Dove sta memoria

“Nothing matters but the quality of the affection--in the end--that has carved the trace in the mind dove sta memoria.” -Ezra Pound

Dove sta memoria translates as where the memory is, lives, stays.

Have you ever wondered why you do the things you don’t want to do? And why you don’t do the things you do want to do?

In yoga, we learn an important concept called samskaras. Samskaras are the impressions created in our minds, usually unconsciously, by our experiences in life. Including past lives. They create grooves of habitual patterning that influence how we interact in the world. Individually, they are our response. Collectively, they are our conditioning.

Samskaras are the reason you find yourself in the same situations over and over. They’re the reason you can’t seem to “get motivated” or “be disciplined enough.” They’re the reason you feel stuck in a rut and can’t seem to get out.

“Nothing matters but the quality of the affection--in the end--that has carved the trace in the mind [where the memory lives]” is saying exactly this. The quality of your affection and attention carve traces in your mind which create long lasting memories. Memories that, according to the yogis, can be carried through the lifetimes. Similar to instincts, these samskaras, or memories, help us survive, like remembering how fire is made and that it hurts if touched. They are also the coping mechanisms we develop after stressful and sometimes traumatic situations. Samskaras are our habitual responses to certain stimuli, both beneficial and self destructive. And because they are so deeply ingrained in our psyche, they can also be what’s holding us back. The lower the quality of affection or attention, the greater the grasp these samskaras have on us. Likewise, the greater the quality of affection or attention, the less likely chance they will be able to control us. 

My teacher and aunt, Judith Lasater, summarizes how this plays out in our lives: “My words reflect my thoughts, my thoughts reflect my beliefs, and my beliefs, especially the unexamined ones, run my world.” It’s those unexamined beliefs created by past life actions, samskaras, that run our world.  Is a blind spot really a blind spot if you know it’s a blind spot?? 

Alcohol was the thing I wanted to change in my life. I so desperately wanted to quit and no matter how many times I tried, I just couldn’t seem to do it. Which would send me down a shame spiral fueled by more alcohol. This was a vicious cycle with no end in sight (it seemed) until I was able to bring my unexamined beliefs and conclusions to the surface. I got a therapist and we dove way into why I have an attachment to alcohol. I learned my attachment was not only a samskara passed down through my lineage, but it was also samskaras created by the conclusions my unconscious mind came to about what alcohol provided because of subliminal marketing--love, happiness, money, friends, fun. Samskaras that had me operating from a belief of scarcity “I won’t have those things unless I drink,” which meant I was reinforcing the belief that I wasn’t good enough. So until I brought those beliefs to the surface, examined them, and chose a new belief system, I would’ve always felt deprived, ashamed of my lack of discipline, and would’ve continued the cycle, potentially passing it on the ones who come after me. This change didn’t happen by being more disciplined or by being more motivated or by simply choosing. No no my sweet friends. It wasn’t that easy. It was about teaching my body that she was safe and, in this moment, she no longer had to operate from a place of survival. It was learning how to give myself the space to release so I could be open to a new way of being in relationship with the world. 

Think of what a dog does after chasing a squirrel. The dog was in fight or flight mode. Then, after the squirrel gets away, the dog shakes it off, releasing that surge of energy, and lays down for a nap. We as humans have an incredibly difficult time moving on and letting things go because we’re perpetually stuck in this fight or flight mode, ready to attack or flee.

It’s impossible to make the changes you want to make or to just “let that shit go” if your nervous system is in survival mode. Think about it. If you’re in fight or flight, and you take something away that was perceived to be crucial to your survival, you’re only going to experience more stress and you’ll be clamoring to have that thing back, like a security blanket. Same goes for adding something. If you try to add something when your body is just focused on keeping you safe, it’s not going to stick, you’re not going to care about keeping it. 

