Monday, December 31, 2012

my one little word for the year - wholehearted

When you choose the word “wholehearted” at the beginning of the year you had no idea what it would entail. In your head you conjured up images and ways you would use your heart to guide you in your relationships, your work, your thoughts, and actions.
Sitting on the other side of the year, you see wholehearted also means brokenhearted.

For much of the year you sailed over smooth seas. Mama Alice moved through the year in health after putting the smack down on stage 4 cancer.
You did more of what you love, teaching and learning in beautiful locations. The Outer Banks (twice), Tulum, Mexico, Santa Cruz & California (three times!). You visited the beach with BFF and Asheville in the winter and fall. You made a commitment to spending your time, energy, and money in ways that moved your whole heart.
You led filled to the brim, sold out retreats at Shaker Village and Tulum. And did more of what you love love love by leading yoga teacher training in Corolla and Sonoma.

You spent lots of time with your mentor friend soul sister in Santa Cruz and finished your life coaching training. After years of wanting a spiritual teacher and actually giving up on finding one, you found just that, a teacher that resonated with your whole heart. Jenn Lee interviews you on her Business Summit.
You dreamed up a new website, a way to expand your teaching in the world. You declared yourself a yoga teacher, life coach, and spiritual hillbilly. You especially love the spiritual hillbilly part. Then you worked with Alexandra Franzen on a new website that you were giddy about.

On June 25 you got the biggest, sweetest surprise of your life when you saw two lines on a pregnancy test. You lay on the bed with your husband and went out for Mexican food. You sat there eating; chatting, living life knowing your world has totally changed with those two pink lines.  After years of never knowing if this would happen, it was, and you were ecstatic. You felt like your life was starting all over again. Fresh. New. You thought that anything is possible. You felt that with your whole heart.
On September 6 your life changed. You drove to your husband’s school, his place of work to tell him his father is dead. You sob and drive and try to find your way… the school, to the unimaginable words you’ll have to speak to him. Your heart is breaking. His heart is breaking. Hearts are breaking.

One week later you fly to Sonoma for the first of 16 days. During the day you teach students the intricacies of triangle pose and truthfulness (satya). In the evening you call grief counselors and massage therapists. You try anything to console your husband from afar. You lay in bed at night, rubbing your belly, counting down the days, the moments till you will be back with your husband.  Your whole heart is a broken heart.
You arrive home late. It’s a Sunday. September 30.  You finally rest in the arms of your Love. Together, you rub your belly. The next day we learn yogababy is a boy. The first thing you ask your midwife is, “Is he ok?” She says “He’s good, there’s just one small thing.”  You stop hearing what she says and you weep. Actually, you sob.

One week later, October 9, your baby is dead. They have a wheelchair for you to take you to labor and delivery. You refuse. You walk through the doors and read the words “Labor & Delivery”. You are numb. You wonder if this is really happening. You pray it’s a bad dream and you try to wake up.
It’s not and you can’t. But you go on. One day at a time. You get by with each breath.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
You relish moments of peace. They are few and far in between. Yet they come. And you know that healing will come. It has to. It must. You won’t accept anything different, any less.

You take healing trips - one with Andy alone, one with your family, then a major healing trip at Christmas. You find a day here and there were there are no tears.

The heaviness is lifting, the fog dissipating, the joy returning. You’ll live. You’ll love. You'll grow. You'll learn. You'll teach. You believe with your whole heart.

Brene Brown has inspired me so with this idea of wholehearted living. She says,

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night and thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.
At the beginning of the year, I had no idea what this really meant.  I wanted to live wholeheartedly, but I wanted to do it on my terms. Don’t we all? I wanted to it be pretty and perfect. I knew there would be times of imperfection, but I wanted to know when to anticipate them. Then I’d be equipped. I’d do what I do so well…. set an intention, make a plan, roll up my sleeves and get to work.

But then you suffer two major losses in one month. Two surprising, shocking losses that you could never anticipate, never plan.  The blows come hard and you fall to your knees. Your days look like this….
Weep. Sob. Rage. Repeat.

You struggle to see your worth outside of being an entrepreneur and inspiring and motivating others through yoga.  You have no plan. Your new coaching site sits there unfinished.  You feel fat and empty. Death becomes your new best friend and you wear sorrow like your favorite sweater.

Then one day you realize this is it. You are stubborn, hardheaded, but you are learning.

This is where wholehearted living begins. Right here, right now, with all the questions and the state of imperfection.

It’s enough to just get through the day. You are worthy.
It’s ok that you’ve put on weight. You are beautiful.

