live, and also the amount of waste that we move through in a day. So, how can we support people who aren’t as privileged as us? How can I become a vessel for creating change where change is needed, or creating support for people that are in need? Can I do that on a scale in terms of just me as a human being, living where I live, like in my own community here and now, can I get out into the world and do something mega big on a global scale, like, what sort of tools do I sit with?
[029:31] And when I had this realization, it just started making so much sense. Like, oh my god, of course I’m going to do a teacher training! Of course! If I have a chance to get to shape people, first of all in what type of teachers they become and what they choose to bring to the world and how they look at themselves and support them on that inner path, that’s magical. But what if the point of the whole training is to get out there and do epic stuff for people in need? I mean, it was just a slam dunk, for me, at least in my … it makes so much sense.
[030:08] So in our Yoga Teacher Training, we have this huge component of supporting each trainee in creating projects within their own local communities to do good things. And, recognizing that teaching yoga, it cannot be the end game. It’s awesome and it’s beautiful and it’s going to take a long time until we feel really anchored in it and we feel good at it, and we want to make a living out of it and all of that. But having that looking all the time as into, “How can I be of service?” Rather than, “How can I fulfill my own,” and have it end there. It’s just, it opens up to a totally different life. At least it absolutely has for me. So a lot of the things that we do in this training, and that’s why I’m so grateful to have such a supportive group of women who are just so in support of each other right now, because we move through some really difficult stuff! I mean, we cry every day. I cry every day. And I have to always explain to like, you know, because we have a big team of staff at the studio, and we have different groups of stuff, so we have like our core team, which is people who are working with me every day and practicing with me every day, and living this … they really know what goes on in these groups, and they know what it’s all about. Maybe they’re teachers themselves and have kind of been through this journey for a while. And then we have another group of staff which is more, like, café staff and people that support us with cooking the food and serving the meals and things like that that maybe are not as immersed in the work that we do on an emotional level. And then we have to have sessions with everybody on the team before we start a teacher training. For instance, we have days of silence, we have intense meditations that we do that follow hours of silence afterwards, and then teaching, teaching the staff, what does it mean to hold space for a group that is completely in silence and that’s processing heavy, emotional stuff? It requires a totally specific level of presence to be able to hold that kind of space. And also explaining that when we begin this group, every participant steps into a process of their own, a healing process, and we open a lot of doors and we start to look at things, and what kind of life do I want to live, and what’s in the way for that to happen?
[032:37] What it inevitably means is that, you know, me as a facilitator, my entire core team, and also it trickles out into the rest of the staff as well, we will all step in to kind of process ourselves. And there’s just no way around that. So everyone needs to have tools. How can I sit with my stuff when it comes up and not project, and not react, and not have frustration or anger kind of seep out toward other people, but how can I do this work myself so that I can support these people that are here, that have changed their entire lives and put all of this on the line, and trusted us, to come here and do this right here? It’s just such a specific, specific type of work that we do.
[033:23] And of course, I mean, I’m making it sound like all we do is sit around a circle and kind of, you know, chant and do shamanic stuff. That’s not what it is. Of course we are learning stuff (laugh) along the way! A whole lot of stuff. But we just closed week one. We have three weeks, or 23 days, a little over three weeks. The first week is very very much centered around the inner healing and old wounds and things like that. So that’s where I am at right now.
[035:33] And speaking of internal processes, so, (laugh) I honestly think that, you know, if … if I wasn’t able to do this work, if I wasn’t able to do this for a living and hold this kind of space and create these types of programs, I don’t know where I would be in my own emotional development. For me, doing this work is so intricately tied into my own process. It’s very … It’s very hard for me to divide. I can’t really make a big distinction between different areas of my life the way many people can. So like, you know, work is over here and then I end work and home and family is over here, and then maybe I teach yoga, and I do that kind of work over here. For me all of this just merges into one, like, life in some shape or form. And I have this, of course, what’s totally demanding about teaching and facilitating a group like this is because I’m expecting such a big level of vulnerability and realness from each participant, and we can never arrive at that if I am not able to be vulnerable and real to the group.
[036:50] Coming from someone who has always struggled with vulnerability, always struggled with showing emotion, especially sadness or anger or … sadness for sure has been my biggest struggle, to cry in front of other people. I’ve spent years arriving at a place where I can do that and not feel like I’m about to die. So, my process during this past week, and I can’t believe it’s only been a week, because it’s been so very, very intense … one of the exercises that we do, that I do fairly often with groups and by myself, we do a journaling exercise after like, you know, we always get into the body and we practice and we … I’ll sort of sequence a class depending on what we’re working on, right? So sometimes just movement and sweating like crazy and getting really lost in the body is the best way to open a door to something, you know, to really … or the best way to dive into a specific theme, or … We do a lot of journaling and a lot of sharing in these groups.
