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Finding Inner Independence on Independence Day

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Don’t let this picture fool you: I’m not exactly what one would call “patriotic.” In fact, I’ve spent the better part of the last two years out of the country than in it (the U.S., that is). But I was scheduled to teach this morning at Yoga Nanda in Garden City, and today being the Fourth of July, I was thinking about how I could tie in a theme that would sync up the national holiday with some sort of yogic message.

So I was thinking about Independence Day and what that means. Before we ever got to the Revolutionary War, the pilgrims made their way across the pond because they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Wanting to practice what they believed in, they set sail to find a new home where they could practice in peace. Eventually more and more settlers followed suit, looking to this land for a fresh start, to be free from their past and the governments and rules that didn’t bode well with them. Sure, some not so great things happened in this country’s past, but people came to America TO BE FREE. We celebrate the Fourth of July to celebrate our independence as our own country.

I’ve been rereading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali lately, and the second verse in particular has been resonating with me. Actually, it’s been stuck in my head, repeating itself over and over like a broken record: yogas citta vrtti nirodhah. Sri Swami Satchidananada translates this to “the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.” Which is pretty funny as my mind as been on overload, more so lately than usual. I just am having the craziest time trying to stay present. The Sutras, ever so clever, they are, are doing their magic, directing my attention with the point of a finger: Ah ah ah, you need to bring yourself back, my dear. You need to get yourself back to this moment RIGHT NOW.

Now this isn’t a singular dilemma: Many people suffer from overactive minds that seem programmed to replay past experiences or long for future ones, creating both excitement and anxiety—and doing a great job at distracting us from this very moment at our fingertips. We become slaves to our minds without even realizing we want to be present, so focused are we on what we WANT to happen to us, how we COULD have changed something that already happened to us, or how AMAZING a previous experience (and while we’re at it, were we even REALLY present then? Or were we too busy comparing it to something else that happened to us or wishing for something else to happen when we were “enjoying” that particular instance?). That’s where the yoga comes in.

Patanjali tells us that the goal of yoga is stop the mind from wandering, to stop the chatter that goes on inside. You know what it sounds like: You’re not good enough. You could have done a better job. You still have such a long way to go. Why did you do that? How could I be so dumb? What am I going to make for dinner? Did anyone see me mess up just now? We are constantly judging or comparing ourselves, putting ourselves down, distracting ourselves, creating anxiety, which, added together, is like making one crazy Long Island Iced Tea (scorpion bowl size) of negativity. (I use Long Island Iced Tea as an analogy because, for those of you who don’t know, an LIIT is one of the most lethal cocktails I can think of that mixes just about every liquor in the well at the bar, its sole purpose to knock you on your ass, drunk—I don’t think anyone drinks it because they think it tastes good, but I digress.)

The goal of yoga, then, is to try to free ourselves from these thoughts, even if just for the hour or so you spend on your mat. And sure, thoughts will come up throughout your practice: What did she say? She wants my leg to go where? I hate this pose. HATE IT. What time is it—is it time for Savasana yet? But the thing about yoga is, the more you practice, the more you are able to really listen to the instruction given by the teacher during class, the easier it is to be truly present and dedicated to the task at hand. 

Now I don’t know if I have ever experienced the type of yoga Patanjali is referring to for the entirety of a class, but I have had numerous instances—some of which may have followed through several poses before my mind found a way to interrupt—where I was completely present and aware of every muscle, bone, cell in my body, where those were the only things on my radar at the time, where I was finally FREE and INDEPENDENT of my thoughts. And each time I come to the mat, it is another opportunity to fight my own Revolutionary War with myself to find peace within, a peace similar to the kind that was sought after from those who brought themselves to America over 200 years ago.

Which is why I showed up to class today wearing red, white, and blue: to acknowledge the struggle I am in as I fight for my own independence in hopes that it will inspire others to find theirs as well.

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Anonymous said: Hello,I hope you have a nice day.❤

Hi there, thank you for the well wishes! I hope yours is just as beautiful :)

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Hello, Universe. It’s Me, Jessica. I’m Ready to Listen.

