Over a year ago, I encountered a little girl named Maria at a beach town in Mexico. We connected easily, and she showed me how to feel like a kid again. That essence of joy, excitement, innocence, and playfulness. She was tuned into those who accepted her and welcomed her presence. In the same way, she was very clear about those who were not receptive to her. I don’t know if I’d say she gave only what she was given, but there was a pretty equal match to the energy of the many people she met in my company. Love was met with love. Indifference was met with indifference. Disdain was met with disdain.
In the past four months, each time I visited this particular beach town, Maria would show up. I didn’t take it as anything more than a pleasant surprise, yet I began to wonder if our connection held a greater meaning. I then realized that she needed my help. Maria longed to be reunited with her father, and simultaneously her father was looking for her.
I brought Maria to a nearby beach to hold a small ceremony and invited her father. He was so deep in sadness and suffering that he did not notice Maria standing excitedly in front of him— even though this was the very thing he wanted.
Maria had met her death several years ago. She bowed to her fate and set her soul free. The father said what needed to be said— to his daughter, to himself, releasing the burden he carried of not being able to save her life. He acknowledged his own fate with dignity, love, and honor. Now, Maria and her father could reunite at last.
It was time for me to say goodbye to Maria. I was taken aback by my emotions, truly feeling the special bond with her. “Thank you for choosing me Maria. Thank you for the gift and honor. Thank you for connecting me to your being— the gleeful expressions, the sparkle in your heart, your love of trees, the stars, and the ocean, your happiness being in good company, your love for your father, your joyful spirit, and most of all—your smiles and giggles. Thank you for reminding me that this energy is within our innate self, no matter how old we get or how many layers we need to work through.
I give my blessings for you to join your father in the spirit world. As for me, I let the energy of my own inner child come through."
*Out of respect for privacy, the name of the town and other proper nouns have not been mentioned.
This experience with channeling, spirits, and family constellations was a beautiful culmination of my four months in Mexico. It brought together my intentions at the start of my trip: a deeper connection to the country; being more in tune with the universal elements; and community (supporting each other, even dead folks!). It also reinforced the fact that there is A LOT happening by other forces in our human world, but on a less visible level. A reminder to sense and access information beyond the "ordinary" and material sources we take information from.
May we all stay open to the magic around us.
For months, I had received numerous auspicious signs about the new lunar cycle (Tibetan and Chinese New Year) which coincided with the dates of my February 13-20, 2021 retreat in Mexico. I was prepared for all kinds of woowoo— more kundalini awakenings, visions, channeling, ghost encounters, magical energy— something, anything that would be a powerful acknowledgement to the end of a turbulent Year of the Rat. Leading up to it, I was so caught up in self-importance that I ignored my feelings of anxiousness, stress, and tension. The need to know. The need to have. The need to be. It was a lesson in many parts and taught me to let go of what I was holding onto.
... In the end, there was no victory, no defeat. Just a quiet closure to a tumultuous 12 month lunar cycle. No celebration. No magic. No mystery. The joke was on me. Oh universe, how clever you were. Guiding me here, dropping breadcrumbs that I gobbled up with eagerness.
Months of buzzing anticipation and endless curiosity, but there was no show. The curtains were closed. The theatre was dark.
I must have gotten the date wrong on the invitation. I know that I am meant to be here.
And then I see it. My part in this. The clinging. The folly.
Too close to see where I was. Too late to discern what was real and what was false. The building energy past its peak and now turning toward the opposite way. A falling apart. A falling away. A strange sense of liberation. I had set myself free.
I'm grateful that the retreat itself (and all three retreats that I’ve held this year) far exceeded my expectations. The joy of togetherness. Laughing til my sides hurt. Heartfelt sharing. Inspiration. Insights. Healing.
I’m happy to announce that I will be the resident yoga teacher at Beyond Retreat’s second and smaller location in Puerto Vallarta. The venue will be a 5 bedroom villa in a residential gated community in the Marina neighborhood, a short stroll away from the beach. The maximum group size is 8 participants. The 8 day retreat is designed as budget luxury and casual with two yoga classes per day and one guided hike to the waterfalls. For the time that I will be there (March 27-April 17, 2021), I’m adding in some extras: daily meditation and broader wellness modalities instead of just an afternoon yoga class (TRE, QiGong, restorative yoga, family constellation, inner dance energy work, laughter yoga). My intention is to create a place where we practice “living” in a conscious community— being present, accountable, contributing, and communicating honestly and openly. Visit my website for more information here.
