In Yoga Teacher Training, we are taught that opening up to grace is an integral part of our practice. It’s that moment in a yoga class where your teacher is instructing you to settle into the space around you, let go of thoughts, worries and to-do lists that might be sabotaging your relaxation, and let yourself become present and aware so that you can receive your yoga practice. In a dimly lit studio, sprawled out on your mat, with no disturbances other than the gentle sound of you and your neighbors breathing, soft music playing in the background of your thoughts, this can be a relatively easy and safe space to do just that…to completely let go. After all, that’s why you are there in the first place, right? What happens, though, when you’re not on your mat? Opening to grace feels a lot more difficult to do when you are in the throes of your day to day activities, children arguing in the background, a pile of bills arriving in the mail, stacks of paperwork to get through at the office, a lawn to mow, and the mountain of laundry spilling out of your clothes hamper staring at you every time you enter your room. However, these are the times when opening to grace is absolutely the most important.
Grace is defined by dictionary.com as “simple elegance or refinement of movement”, but to me, it is so much more than that. It is a willingness to surrender to the truth that we are each going through exactly the things that will help us to become the best versions of ourselves, even (especially) in the moments where it feels completely the opposite. It is the ability to find strength in our struggles and to participate fully and completely in all aspects of our lives, good, bad, scary, exciting, or otherwise. It is the knowledge that our perception of what is happening in our lives is so much more important than the situations themselves, because the situations are impermanent. It is the power to stand strong through the storms, holding firm to the knowledge that calmer waters are ahead of us and that there is an important lesson for our soul within each and every moment. How amazing would it feel to bring the same peace, calm and quiet that you find on your mat, or out in nature, or in your bath (or whatever it is that you do to connect to this space) into the daily situations that are a natural part of life? Well, you can, which is pretty good news.
Take a minute to inventory what’s going on in your life that’s stressing you out or causing worry or fear. Write it all down. Read it back to yourself without any judgement. Instead, maybe you can find a little curiosity. What is your soul trying to help you to learn by these difficult situations? For most of us, our difficulties often become repeating patterns, causing us to feel like something is wrong with us or that we are just destined to always have this particular issue in our lives, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. These moments that challenge us are opportunities for us to get know ourselves better. For example, if you are somebody who is constantly struggling financially and worried about how to pay the bills, this might be your soul telling you that your job is not in alignment with what you really want. It may also be an indication that you have some limiting beliefs around money that need to be acknowledged and explored so that prosperous energy feels welcome to flow into your life. If you find yourself struggling with relationship after relationship, perhaps it is your soul trying to urge you to look in a different place, or to learn to love yourself first so that you can openly receive true love back. Maybe it is an indication that you subconsciously don’t feel worthy of love and so you are inadvertently pushing it away.
Remember, we attract the energy that we put out…like attracts like. Therefore, it’s not what we WISH we believed or what we WANT to believe, but the actual beliefs stored deep, down within us, that are shaping our realities. It can be scary to dig down and unearth them, but consider for a moment, a diamond. My dear friend and colleague, Amy Lombardo, put this in such great perspective for me. Diamonds are formed way down in the Earth’s mantle (about 100 miles deep), and start as chunks of coal. It takes a tremendous amount of heat and pressure to create this sparkly gem, but once the work has occurred, the diamond is pushed to the surface naturally for all to enjoy. Your thoughts are like these diamonds. YOU have that same sparkly gem deep within in you, just waiting to be exposed to the heat so that it can emerge and shine brightly out to the world. When you can accept that knowledge and open to grace, knowing that you have a deep well of untapped potential within you and the power to change your reality, the world opens back to you. Your sparkly gems are naturally pushed to the surface and the Universe responds by shining back.
Where in this very moment can you open yourself to grace? Where can you replace fear with curiosity, and hopefully learn something about yourself through the process? Start right now. The more that you practice this the easier it becomes. Opening to grace is not something that needs to be confined to your yoga mat. It is accessible in each and every moment to help you come back to center, find your calm and elevate yourself towards all of the possibility just waiting to be discovered within you!