As published on Elephant Journal.

The universe is constantly in communication with us.

This is a message that all of my teachers—be they yoga instructors, Reiki healers, breathwork facilitators, or psychics—seem to convey. That the world around us is trying to tell us something and that it’s up to us to choose whether to listen for the messages its trying to tell us.

Or not.

I think many of us could agree that we’d like some outside assistance in our lives. Have you ever gone to a healer or seer, someone who seems to have special clairvoyant gifts that is able to foresee the future or steer us in the direction of happiness and success?

We want to be told that everything is going to be okay, that everything is going to work out, that one day we will receive whatever prize or promotion we are striving for.

The truth is, we all possess this special gift, it’s just a matter of being open to and understanding the signs.

I took a psychic intuitive course a few months ago to help me hone in on such abilities, and one of the key points that my teacher made was to learn to not only trust our gut (and the feelings that come when we realize a relationship is over, that it’s time to move to a new city or state despite not knowing anyone there nor having much savings, that a friend is having a rougher time than is letting on, etc.) but to trust in the signs that occur around us.

How many times have you experienced “weird” coincidences?

Street lamps going out when you walk under them, noticing a specific type of candy or blue lighters on the ground on a regular basis, thinking you should call so-and-so and then receiving a call from that same person later that day or week?

It’s the universe letting you know that you are, in fact, in sync with it—that you have all the answers, tools and guides at your disposal.

A great example is a story one woman shared in that psychic intuitive course.

She had planned to go away on a weekend trip and everything seemed to be working against her, trying to keep her home. Bad weather, the friends she was going to visit were sick, the flight was even cancelled but she was able to find a seat on another flight that would get her there that day.

On her way to the airport, she was sitting in traffic that threatened to keep her from missing her plane, so she asked for a sign (as if the others weren’t enough) to help her decide what she should do. At that moment, a bus cut in front of her, a sticker on its backside read: “Stay home, you’ve got better things to do.”

Sometimes the signs can be as obvious as the sticker on the back of that bus, sometimes the signs can be more subtle.

For instance, I recently was on my way to teach a yoga class when I got stuck in traffic on the parkway. There had been an accident in the lane I was in, and there was a flat-bed truck on the scene to hoist the cars up and take them away so that the moving cars could continue on by. The cars in front of me merged as they approached the truck, and finally it was my turn. As I began to make my way into the neighboring lane, the truck, too, seemed to be on its way just as I was trying to make my way around it.

Had it been any other day, I might have thought to myself, “Of course, it takes off as soon as I try to get around it.” Perhaps you would think this to yourself as well. But this same exact thing happened to me a few days prior—another road, another accident, the truck taking the broken-down car away just as I was trying to pass it.

For this second incident, I was frustrated for about a second, when I remembered that I had had a conversation with the universe earlier that morning.

Taking a nice leisurely walk outside, I called out to the universe: “Okay, universe! I am ready to receive whatever messages you have to give me. I am listening!”

No, really, I actually said this. Like, out loud.

(Side note: It helped that I read Pam Grout’s E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. The first exercise has you call out to the universe or higher spirit to have it make itself known to you.)

So as I thought about how weird that this same incident happened to me twice in one week, I tried to decipher what the message could be.

My answer?

That obstacles are being cleared from my path, that things are going to get a little easier.

A great message to receive considering my boyfriend and I recently split, the apartment I was really excited about and had put down a deposit on fell through, and was stiffed on a recent freelance gig that should have brought me a sizable check that I had been counting on since cutting back on my office work—to try to make more time to focus on teaching yoga and giving Reiki sessions to clients.

The message hit home even further when two days later, after joining an online dating service at the suggestion of a friend—to help distract me from the end of my recent relationship, I found my ex on the site.

My ex who spent so much time on his job helping others in need that he barely had any time for himself, much less for me.

Who, according to his profile, had last been active three hours prior to my discovery of him on the site.

It hurt to see him there.

A lot.

He had no time to coddle our existing relationship, yet apparently is willing to put in the time to meet someone new. I felt even more rejected, devastated even.