Your goal was to get through that class without breaking down. It’s enough.

You are allowed to sit at your table and make an art journal for your dead son on a workday. You have permission.
You can be brave and uncomfortable and sad and happy on the same day. At the same moment if it’s needed. You belong.

So this is what I’ve learned and continuing to learn about that one little word I started the year with. These are the questions I’m living into:
How can I embrace wholehearted living during all of life’s ups and downs?

Can I feel my worthiness when my passions and purpose hide like the sun on a cloudy day?
Can I live and love with my whole heart, even when I feel out of control?

I know I will. I’ll continue. Try my best. Do my work while looking in and looking up.
And looking forward to a new year. I'm ready. May the Universe bring it with softness, ease, and joy.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

mini Christmas moments

Ahhhhmazing sunset

Luke and his seashells

Nico's name in the sand

Sunset on the left moon rising on the right

Joe. We miss him so.

Mine & Andy's gift to Mama JoAnn. Joe's signature from 40th anniversary card made into necklace.

Tessandori tradition, Chirstmas Eve jammies. Note the boys rivalry.

A wee one all tuckered out and a big one gearing up.

Bedtime book story.

Dauphin Island exploration.

Decorating the tree with Lala

Car loaded with gifts + goodies

Self portraits by the sea

John & JoAnn

Favorite present (birds = Nico)

Andy and I found these huge seashells that became part of our altar.

Birds that remind me of Nico's presence
Mini moments of laughter
Mini moments of healing
Mini moments of sorrow
Mini moments of bonding
Mini moments of surprise
Landing back at home from a week at the beach with family
where we
stuffed the car and stuffed ourselves with cinnamon rolls
wrote names of loved ones
lost ones
in the sand.
Decorated a cheap tree
drank expensive wine
Lived out old traditions
and created new ones too
A recording of Joe reading
A Night Before Christmas
little ones, big ones
donning Christmas Eve jammies
Exchanged gifts with a smile on our face
tears in our eyes.
Catchphrase for the big kids
Mariocart for the lil and big kids
searched for seashells
sang Silent Night
watched the sun set
and walked under the moon.
Remembered Joe & Nico with
candles and ashes
and "you'll shoot your eye out" t-shirt
Whispered prayers to the wind
let our worries wash out to the sea
Felt sadness in the air
while creating space for
hope & joy.
As the year is drawing to a close I'm holding close to me the the mini many moments of healing and joy from the past week. Feeling deep gratitude that we had this week to simply be together on a beautiful island.
Hoping you can take a moment
take a breath
and revisit all that was and is your holiday season.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

gift from the sea

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”  ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Yesterday evening I stood at the waters edge and witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen. It was simply amazing. It's the photo directly above these words. The one with varying shades of orange, pink, blue, black, and white.
I've been blessed to visit with the ocean and sea seven times this year. Truly a gift for an ocean loving landlocked Kentucky girl. The pictures above are from my visits to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
I've gotten the best of both worlds....some trips were purely for fun and pleasure, some were for work, some were a combination of both.
I can't pick a favorite, but this trip I'm on now feels very poignant for many reasons.
The ocean is a place of miracles for me. I stand at the edge of water and it's hard for me to believe that such beauty exists in the world. After losing so much this season, I am slowly finding myself with each walk and each wave that washes to the shore. Each sunset whispers something new to my soul and helps me to feel connected to the loved ones we've lost.
This is the most precious gift of all this Christmas season, the most prized gift from the sea.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