[037:53] So, one of those exercises is we journal on a defining moment in our lives that has shaped us, and I always keep the themes fairly broad and fairly open to interpretation. It’s never mega specific. It’s never pulling at the threads of the deepest, most traumatic stuff that’s ever happened in your life, no, that’s not what we do. But keeping it really general and specific. So, a question like that, it really depends on who’s answering it and where they are at in their lives. So the answer to that could be, “Coming to this training, that was a defining moment of my life and I feel like it’s shaping me,” which would be a new, fairly not as deep of an answer. It could be something really difficult and challenging that happened in our lives, because oftentimes the things that shape us into the people who we are, it’s not the dainty, easy-peasy, rainbows and butterflies type of stuff. It is heavier, more challenging things.
[038:52] And then after that, and after a practice, we do a sharing on our life story, which is awesome. I mean, it’s so so interesting. Like, imagine someone sat you down, and someone was holding space for you to speak and just completely speak your own truth without speaking, without asking questions, without interrupting you, without reaching out to cut you off, without, you know, not really listening but just waiting for their turn to speak, which is how most people “listen,” someone holding space for you to share your life story. Where does that even begin? Where does it end? What’s the story that you choose to share? Is it a positive one? Is it a negative one? Is it light? Is it dark? It says so much about how we look at life, the type of story we tell when we tell people the story from our past, stories from our past. And it also usually circles back to that defining moment that we kind of began with.
[039:52] For me, personally, when I do this exercise, and I’ve done it throughout my life so many times, but the defining moment of my life used to be, and it used to be always these very heavily negative things. Like, immediately my mind would go to, “Okay, something that really shaped me, that really changed my life? A moment where my life didn’t remain the same and it took me some place completely new …” It was always heavy, heavy, heavy stuff. And the first thing that always used to come to mind when I would do a sharing like that would be the death of my stepfather when I was little and my mom’s suicide attempt that followed. And this, for me, was of course, I mean, for a long time, the most awful thing that had happened in my life, the biggest trauma I ever had. It was this, sort of, life before that and life after that were two completely different things. That experience triggered years and years of just … yeah. Immense darkness for me. Like, I have big chunks of my childhood following that that I don’t even remember. Like, I have zero memory. My body has just blocked out. No matter how much work I do, I just still cannot access those years.
[040:58] Whenever I would do a sharing like that, I would be like, “Yeah, well that was a defining moment for me.” And then when I just started doing this sort of personal development, healing work, just talking about that experience was so immensely overwhelmingly painful. I couldn’t articulate it. I couldn’t get the words out. And part of that was because I hadn’t processed the experience. No one had sat me down and given me space or tools to process what had happened to me. Like, not only did my parents divorce in a super traumatic, horrifying way. And then really shortly after that my stepdad, who was definitely a father figure for me, died in a plane crash. Mega traumatic. And then my mom tried to kill herself, like, on my birthday party. I mean, saying it now, I’m kind of smiling/laughing, because when I speak it now it sounds like it’s someone else’s life. I’m not emotionally attached to the experience anymore. I’m not. And I can get into the details and the really sad parts about that, and finding her suicide letter. It’s heavy, heavy, horrible stuff. And for a long time, because I never had the chance to process it when it happened, when I was a child, or the years following, it was like the experience was stuck in my body. It was just lodged in my body. It was lodged in the back of my throat, back of my heart, my lower back. And trying to speak about it just meant that I would burst into complete tears. But I also didn’t like to feel emotion or so emotion in front of people, so I would kind of swallow those tears and kind of pretend, “I’m fine, I’m fine, this doesn’t mean anything to me,” but of course it meant a lot, it meant everything.
[042:37] Then I started doing all of this work, and I realized, the more I told that story, the more I spoke it, the more that I articulated it, the more I let it come into the light versus it being this dark, kind of cancerous thing that grew inside of me, this trauma, this pain, every time I spoke it it became a little bit easier until it got to a point where I had spoken of it and shared the story so many times in these types of sessions and things that I had this thought occur to me, like, “Wait, who did that happen to again? Oh wait, oh yeah, that’s me!” Or I realized I had completely sort of, you know, it’s still a part of my past, it’s still part of my life story, but it’s no longer living through me. It’s not dictating my actions anymore. It’s not dictating my relationships anymore. It’s not tripping me up in my daily life, this thing that happened to me when I was four or five, you know?
