Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My body. My mountain. My breath. My life.

This is the best I’ve got today, mountain pose. Some of you see me upside down, in warrior poses or eka pada what the what?? But today I stand tall in mountain. And today that’s all that matters…Standing. Tall.(Ha! All 5’2” of me!) As is. In my body. My mountain. My breath. My life. This is my body. I have all parts. You see them, I have two arms, two legs, a head screwed on pretty loosely most of the time. I have every finger and every toe, including my big Fred Flintstone. Lol! Have I ever been on a diet? Yup. After I had mono is high school, I lost a bunch of weight. But once I could eat I ate bags of almond joys. Yup, bags. I cried to my mom. So what did I do? I followed her weight watchers diet. Because who's mom wasn’t on weight watchers? WHO wasn’t on weight watchers? Have I ever taken a laxative, yup. Diuretic? Yup. Restricted my eating? Yup. Overate? Yup. Binged and purged? Yup. Worked out too much, too little? Yup. ALL OF IT. I’ve never been in treatment. Why? I am not sure. I’ve managed to “control” it. Make it “look” good. So after being blessed with angels in my life I’ve learned. It’s not about the food. It’s not about being thin. It’s about so much, so much more. It’s about control, protection, truth or not honoring the truth, its about stuffing and repressing, suppressing, it’s about self confidence or lack there of, self esteem and self worth. These are things I continue to work on every single day. I forgive myself when I falter and begin again. 

I do believe that our true essence is not our body. That our true essence of being, the I AM, the SO HUM, the divinity within us, the authentic self isn’t to be seen but to be felt, embraced and loved. This requires connection. Within ourselves first. I use the body to tune in. I start simple, with my breath. I breathe in. I breathe out. Breath is life, prana, energy. I feel my chest rise and fall with each breath. Then I tap into each sense. I can’t say for sure that without this body I could do that. I see, I smell, I taste and I hear. I touch. Through the body I can experience the senses. I can remember the pain of falling off my moms bike and getting stitches. I can remember the pain of bearing children. I, too remember the sweet smell of my babies skin. I revel in the sight of a sunrise or full moon at night. I can taste my moms stuffed artichokes in my mouth or hot out of the oven NJ pizza. And I am grateful for all these experiences. Only through this great, magnificent body. Don’t get me wrong, I would be lying if I said I didn’t care what I looked like. I take care of myself the best that I can. I try to eat “right” and move my body in some way everyday. I roll out my mat and am grateful for every movement, every pose, every breath, even every thought (my mind is working.) I am grateful for the body I am in today and all that it does for me. And at the end of a yoga (asana) practice I am grateful to rest and nurture this body so it can serve its purpose again and again. To love and serve the best I can the best I know how. 

Now, as my body shows signs of aging with wrinkles and grey strands of hair it teaches me that nothing, nothing remains the same. We can not stop time. And my answer to happiness is wholeness. Loving the whole package. The experiences, the wrinkles, the scars, the grey hairs the extra weight. We certainly can alter our appearance through surgery, or how much or how little we eat but this can not change the beauty of whats on the inside. ALL that’s on the inside, the suffering AND the joy. It’s all amazing. It’s all beautiful. For every experience I say thank you. For every amazing moment and person and teacher in my life I say thank you. For this body, this vehicle, this instrument of mine, I say thank you. Thank you, God for giving me the miracle of life as a human being. I pray I continue to use this body, this voice, this mind, this heart to serve and to love. I hope we all can recognize and truly feel that we are enough, we are confident, we are capable, we are strong and we are beautiful. We are bodies. We are mountains. We are breath. We are life. We are perfect just the way we are. Imperfect. As is.

This year's Thanksgiving day class donations support The Embody Love Movement founded by my friend, Melody Moore, Ph.D., RYT who says, “ Everyone on earth has a right to be here, a right to be seen and heard, and a right to be completely loved. When we value who we are, we value everyone around us just as much.”  The Embody Love Movement’s mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness, and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Thank you for all your donations!

I wish you and your families a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. Even with all of the suffering in the world I believe that most people are good and that there is so much to be grateful for. God bless you.

love and so much gratitude,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"You did good."

"You did good."

3 little words I received today from a complete stranger.

So I decided to take a short trip over to Cougar Country today! Sounds thrilling, huh? Well it is. It’s the home of the Cranford Cougar football team, track stars, soccer team, field hockey team, lacrosse players, baseball stars and I’m sure other athletics that my brain can’t think of right now. I went on this journey today to simply change it up; my daily routine and for no other reason. So I pulled up, parked my car (next time I will ride my bike…not sure why I didn’t do that to begin with), plugged my ears with some good old trash music and off I went on my journey. My feet hit the track and before I knew it, I became one of them. Today I was an athlete. I ran the track with all intentions of counting the laps and then I would move on to steps. But that’s not how the rest of my time in Cougar Country played out. Almost immediately an older gentleman and I caught each others eyes and we at first just smiled at each other. Already I was feeling safe, good and happy. What a smile can do. So of course, before I knew it, I completely lost track of lap counts and was simply enjoying my freedom. I’m not really a tracker by nature. I do things for the pure enjoyment and experience. It was a beautiful, crisp morning and right about at this point I was so grateful that I came. So around lap #3, Mr. older Gentelman….let’s call him Grandpa said, “A beautiful Day!” I pumped my fist in the air cheering him on too and agreed saying, “Yes, it is!” Next lap, Grandpa (and I say this with the utmost respect and with a tear in my eye because I didn’t grow up with a grandfather. My Dad’s father passed away before I was born and my Mom’s father passed when I was 3yrs old.) says, (this time I take my ear bud out),

“You did good.”