Then I remembered those accidents, those trucks that had left my path just as I was trying to get around them, and I realized that my ex is/was one of those obstacles keeping me from being happy, from being my highest self.

When we broke up, my ex told me that I deserved better.

In fact, many of my friends echoed this statement as well.

Because I was dating someone who is completely dedicated to helping others less fortunate, I had found that hard to believe. I was convinced he had a heart of gold, how was I going to find anyone better?

But after finding him on that site, actively looking for someone else, I realized that his heart doesn’t have room for me, or anyone in a long term-commitment kind of way and that I do deserve better.

I deserve someone who cares enough about me to make time for me to be in their life, a message that my friends also told me but I was too stubborn to accept. I would never have come to the same conclusion on my own had I not been open to listening to the messages the universe had for me.

Maybe in searching for some answers, in trying to understand what your next step should be, the universe won’t come in the form of a flat-bed truck, won’t bring you to a dating site that will have you come face-to-face with your ex. But I guarantee that if you consciously make a vow to listen and be open to receive messages from the world around you to help you on your journey, you will find all the answers you need in order to move forward in your life.

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Return to Oz: Accepting the Call

As a kid, the Wizard of Oz movies were probably my favoritest. People think I joke when I say I watched at least one of the two every day, but it is the honest truth. I don’t know whether it was Dorothy, those ruby slippers, the sparkling Emerald City, or simply the notion of being whisked away (in a house!) by a twister and carried to a magical land on the other side of the rainbow, but there was something about Oz that fascinated me, made me wish I was able to join Dorothy and be bestest friends with the Scarecrow that bordered on obsession. 

As an adult, I’ve accepted the fact that I probably won’t be able to visit L. Frank Baum’s wonderland, and have realized that I’ve substituted it for a more tangible location, a place that I have visited countless times outside of my dreams: Mexico. 

Perhaps you may think this an odd choice; the two seem to be worlds apart, and I don’t think I would have ever made the connection had it not been for two scenes/characters brought to life before my very eyes on my most recent trip. The first was a mountain formation in Mazunte (the first stop/town I stayed in) that called to mind the Gnome King from Return to Oz. I didn’t think much of it except that it was cool, cute that it reminded me of the Oz sequel, took a pic, posted to Instagram for others to see the resemblance, then went on my merry way without really thinking much more of it. Tra-la-la.

Then while on the last leg of my journey in Palenque, it was almost as if I was bitch-slapped with another, clearly more in-my-face correlation: a reincarnation the Yellow Brick Road. It might not have been yellow, but the resemblance to the torn-up rubble of Dorothy’s beloved guide to the Wizard was uncanny.

As I stopped in my tracks upon my sighting of the worn-out path, I began to realize that, similar to Dorothy’s connection to Oz, Mexico was, in a sense, my Oz: A land full of magic and mystery for me that keeps drawing me back to it. I can recall at least 11 trips spanning the last 16 years. What is it that attracts me to it over and over again? 

I’ll have to admit, booze had something to do with it those first couple of times: Cancun, Cozymel, Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas. But once I followed my yoga teacher to Yelapa (near Puerta Vallarta) as I was first beginning to dive into the practice back in 2007, I think that’s when I first began to feel the magic of this place (perhaps the sweat lodge ceremonyI took part in had something to do with it, too). I connected with something on that trip, I’m not sure what, but a part of Mexico came back with me on that adventure. Or a part of me stayed. Or both.

When I went down in 2012 as a travel nanny, that’s when she really got my attention: luring me to her through her sense of adventure, sense of confidence as I learned to surf off her coast; making sure I bathed in the moonlight each night as the moon shone down into my room, engulfing my bed with me in it as I slept; playing host to the “End of the World” party I attended on December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar while I was in the Mayan land. 

A few months later on my next visit, she snared me hook, line, and sinker when I travelled to the pyramids outside Mexico City where I was visited by my best friend, who had passed away a year prior, while I meditated sitting atop the Pyramid of the Moon. When, a week later, I was asked to teach at a yoga retreat center in a town I frequented while on my nannying/surfing trips, there was no way I could say no: She was quite literally calling me to her, and I had to accept. 