In case you have or haven’t noticed, I have disabled my Instagram account to downsize my time on social media. My Facebook business page, website, and my monthly newsletter will still continue. You can still reach me on my website contact form, Facebook, email, and WhatsApp (by request).
This quote from Joe Dispenza’s book Becoming Supernatural, stands out to me. I’m reading it through the lens of a Family Constellation facilitator, TRE® provider, and wellness practitioner. Through his research and my interest in quantum physics, epigenetics, ancestral trauma, and neuroscience, I have also seen evidence of his work in my own work.
Consider this. How much of your time is spent talking about the past?
“I used to be so skinny / muscular / fit / attractive.”
“Because of the car accident…”
“Before the pandemic…”
“I’ve had depression for 10 years”
“I grew up in a _____ household”
We hold onto the past when we: compare ourselves to how we used to be; talk often about an unhealed trauma/ wound, talk about an event with an emotional charge, or have difficulty dealing with the present.
The repetition with which we keep saying these statements to ourselves or others creates a muscle memory and a limiting belief. The more we reinforce it, the more difficult it is to let it go because your ‘story’ then becomes your identity. This is why talk therapy and support groups are not always effective after a certain point. There is power in sharing, being seen, and being heard, but if trauma is not addressed at a psychosomatic level (because your body stores emotions and memory), it is likely keeping you stuck. There is a natural part of us to grieve something that has happened, but then we need to know when it’s time to move forward and redefine ourselves.
How much do our identities stop us from feeling and being fully free because historically, it has negatively impacted how we view our gender, ethnic background, sexuality, nationality, economic status, age, etc.? Who would you be without a way to describe you? The simple answer is, we’d all just see ourselves as energy (and so much less likely to take things personally or make judgments on others!!)
In yoga and TRE®, the body is sometimes held in an habitual response because this is where the body defaults to out of protection, familiarity, and control. Yet, when there is safety, equanimity, and curiosity, a deeper experience can be found in the present moment. In Family Constellation sessions, I’ve seen and felt profound shifts happening between and with representatives in the ‘knowing field’ (quantum field). If a client watched what had occurred (in this particular dimension beyond physical time and space), but then reverts back to an old narrative from the past by saying to the facilitator, “But my dad would never say that (he is proud of me)"— this then resists the healing work that has taken place in the energy field. Integration in the present moment is lost. What is not taken in during the present moment (quantum field or not) cannot then build or vibrate out into the future.
Take some time to think of something you are tightly attached to and loosen the grip. Practice equanimity, curiosity and openness. Allow space to open up and let it the unknown. (It's something I'm working on, too!!)
Hanuman Yoga Retreat
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If your heart feels called to Mexico for clarity, healing, connection, or simply to rest, come join us at Haramara Retreat Feb. 13—20, 2021 in Sayulita. Dave Millang and I will be co-facilitating "Medicine for the Soul— A Retreat into the 5 Universal Elements". This retreat will be held over Valentine's Day and Tibetan New Year— perfect for practicing self-love and starting, deepening or renewing your spiritual journey.
-Hatha yoga, restorative yoga, laughter yoga
-TRE® (tension-trauma release exercises)
-Family Constellation Exercises
-Innerdance Energy Work
-QiGong / Tai Chi
-Cacao Ceremony by Ohmdrea
Haramara is an expansive, secluded open-air property with plenty of fresh ocean breezes. There is an on-site doctor who is available to conduct COVID testing before your return trip home. We will also have a translator available for Spanish speakers. This retreat will be a small group with plenty of support and space. Hope you can join us!
"Do you like yourself?" Sarah Peyton, a family constellation trainer, asked me this question at her workshop a couple of years ago. I looked at the woman in the room 'representing' me and gauged my feelings. "I don't... not like her," I answered. I was relieved that I didn't hate myself, but a bit surprised that I didn't have warmer feelings other than detached observation. Sarah inquired further, "Do you mean it's neutral?" I felt into this for a few moments and thoughtfully replied, "I respect her." As I said this, my curiosity slightly grew towards the "me" standing in front of me.
Fast forward to the past five months where, during my personal TRE® (tension-trauma release) and meditation practice, I'd be engaged in spontaneous movements where I'd throw my arms around myself in a hug. I was startled by this gesture, and received it with a mix of awkwardness and sweetness.