Give your body the support she needs to shift from survival mode into rest mode. In turn, when your body is available to support you, you gain access to reorienting the unconscious mind. This part of the mind contains your greatest strengths, abilities, and wisdom. The conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg; below the water’s surface is the unconscious mind governing how the iceberg is going to move, where it’s going to move, and what ships it’s going to take out along the way. The only way to gain access to this part of your mind is through the body. You can’t access it through logic or sheer will. You must create the conditions for rest and relaxation by supporting the body with stillness and silence. Rest and relaxation are the gateway to producing sustainable, long term change. You begin the process of reintegrating the unconscious and conscious parts of the mind through rest and relaxation. Get these two on board, working towards the same goal, and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. 

To learn how to set up the conditions for sustainable, long term change, sign up for my newsletter where I share practices to help reorient your body and mind to states of rest and relaxation.

Working with nature to balance your wellness

Have you ever been to a place in nature and felt like it was a soothing salve for your soul? Be it a warm beach, a damp forest, the dry desert, or something in between, there’s a part of you that lets out a huge exhale and feels like you’re finally home. You may even have different places that offer that sense of coming home depending on the season.

That’s because, according to ayurveda, the five elements of nature (earth, water, fire, wind, and ether/space) are present all around us and within us in different concentrations. These varied concentrations of the elements result in unique outward expressions. That place in nature that you most resonate with likely has qualities that balance the elemental dominance within you. It feels grounding, soothing, healing.

This is how ayurveda works WITH nature. It’s not only the macro-nature of the forests, rivers, mountains, and oceans. But also the MICRO-nature within you: the fire of digestion, the rivers of blood, the movement of thoughts, the stability of bones and muscle, the space between it all. And because you have a unique concentration of these elements, the food you eat, the exercise you do, the environment you take in, they all need to support your you-niqueness. This is done by working with opposite *qualities* to create balance. Because again, like attracts like. If you’re hot, you likely want a cool drink or sweet, cooling fruit. Think about what’s in season throughout the year. This is Mother Nature’s way of restoring balance in the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. By working with your elemental constitution, or dosha, you create greater balance in your body, emotions, mind, and spirit. You learn to support yourself on the deepest levels. You learn how to turn your raft downstream and go with the flow, preserving your life energy for the things that bring you PLEASURE.

By working with nature, your body can relax. And when your body relaxes, your mind relaxes. And when your mind relaxes, your whole life relaxes.

Why Ayurveda?

The question I get most often is “what is ayurveda?” And while the “what” is important to understand the concepts presented, I think the deeper question is “Why does this matter? Why should I care?” So for the next few weeks I’ll be answering these questions.

Let’s start with pronunciation. Ayurveda is pronounced eye-your-vay-duh. It’s the combination of two Sanskrit words: ayur meaning science, veda meaning life. So the direct translation is the science of life. And this science teaches us how to live in harmony with the cycles, seasons, and patterns occurring in our own lives. The idea being you can get further if you work WITH nature. Like paddling a raft downstream, you use the current to help push you along, only needing to use the oars here and there to straighten yourself out. If you try to paddle upstream, against the current, a) you won’t make nearly any progress but you’ll have exerted far more energy, b) you’ll be tired and exhausted, and c) you remain stagnant by yearning for what’s behind you, not trusting the bounty that’s ahead downstream.

I’ve been studying ayurveda for four years. I learned it about it in my yoga teacher training and was immediately captivated by it. The way the elements play a role in everything, from our bodies, our minds, our relationships, to the food we eat, the seasons, the phases of life, the times of day, all of it made so much sense to me. However, I started to notice people’s eyes glaze over when I spoke about it. So the last four years, I’ve not only been studying how to apply this 5,000+ year old practice to my own life, but I’ve also been thinking and learning how to present it in an approachable and digestible manner that gets people curious and engaged so they can apply it to their own lives.

Lately, I’ve really been into sticky notes. I have them around my computer screen displaying the various goals I have for the next few years; my hopes, dreams, and wishes that feel too lofty to put a date on yet; phrases that randomly pop into my head, and more. Several months ago I wrote “why ayurveda” on a sticky note. I’ve seen it almost everyday since. I would think about it for a few minutes, then let it go and allow my subconscious to do its work bringing it to life. So this series is yet another manifestation of my sticky note shrine and is part of yet a larger goal I have for next year to launch an 8 week course about self care and ayurveda.

