Anyone that has known me for over 2 years has probably noticed that I've changed a bit. And by a bit, I mean a lot. I transformed my party centric lifestyle, found Spirit, and connected with my unique purpose on this planet. I feel that I've just started to scratch the tip of the iceberg, but what I've experienced so far has been profound. I have a sense of wholeness, joy, and Self that is with me always. After my 1 month trip to Indonesia and starting a new role at work I've had more space to notice these shifts, and I attribute most of these shifts to the following 3 practices.
Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga
[for those unfamiliar with these words: Vinyasa = flowy, creative, faster paced yoga class that does not have a set sequence typically, or any set time commitment. Mysore Ashtanga = self led class with the same sequence every day. Serious practitioners practice 6 days a week for 2 hours every morning.]
Yoga teacher training (YTT) ripped me open, shook me out and then filled me in with Spirit. I learned about an entire world that was previously nonexistent to me. A world that is filled with wisdom and explanation about what our (human) purpose is on this planet. I started practicing Vinyasa yoga in college but didn't really get into it until my YTT 2 years ago. What I didn't realize when signing up for this training was that it was signing up for 4 months of deep self inquiry and study. It required me to dedicate time to learn about Yoga, which means Union, which means Union to your Divine Self. So, while I was hoping to get in there and master a handstand, I ended up diving deep into my soul which sparked an unending desire for Spirit within me.
Through my Vinyasa focused YTT I learned how to be creative, vulnerable, show up, commit to spiritual practices (which for me includes physical yoga) and trust in the Divine. I started teaching people yoga, which has been the most challenging and rewarding thing for me probably ever.
I started a Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice 2 months ago, and the biggest thing it has shown me is strength. Before Ashtanga I practiced yoga ~3-4 times a week, sometimes on my own, sometimes in a led class, and I ebbed in and out of having a consistent time that I practiced. Now I get up at 5:30, bike to the Shala by 6:15am, and practice for 1 hr and 45 minutes 4-5 days a week. This is the most physically exhausting practice I've ever experienced, but after 2 months of doing the same poses every day, I feel a huge increase in my energy levels, my physical stamina, endurance, strength and flexibility. When I get to my desk in the morning I feel focused, confident, solid, and happy.
Ashtanga has taught me that even on the mornings where I'm tired and don't think I can really do it today, as long as I can get there, start focusing on my breath and try, I CAN DO IT. I can do it every day. I am strong every day. I have mastered poses in 2 months that I couldn't even start to get into when I first started. Ashtanga has taught me how to get the fuck out of my head, and into my body; this has eased my suffering, and led me to act from a place of heart and body rather than react from my mind.
I should also note that my Ashtanga teacher is also my Somatic Therapist. Somatic therapy is a therapy focused on feeling your emotions and being guided by your body (which, in my opinion is the most needed thing to heal our society in it's current state). So, having a Yoga teacher who knows my strengths, fears, areas of weakness, and has taught me how to feel my feelings, has really helped. Somatic Therapy isn't listed as a separate category here; I see it as fully integrated with my Yoga practice.
Shamanism is the oldest practice that exists in the world. You could call it the first form of spirituality. Some form of Shamanism has been practiced in every culture on every continent. At it's core it's an Earth-centered practice, that involves accessing a Non-ordinary Reality to communicate with Spirit. In Shamanism, everything is intricately connected. Our decisions of where to plow a field for food affect everything else in the ecosystem. The teachings of Shamanism have been kept by many Indigenous tribes around the world, many in Peru and other South American countries. These tribes have started to share their knowledge so that it doesn't get lost, and also because our society really needs it. I believe we are getting to a point where more of us are experiencing awakenings and are open and able to hear the Shamanic teachings that can ultimately heal us and our planet.
Shamanism is a deep study of the earth, animals, and plants, and plant medicine is a big part of it. I've participated in 2 Cacao ceremonies, where we call on the spirit of the Cacao plant to guide us and heal us, and it has been incredibly transformative for me. In my first ceremony I released a lot of stored up physical tension and stress. In my 2nd ceremony the Cacao spirit took me on a beautiful journey through my past and my future, and I left with a greater sense of perspective and purpose in life. I saw a Shaman in Bali and she helped me cut energetic cords allowing me to release an experience that left me feeling manipulated, victimized and betrayed a little over a year ago.
Through these experiences and my own learning, I've discovered a part of myself that has been dormant for a long time. I come from a lineage of Curanderas, or Mexican healers, yet I haven't been able to connect with that part of myself until now. Shamanism is teaching me the healing powers of our Earth, how important it is to spend time in nature EVERY day, and to appreciate the beauty all around me. The Earth has so much wisdom to share, but we as a society have forgotten how to listen.
The only way I can write a post like this, that is sharing parts of myself that I haven't revealed to most people, is because of the love and support I have in my life. This love comes from of course my romantic relationship with my partner who while he may tease me about my Shaman powers, truly believes and supports me, and reflects a power and trust back to me that has been incredibly healing. This love also comes from all of the amazing friends, family, healers and acquaintances I am blessed to have in my life. My high school and college friends who I partied with, haven't really batted an eyelid about me being this new yogi spiritual woman. This new path has brought me amazing like-minded souls on my travels that remind me of the beauty and love that is within everyone on the planet.
The thing about love, though, is that it actually feels better and is more healing for me to give love, as long as I'm coming from a place of being fully nourished and supported in my own Self. I get so much joy from teaching my weekly Yoga class at work (volunteer), giving a present to a friend, and being the coworker that people can talk to about yoga and meditation and all that "stuff", that it's shown me what it truly means to serve others, I now understand that by helping myself be strong, happy, and balanced, I can help others find strength, balance and joy in their lives as well. :)