[045:19] And that was a huge thing. And then what happened after that is, okay, wait, I have to find a new defining moment! That moment, it’s not my defining moment anymore. And then, of course, there’s other things, right? So there was another trauma that I had, and another death that I had, and I would keep finding like … but it would move closer to real time every time. So, eventually, of course, I had … my mother tried to commit suicide, the latest time was three years ago, and then that became a defining moment in a really positive way, strangely, because it forced me through so much inner work that it was … yeah, the most life changing thing, in a positive way, that had happened to me up to then. Which meant separating from her, which is a story for a whole other podcast. That was the last time I did that exercise was I think two years ago, because it just sparked a big change. It sparked my mother’s sobriety, which changed our relationship, it sparked me separating from her, which changed my whole life in so many ways, and then we were able to rebuild our relationship after that.
[046:24] But now, we did this exercise yesterday with the group, and as they were doing it, I was just sitting to myself, I was like, “Huh, what is my defining moment now? What’s the latest thing that has shaped me that I can really pinpoint?” Because it’s not all the stuff that happened when I was little, and it’s not all the stuff that happened three years ago. Then it just occurred to me, the moment now that I sit with of my most defining moment, the moment that has shaped me into the person that I am, for the first time in my life, and I’ve been doing this sort of work forever, it’s a positive thing! (laugh) And I’ve never been able to pinpoint a positive experience. So, my most defining moment, the moment that has shaped me the most, is the birth of Lea Luna, the birth of my daughter. To be able to arrive at that and say, like, okay, a bunch of stuff has shaped me into the person that I am, and a lot of it has been traumatic and heavy and full of death and bull shit and abandonment and what not, but the BIGGEST thing of all, really, the biggest thing of all that really has left its mark in me, that really has shaped me into the person that I am, it’s on a plus. It’s a positive, and it’s the birth of my baby girl, 15 months ago.
[047:38] I had that realization in the middle of a session yesterday and it just … it hit me so deep, not just everything that I’ve learned and grown into since becoming a mom, because that … what a ride! But the fact that I get to sit with a positive thing now, for the first time in my life, I get to look back and the story that I tell about my life story, it’s not this negative thing anymore! It’s not this heavy weight that I carry around. It’s not these wounds that I’m, like, holding up to the world, like, “Please, please, don’t hurt me anymore!” It’s this totally different way of living in that my most defining thing, it’s this love. And I am tearing up now speaking this, because how fucking beautiful is that? I get to have love shape me now instead of death. I get to have birth shape me now instead of death. I had, you know, 28 years of feeling shaped by death, or feeling like all the growth I ever had, all the … everything I’ve ever arrived at has been through realizations from death and trauma. And now all of my growing, all of my learnings, all of my epiphanies, and yes, epiphanies are my favorite word, they’re coming to me from this place of total, pure love and birth. And this little beaming, being a light that’s just … that can be such a challenge. Oh my god, motherhood can be so hard. But it’s shaping me into this person that I am, and it’s happening through love, and I’m just so fucking grateful that I can sit and share that.
[049:19] And I shared that with the group yesterday and I was crying in front of the group, and it feels so good. Afterwards, I mean, it sounds like this totally daunting thing, to have fifty something people look at you while you talk and cry, but it’s … It’s the best thing there is. I wrote a little something on Instagram today about, you know, we tend to forget that crying is an actual bodily function. Not that I need to defend my need to cry or anything like that, I mean, I cry a lot. These days, I’m pretty good at it now, I used to be crap at it. But it’s a bodily function. Forcing ourselves not to cry is like forcing ourselves not to pee. (laugh) But somehow it’s this accepted thing. And then, you know, of course you become tense and then we start to harbor all of this sadness and all of this frustration and all of this fear instead of finding healthy ways to process it and let it out. And for me, I mean, it’s just the most disarming thing. Watching someone vulnerably, openly share their sadness or their past or their truth or their fears, there’s nothing more beautiful than that. It’s the most beautiful thing there is.