Yesterday, I asked several questions on Instagram. One of which was “are you interested in ayurveda? / want to know what it is in the first place?” The overwhelming majority answered yes. So I sat down with a blank piece of paper and, several pads of, you guessed it, sticky notes. I started writing out what ayurveda is, why it matters, how it’s used, and how it’s changed my life. There’s a lot of overlap and yet, I could teach workshops on each one individually. My sticky notes revealed the following:

  • the science of life

  • work WITH nature

  • cycles, seasons, patterns,

  • time tested

  • gets to the root

  • awareness

  • made to order

  • The Four Desires

  • ultimate self care

  • held, supported, loved

  • simple, but not easy

  • ritual

  • the three pillars of health

  • unique expression

  • sees me as WHOLE

  • empowered

Call me presumptuous, but aren’t we all wondering how to paddle further downstream with less effort and feeling empowered to do so?? Paddling downstream is simple but not necessarily easy. You may experience rapids along the way, or a drastic change in weather, or a back eddy that has you spinning in circles for a bit, but that’s all part of it, don’t you see? When you bring awareness to the present, you notice the different patterns of the water’s surface, or the shifting of the clouds, or the changing of the seasons, then you make the necessary adjustments. You say to yourself “Oh here come those rapids” or “Here comes a thunderstorm” and you know what adjustments to make because you’ve experienced something similar before; it’s not the same storm, but it’s still a storm nonetheless. You make those adjustments BEFORE the situation arises. When you learn to brace for those changes, you learn how to support your own self; you aren’t frantically looking for someone else’s validation saying, yes, you are indeed in the middle of a long set of whitewater rapids with, what seems to be from that angle, no end in sight. And the most important part is that you learn to trust yourself first. Not only, but first.

And that, above all else, is why I’m most grateful for Ayurveda: I’ve learned to trust the wisdom within me to not only weather the storm but to embrace it, learn from it, thank it, then watch it pass on as better weather moves in. And when the better weather moves in, I’ve learned that it won’t last so I embrace it, learn from it, thank it, then watch another storm roll in. Because the weather of my life is not who or what I am, it’s simply an experience. One of my favorite quotes is by Pema Chodron. She says, “you are the sky—everything else is just weather.” And this is what Ayurveda believes too. There is a part of you that is never changing, it’s beyond the limitations of space, time, age, race, gender, and sexual orientation; it’s beyond any label you could ever place on yourself. You learn to pay attention to the subtle and the grandiose, to the pain and the pleasure. And by doing so, you experience the depth of life calling to you, inviting you into deeper relationship with your Self. So my hope for you is that by the end of this series you’ll be intrigued enough to incorporate into your life at least one practice that ayurveda offers so you can experience more pleasure, purpose, freedom, and even prosperity. You’ll learn how to get more done by doing less work. You’ll learn how to work WITH nature. And I pray that you’ll learn how to trust yourself first.

A PCT soul hike

Over 100 days sober and the universe is still leaving me post it notes reminding me why I quit drinking. I imagine I will find them for the rest of my life. And, to be honest, I hope I do. But hopefully they don’t always have to be so damn painful. Most of them are a dagger straight to my heart, making me tear up, and sometimes they make me full on ugly cry. Maybe one day, it’ll be a happy note from the peppy present showing me how great life is right now. Until then, you, dear reader, will have to endure the agonizing memories from some of my more uncomfortable moments which are also immediate reminders of my why.