saving grace

Little moments they come and go, sweep away the heaviness of my heart, and save me daily. Thank you grace.
Thank you for healing trips to the mountains. Time to heal alongside Andy. Time with my family and amazing views of the mountains. A Christmas trip to the beach with family. Wishing, hoping, praying for more healing.
Thank you for that sweet dog that came to us on my birthday, just two weeks before we got pregnant. Nico has left my belly yet he remains in my heart and I think of him each time I snuggle Zoe close.
Thank you for the option of staying close to home. For sitting at our table, crying while I cut ultrasound pictures and paste them into an art journal. For sipping hot tea and looking out the window while the world passes by. All on Monday, a workday.
Thank you for quiet mornings in a cozy bed. Hot liquid goodness that lifts my spirits. Sleeping dogs. Rilke poetry and the way it makes me feel normal when he speaks so intimately of death. Putting pen to paper and writing letters to Nico.
Thank you for friends. The one who understands why I can't hold her newborn baby right now. The one that gifts me with the words by Mary Oliver. The one that sends me a video of her singing "O Holy Night" and reads to me, "I want to fly" and I bust out in a fit of laughter. The far away long ago friend that sends a candle that I light each night in honor of Nico. The one that supports all of me and helps me to see I get to choose my truth.
Thank you for the late evening walks in the cemetery with Andy, the dogs, the moon, and the stars.
Thank you for inspiration. And action.
Thank you for books and words and emails that soothe my soul and awaken joy.
Thank you for the treehouse that embraces me like a warm hug each time I enter. For the students who bring themselves and their All to our classes. For the teachers who are beyond a doubt the best, most dedicated, most wonderful people I could ever hope for.
Thank for the light of candles, the sparkle of the trees. Santa on a sleigh. Buying the perfect gift. The painted bird from India. An ornament with Nico's name hanging on the tree. Frank Sinatra holiday music and mexi mocha hot chocolate.
Thank you for the student who writes an email that sings like a song. And the one who sends an Oscar the Grouch poem that speaks of "broken and beautiful, fractured and rare, missing pieces that used to be there."
Thank you for a husband that loves me when I sob, weep, and rage. And when I dance, laugh, and love.
Thank you Yoga, for keeping me deeply connected to my head and my heart. For being patient, waiting, staying with me while I do this work. For willing back to the now.  For stretching my body and my heart. And helping me to love wide open.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Saving Grace.

Monday, December 17, 2012

be gentle

I consider myself blessed  beyond measure to have awesome, wise, wholehearted, and compassionate teachers around me at Barefoot Works. Meredith Swim hits it outta the yoga ballpark with this one. Grab a cuppa hot liquid goodness and savor these words.
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

This beloved line from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata gently guides me back to Self. Posted on the inside of my bedroom door (and for good reason), I catch snippets of the poem as I go about my day. Each time I read the line above, I am reawakened to its wisdom. The mental chatter dissolves as I take a conscious breath and I ground into the Present. I become aware of the emotional tension I’m holding in my shoulders, the anxiety grabbing my belly, and a tightness constricting my flow of my breath. My thoughts are a running wheel of negativity.
Be Gentle, the poem soothes. These past few months I’ve tried to be more compassionate toward myself, but just as Ehrmann advices it takes discipline to be gentle and kind to myself.

My Inner Critic (“Glee” fans, envision Sue Sylvester in the role) enjoys belittling my moments of triumph and amplifying my Bridget Jones mess-ups, such as referring to sequin skirts as sequence skirts in an email to a fashionista friend. “And you call yourself an English minor,” Sue sneers.

Cultivating compassion is not as sweet and rosy as I thought it once sounded. Instead of repressing the negative thought and replacing it with a cheery one, the Art of Compassion encourages me to greet the thought and deconstruct the threads of that misperception.

Similar to peeling back an onion, this unveiling process reveals old thought patterns and beliefs I’ve been harboring about my body and my personal worth. Sue’s voice sounds crueler and I can get easily believe in the unleashing of insecurities I’ve been holding onto since middle school (dang! I thought I was passed all that!!).

Here the real test begins and so does the genuine healing. I express compassion to the part of me that is self-conscious about my physical flaws. “Of course,” says the voice of Compassion (featuring Louise Hay, my favorite motivational healer), “in this competitive culture where you are constantly bombarded by images of perfected women how could you not be self-conscious about those scars on your legs?”
When I find my thoughts are self-sabotaging my personal worth, I travel back to the first time in elementary school I felt that pain. This journey to my fifth grade self is difficult. At times, I simply don’t want to revisit the memories, but that’s all the more reason to do so. I arrive to my Harry Potter loving fifth grade self and I tell her she’s worthy all happiness and greatness and that she is perfectly adequate. Her healing is my 22 year old self’s healing. So when I see that cute guy at the coffee shop I can feel truly worthy of his Ryan Gosling like smile (legit ;).

Max Ehrmann must have understood the inner Sue Sylvester to write, Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. Practicing compassion toward yourself takes discipline, but it’s a discipline that frees yourself from the baggage of unnecessary negativity and thus, invites greater empathy for others into your heart.
So, as the holiday rush arrives, may you, sweet Yogis and blog visitors, be gentle with yourselves. Remember you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; You have a right to be here. And you have every right to hold yourself in a compassionate light. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