So when my Reiki teacher told me back in November that she was thinking of teaching the Reiki Masters course and considering making it a retreat in Mexico, my interest was piqued. Here was my teacher, who herself, to me, is pure magic, talking about leading the final course of Reiki studies in a place that spoke to me on so many levels. The spontaneous part of me wanted to jump up and say, “Yes! I’m in! Let’s go!” But that critical voice I’ve heard so much, know too well crept its way in: You’re not ready; you have bills to pay; stop throwing money away on these trips. All reasonable concerns. 

And I listened. I became wary, doubted myself. Who did I think I was thinking I could be a Reiki Master? I definitely didn’t think I was ready to teach Reiki to others, to accept responsibility of sharing the light and healing energy with others so that they, too, could help others as well as themselves. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to hold such a role, to have the ability to empower others. 

But my teacher had planted a seed, and that idea wouldn’t go away. One of my favorite people in the world wanted to take me to my favorite place in the world. SHE BELIEVED IN ME. Which was more than I could say for myself. I mean, I DID believe in myself to certain extent, but there was always a limit to my beliefs. Which I think is normal for many of us faced with a choice to step into a role that holds much more responsibility. If I became a Reiki Master, I guess I was afraid of having to be accountable for others. What if I did it wrong? What if I screwed it up? What if I gave students the wrong information? Again, all natural fears, natural reasons the mind comes up with to keep us from moving forward. 

Even though my mind kept coming up with “logical” reasons why I shouldn’t, couldn’t become a “Master,” though, the universe was doing its part, sending me signals in hopes to override my logical mind. I received messages through dreams, seeing past relationships in a new, more honest light; I caught myself reacting to my family differently in hopes to avoid the pitfalls of pressing theirs and allowing my own buttons to be pressed; I was thinking more about making serious changes that I had long wanted to put into action but had been sitting idle on, afraid of failing in bringing my dreams to reality; a Theta healing session offered a glimpse at what my (happy) life would look like in a year’s time. 

Though I was receiving all these messages, it wasn’t until one day in January, about midway through a Breathwork workshop led by my Reiki teacher, that I received the message loud and clear. As I lay there on the floor, I felt as if I was being pinned to the ground with an intense sensation in my palms that I can only describe as though lightning bolts were shooting out of my hands and into the sky. It was so strong, so clear—I was reminded of my Reiki I course when I had been practicing on another student and first felt the healing energy flow through me and thought to myself, I am supposed to be doing this. It was there in that lightning bolt moment that I knew that I meant to complete my Reiki Masters, and I marched myself right up to my teacher once the session was over and told her to count me in.

It definitely wasn’t easy, listening to my inner truth, stepping into my higher self. It was scary, even, accepting my fate. And, now that I am officially a Reiki Master, I see how much courage was necessary to look so deep into myself and acknowledge certain tendencies, patterns, times/situations in my past where I was wrong or could have handled things differently. I’ll admit, I wanted to quit a day or two into the training, and had I not been in Mexico, had I been back in New York with an easier escape route, I might have stopped myself from finishing. But now that it’s behind me, now that I know, can see through new lenses, I am so grateful for having done it, for agreeing to REALLY look at the things, the lessons of life that keep popping up, keep returning in order for me to FINALLY GET IT so that I can change how I react, respond and continue to move forward.

The lessons/situations that seem to continuously arise in our lives do so in order for us to learn that something needs to change in order to break the habit, to free ourselves from having to relive it again through new, different relationships or situations. When Dorothy returns to Oz, everything is different. She is faced with new challenges, makes new friends, creates new enemies. If Dorothy had tried to defeat the Gnome King the same way she had the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy probably wouldn’t have had a happy ending. She tried new tactics, engaged help from different characters, and had Belinda the chicken not ventured on this adventure with her, she may not have made it.

It can certainly be hard to try new things, new ways of doing things, new ways at looking at ourselves—and sometimes it even hurts because it means we have to admit that we were wrong. But that is how we grow: By learning from the past, learning from our mistakes.