Last week, I participated in an ancestral medicine ceremony in Mexico. The Huichol shaman shared his teachings on self-respect, self-love, and connecting to our inner light. As he spoke, my arms automatically flung around my shoulders, holding myself in a tight embrace. The many parts of me: my inner child, soul, and present self were in a simultaneous group hug, squeezing each other in pure delight.
It was a profound moment to give and receive love for myself. Being with the feeling of joy, care, acceptance, and acknowledgment. In that moment, I knew that I truly did love myself.
Looking back over the years, I don't know if I could identify what steps I took to feel love for myself. It was certainly not linear, nor a single all-inclusive, fix-it-all modality. With most things, it's practice and commitment. I do know that it has nothing to do with our physical appearance, wealth, job status, achievements, or external validation. These are false senses of self-worth based on ego. It bypasses the work involved in building and maintaining a caring relationship with our self. For me, it's about making small and not-so-small choices that strengthen me, offer balance, find interconnectedness, and practice equanimity. In addition to what I cultivate, it also means placing boundaries, letting go of what drains me, and speaking my truth. It's essentially the practice of yoga ... for the heart.
Through countless opportunities being a representative in family constellation sessions, I've received incredible understandings about love. The fierce love between two brothers. Infinite love from an angel to a human. Devoted love from a daughter to her mother. Joyful love from a pet dog towards its owner. A grandpa's love for his grandson. In these cases, the love was immediate and effortless. In other cases, the heart could not receive or give love.
Staying at one point in life and resisting the next step keeps us stuck, blocked, or frozen-- unable to shift forward. When this happens, constellation facilitators look for the root of the block. We then sense when and where movement can happen. Sometimes the movement is small— two representatives finding the courage to look at each other instead of away. Other times the movement is when a representative states a truth. Just like when a glass full of water gets knocked over and spills out, a movement in the 'energy field" (knowing field) vibrates out at the molecular level. This then impacts whatever it lands on, and change occurs. This is the natural process of transformation on the micro and macro level.
What changes do you want in your life and humanity for 2021? Find the courage to create it and commit to it.
If your heart feels called to Mexico for clarity, healing, connection, or simply to rest, come join us at Haramara Retreat Feb. 13—20, 2021 in Sayulita. I will be facilitating "Medicine for the Soul— A Retreat into the 5 Universal Elements". This retreat will be held over Valentine's Day and Tibetan New Year— perfect for practicing self-love and starting, deepening or renewing your spiritual journey.
-Hatha yoga, restorative yoga, laughter yoga
-TRE® (tension-trauma release exercises)
-Family Constellation Exercises
-Innerdance Energy Work
-QiGong / Tai Chi
-Cacao Ceremony by Ohmdrea
-Open mic night
HAPPY DECEMBER. We made it folks. I can hardly believe that we are in the final month of 2020, with 9 months taken up by the pandemic. I can definitely recall my most difficult moments (oh, a mere 5 1/2 months!), but instead I feel a ridiculous amount of gratitude. That in itself has been a practice. It reminds me of my experiences when I was new to meditation. At first, it felt like a chore. I’d want to rush through it or get it over with. The process was often achievement or guilt-driven. “I should mediate because I know it’s good for me.” “I should practice gratitude even though I don’t feel like it.” “I can’t think of anything else that I’m grateful for, and there’s 5 minutes left on my timer.” And similar to yoga, I found that it got easier exercising my gratitude muscles with more and more practice. I was getting less awkward and stiff! Now I feel gratitude expanding in my heart, whole being, and everyday awareness.
My gratitude practice is somewhat similar to a loving kindness meditation or metta. I send gratitude to the people close to me; the people that I don’t know well; the difficulties that teach me; to Mother Earth— her land that we take air, water, food from; and my spiritual guides. Lately, I have especially loved walking around town naming and thanking things aloud or to myself as I see them. “Thank you beautiful flowers on the sidewalk for brightening my day.” “Thank you grocery clerk for saying, ‘Hello how’s it going would you like your receipt” (because sometimes that’s the only human conversation I have all day.) “Thank you sunset for your magical energy.” And so on.