the possibility of words

Just when I didn't think I coud adore Misty Pittman any more....she goes and woos me with her words. Inspiring thing she is....Enjoy Friends & Yogis.
Words sure are a funny little thing.
I’m ending this month by reflecting on the past year, on all the great moments and not so great moments. I’ve celebrated. I’ve let go. And now I’m giving thanks. I would like to share with you one of the funny little things I am thankful for, for it has helped lead me to exactly where I am today.
Who here has read this blog, word for word, beginning to present? Is that a weird thing to do? ‘Cause that is exactly what I did about 2 ½ years ago. I can’t remember how it started. I had taken classes at Barefoot Works, back when it was a teeny, tiny studio across the road. At this particular time, though, I was not a student and it had been a couple years since I had stepped foot on my yoga mat. Somehow I started reading Sharon’s blog. I read it the way some people read gossip magazines. I was hooked and would sit on the couch and scroll from entry to entry on my BlackBerry. I would sit at stoplights and speed read through the next story.
It could have been anyone’s blog. I didn’t know the author personally. I was enamored with the little life I saw being carved out for this person. And I was excited. Excited because I started to envision so much possibility for my own life. Here was this regular ol’ gal from the mountains of Kentucky, chasing her dreams, and living to tell the tale. My rogue free spirit was hooked. Life started to roll.
One persons public journal led me on a journey I didn't think was possible.
So what happened? Well, my husband called Sharon, purchased a month of yoga classes for me, and told her about my little blog reading obsession. I was mortified, btw.
I started exploring yoga in a much deeper way then I was used to and I was in love. I was sure I wanted to teach yoga. I had dreamed of it for a long time, along with being a massage therapist, bookstore owner, and seller of homemade tomato sauce at the farmer’s market. In essence, I dream of being self-employed.
I put off a teacher training opportunity. And then another. And then another. Many excuses, many reasons. I was getting ready to put off another, sure that it was impossible. Somehow it wasn’t. Even after sending my confirmation email, I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. Cold feet? Big time.
Fast forward and now I’m teaching yoga classes. With real yoga students. I’m slowly conquering my biggest fear (public speaking) and my confidence is growing daily. I see myself in a whole new light.
And this blog that I am so thankful for? I still read it faithfully. And I even get to guest post from time to time.
Words sure are a funny little thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

mr. sparkle

This morning I left the studio to come to Coffee Times (this seems to be a trend with my stories) as it is my second office.

As I turned left onto New Circle, a bright eyed, bushy tailed man was standing was his sign. His sign of for our local car wash, Mr. Sparkle. This morning he was bundled up in a coat and hot as cold temps have descended upon us here in Lexington. Yet he waved, smiled, and enthusiastically gave me a big thumbs up.

I see him every time I drive to and from the studio. In the summer when it's warm I have my windows down and I'm donning my pink Hello Kitty sunglasses, he yells..."I love your sunglasses!"

No matter the season.
No matter the time.
No matter the temperature.

He greets me from such a place of goodness. It most always lifts my heart. Places a smile on my face even on a hard day and I think of how special I must be.

Maybe it's the sun glasses?

That thought quickly fades and I realize that every single person that drives past him probably feels special. Because that's just what he does.

It's his job to stand out, to make people feel good enough as they drive by that they come back and get their car spiffed up.

I could never ever never ever do what this Mr. Sparkle does. I would be sitting cross legged on the sidewalk quietly reading Mary Oliver out loud. I would look up and make eye contact with the passerbys. Maybe "namaste" them.

They would never come to my car wash.

I could play Michael Franti on the sidewalk and dance with wild abandon, another thing I love to do. This would draw more attention. Maybe attracting more peeps to my carwash.

Maybe not cause another key ingredient is seriously lacking....


Yep, I have absolutely no desire to do this. BUT Mr. Sparkle, he does. He rocks this game.

I realize once again how we all have skills, abilities, and innate ways of Being that simple set us apart from the other Mr. Sparkles. Then when we have the desire to go along, magic happens.

Part of our job in Life is finding the things that we feel so magnetically drawn to that we can't resist it. And when we do? It's like a master key that so magically unlocks our heart revealing our own sparkle.

It's true, I do believe that one million people can do the same job and do it differently at the same time. In fact, I think when we're encouraged to do it different, to do it "my" way....we shine a little brighter.

We sparkle.
We feel good.
And when we sparkle and feel good, we light the way for others to shine.
We reach hearts.