Jim Morrison…you’ve got to love him. Not only was he excruciatingly gorgeous with a voice and stage presence that could melt the polar ice caps, but he said some pretty brilliant shit as well. We may never know if it was the many hits of acid speaking or if it really was his Indian spirit guide, but whatever the source of his words, they were undeniably insightful and still hold impact and validity today. How many times have you caught yourself gripped in the ruthless hands of fear?
We live in a society that is largely ruled by fear. From the time that we are born we are conditioned to be afraid of things. Some of it is necessary to our survival, such as not touching the stove or sticking a fork in the electrical socket, but many of the other things that we are taught to be afraid of can thwart our growth in so many ways. We are taught largely to listen to others which causes fear of our own inner voice. We are taught to follow the norms of society which can lead us to fear the decision to carve out our own authentic paths and follow our dreams. We are taught to compare ourselves to others, which births the fear of never being enough within ourselves. We are taught to fear being without material possessions, which causes feelings of greed within us. We are taught to fear the things/people/places which we do not fully understand, which can prevent us from educating ourselves about the different cultures, religions, races, sexual orientations and physical landscapes that surround us in this amazingly diverse world. In short, our fear begins to shape us from our initial breaths on this Earth and continues to shape shift as we experience the world. But what if we could change that? What if we could look closely at our fears…stare them straight in the face, stand up boldly and move bravely into them? What is the worst that would actually happen?
Take a moment to think back on all of the things you have been afraid of in your life and write them down. We’re going to use them in a minute. Yeah, I know, it’s a big list, right? When I think back on my fears what I notice is a progression. When I was in my early 20’s I had been through some terrible relationships (I mean like surrrrrrrrrrriously, abusively bad) and I swore I was done dating. Then I met Josh. I was terrified of him because I knew I really liked him. Then he asked me to marry him and I became afraid of that. What if it didn’t work out? Then we got married and decided to get pregnant…new biggest fear as my belly expanded and my whole world threatened to change. Eight and a half months pregnant, we found our first home, closing ten days prior to the birth of our son…#freakingout. Here comes Jacob…motherhood became the thing I feared the most because I had no idea how to do it. Then Josh lost his job. New mortgage, new baby, no job…does it get more terrifying? I swore we were doomed…until Josh decided to start his own business (which of course scared the crap out of us both as well). Suddenly, another baby was on the way. Jocelyn was born and I quit my job to stay at home with them…this became the scariest decision of my life, but I did it anyway. This progression continued on and on, presenting me with new fears along the way, until finally one day, I realized that it wasn’t the situations themselves that were terrifying me, but my reaction to them. I started to look back at this long laundry list of fear I had been carrying around with me and realized that as each new fear had arisen and I had moved through it, the fear for that particular event had dissipated and morphed into a new fear. It dawned on me that there will always be things to be afraid of, but it is up to me whether or not I let the fear have control. I have a choice in each situation to square up against my fear and challenge it, and so do you.
I am happy to report that moving through my personal fear has led me to a 10-year (this July) marriage to my best friend and the most amazing guy I know, 2 kick-ass little kids who challenge me to grow, expand and be a better person each day, a beautiful home that is my sanctuary, my husband and I each owning our own business and the fortitude to keep moving through fear as it shows up. That’s important to acknowledge by the way…I still get afraid. All the time actually. Life isn’t always sunshine and butterflies. My husband and I argue, my kids can act like little shits, my home needs repairs and our businesses fluctuate through good and bad times (and the bad times can be REALLY scary), but we keep on keeping on anyway, moving forward with the knowledge that this too shall pass and that we can look our fears in the face and move on anyway.