At the end of Return to Oz, Ozma and all of Dorothy’s friends try to entice Dorothy back to Oz through the looking glass, and Dorothy is tempted until she hears her Aunt Em calling for her and she is reminded which world, which reality she is in. It’s up to us to see ourselves clearly in the mirror to see what is ACTUALLY there and not what we WANT or hope to see. Listen to your gut, pay attention to the messages around you, and accept YOUR call to your highest, brightest self. You don’t have to be a Reiki Master (or Dorothy) to accept your call. You just have to be willing to listen.

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kushandwizdom:

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Maha Rose Gets Magic Makeover

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As published in Yoga City NYC, photo courtesy of Maha Rose 

Stroll through the more industrial section of Greenpoint, and you may notice a garden, a sign of life creeping its way toward the sun along the side of an unassuming brick building.

A colorfully detailed sandwich board alerts passersby to the goings on inside at Maha Rose, an alternative healing center in Brooklyn: weekly meditation, laughter yoga, kundalini classes; voice lessons; arts and crafts; daily yoga; breathwork classes; Reiki trainings; acupuncture; flower essence therapy.

You may ask yourself, Is this place for real? The answer: Yes, yes it is.

Maha Rose gradually breathed its way into existence about 7 years ago, when founder, artist and jewelry designer Lisa Levine, opened the doors to her hideaway home as a place to practice meditation and study spirituality and healing practices. “It was always such a creative space that the healing was an extension of that creativity—the desire to explore more, our hidden worlds—a different sort of adventure within,” says Levine. 

At the time, there weren’t many meditation classes in Brooklyn, so Levine and friends who shared her interest in diving into the subconscious invited teachers to the space, leading circles in her living room, the same area that now serves as Maha Rose’s temple, yoga studio, and workshop.

Today, Maha is home to the Kings County outpost of Josh Korda’s Dharma Punx, a weekly class known for its guided meditations and discussions on how Buddhist principles are applicable to daily life. 

While hosting classes in her home may seem like a great way for an artist to make supplemental income, Levine insists that was not the intention. “It wasn’t so much a way to make money as a way to bring into our lives, and really close into our lives—in our home—new things and activities for us to do as our tastes and interests evolved away from bars and nightlife,” she says.

It wasn’t long before word got out that there was a space in Brooklyn that offered a setting in which to learn more about the dharma and healing practices as an alternative to the Brooklyn bar scene. “My best friend and Reiki teacher, Padma Gonzalez, would come up from Mexico every summer and work with me, then friends of mine, then friends of friends.”

Slowly but surely, Levine saw more strangers (new friends, really) in the form of both students and teachers, engaging in the practices that she cared so deeply about, delighted to see the community grow. Still living there, a private treatment room in the back of the loft offered her and other healers a space to have private sessions—Levine eventually received certificates in both Reiki and breathwork, and allowed local healers with a magic power to use the room as well.

Having finished up her acupuncture studies last spring, Levine decided it was time to do something more with the space, renovating it to accommodate a second treatment room. “It felt like the time to take Maha Rose from a backyard project to a fuller offering to the community,” says Levine. “We redid the website in the fall and are ready to launch Maha Rose for real! It’s been such an organic endeavor that it finally feels like the right time to celebrate the doors being fully open. We are ready for the revolution!” 

With so many showing interest in different avenues of thought and ways in which to take care of the spirit, a revolution seems likely. In anticipation of such, Levine moved out to make more room for healing as the roster of healers working through Maha Rose has grown. “We are increasing the number of classes and workshops offered, and there are more practitioners working out of the treatment rooms.”

On Saturday, February 15, Maha Rose will celebrate its Grand Opening Celebration. The free daylong event will serve as an opportunity to help familiarize people who may have heard of some of the practices on offer, but aren’t entirely sure what they are or how they work, as well as to meet the facilitators who bring their magic to each modality.

Stop by for free sample sessions (about 20 to 30 minutes long) of Reiki, acupuncture, bodywork, breathwork, sound healing, astrology, energy healing, Tarot readings, and more between noon and 6pm. Or come for the free group presentations, starting at 6:30pm.

