"My mission is to facilitate the love of life - to embody what it means to 'live like you were dying', 'live every day like it's your last', & 'seize the day' kind of life. It's one thing to intellectualize this kind of life & say all the right words, and it's another thing entirely to experience it. For me, this work is where the rubber hits the road, and the wisdom of yoga meets life, death, and grief"
Life is change.
Mysterious, unpredictable, always in motion.
I know, from experience.
The fear of death was once a daily part of my life. For almost 3 years I lived with paralyzing anxiety, panic attacks, & fear that I would die, or *feel* like I was dying, at any moment. I was afraid of being afraid. I wouldn't read or talk about death. Violent movies activated my anxiety. And the more I tried not to think about death, well...try not thinking about a pink rhinoceros. See how it works for you :)
Over time my anxiety shifted & adapted itself to whatever moment I was living in - weird politics, energy draining jobs, feeling like I wasn't living up to my potential, mom’s cancer diagnosis, living with legal issues, trying to save the world...and over time the fear of death softened, but lingered, ready to appear at a moments notice during prolonged periods of silence, anticipation of bad news, or someone looking at me the wrong way, or for too long...
Overall, I wasn't living the life I knew I could be living. & I thought for sure the answers to extraordinary living were just a plane ticket or a masters degree away.
Yoga helped, because it helped me dig into the roots of my "problems", rather than deferring to magic pills, avoidance, and other unhelpful behaviors to temporarily relieve my anxiety.
On top of that there was the weirdness of the 2016 election, my mom's breast cancer diagnosis, feeling helpless, useless & unfulfilled at work...
My fear of dying young & unimportant was once again activated, and I was at my breaking point.
I doubled down on the yoga.
"Yoga is the path of the Self, through the Self, to the Self".
I decided to go to Kripalu for my yoga teacher training in spring & summer 2017. If any part of you is curious, interested, considering...go and do it. And do it at Kripalu.
In between modules, my teachers shared a link to a book called Caring for the Dying by Henry Fersko-Weiss. I trusted my teachers, felt safe with them & inspired by them, so I decided to read it. I read it in 5 days, and it changed the course of my life. For the first time ever I was curious about the process of death, able to read about stories of death, and flippantly talking about working with the dying someday.
At the same time, I was (re)learning to skillfully participate in the joys, sorrows, and mysteries of life. I felt alive again.
The day after I graduated yoga teacher training, grandma died. June 2017.
Three months later, grandpa died, the same day mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. November 2017.
One month later, mom died. December 22nd, 2017.
August 2018, my Uncle Rick died.
Ten days later, my childhood dog died.
I was all at once integrating all of the teachings from yoga teacher training, “failing forward” with most of them, living with grief, and confronting my fear of death head first.
And as a result: grief, fear & getting closer to death has become my spiritual practice.
The Dance of life
After my mom died, I meditated for hours a day. I read and wrote and soaked in as much of the wisdom of yoga as I could. I listened to a lot of Ram Dass lectures. A LOT. My all time favorite from Ram Dass:
"You can do it like it's a great weight on you, or you can do it like it's part of the dance".
The metaphor of the Dance of Life kept showing up for me as I navigated and danced with all the death & all the grief. Physically I danced and moved and stretched my way through grief. I’d move until the emotions moved. And at a certain point I realized it wasn’t only a physical release – I was also expanding and shifting my consciousness around my grief, and reframing my relationship with death, and my relationship with life.
Grief & joy. Death & courage. Pain & purpose.
For most of my life I was afraid of the "dance floor" and afraid of life. And after living with 5 deaths in the course of a year and a half, my daily, hourly, moment by moment work is recognizing what's between me and the dance floor of my life.
To me the dance floor is the place where the things that matter to me are waiting. It's where my life is unfolding whether I'm there or not. It's where I learn to trust that the ground beneath me will not forsake me if I choose to surrender to the music. & it's where I feel the most alive and free.
The universe is no joke.
It seems to work this way on a “path” - there are things that seemingly have nothing to do with each other: grief & joy, death & courage, pain & purpose. At some point they've all lined up for me. I've grieved and grown and moved forward from the train wreck far enough to breathe, see clearly again, and I am confident enough to say I feel more alive than ever before.
And actually...this is exactly what I’ve asked for. This is the adventure I’ve wanted my entire life.