September through December were the darkest months of my life, so far (a little Homer Simpson reference for you.) I was deep in my cups every night. I was going through a handle of whiskey a week (usually less than a week). I wasn’t sleeping. I was in a perpetual state of brain fog. I would wake up from what few hours of sleep I had, if you could even call it sleep, swear off drinking then go to a boozy lunch at work where I of course ordered a fancy old fashioned while everyone else drank an innocent beer. I cycled between hungover wakefulness, the in between where I was actively consuming, blacking out, passing out, then waking up in the middle of the night, riddled with anxiety and shame. I looked to all the holistic health modalities to explain why I was so tired all the time. Waking up at 3am every night is linked to the liver meridian, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is said to store anger and resentment. That must be it! I need to do some soul searching to uncover this anger and resentment. And I’ll do it with a whiskey in my hand. I didn’t dare admit that my beloved drink was to blame. The drink evoked a warmth that uncoiled in my belly and slowly slithered into my every nook and cranny, a false sense of happiness. The drink made me feel alive. That was, until I couldn’t feel anything at all.

I mostly work from home now. Since the start of the year, I’ve been into the office twice. The second time was this week and it was a total last minute decision. My manager’s manager was in town but no one told me in advance. THANKS GUYS. When I sat at my desk, it was so foreign to me (no diffuser! The horror!) that I had to clean up some papers, move binders to the filing cabinet, you know, general tidying. In the process, I found a blue post it note. On it, I, at some point, had written “losing you to you.” I don’t have any recollection of writing this note. I don’t know where or how I came up with such a saying. What I do know is there is not a more concise way to describe what eventually happened because of my drinking. I lost myself to myself. I looked in the mirror and no longer recognized who I was. I didn’t like what I saw and wasn’t willing to accept what I saw. So, I drank. I drank to blur the image of my own existence. I drank to hide who I was. Actually, I drank to change who I was is more like it. I didn’t want to be me or to have the life I have. I wanted something else.

These last 100+ days have been nothing short of humbling. I am constantly reminded of my humanness and my deep desire to belong. Nevermind the fact that I never belonged to myself. I never pulled a chair out for myself and gave myself a seat at my own table. I wanted to be at someone else’s table, even when that table only had two legs and the head of the table held up the third side with his hand. It wasn’t a stable table. So when the head of the table got tired and dropped that side, the table came crashing down and none of us had a place to sit. I was back to my chameleon ways, eyeing the table for one in the sunny corner with a stack of books next to it, but denying myself the opportunity to nourish my soul by finding an even more sketchy table to stand around. There were no seats for me. But there was a group of people that I could stand around/with to look like I belonged. Surely that would be better than sitting by myself. Ensue groupthink.

I’ve said before, I love to learn but I can be a slow learner. Not drinking has been an act of rebellion in a lot of ways. It’s rubbed some people the wrong way and made them uncomfortable. But I’m no longer here to manage anyone else’s uncomfortableness. Not drinking has allowed me to stand rooted in my strength, something that I would NOT have done just 109 days ago. And something I DIDN’T do 109 days ago when opportunity actually arose. I’m no longer “losing myself to myself.” I’m welcoming myself to myself. I’m learning what inspires me, what creativity looks like/feels like for me, what my values are. I’m slowly coming home to myself. And the journey back has been that of a mountaineering professional on a PCT thru-hike. Burn areas, dessert, snow, forest, peaks, valleys, stream crossings, hail storms, thunderstorms, sunny days, windy days, scrambles, flat terrain. A few forks in the trail where I went left when I should’ve gone right but eventually got back. And yet, it’s been the most purposeful experience of my life. I’m exposing myself to the elements and remembering how strong I truly am. How resilient I am. How brave I am.