I nearly cried. My life flashed before me as if he were my grandpas from heaven above looking down on me saying, “You did good.”  As if I ran the fastest race in my life, as if I won the state championship, as if I won The Heisman! But instead I just won. Nothing. No trophy. Nothing to take home. No speeches to make. But I won. Today I was the champion of Cougar Country. I was honored the “You did good” award. And for that I thank you, Grandpee and Dziadzia.

So change it up, go for a walk down the road less traveled, drive a different route, take a new job, run, walk, practice yoga, climb a tree, go to a different grocery store. I don’t care, but truly enjoy the moment. Enjoy the beautiful human beings around us. You just never know what you will be awarded. But let me know when you win that grand prize because I want to be the first to hear your acceptance speech.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Want to Play Pretend?

If you told a little girl to pretend, what might she pretend to be? A ballerina, a movie star, a fish or mermaid in the ocean, a queen for a day? And I have no doubt she would pretend to be a princess. I know I would.

I find myself sitting on the bus in India from Delhi to Agra catching up on some documentaries to prep me for this upcoming trip. To “prepare” me for what I am about to witness in real life, not on TV, 60 minutes or dateline.

So I close my eyes and pretend. Only I don’t pretend to be a rock star or even a princess. I pretend to be a prostitute. I pretend to be 8, only I’m not dancing in my ballet class. It’s someone else who is dancing on me….in me. I pretend to be bought and sold. I pretend to be beaten, kicked, stabbed and bruised only to be thrown back into the fire to be fucked again and again and again and again. Because that is what this is, fucking. Fucking me over and over and over again.

I pretend to be called a worthless whore, useless and good for only one thing…the hole between my legs.

I pretend to not know how to read and write. I pretend to be born into a cast system where I am at the bottom of the well with no rope, no bucket to help me out…never mind to the top. I pretend to go to the police only to look into the eyes of the monster who was on top of me, inside of me yesterday. I pretend to have HIV. I pretend to be dirty, hungry, poor and sick. I pretend to be high, drunk or disoriented because someone drugged me, forced me to drink something or punched me too hard. I pretend to be an alcoholic or an addict because I simply can’t bear the pain.

Have I said enough or do I need to say more to describe my dark, sick imagination? I pretend to be all these things because I cant seem to find any other way to put myself in the shoes of a sex slave. I acknowledge the feeling in my stomach, the knot in my throat, the clench in my jar. The hole, not between my legs but in my heart. The coldness in my eyes. The nothingness in my soul. Because that is what I am. Empty. Worthless. Well, not according to my pimp or madam. But to me, I’m worthless.

I sit here on this bus still with my eyes closed in my pretend world because this is the only way I can teach myself non-judgment and empathy right now. But in my pretend world, I pray.

In prayer I ask. No, I beg God to please please explain his plan for me. I ask him if this is what is intended for me, what he wants for me or has the devil won this time? Dare I ask WHY when I am supposed to trust in the Lord? If one believes that God is in all of us, am I a sacrifice to save others? Am I the darkness so there can be light? Dear God, show me the way, the light at the end of the tunnel, the truth because I can’t bear the pain a second longer.

I open my eyes.

Your turn.

Want to play pretend?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 8 - Spellbound!

Today was Carnival! Carnival in Haiti is bustling with colors and sounds, and nowhere are those colors more vivid than in the Southern seaside town of Jacmel. The city’s paper mache artisans design new costumes every year for the parade: devils, dinosaurs, animals, buildings… and politicians!

Traditionally the costumes are making fun of the political figures, corporations and the man; policemen, bankers. During the day we walked around and saw the paper mache masks and costumes. What I loved was that this was not hidden. No surprises. The artisans are proud to share their work. We were able to see the artisans at work and then later see them in the parade…like a show.

Carnival is like Mardi Gras; that’s what people say since I haven’t been yet, whether it be funny or scary, carnival-goers become spellbound. Throughout the day and night, we immersed ourselves in magical, other times burlesque, whim-sical and even the devilish world of Jacmel’s Mardi-Gras.

During the day we watched the parade from the street outside the restaurant we ate at and at times came inside the restaurant gate to chill out or to run from the scary scene. Other times we jumped right into the parade with the participants to sing, dance or act out with them! Some of us went up to the balcony to watch from afar. This view felt exciting, exhilarating and safe. During this time up top, there was one fight that broke out but all was well once authorities came to help break it up.