I also initiate a "thank you in advance" before I engage in an experience, enter a situation, or receive something. For example, this is often done before eating a meal in many cultures. When I'm on an airplane ready for take off, I usually say silently to whoever is listening (pilots, air crew, the universe), "Thank you for getting us to our destination safely." Even entering a new country is like being a guest in someone's home. You wouldn't just barge in, make demands, and behave arrogantly (as some tourists or expats are prone to do). For me, I take a moment to express my thanks to the country that has welcomed me and for taking care of me during my stay.
Give it a try! Commit to 5, 10, 15 minutes a day for a week or two to practice gratitude. We have a lot to be thankful for.
This is my last newsletter for 2020! Sending you blessings and bliss. Happy holidays!
Hanuman Yoga Retreat
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My love of Mexico and my work with Family Constellations has inspired me to celebrate The Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) at home tomorrow. This holiday originates from Mexico to honor our ancestors. It’s believed that at this time, the “veil” between the realm of ancestors and the living is thin, allowing precious moments to connect with them by receiving their blessings and/or any messages they have for us. It’s a festive day with parades, dancing, food, decorating altars and visits to the cemetery. (The movies Coco and The Book of Life both beautifully capture the Mexican culture and tradition.)
Fortunately, it’s also possible to connect with your ancestors through the work of Family Constellations. Either way, your ancestors yearn to be remembered and seen. When we lack this relationship with our ancestors, it makes it difficult for them to pass on their ancient wisdom and the gifts from your lineage onto you. When you think about it, it’s pretty remarkable. Your ancestors have survived starvation, poverty, wars, loss, heartache and many other tragedies and traumas to carry on a life force to bring you here to this present day. Sometimes I think, “That’s a lot my ancestors went through so I can sit outside on a beautiful day in California drinking my four dollar latte.” :P However, it is not unlike many parents who work tirelessly and make sacrifices because they want the best for their child— wishing them a good life, happiness, and/or resources to survive despite external circumstances.
As young children, we take what our parents give. We take it all in. As adults, we can humbly take the gifts that have been handed down from our lineage and use them for our highest good— to be in service to humanity, which will be in service to our future generation (including our planet). Various studies have shown that trauma can be passed down three to seven generations. But so can healing.
Sometimes we carry unnecessary burdens of our ancestors out of loyalty or duty (in the name of love). We might notice this in our lives, such as an issue / problem that does not go away. We and members of our family may get inflicted or “haunted” by it in the form of a recurring trauma over many generations (ie. addiction, relationship issues, medical conditions, financial difficulties, childhood trauma, victim/perpetrator dynamic). When we forget our ancestors, they often find a way to try to "be remembered" and "seen" by showing up in our lives in this way. Ancestral work allows generational trauma to be released with dignity.
If you'd like to start connecting with your ancestors, try creating a home altar. Here's a simple way. (Scroll to the bottom of the page to see my home altar.)
1. Find photos of your ancestors. If you don’t have any; you were adopted; or you are unsure about who your ancestors are, find representations of your ancestors. It could be a drawing that depicts people from your country (ie. from a children's book); an artifact from your ancestors; or something from nature. You'll want to choose something that you can connect with.
2. Find a place in your home to create your altar. Take time to clean and purify the space and make it special.
3. You now have these honored guests in your home! Just as you would greet the people and pets in your home, greet your ancestors. Create a relationship with them by placing offerings of flowers, fruit, meditating with them, etc. As needed, ask for their guidance and support. The answer may show up in your dreams, as a thought, or through other signs and channels (ie. the store clerk saying something "random" to you that turns out to be meaningful).
4. Thank and bless your ancestors. Treat them with respect, and humility.
HAPPY DAY OF THE DEAD!
I’m coming up on my 8th annual New Year’s Yoga Retreat in Mexico. In numerology and spirituality, the number eight holds much significance. It symbolizes infinity (with the same shape rotated from the number 8); a completion of a cycle; and the kundalini spiral.
What an 8 year journey it has been with Hanuman Yoga Retreat! I have learned so much, and at times not in an easy way. My job might look ideal on the outside— teaching yoga at beautiful locations arounds the world. But I’d say that 80% of the work comes before the retreat even happens. The success of any retreat is not how spiritual I am, how many manifestation rituals I do, or even how good of a teacher I am.
For all the spiritual people out there, let me just say a word on manifestation. How things work on the 5D / energy/ astral plane / ether world is on a different timeline than the 3D human world. Work needs to be done on both levels, and they sync up at some point. If you’re asking the universe for the perfect job, partner, income, home, or basically anything— hey, it'll be handed to you. BUT if you’re not sure what you want or bypass working on yourself, then it’s not going to go well...no matter how much you try.