So where does fear show up for you? Go back to your list. If you didn’t write it, do it now. Take a close look at all of these places that fear has popped up in your life from as early as you can think of. First off, see if you notice any patterns. Are your fears largely based around one particular area? Money? Relationships? Your Career? Self-esteem? Now, notice any of these situations where you faced your fear and moved forward anyway? What was the outcome? If you haven’t had the opportunity to face any of these fears, guess what today is? That’s right, your opportunity. You don’t have to dive in headfirst, but think of a way that you can start to move into your fear slowly. If your fear is primarily surrounding relationships, maybe today is the day you finally make that online dating profile (don’t worry…you don’t have to go live until tomorrow). If your self-esteem is taking the hit, maybe today is the day to buy the dress you’ve always wanted, even though your head screams that you’re not feminine enough to pull it off. Tomorrow, rock it. Each day take baby steps to move into your fear. You will likely find that the further you go, the less powerful it becomes.
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I was born an extremely strange child. That’s me up above in the background, pulling on my eyelids with martian bobbles on my head. That’s my sister up front, looking marginally annoyed and confused by whatever I am doing and my existence in general. I have evoked this response from her, and many others, since my first breaths on this Earth, and I have a funny feeling I may continue to do so until my last.
When I was little, being weird and silly worked for me. It was a great way to ease tension, get myself out of trouble (my mother ALWAYS broke), distract myself from boredom and use my imagination in creative ways. We had a giant dress-up box in my basement and whenever it was raining and I couldn’t play outside and peel acorns for -the squirrels, down to the basement I would go. I would spend some time finding the perfect outfit, march back up the stairs (sometimes at my own risk depending on my threads), head into whatever room my family member, house guests, friends or door-to-door salesman were in and just stand there…until somebody noticed and burst out laughing.
I continued this behavior throughout high school, not assumed “most likely to succeed” or “best dressed”, but certainly nailing “funniest girl” when it came time for my peers to vote for our senior yearbook. I could handle that. Funny was my thang. I never felt weird or judged for being a goon. It just came naturally and, even when others scoffed at it or thought me obnoxious, I did my thing and tried not to worry about it.
In short, I was a big dork. However, life hasn’t always been a series of silly moments for me. I went through a very dark time, much like most people I know. As I got a little older, life threw a rather quick succession of shitty events my way, and somewhere in the midst of it all, I lost my spark. Being silly and goofy became that thing that other people who weren’t going through drama did. It seemed like a waste of time and an act of immaturity. I began relying on substances and things outside of myself to help me hold on to that feeling of joy and freedom that being myself had previously allowed me to have. I gave half-ass smiles when I knew it was appropriate and made self-deprecating cracks once in a while just to keep up my shtick, but inside I felt very broken and unhappy. Slowly, the zany, dorky person who I naturally am, got lost in a spiral of self-judgement, self-pity and the feeling that this is how I was “supposed to be” after the things I had been through. To put it bluntly, I was pissed off, bored out of my mind, depressed and TOTALLY out of alignment with who I was.
Fast forward a few years (like 10). I gave birth to my son and spent the first year or so of his life looking at him much like my sister is looking at me in the debut picture of this post. How is he smiling and happy and goofy all the time? Where does his energy come from? Can I have some of it????? I couldn’t help but smile myself. Two years later, my daughter was born. By this time, I was starting to get the hang of this whole motherhood thing (if anybody can truly “get the hang” of parenting, that is). I began to watch their interaction with one another, and from the very first day I brought her home, I watched them find joy in each other. They laughed incessantly together from the day she could laugh. They began to imagine and create together as soon as she could do that. They played dress-up and restaurant and superheroes and would come to me almost daily to see who’s creative outfit was the best (they still do, and they always tie). Watching them, I started to learn how to play and be silly again. I remembered how much fun impromptu dance parties in the living room are, how much fun it is to make others laugh and how amazingly freeing it is to let yourself be the dorkiest, craziest version of yourself, no matter what.