In the evening some of us went back for the nightlife. If you don’t mind sweaty bodies, an incredibly large crowd and loud music with thousands of people swaying in unison then you would love the thrill of Carnival at night! At one point I closed my eyes and I could have been anywhere. I could have been in a NYC nightclub but instead I was here in the streets of Jacmel with the Haitian community celebrating a European tradition from medieval times.

It was a thrilling day today in Jacmel! How magical that we were here for Carnival!! But then again, it’s been magic since we stepped foot off the plane onto Haitian soil. At Carnival we were spellbound!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 7 - Bright Blue Inside and Out

Today was spent back at ACFFC. We split up into four groups. I chose to go with the group to paint a house that the Art Foundation has built for one of the student’s family. We traveled down a path and around a bend to find a 16x16 plywood structure that would soon be home to a family of 9. Yes, NINE! All of their belongings were outside the house waiting to find their home inside the house once painting was done. Some friends from ACFFC already started painting. We jumped right in with rollers and paint brushes. We were painting the house a bright blue color inside and out. No decisions would be made about which color to paint which room since it is only one room. As we started to paint I was reminded that just a couple months back my three children picked out colors for their rooms. Alex picked purple, Luke picked red for the Devils hockey team and Emma Grace picked a bright teal blue. Since Alex and Emma Grace share a room, how lucky are they to have two walls purple and two walls teal blue! If I hadn’t painting this house, I probably never would have thought twice about flipping through the Benjamin Moore samples to pick out paint colors. Not only to pick colors for one room but for multiple rooms. How lucky are we to be able to do this and enjoy the process of decorating.

Throughout our time painting there was this adorable little girl playing peek-a-boo with us from time to time. She simply enjoyed watching us. She was in the space next to us. (Generally I would say in the yard next door but it wasn’t really a yard.) Nothing to do, no soccer game to play, no dance lesson to go to, no birthday party to go to. Just hanging around watching us paint. It was sweet. I think there was maybe a dog, some chickens and a pig in the little yard with her. Yup!

While I was painting this “house” I couldn’t help but again feel like why do some people have so much and some have nothing or VERY little? Nine people will live in this 16x16 plywood room soon to be called house and home. No electricity, no running water, no carpeting or throw rug, no couch to hang out on to watch TV. Let me take a mental inventory of how many couches and TVs I have in my house. Well, right now one couch and 4 TVs. It simply baffles my mind. I feel like I have been sheltered from the world. Why did it take me till I am 40 years old to open my eyes and open my heart? I hope and pray that I go home and I remember every moment of this trip and remember ever stoke of paint I painted on that plywood. I hope and pray that I raise my children to be open to everything and everyone in this world. I don’t want to close my eyes anymore. Now that I know, now that I have bare witness I have no choice but to make some changes in myself and in the way I choose to live my life. In turn I hope and pray that my children learn from me. How can I not try to make a difference?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 6 - Djina (Gina in Creole)

Today was a ton of fun! And I am feeling soooooo much better. I got up, showered my body and actually practiced in the morning with the group. I just remember Laura (you know who you are) telling me that some people get sick around their birthdays which I know holds true for me this time of year BUT I didn’t want to think about it since I was going to be in Haiti! So my body went through a sweet detox, cleanse and purge. Well, maybe not so sweet but boy did I purge.

After breakfast we went to the Art Creation Foundation For Children(ACFFC). This center works with about 100 street children to enroll them in school, provide nutritional meals and teach them art therapy methods. We worked on a mosaic project that the children have started to beautify Jacmel. We worked on the bench outside which just looks amazing! I can’t wait to do this project at home, (Karen)!!! Then we went down by the water to work on another larger bench by an already beautiful mosaic wall that the kids have been working on. Afterwards, we walked the streets of Jacmel. It is much more calm here than Port au Prince. I’ve never been to New Orleans (yet) but the streets here reminded the group of New Orleans. Just such neat architecture and doorways and colors and TRUE patina. Although old and still poor (looking) the energy surrounding this place is just so rich! Wait till you see my pictures. And by the water it was like Pirates of the Caribbean. Yup, felt just like out of the movie.

Mostly, I loved getting my hands in the cement and working with the children. They taught me how to mosaic. Quite honestly, although we dropped off our donations and have made a contribution to the foundation, it’s me who comes out the one who is learning. It was really funny how the kids would just shake us off if we were cutting the tiles wrong or putting the cement on wrong. In the end, we worked together and the project looks awesome!! I hope one day your travels bring you to tour the mosaic wall and bench of Jacmel!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 5 - Long Road to Jacmel

Today sucked! I woke up with diarrhea and vomiting. Puked the entire 3 hours to Jacmel through the windy, mountains. Now taking Cipro! I spent the day in the hotel trying to sleep. Wish me luck!