Having my own business is a 360 degree reflection of my strengths and weaknesses; my patterns that I need to work through; maintaining a balance of the heart and head space; tracking intuition and logic; being able to take full responsibility for everything; resilience; and having total freedom.
Over the years, I’ve led 32 retreats at 16 different venues, and was the resident yoga teacher at three retreat centers. I’ve lost USD $4K on a retreat, $2K on another, $700, and $600. On three occasions, I’ve only had one guest on a retreat (and each of these were enriching experiences). I also had a streak of selling out my retreats, which led to the false thinking that “I finally made it” and could expect that each time. Alas, it is not a linear process. AT ALL.
I automatically assumed that all retreat centers acted consciously, but this is a great illusion. Fortunately, I have had wonderful experiences at many retreat centers. I am much more clear with my criteria; thoroughly research the venue; and feel into the relationship I create with the managers. Now it’s easier to know when I’m choosing what I want.
In Fred Kofman’s book Conscious Business, he writes: “Integrity is immediate and unconditional. Every time we act, we are either in alignment with our values or we are not. We choose whether or not we are aligned.” It's an excellent business model and benchmark for life!
For me, it applies to:
-Being drawn towards immediate gratification vs. taking time to see if a choice is right for me
-Being realistic with how much am I willing to invest and lose
-Knowing when I am giving too much and people are taking too much
I’m also practicing to:
-not feel that everything is urgent (Gotta pace myself!)
-walk the walk with consistent self-care and unconditional self-love (More self-kindness!)
-to keep joy in my work (even admin tasks!)
I am truly grateful to do what I love in service and teaching; to connect to magical places through travel; to share a special experience with so many people; and to humbly keep growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Now, whose going to join me in celebrating 8 years of Hanuman Yoga Retreat? I'm offering 3 Mexico retreats in the Riviera Nayarit! See below to see what each retreat offers.
Hanuman Yoga Retreat
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I was led to Sayulita a week ago due to the Santa Cruz, California wildfires. I evacuated from my apartment, where I had only moved-in two weeks before and was now displaced. In my discombobulated state, I remembered that I had flight and lodging credit from a cancelled Mexico retreat/trip in April. Incidentally, there were no quarantine restrictions or COVID testing required to enter Mexico; the Nayarit region has one of the least COVID cases out of the whole country; and the international travel ban from the US had recently been lifted. Needing an affordable place to recover (with clean air), I booked my flight and flew out 36 hours later.
It was only a couple of days after I arrived here did I realize that my journey had come to full circle. I was in Sayulita exactly 8 months ago to the date. At that time, I was facilitating a New Year’s retreat, unaware that I had a kundalini awakening (and another one would follow in February). I had already experienced my first kundalini awakening about five years ago in Thailand. I attributed it to a consistent practice of yoga, meditation, TRE, QiGong and being exposed to energy work and spirituality. I was staying at New Life Foundation, an intentional community, and there was an inner nudge to look a bit deeper at myself. Although I was in a safe space, I was afraid to let go of the illusion (to myself and others) that I was “perfect.” In fact, I had built up my perfect image so much that people were initially shocked to learn that I had trauma, addictions, anger, or even problems.
For me, a kundalini awakening is the soul pushing to emerge from underneath all the layers that we cover and protect ourselves in. Physically, it feels like energy coursing through my veins, with strong kicks coming from the inside out. This time around, all seven chakras were activated with intense sensations. With these chakra points open, it unlocked what had been suppressed, to deal with or not. It also brought to the surface my beliefs, fears, attachments, ego, and understandings about love. A full dismantling process happened. On the “other side”, I was now tuned into a frequency that allowed access to channeling, automatic writing, heightened intuition, noticing synchronicities, past life connections, feeling the vibration of nature’s elements, and stepping into different realms. Yes, the experience was intense, overwhelming, fascinating, extraordinary, and exhausting. And it lasted for eight months.
My inner state and outer world triggered each other, and there was no shortage of events— the COVID crisis; Black Lives Matter; the state of my business; financial anxiety; not having "a real home" for five months; evacuating from the California wildfires; and a twin flame encounter.