Double jumps and mushroom power ups

Davis calls me a professional student. He says if I could get paid for all the books I’ve read, courses I’ve taken, and workshops I’ve attended, we’d be millionaires by now. It’s true though—I love to learn. But I’ve been in input mode for so long—taking in all the information, reading all the books, listening to all the podcasts—that I didn’t realize how little I was actually processing. I’ve been unintentionally greedy with all the life gems that have been passed down to me. I haven’t picked up a book (besides Outlander of course lol) because I am full to the gills. I cannot take in one more thing. It’s time to digest, process, and share. I am finally shifting to output mode. And yet, as soon as I say that I feel called to teach, every single Negative Nancy in my head comes out to play, telling me I have nothing unique to offer, someone else is already doing it and doing it better than I ever could, I’m not funny enough or interesting enough so I’ll never have anyone to share this work with. I find the Nancies to be my own worst critics, talking me down from what looks to be a ledge. Or is it a springboard? The Nancies don’t know because they’ve never had the courage to ask! I imagine it as a Super Mario obstacle where a solid double jump could get me to the next level or where a tragic misstep could take me straight down into the unknown world below. If I practice what I preach about what you focus on becomes your reality, I’ll focus on the actions needed to level up. So, instead of asking myself “why me?” as I approach the edge, a question of dead weight, I will make my way (cautiously) to the edge saying “why NOT me?” as I hit a perfectly timed double jump and allow my super mushroom power up of self-trust to take me to the next level.

My darling

My darling,
Lay your head and let me tell you how wonderful you are
Rest here in my lap and I’ll tell you all the ways in which I admire you
Close your eyes and listen to how your presence alone delights me

No doing

No moving

No proving

Find refuge in my love for you
Receive the welcoming of my heart and reside here
Dwell in me as I dwell in you

davis on film.JPG

Shadow be with me

Growing up, I had a weird fascination with the dark. I would wake up at some ungodly hour when I knew no one was awake just to sit in the backyard and listen to the noises of the night. I imagined what other people were doing at that time, both near and far. I wondered if anyone was doing what I was doing and found comfort in sharing this time with a stranger on the other side of the world. I also wondered if I was being watched, which didn’t creep me out as much as it made me very aware of my surroundings. My mom told me when I was young that humans see by movement. If something is camouflaged, our eyes aren’t necessarily attuned to the out of place patterns; our eyes notice out of place movement. So I would stare into the dark and see what I could see.

My maternal grandmother is blind. As a kid, I watched her gracefully move through the house, using a mental map to navigate her way up the staircase, through doorways, around tables. She knew every nook and cranny of their old house. She knew the exact location and placement of, in order of importance, the wine glasses, the sweets she hid from my grandfather, her sets of silver. I “practiced” being blind sometimes. I would close my eyes and learn to remember my surroundings just like she did, count my steps between my bed and the door, the door and the bathroom, just like she did. I would turn off the lights and focus intently on my own navigation through a room with random piles of clothes and toys. My sisters and I played a game called creepy crawlers in our bedroom hallway. It was essentially hide and go seek in the dark. We turned off all the lights, sealed the bottom crack of the door with a towel, unplugged the nightlights. One person was “it” and the others would hide. The places to hide were very limited. It was a hallway for God’s sake. But we learned how to climb the walls and hang on for dear life. We would shove ourselves—and others—into closet spaces so small a pillow could barely fit. Despite how few hiding space there were, I felt like because I practiced seeing in the dark, that my skills were far superior to my lowly younger sisters. Only plebeians don’t practice their night vision.

I’ve learned through my “study” of the dark that our minds are usually what make the dark so foreboding. While I tooted my own horn about not being scared, I absolutely had moments where I freaked myself out. But those moments happened, not because there was anything “out there” but because I TOLD myself that there was something out there, and I believed it. The more I exposed myself to the dark and learned to sit with the eerie tingles running up my spine, the more I was able to discern my thoughts from my reality. I could ask myself if these tingles are because my mind is running wild with images of coyotes taking me down? Or is it because I actually see a coyote and my body is telling me to fucking move already? Little spoiler alert: it was the images in my mind that made those tingly sensations break out.