Asked what her intention is for the new and improved Maha Rose, Levine says, “To hold a space of light, love, and healing in New York City, and to do that with lightness of heart, creativity, and joy. Healing is an incredible adventure for those who are willing and brave. The treasures are within-—peace and wholeness. The journey home.”

Stop by your new home this Saturday. For more info on the presentations, healers, or to learn more about Maha Rose, visit maharose.com.

 

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I’m vegan. This disclosure will make sense soon, I promise. About a week ago, I drove to a yoga class; eschewing the impulse to throw on a CD to play something I knew all the words to and loved (I think I had Sonic Youth and the Pixies on hand at the time), I decided I’d see if I could find something new—to my ears anyway (I don’t listen to the radio much)—that I liked. I wanted to hear what the kids are listening to these days. Fortuitously, the station that came on once I hit the “radio” button alerted me that it was in the midst of the week’s Top 40. Perfect, I thought to myself. Kind of exactly what I was looking for.
Then number 5 or 6 of the countdown came on without an introduction. Its fun, dance-y, toe-tapping beat played, the lyrics fun and beautiful. I found that I instinctively knew the words to the chorus before hearing it completely through the first time. Bopping my head as I grooved in the driver’s seat, singing along as best I could as I made my way to class, I was smiling from ear to ear. This song had definitely cast a spell on me, putting me in an amazing mood, a mood comparable to that apres asana feeling. I made sure to write down some of the lyrics when I got to the studio so that I could Google the song when I got home. When I did, I was mildly shocked that it was by Maroon 5 (“Love Somebody”—scroll to the end for the video), a band I’ve scoffed at many a time (usually to my sister who is a fan) for being pop rock, too mainstream, too soft for my riot grrl/indie rock/punk roots.
That said, it was my sister who poked fun at me a few days later when we were in her car, scrolling through the radio stations to find something to listen to. Hearing part of my song as she quickly moved through each station, I stopped her. “Wait!” I almost shouted. “Go back, go back!” She did, a look of horror flashing over her face when she recognized the tune. “Jessica!” she exclaimed. “This is NOT vegan! It’s too cheesy!”
Perhaps I was long overdue for this comeuppance, but even though she was mocking me for my inclinations toward the song, my preference for it did not deter, and I continued to sing along—loudly—to her as we drove, my sister nodding her head in disapproval.
While I could go on about the interesting points of this role reversal, it got me thinking about how we judge one another and the fear of being judged. I am sure every one of us has at least one guilty pleasure that we aren’t quite so sure we want the world to know about (perhaps you’re a Trekkie, own a Snuggie, have been to a fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-pop-star concert [Katy Perry, Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, et al], or watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta on the regular), assigning embarrassment, humility to the things that make us happy because someone else might not think it’s cool. 
These likes, though, are part of what make us us. So why do we decide that need to keep a part of ourselves a secret?
A few days ago, I was waiting on the subway platform at Union Square. Per usual, there were buskers at the base of one of the staircases; on this particular day, two drummers played their plastic buckets. As I waited for my train to arrive, I was about to disappear into the book I had on me when I noticed an erratic movement out of the corner of my eye. I paused, straining my neck and squinting my eyes over the crowd for a better look to see a little girl, no more than 6 or 7 years old, dancing her heart out.
She moved in fits, flailing her arms about, her ponytail swinging, pausing here and there to gauge her mother and brother’s reaction to her, then resuming her fun. It was breathtakingly adorable.
I smiled to myself at the sight, inspired by the little girl’s joy in that moment and saw that others around her were watching as well. Many watched with despondent, faraway looks in their eyes, perfecting that typical New York disaffected, bored-to-death cool as they stood there in wait. 
One woman, however, stood there watching the girl move, a sincere, almost empathetic smile on her face, a look that betrayed the woman, letting me know (and anyone else who may have noticed her) that she envied the little girl’s reckless abandon. In that woman, I could see the hundreds of times the she had wanted to break through her self and dance in public like the little girl without holding back. But her look also let me know that she did hold back, always, and unfortunately, she is not alone in that camp.
But why? Why do we hold back from following those natural urges to do something, whether it be dancing on a subway platform, speaking out for the rights of others, striking up a conversation with a handsome/beautiful stranger, going to your first yoga class? 
When we see people dancing or singing in public, we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) judge the person who is being brave, who is just being his or herself. Most likely because we don’t have the balls to do the same. Knowing that we judge, we hold ourselves back from doing these things for fear of being judged in return.
By refusing our natural inclinations, though, we are robbing ourselves of so much joy, chances to smile, to be happy, which would then infect the rest of our day to day lives, enabling us to be happier overall. Choosing to live in monotone, holding back, we keep ourselves from living up to our utmost potential. We have the power to do anything we want with our lives, and here we are CHOOSING unhappiness. Everyone wants and strives to find happiness in their lives, so why would we ever want to do anything that KEPT us from being happy?
That we refrain ourselves from doing such small acts of pleasure, we don’t think it will leave an impact on our lives. Heck, we probably don’t even think that it would leave an impact at all. But one small act, like busting a move on a subway platform for 15 seconds, can dramatically shift the course of one’s morning, day, week, year. And by allowing ourselves to follow through with our urges, we are planting seeds—happiness seeds, if you will—that could change the course of our lives for the better, allowing ourselves to attract more joy into our lives on a regular basis. And who doesn’t want that?
Now it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you to follow your urges without having done so myself. And I have. And I do. And I’ll admit, that first time was a little scary, but listening to my iPod one night while awaiting a train (again), a song came on that had every cell in body begging me to dance. I started small, just shifting my weight from one foot to the other, then eventually closed my eyes and just let go of my inhibitions and let myself move to the rhythm that was bouncing between my ears. Once I got into it, it was hard to stop, and I only did so once the song was over. When it was through, I realized I was smiling—and realized other passengers were smiling, too—and felt completely liberated. 
It’s not every day or every time I ride the subway that I feel inspired to dance, but when I  DO get that urge, I go with it, because if knowing that one simple small act will make me (and those around me) ecstatically (thought maybe not that much for the others) happy, why NOT do it?
So go ahead and listen to those urges. And let your freak flag fly. 