My biggest lesson through all these situations was whether I chose to stay “a victim” or if I was ready for change. There’s a fine line between acknowledging our (perceived) limitations yet fully embracing new options VS. reinforcing our perceived limitations and staying stuck. We can see this in choosing whether to engage in the same unhealthy relationship patterns, the same unfulfilling career, as well as if we unconsciously resist abundance, freedom, or love.
I learned to let go of what I didn’t want, even if it had been my story or identity for years. I then took time to become clear with what I did want and commit to it. That was actually harder. Oftentimes distractions, excuses, self-doubt, and temptations would try to throw me off track, and I had to be firm with my boundaries. Once I navigated past that, the universe guided me to the next step. This transition was a noticeable shift with many acknowledgements, blessings, signs, and synchronicities.
As I sit on the beach, I feel that I have reached one of many destinations in my soul journey, a bit like a checkpoint on the spiritual path. A deep sense of peace and stillness fills me, and I know that I have arrived.
To the ocean of all things that carried me over the waves-- thank you.
I didn’t think I was going to write a newsletter this month. I felt that nothing had changed. We’re still in this stupid pandemic. I don’t have anything inspiring or thoughtful to say. My energy had hit a major low the past couple of weeks, and I was spending most of my time lying in bed in exhaustion, heavy emotions, and wondering where the heck my life was going.
But today I started to feel lighter.
I thought I’d share my Tao oracle cards from this year. They were messages specifically for me, but it can probably apply to most of us in our experiences the past several months.
During my New Year’s retreat in Mexico, each of us had a chance to choose an oracle card that would offer a personal message for 2020. I love oracle cards. It has an uncanny way of showing synchronicities that I’m experiencing or a truth that I already know or will be revealed. Much to my surprise, I pulled the card with the message STANDSTILL. The very depressing picture and words held absolutely no positivity and stopped me cold. Stalemate, stagnation, withholding, grinding to a halt, insensitivity, mistrust. I thought there must have been some mistake. I was angry and confused. How could I be celebrating the end of 2019 with so much joy and gratitude and have it all come to a halt? Of course, the message is quite clear now. Time stood still for many of us with the pandemic— closing doors to our freedom, plans, community, work, finances, and human connections.
The next card that I pulled was during a February retreat in Thailand. I asked for a message for what was next as I prepared to leave Chiang Mai, my home for 3.5 years. I pulled card #29, ABYSMAL with an image symbolizing everything crashing down and more foreboding words. Again, I was in disbelief. I never get “bad cards.” And it’s so embarrassing choosing such negative cards in front of a group that I was leading. But the cards don’t worry about whether I am saving face or not. They just deliver the message that is asked.
Incidentally, I landed in San Francisco on 2/29, was going to spend a few weeks in California to visit my family before traveling to Mexico for a few months, and then relocate to Kyoto, Japan by June. I. HAD. IT. ALL. PLANNED. However, quarantine soon went into effect in California, followed by the international travel advisory ban. Yes, things got abysmal. I was stuck in the US— a country that I grew up in but had not lived in for over 15 years. I was more in my element being nomadic, traveling, and living abroad. Over these past 4.5 months, I have moved eight times within the San Francisco area based on places that were available, within my budget, and that had my own room. Just as the card stated, I experienced insecurity, overwhelm, unpredictability, dark emotions, facing fear, and finally courage.
Next, we come across card #23, which I pulled in late May. If we add those digits together, it’s 5— the month that George Floyd was killed, and 2, 2+3 makes 25, the date of his death. On the global level, but particularly in the US, here’s where we start to see things SPLITTING APART. Impermanence. Deterioration. Eliminate the old. Collapse. Death. Separation. Let go. Surrender. On the personal level and for the collective, my view is: In order for transformation to happen, we cannot hold onto what is not working. Yet, there can be much resistance to change— fear, uncertainty, and the work it takes to build something new.
Before we start to feel too hopeless, I did pull two cards for the remainder of 2020. Again, this was a message I asked for myself but could apply to many of us. #13 COMPANIONSHIP: friendliness, mutual respect, shared goals, interdependence, agreement, strengthening bonds. To me this speaks about the call for unity and working with each other instead of against. If you are tempted to first (or only) see how you are different from another person, try to see where there is common ground. Click here for a beautiful guided meditation based on Ram Dass’ “Just Like Me” narrated by Sean Fargo.