I am proud to say that now, at 35 years old, I am once again an unapologetic dork, like it or lump it. It took me a while, but I finally realized the importance of owning my inner dork, without exception. I’ve also realized that we ALL have an inner dork. Mine shows up through goofy costumes, bad dance moves and singing off key, but maybe yours is something else. Maybe you like telling really bad jokes. Maybe you’re really into stamp collecting or enjoy looking in the mirror and making up your own commercials. Maybe you like to secretly escape to Star Trek conventions or enjoy watching Anime action/adventure flicks on the weekends. Whatever your inner dork digs, let it shine! You enjoy these things for a reason, and denying them because of social norms or how others might perceive you, isn’t doing you any favors. There is endless joy in embracing the things that allow you to be a total goofball. When we take ourselves too seriously, we slowly extinguish this beautiful part of ourselves. When we learn to love it, we inspire others to do the same.
Yes, I am a dork, through and through. I am a dork and I own it proudly. I am also married to an incredibly awesome dork and the mother to two of the most amazing dorks I know. Find your passion, embrace it and share it with the world, no matter what it looks like. This is what makes you uniquely you. If you’re really ready to let your dork flag fly, share a picture of your dorkiest moment in the comment section below! I’d love to see it!
If you are ready to release your limiting beliefs and learn to love your inner dork again, visit my website HERE or call me for a free consultation at 561-951-7045. You can also like me on FACEBOOK to keep up with my latest classes & events.
First off, no, that is obviously not me in the above picture, but I’m apt to believe it may have become a pretty accurate depiction of me had I continued to smoke. Hehe. Pretty sexy huh? So yeah, I was a smoker for a pretty long time. I know, I know…save your judgement. I get it…it’s gross…but I have to say, at the time I sort of liked it. Throughout my years as a smoker, I learned a few things, some more enlightening than others. For one thing, phone conversations are far easier to endure when you have something to preoccupy you (I hate the phone). For another, smoker’s cough is really unattractive, smelling like an ashtray is a great way to discourage people from intimate conversation, and if you want to spend a lot of money on a whole lot of nothing good…smoking is a good way to achieve this goal. However, I digress. As the title suggests, there was one incredibly valuable lesson that I did learn from smoking. Let’s start with a little story, shall we?
When I was 19 my head was pretty much as far up my ass as it could possibly fit. I had gone through a series of really shitty events that left me feeling out of touch, out of place, out of friends and looking for a way out of my current state of being. In other words, I was pretty freaking miserable and totally lost. So, imagine my excitement when my friend mentioned that he was taking a road trip cross country. This was a great idea, barring the fact that he had no car to take aforementioned road trip. Enter Jillian and her ruby red Hyundai Accent…my way out of reality surfaced right before my eyes and we set off barely two weeks later.
Now, aside from the excitement of being on the road blasting Allman Brothers CDs with the windows rolled down, a Hyundai Accent packed to the gills with my life’s belongings, proved to be pretty tight quarters for two pig-headed, opinionated kids with their heads up their asses. Needless to say, within a few weeks, road trip buddy and I were starting to feel a little overwhelmed with our close proximity to one another. We found ourselves smoking more cigarettes than usual, however, being that we were on an extremely limited budget with no source of income and no timeline in place for this marvelous adventure, this wasn’t going over so well on our wallets. Road trip buddy made the executive decision to buy loose tobacco and rolling papers, and save our very convenient, pre-rolled cigarettes for special occasions. Now of course, he, being the initiator of this marvelous idea, was naturally in charge of what and when these special occasions were. How very convenient.
Fast forward another week or so. Ruby red Hyundai rolls into Denver with two clueless kids sitting in the front seat…arguing. To this day I can’t recall what we were arguing about, but I assume it was probably something very important, like where we should eat lunch or whether we should set up our tent or sleep in the car that night. (I mean, the big decisions you have to make when you’ve shirked all of your responsibilities to gallivant across the country are just never ending). Long story short, road trip buddy gets especially aggravated and dips out for a few hours, leaving me sitting in the parked car, more than a little annoyed, in the middle of an unfamiliar town. I reach into the glove box for a cigarette and what do I find? Apparently he has decided that this is some sort of special occasion, because he has taken all of our pre-rolled cigarettes and left me only with a bag of loose leaf tobacco and some rolling papers. Only problem…I can’t roll a freaking cigarette to save my life! Of course I have no trouble at all rolling other things (snow balls guys…I’m talking about snow balls), but my cigarette rolling skills are definitely lacking.