I’m vegan. This disclosure will make sense soon, I promise. About a week ago, I drove to a yoga class; eschewing the impulse to throw on a CD to play something I knew all the words to and loved (I think I had Sonic Youth and the Pixies on hand at the time), I decided I’d see if I could find something new—to my ears anyway (I don’t listen to the radio much)—that I liked. I wanted to hear what the kids are listening to these days. Fortuitously, the station that came on once I hit the “radio” button alerted me that it was in the midst of the week’s Top 40. Perfect, I thought to myself. Kind of exactly what I was looking for.

Then number 5 or 6 of the countdown came on without an introduction. Its fun, dance-y, toe-tapping beat played, the lyrics fun and beautiful. I found that I instinctively knew the words to the chorus before hearing it completely through the first time. Bopping my head as I grooved in the driver’s seat, singing along as best I could as I made my way to class, I was smiling from ear to ear. This song had definitely cast a spell on me, putting me in an amazing mood, a mood comparable to that apres asana feeling. I made sure to write down some of the lyrics when I got to the studio so that I could Google the song when I got home. When I did, I was mildly shocked that it was by Maroon 5 (“Love Somebody”—scroll to the end for the video), a band I’ve scoffed at many a time (usually to my sister who is a fan) for being pop rock, too mainstream, too soft for my riot grrl/indie rock/punk roots.

That said, it was my sister who poked fun at me a few days later when we were in her car, scrolling through the radio stations to find something to listen to. Hearing part of my song as she quickly moved through each station, I stopped her. “Wait!” I almost shouted. “Go back, go back!” She did, a look of horror flashing over her face when she recognized the tune. “Jessica!” she exclaimed. “This is NOT vegan! It’s too cheesy!”

Perhaps I was long overdue for this comeuppance, but even though she was mocking me for my inclinations toward the song, my preference for it did not deter, and I continued to sing along—loudly—to her as we drove, my sister nodding her head in disapproval.