Companionship is also about the importance of having community. During these times of isolation, I am grateful to have regular practice groups and peer sessions that I meet with every week online. It's different from having a friend to talk to since it is based on a common interest/focus and has structure. This can be a meditation group, a yoga class, a writer's club, or a support meeting such as 12 Steps. If/when lockdown starts to ease, volunteering is a great way to contribute your energy to a community and take the focus off of yourself.
As for "inner" companionship, notice if you are working with your emotions, body, mind, and spirit in a respectful way. Is there interdependence in supporting and nourishing these parts of ourselves instead of seeing it as disconnected or isolated? This was a fascinating constellation exercise that I participated in recently. For some people, the body hid emotions from being seen. For others, the mind was exhausted from trying to control the other aspects of the self.
And last, we have #32 DURATION: constancy, continuity, endurance, perseverance, maturity, strengthening, stability, a deep commitment. Since the word “strengthening” came up twice for both cards, my message is to stay strong as we weather through the rest of the year. Do what makes you feel grounded— a morning ritual, taking time for gratitude, and/or connecting to nature. The seasons will change, and like Mother Nature, we learn to adapt, be resilient, and show up as we are.
Trust that there will be better times ahead.
A few days ago, a friend of mine softly admitted that she’s never suffered racism. I was stunned, even though this shouldn’t have surprised me. She’s white, and I’m Asian. However, it was a moment of stark realization that having racist experiences was part of my life being a person of color—despite whatever similarities we may share in our education, field of work, travels, age, and income.
Many years ago, I went to a country-that-shall-not-be-named* and ended up traveling with a girl that I met at my hostel. Like me, she was American. Unlike me, she was white. More than once, we would be walking together when a local would approach us. He’d start shouting racist remarks at me, ridiculing me for my physical (Asian) features, and follow us around. Meanwhile, the same local would be friendly, smiling, and polite to my friend, promoting his restaurant where they had a "wonderful menu with good prices." It was bizarre seeing this man alternate his behavior so quickly, depending on whether he was talking to me or my friend. The first time this happened, my friend was completely shaken up, disturbed by such a raw display of hate, and confused why anyone would do such a thing. It was her first racist experience, secondhand. I remember her gently asking me, “Does that happen to you a lot?” I felt embarrassed. Not ashamed that I was Asian, but embarrassed that she saw something that I managed to keep hidden. She was seen as superior because she was white.
With Black Lives Matter being at our global attention, this has been one of several upsetting memories that has re-surfaced for me. When the racism was by people that I knew (close friends and my own students as a former elementary school teacher), I felt betrayed. When it was by complete strangers, there was fear and uneasiness in how far the racism would go. As the suppressed wounds come up from 5, 10, 20 years ago, my hurt, anger, and confusion are still all there.
It’s an odd feeling being somewhere in the middle of blind white privilege and racism at its cruelest level. My racist incidents have been on a much, much smaller scale than blacks, and never to the point of brutality. Yet, I know what it’s like when that racist moment happens on a particular level. I also know what it’s like to have my race or ethnic background be treated as superior compared to other races or Asian ethnicities.
Whatever identity we come with, Black Lives Matter is giving ALL OF US an opportunity to WAKE UP, or in softer spiritual terms, to awaken. For the past few weeks, I’ve read and listened to various articles, talks, and videos to educate myself more on systemic racism and white privilege in the US. I’ve donated money to the black rights movement, attended a memorial for George Floyd in San Francisco, and bought a BLM t-shirt. Maybe you have done similar, and I’m sure it’s been appreciated by those on the receiving end.
However, awakening is deeper than awareness or being supportive. It’s the inner process of dismantling the ego, the excuses, and the divide. It can feel like a lot of work— self-examining, questioning, taking responsibility, being vulnerable, admitting to guilt or feeling shame. It may disrupt your beliefs, emotions, your lifestyle, and your relationships. To add to "the Awakening Challenge," there’s so much shaming in our society that it often stops us from even admitting to truths. That we have stereotypes. That we have biases. That we didn’t stop racism when it was happening to others. That maybe we have had a thought, feeling or acted out of superiority based on our race.
We can’t awaken, atone, heal, or move forward if we don’t do the work. Keep the mind and heart open. May we all find our freedom.
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*I didn't name the country in my story since racism exists all over the world, whether it's done by locals, tourists, expats, or residents.
Tammy is a location independent yogi.