[050:27] So, you know, letting myself go to those places, it’s really hard sometimes. Especially when, yeah, I’m supposed to be the teacher and I’m Yoga Girl and people come because they find me through social media, and there can be this unrealistic expectation of I have to be a certain type of person. But I’m just a regular fucking normal human being with a beating heart that feels inadequate and insecure and fearful and worried and angry and all the shit that you feel every day. We all share that, all of us. All of us. And we need to just, I think, that practice of getting down from that place of having to fake it all the time, or having to keep our shit together all the time, or having to be this sort of person that we think people want us to be, or that people expect us to be. Just going with the flow of noticing what arrives and what’s here now, and then being able to sit with that and live that and breathe through that without being worried about people looking at you weird or judging you or not loving you or not supporting you, and just knowing that there’s people that have your back through that, and that the more vulnerable you are and the more real you are, the more beautiful you are, the easier it is to relate to you. The more lovely you are. That’s just a fundamental truth. Oh, I just …
[051:50] And I’m trying to … I’m trying to, I have a little something in the works. We are so close to releasing all of this secret stuff that I’ve been talking about for months now, and there’s a separate thing to this that involves bringing this type of work to the masses, and not having to rely on these types of groups or these kind of inaccessible things to get to work through our stuff, and also to get the tools of how can I take this and then go home to my family and apply it every day, and not just have it be a thing that I learned in teacher training or at a retreat or in a group or whatever, but how can I have this actually effectively change my life so that I can become better at dealing with stuff when it comes my way? And we are very close, actually, to something super bad ass that I think you guys are all going to be very very excited about, because these two things together, you know, healing the inside so that we can get out there and take action for people that don’t have the ability to do that healing work, like they need help with that, or maybe they need fundamental help with food on their plates and roof over their heads, you know, all of that before we can even start thinking about any other type of healing, how can we get out there and use the tools we have to provide and support for people in need? That’s just the question that we have to return to again and again and again. And have the difficult conversations, I mean really, really. To sit with our stuff and realize, okay, I’m privileged to do this, so how can I give back?
[053:23] If you’re listening to these words, you have the ability to do both of these things. One, you have the ability to heal yourself. You do. You do. To look at the hard stuff, to release yourself from the wounds and the baggage of your past, you have the ability to do that. Maybe you still need tools, or you need a supportive community, or you need a teacher, or you need something. But there’s so many resources out there, there is. And also, you have the ability, if you’re listening to these words, to do great things for people in need, I mean, you do. And I think, to me, these two things together, the inner work and the outer work, it’s a slam dunk, and I am dedicating the rest of my days to making, to spreading this and to making this real life. Yeah. And of course to continue to work with my own shit, because if I don’t do my own work, I can’t support anybody else with theirs, you know?
[054:14] But I envision, one day, a world filled with people, like, equipped to deal with our own. Equipped to deal with our own beating, messy, indecisive, vulnerable hearts so that we can, you know, look around us and just be better people and show up with love for everyone. One day, you guys. One day. I look at Lea Luna and I know that day isn’t so far. That day, it’s closer than we think, and there is definitely hope, and there is possibility and potential, I mean, it’s out there. I see it in her eyes. I’m like, damn she knows.
[054:56] So, on that note (laugh), um … Hmm. I’m just sending you so much love, so much love, so much love. And holding space for you, and if I can give you a little nudge, if there is anything that you’re sitting with right now, any sort of pain, any sort of struggle, sadness, depression, trauma, whatever it is, the one piece of mega important advice that I can give right now is to talk about it. Immediately, right now. Talk about it. Call a friend, call your mom, find a stranger on the bus, go see a therapist. Talk about it, talk about it. Let those … dust those old memories off that kind of shelf that you put them away long ago and let them see the light, and in the light, that shit, it’s not as scary as you think, I swear. It’s scarier when we put it in that dark corner. You know, we have to bring our stuff to light. You’ll realize, “Actually, okay, this sucks, it sucks that it happened to me, it sucks that this is what it is, it had to be my life, yeah. But you’re strong and you can move through it. That I promise.”
[056:11] Okay, I’m going to continue praying to the technology gods that we get our electricity back at some point, because we still don’t have any! And I’m sort of sweating my butt off here, right now. So, thank you, thank you, thank you for listening, for … hearing me ramble on about everything that just moves through my heart on any given week because damn, yeah, it’s a trip. (laugh) And I love you so much. Have a beautiful day and I’ll see you next week.
[End of Episode]
Transferwise – transferwise.com/podcast
Ziprecruiter – ziprecruiter.com/yoga
Daily Harvest – daily-harvest.com (promo code YOGAGIRL)
Quip – getquip.com/yogagirl