Nowadays, I don’t have as diligent of a practice of sitting with the sounds of night as I did when I was a weird kid sitting by herself outside at 2am. But I do make a practice of exploring the darkness of my inner landscape. Is that darkness creeping in because of a story I’ve mentally created? Or is it because I actually have some grief and trauma that I need to acknowledge and process? The answer isn’t as clear as coyote or no coyote but I’m slowly getting better at identifying the exaggerated, and sometimes completely false, stories of my mind and discerning them from the true sensations of grief and trauma and all the other dark feelings. Sometimes I get those eerie, tingly sensations coursing through my body when I’m walking by myself outside, the kind that make my hands sweat and hairs stand up. When those do happen, I do a solid scan of my surroundings. Assuming no danger is present outside, I’ll take a moment to sit on the ground and face so that my shadow is in front of me. I look at my physical shadow, imagine it as a reflection of my internal shadow, and do a scan similar to check for danger. I notice my breath, each body part independently and wholly, and lastly the quality of my thoughts. I’ve found that it’s the quality of my thoughts that can make me more on edge than almost anything else. And so I welcome these thoughts. They’re a symptom of something deeper and I want to get to the root of it. I’m not one for bandaids. Give me the deep, hard, dirty work that gets me to the core of it all. So I ask my shadow to be with me, always. May I never fear the dark. May my shadow teach me to trust the dark so that I may be reminded of my light. May my shadow continue to give me chances to practice grace and love and compassion. May my shadow keep me in communication with God.

Gratitude does not lead to complacency

I’ll be honest. My gratitude practice has been a scanty one. It’s only when things get really bad that I focus on what I’m grateful for, just enough to keep my head above water to take a deep, gasping breath before a wave crashes down on my head. Kook of the day wave crashing style. I may slip under the surface for a second or two, but I eventually find myself grateful for that deep, gasping breath and wonder why I don’t, you know, swim to the safety of the shore, away from the crashing waves. I love to learn, but I can be a slow learner sometimes.

I’ve been working from home more often now. It’s something I wanted to manifest a year ago. And here I am. Sitting in my robe, diffusing oils, drinking ghee coffee, working from home. However, I still find myself wanting something else, something more. My husband reminds me to be grateful for my job and the ability to work from home. I am grateful. I am grateful for the financial support it provides my family. I am grateful for the amazing benefits. I am grateful for the ability to work from home. I am grateful for the tools and resources available at my “disposal.” I am grateful for the learning experiences I’ve had along the way. There, 5 things. 5 breaths of gratitude, I should be good to go for another 2 minutes underwater…

I realize that the wanting something “more” comes from wanting more purpose and meaning in my life, particularly my job. And so yesterday, while deep in the trenches of a 12 hour day of commercial mortgage banking, a thought popped in my head. I am scared to practice gratitude because I’m scared it will lead to complacency. I’m scared that if I don’t have the sensation of waves pounding down on my head that it means I gave up. That I’ve slipped below the surface, content with my situation of drowning. I thought that if I was grateful for something like my job, a job I don’t have any passion for, that I would lose motivation and desire to do something more. Anyone else experienced or thought this?

It’s just dawned on me that maybe it’s my scanty gratitude practice, those one or two breaths I can take before another wave comes crashing down, that has kindled my tiny flame of desire to choose a new way of being. That being grateful for what my job provides me (financial support, learning, flexibility), that being grateful for the waves crashing down (I’m still choosing a way worth fighting for) is simply an access point to creating what I want. But it does need to require so much struggle? I often refer to my (future) decision of finally leaving my job as jumping ship. Water has a huge influence in my life if you can’t tell—it usually doesn’t have such negative connotations but then again, the oceans aren’t always smooth sailing. So perhaps the ship I’ve jumped off is the ship of complacency. And the waves trying to pull me down are the forces of resignation. And the land I see bobbing in the distance is the stability of purposeful living. And what’s keeping me going is my gratitude for the power of choice, my hope and my belief in more. I’m slowly making my way to the land of purposeful living with every incoming tide, choosing to work with every outgoing tide to preserve my strength, choosing to find refuge in the few moments of calm between the next surge, using gratitude as my flotation device, accidentally letting go of it for a bit to scramble and panic only to see the rope was wrapped around my leg. Gratitude never letting me go, always within arm’s, or leg’s, reach to keep me afloat.