Surrender… or Burn the White Flag?

“Surrender is the greatest act a human being can do.” – Krishnamacharya

I’ve repeated that quote for many years, adding, “What we surrender to does not matter. It could be to the floorboards beneath us.

It is the act of giving over. The art of letting go. The practice of feeling each cell relax and release. It is about trust, feeling supported and noticing how the more we let go…the more we feel this simultaneous paradox.”

So why am I obsessed with this song that is all about NOT surrendering? :

White Flag by Joseph

Your yelling’s getting loud
Keep it down now, keep it down now
There’s talk going ’round this town
Keep it down now, keep it down now

Noises closing in from all sides
Warning all the ways to die
They say “you’d better give up, you’d better give up

“I’ll be an army, no you’re
Not gonna stop me gettin’ through, ooh
I’ll sing a marching song and
Stomp through the halls louder than you, ooh

I could surrender but I’d
Just be pretending, no I’d
Rather be dead than live a lie
Burn the white flag
Burn the white flag

Whisper, move the air
Can you hear me?
Can you hear me?
Sometimes it’s all I’ve got to spare
Can you hear me?
Can you hear me?

Noises closing in from all sides
Warning all the ways to die
They say “you’d better give up
You’d better give up”
I say “I’ll never…

I’m obsessed with this song because it’s time for me to not surrender my voice in speaking my truth.

I’m stayed silent too long.

I know the importance of speaking one’s truth to end cycles of pain and abuse for our children.

And for me, it’s time to talk about sexual abuse. Together. Acknowledging the pain we’ve caused doesn’t’t mean one of us wins.

We’ve all suffered in this.

It’s time to sit down, dig deep, listen carefully, and receive each other’s voices. From telling our stories, we empower our experiences. We rise from our ashes by burning the past pain.

The past may feel gone. Like we are not those people anymore. Yet if we haven’t learned from it and evolved….doesn’t it repeat itself over and over again?

Isn’t it enough,, already?

It is for me.

I have been sexually assaulted by at least five men: the Hippie, the Frat Boy, 2 different “music producers,” and also by a long-time partner…that’s the one that is the most tricky because there is the most “grey area.”

None of these incidents were ever reported. I stayed silent. Felt ashamed. Moved on. Blaming myself for allowing to be in those situations.

I’ve come to peace with owning my parts in these experiences. I can see my behavior as acting out my own cycles of pain. So, I don’t raise any of this to harm these men for things they’ve done to me in the past. Because it really is the past for me now and I don’t need to cause them harm in return. I actually want their peace and happiness because that is the evolution…isn’t it?

So, I say this to raise the conversation around cycles of abuse, and most importantly, to encourage us to notice the patterns.

History has repeated itself enough. Hasn’t it?

These assaults were all done to me when:

  • I was unconscious or sleeping.
  • we were all intoxicated.
  • I had been flirtatious, or in a long-term relationship.

Who is to blame? All of us, I think.

Do we end party culture? No .

Can men and women develop different ways of interacting, though? Absolutely.

Can we establish mutual understanding around sexual respect and appreciation? We must!

How do we do this? A lot of ways, I imagine.

I believe we can start by doing these two things:

  • 1. Take responsibility for what is true for our personal self. Inquire within. What is the bigger pattern in our own life.
  • 2. Share what we realize about ourself, acknowledge our truth with a desire to evolve our mutual understanding of each other AND the greater context of the society of which we are a part.

Can we do that?

I really, really hope so.

…I just keep singing that song!

I don’t need fancy sex, just like I don’t need fancy yoga.

I’ve decided.

The word decide means “to cut off, to make a choice from a number of alternatives, or to come to a resolution in the mind as a result of consideration.”

I’ll be honest.  For all of my adult life, I’ve explored my sexuality in ways that have not always been the smartest. Ultimately, I ended up making this decision.  

So, let’s talk about sex, relationships, yoga…and what I’ve decided!