15 minutes pass and turn into 20 and then 30…no sign of my friend or my Marlboro Lights. I try to bum a smoke off of passerby, only to be met with dirty looks (it could have been the dirty, bedraggled, slept-in-a-car-last-night look I was sporting…or maybe I smelled from lack of showering…I guess I’ll never know). I finally grab the papers and the tobacco and try desperately to roll cigarette after cigarette, each of them falling apart in my clammy, nicotine-deprived hands. I mean, wtf, right? 30 minutes turns into an hour and I’m getting more and more pissed. A desperation takes hold as my aggravation mounts. I roll and roll and roll and fail and fail and fail, each failed attempt making me feel like more of a total loser. Finally, when I am just about to give up, one of my pathetic attempts actually ignites enough for me to take a large, glorious inhale into my panicky lungs. A wonderful sensation fills me, but it’s not from the nicotine. It is the feeling of success. Dipshit (I’m sorry if you read this…you know I adore you) has still not returned, but now I’m motivated. I spend the next 2 hours rolling cigarette after cigarette after cigarette, and each one gets looking a little bit more like the real thing. By the time I see his figure walking down the sidewalk, I have a whole bunch of them strewn across the dashboard and a shit-eating grin on my face. However, he doesn’t need to know exactly how well I’ve done, right? So before silently gloating and lighting one up as he opens the car door, naturally I stash a little supply in various hideaways in case this ever happens again. Needless to say, he was more than a little surprised and I didn’t go without a smoke for the rest of our trip.
So, while this may not be the best example (it kept you reading though, right), I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I was at a very low point in my life where I was pretty set to give up on anything and everything that wasn’t working out for me, because, to tell the truth, not much was. I had thrown my hands up in the air in pretty much every area of my life and determined that I just wasn’t good enough or deserving enough or smart enough at anything to succeed. Road trip buddy inadvertently did me a huge favor leaving me in the car that day, yearning for just one drag of a freaking cigarette. He gave me a choice to either accept the situation as it was presented to me or to take charge, persevere through the obstacle, and change the reality of it. So often, we forget to do this. We get so overwhelmed or discouraged by the perceived problem or roadblock in front of us, that we don’t even try to seek an alternate solution within ourselves. We accept that this is our fate and we just have to grit our teeth and bear it, rather than digging deep and remembering that we have the tools and solutions to all of our obstacles within us. In the Yoga tradition, this perseverance is called Tapas. It is the ability to stay the course even if things feel a little daunting or uncomfortable (what a gift it might have been had I chosen to apply that Tapas to quitting right then and there, but that is to ponder another day). It is a choice available to all of us, and when we choose to keep working towards whatever the goal may be, even through the obstacles or the not knowing what the outcome will be, this is where we find the antidote to the obstruction…in my case, the nicotine to my hankering.
Ironically, this perseverance was much needed as well when I decided to quit smoking 10 years ago. Although this story may seem insignificant to some, it has stuck in my memory as a moment where I was able to move through a feeling of powerlessness to emerge triumphant. Learning how to roll a cigarette…a habit that has no value or significance in my life today…who knew how much it would influence me? I have used the memory of this day over and over and over again to remind myself what I am capable of if I just stay the course, even through the uncertainty and discomfort. Something that simple and unimportant.
Dig deep for a moment…if you feel powerless, find that one, tiny thing that you have done that made you feel triumphant…even if it seems small and insignificant. You never know…it could be the one thing that encourages you to find your power and persevere for years to come. You’ve got this!