That's pretty amazing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

the sacred pause

I drove to the coffee shop full of angst. I knew the time would come when I have to utter the words “I lost my baby.” I stepped up to the counter and ordered a soy latte. “Oh, you’re drinking caffeine. Is your baby already here?” asked the barista enthusiastically.
Her enthusiasm immediately met my sadness as I stood there and spilled out some words about him being gone.
I quickly escaped to the bathroom where I stood looking at myself. I took a picture to remind myself that I was still breathing, still living.
This time was a moment to literally catch my breath. It was a time and a place for me to breathe and be with all that I was feeling.
It was a sacred pause.
In every yoga class I teach I have students come back to mountain pose numerous times to take a conscious sacred pause. It’s a time to regroup, recenter, come back to stillness, and access feelings in the moment.
In the moment I’m living my life in this container of the sacred pause. At this point in the year I’d normally have 2013 mapped out. I’d have unearthed new dreams for the New Year.  My planner would be filled with all things work related….retreats by the beach, yoga teacher trainings in faraway places, workshops and trainings I wanted to participate in. In true Sharon fashion, it would have exclamation points by trips and random stickers placed on special dates.
I bought a planner for 2013 but it remains mostly empty. I’ve hit the pause button.
My coaching website is nearly finished. All it lacks is a few finishing touches. I’ve hit the pause button.
Healing, connecting with Andy, and planting seeds for joy, hope, peace, and possibility are taking up my time and attention. This was not my original intention after losing baby Nico.
Part of me so desperately wanted to get back to get back to my life as I knew it. I wanted to get far away from my feelings and experience of loss. I wanted to busy myself. I wanted to get back to planning, mapping, corralling, and controlling my life. Not having a professional goal I’m diligently working towards makes me nervous, very uneasy.
Yet some part of me knows the only choice is to let it all go. I must live and dwell in this place of chaos, uncertainty, ongoing questions, and lingering sadness and trust that it’s lifting me to a better understanding of myself and my life.
It’s not easy. I fight it most days. It’s messy and it’s extremely hard work for me.
Tara Brach defines a pause in a way that deeply resonates with me. She says, “a pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving toward any goal.”
I’m also thinking of this in terms of the holiday season, a time that can be overscheduled and leave us feeling frantic and exhausted.
I’m wondering where the sacred pauses are for all of us in the season. Those of us that are dealing with loss and sadness as well as those celebrating a bang up of a year.
Before taking a drink of my soy latte I pause and smell, relishing the delicious scent.
Before opening a work email, I take a deep breath.
At night Andy and I light three candles on our mantle. One for Joe (my amazing father-in-law), one for Nico, and the unity candle from mine and Andy's wedding. We pause and say a prayer.
I pause during meditation and take note of my thoughts.
I pause on a walk and connect to the peace I feel, as well as the sadness.
I pause and make a wish on a star at night.
I pause during a conversation with a sweet friend and rest in quiet still space.
To do all of this and be truly in the moment, without any expectation, without strategizing, without working towards any goal is worthy of time.
It’s praise worthy.
And possible it just might save our soul this holiday season.

Monday, December 10, 2012

yogis year end ritual


I had such a fun time with these awesome women on Saturday. I love that it looks like part party and part yoga. There was lots of merry making mixed in with many contemplative moments.
There was bubble blowing, hula hooping, dress up + photographing, restorative yoga (forward bend, hips and backbends), and questions geared towards the past, present, and future.
It was five hours that flew by that left me feeling grateful for the work I get to do and the people I get to work with.
It's times like this, when I'm wrapped in the cocoon of the treehouse with yogis who so openly share their thoughts, hopes, hardships, joys, and questions with me that I feel so full. So satisfied.
They. Are. The. Best.
I just received these words from one of the awesomes:
The year-end ritual was…a much needed opportunity to reflect and refocus. I know that it is so important to do something like this, yet I also knew that unless I actually committed to attending the workshop, I probably wouldn’t have made the time for myself. I think that the blend of focused time reflecting and writing, along with the time on the mat and the time we spent being lighthearted, and sharing our experiences was perfect, simply perfect. Since the workshop I have felt much more grounded, full of gratitude, and excited to embrace the holidays and the end of 2012 - as well as look forward to welcoming 2013 and all the experiences that I am eager to have. Sharon, you held such a thought-full space for each of us. Thank you for your gentle guidance and brave spirit.
That's me.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

good for the soul

with the family.
Cooking, making, baking
homemade pie crusts
Sun slipping down
mimosas in the hot tub.
Sun bathing
on the porch with smut
and pillow blanket fort.

Margarita making
Basketball watching
Pacman playing
Book reading
Pool sharks sharking.

Pecan pie and coffee
rocking chair
and sun in my face
rising over Smoky Mountains.

Thank you Family.
Thank you Sun.
Thank you Smokies.

Shaking and waking my sleepy sorrow soul.