While I could go on about the interesting points of this role reversal, it got me thinking about how we judge one another and the fear of being judged. I am sure every one of us has at least one guilty pleasure that we aren’t quite so sure we want the world to know about (perhaps you’re a Trekkie, own a Snuggie, have been to a fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-pop-star concert [Katy Perry, Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, et al], or watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta on the regular), assigning embarrassment, humility to the things that make us happy because someone else might not think it’s cool. 

These likes, though, are part of what make us us. So why do we decide that need to keep a part of ourselves a secret?

A few days ago, I was waiting on the subway platform at Union Square. Per usual, there were buskers at the base of one of the staircases; on this particular day, two drummers played their plastic buckets. As I waited for my train to arrive, I was about to disappear into the book I had on me when I noticed an erratic movement out of the corner of my eye. I paused, straining my neck and squinting my eyes over the crowd for a better look to see a little girl, no more than 6 or 7 years old, dancing her heart out.

She moved in fits, flailing her arms about, her ponytail swinging, pausing here and there to gauge her mother and brother’s reaction to her, then resuming her fun. It was breathtakingly adorable.

I smiled to myself at the sight, inspired by the little girl’s joy in that moment and saw that others around her were watching as well. Many watched with despondent, faraway looks in their eyes, perfecting that typical New York disaffected, bored-to-death cool as they stood there in wait. 

One woman, however, stood there watching the girl move, a sincere, almost empathetic smile on her face, a look that betrayed the woman, letting me know (and anyone else who may have noticed her) that she envied the little girl’s reckless abandon. In that woman, I could see the hundreds of times the she had wanted to break through her self and dance in public like the little girl without holding back. But her look also let me know that she did hold back, always, and unfortunately, she is not alone in that camp.

But why? Why do we hold back from following those natural urges to do something, whether it be dancing on a subway platform, speaking out for the rights of others, striking up a conversation with a handsome/beautiful stranger, going to your first yoga class? 

When we see people dancing or singing in public, we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) judge the person who is being brave, who is just being his or herself. Most likely because we don’t have the balls to do the same. Knowing that we judge, we hold ourselves back from doing these things for fear of being judged in return.

By refusing our natural inclinations, though, we are robbing ourselves of so much joy, chances to smile, to be happy, which would then infect the rest of our day to day lives, enabling us to be happier overall. Choosing to live in monotone, holding back, we keep ourselves from living up to our utmost potential. We have the power to do anything we want with our lives, and here we are CHOOSING unhappiness. Everyone wants and strives to find happiness in their lives, so why would we ever want to do anything that KEPT us from being happy?

That we refrain ourselves from doing such small acts of pleasure, we don’t think it will leave an impact on our lives. Heck, we probably don’t even think that it would leave an impact at all. But one small act, like busting a move on a subway platform for 15 seconds, can dramatically shift the course of one’s morning, day, week, year. And by allowing ourselves to follow through with our urges, we are planting seeds—happiness seeds, if you will—that could change the course of our lives for the better, allowing ourselves to attract more joy into our lives on a regular basis. And who doesn’t want that?

Now it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you to follow your urges without having done so myself. And I have. And I do. And I’ll admit, that first time was a little scary, but listening to my iPod one night while awaiting a train (again), a song came on that had every cell in body begging me to dance. I started small, just shifting my weight from one foot to the other, then eventually closed my eyes and just let go of my inhibitions and let myself move to the rhythm that was bouncing between my ears. Once I got into it, it was hard to stop, and I only did so once the song was over. When it was through, I realized I was smiling—and realized other passengers were smiling, too—and felt completely liberated. 

It’s not every day or every time I ride the subway that I feel inspired to dance, but when I  DO get that urge, I go with it, because if knowing that one simple small act will make me (and those around me) ecstatically (thought maybe not that much for the others) happy, why NOT do it?

So go ahead and listen to those urges. And let your freak flag fly. 

(Source: psstnothing)

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Happy Monday!

Happy Monday!

Tags: mondays yoga