We were a few weeks into my Yoga Teacher Training, the whole lot of us shimmying around periodically on mats and blankets and bolsters in an effort to bring feeling back into our asses. It felt like the 10-hour long Saturdays, most of them spent sitting on the studio floor, were starting to wear my sit bones down to bloody stumps, but there was literally NOWHERE I would have rather been. I loved reading, listening and writing about this amazing, potentially 10,000 year old tradition. I loved deciphering the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras. I loved bending my body into shapes I didn’t know existed and challenging it in ways I never would have thought to do so. Most of all, I loved experimenting with all of the exercises that forced me to experience the mind, body, breath connection ingrained within us all. Learning about the ways that our bodies hold our past experiences and how this energy gets trapped within us…I was hooked. It was this night, sitting in this cozy studio among my fellow seekers, fully engrossed in listening to my teacher, Scott Feinberg, that he said the three words that I have revisited time and time again since, that truly changed my life. “Own Your Bigness!”
I had spent the past 15 years or so struggling to find my place, dealing with divorced parents, a tragic accident at a young age, a move to Florida, several abusive relationships, a bumpy ride with recreational drugs, and then the transitions into adulthood as I got married, bought a home and had two children. I struggled with motherhood, constantly questioning my right to these two amazing souls who had come to me. I found myself quieter, more withdrawn and really fighting to maintain my self esteem. I battled with depression on and off, and only began to remedy it when I found yoga. For whatever reason, as I sat here this Saturday, these three words struck a nerve in me like nothing else ever had. My bigness? Shit, did I have any of that left? I know I used to have bigness. I used to own the crap out of it! Where did it go and was it really, as he was suggesting, possible to get it back just by owning it? How does one go about owning their bigness and if there’s a course on it…where the hell do I sign up?
I began to use these words as my mantra, repeating them to myself over and over and over again every single time I was faced with a challenge. “Own it, Jillian. Own your bigness. Nobody else is going to own it for you.” At first it felt a little fake and forced, but the more I said it, the more it grew inside of me. It continued to blossom through the rest of my training until it was REALLY put to the test the day I taught my first real yoga class. I must have said that phrase in my head 400 million times as I stood outside the studio door trying to catch my breath and not faint in front of my students. I thought for certain I would throw up or lose my words or die of embarrassment as I crossed the threshold and took my place at the front of the class. Go figure, I actually survived that day and have gone on to enjoy teaching. Can you believe it? I couldn’t even fathom it at the time.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, these three words started a new pattern in my head…a new way of thinking, which has led to a whole new way of life for me. These three words have allowed me to continue on my path and have moved me in the direction I’m pointed now, life coaching with others to teach them how to break down their own thought patterns and create something new and fresh and beautiful, beyond their past experiences. These three words have taught me that being our own biggest cheerleader is the most important and heartfelt gift we can give, not only to ourselves, but to those around us. When we can learn to allow ourselves to own our own bigness…no, not just allow…INSIST that we do it, we are offering our best self to those around us as well. Suddenly our limitations start to fall away as we connect to this powerhouse of energy, love, possibility and bravery within us. The coolest part is that we ALL have it. It’s not limited to the super rich or mega popular or the extremely good looking. It’s only limited to us if we allow it to be.
The best part about all of this for me? Well, I’ve gotten to pair up my love of inspiring this excitement and truth in others with my love for the mind, body, breath connection. Working with the Chakra system (the main energy centers in the body where we store emotions and experiences), I have been able to use a 12-week program written by my teacher, Amy Lombardo, to help my clients navigate the areas in their own lives where they may not be owning their bigness. I have watched transformation after beautiful transformation. I have witnessed intense releases of past hurts and that moment where something becomes fully clear within you. I have seen my clients grow beyond their own limitations and far exceed their own assumptions of what they were capable of. It has been beautiful, liberating, humbling and eye opening for me, and keeps me a student even as I progress on my path as a teacher. It seems that just at that moment where I’m starting to doubt my own bigness again, I watch something amazing happen and I am reminded of all that is possible when we believe in ourselves. If you had asked me once what I thought I would be doing for a living, I never could have foreseen this, and I couldn’t ask for more.
So teach the class, stand up and tell that idea you think is too stupid to share, apply for the job you want, take a leap of faith, ask him/her out on a date…and BELIEVE in yourself. Own your bigness, because nobody else can do it for you.
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