To begin, let’s consider Yoga Sutra 1.2: Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah

The interpretation of this that I was taught is “ Yoga is to direct consciousness via the mind in your chosen direction.”

So what does that mean in terms of sex?

At 40 years old, I have been everything from sexually naive, curious, abused, shamed, widowed, divorced, dated long-distance long-term and short-term, monogamously and non-monogamously, co-parented, dated online, casually hooked up…I could go on, but I won’t. The point isn’t to talk about the individual relationships I’ve experienced.

I’ve had enough exploration at this point to know one thing…

I believe in the power of monogamy.  

Maybe not lifetime monogamy, but the longer term the better, as long as it is a mutually empowering relationship. 

What does yoga have to do with monogamy?

Being a single mother of two teenage children and weaving together five different jobs, one thing is crystal clear…my personal yoga practice has been my saving grace. This was not the life I imagined, but it is what I am grateful to live!

My yoga practice has allowed me to deal with the emotional roller-coaster my life has been. It has been pivotal in managing my auto-immune condition. It has given me space to non-judgmentally feel everything and let it all be okay.

It has let me process life’s deepest traumas without the continual anguish of existential questions like…Who am I? Why did this or that happen? What do I do now? What’s my purpose?…and instead, participate in whatever is active in my life at that moment.

My yoga practice allows everything to be alchemized, not scrutinized. Loved and accepted, not hidden or ashamed.

I’m grateful I learned to breathe so that my breath simply moves my body in ways that make me feel better.  

I am like a cat. Stretching, flexing, purrrrring.  I’m not trying to be any particular way. I’m just alive. My breath rhythmically enters and exits, allowing movement and stillness to take me into places that help me feel better. 

It’s not a choreographed dance that I must “perfectly” accomplish. I simply feel my inhale and exhale as a whole-body prayer, honoring everything I am, all I’ve come from and all I hope for, in every cell. 

I surrender to the Great Mystery that I am a part.

I digest, process and release the doubt and pain, simultaneously receiving the newness and potential of each moment, each new breath.  

Then, I do it all again. 

And again. 

And again. 

Given time, I always feel better. 

The usual family life of everyday happenings continues, and most days can bring some degree of dis-ease. So again, I practice my yoga. Nearly every day – actually, naturally, non-obsessively – just giving myself time and space to be.

I have practiced like this for more than eleven years with the support of wise friends who have listened patiently as I’ve learned how to manage my intensity.

I realized a long time ago that no one was or is ever going to be able to help me more than I can help myself.  That’s just the truth. 

For all of us.

That also means the only way to deal with life’s pain, the full emotional spectrum, all the responsibilities, the stress, the unforeseen and unpredictable, is to feel it all. 

In feeling it all, something miraculous happens with each inhale and exhale.  The process of transformation – the process of death, life, birth – happens. In that, we humans tend to suffer and need to grieve.

Healthy grieving tends to involve denial, anger, sadness, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion. Moving through this process is healthy, but not very easy sometimes.

It can’t be forced. It can’t be expected. It can’t be demanded.  It has to be allowed to come in its own time.  

I’m assured through my own experiences, it always comes. Even if it’s just momentarily. I always, eventually, feel better.

At the center of my yoga is the deep acknowledgement that these two opposites of inhale and exhale merging at my heart, my hrid, produce a powerful third energy.  The manifestation of this is literally this process of healing and what creates life. 

We each have this in us. We are each miracles by our sheer existence!

Each of us is this union of opposites came together and POOF… a new life, my life and your life, developed from that spark!

The practice of yoga acknowledges our consciousness and ability to fully participate in our miraculous being, allowing us to embrace our power and focus our energy on whichever ways we want to direct our sparks. 

So, I’ve been honoring my hrid, developing sensitivity to the place where I feel this unification in my body. Every day practicing strength that is receptive. Yet I continued to choose partners who didn’t agree with this perspective!

Even if they were okay with monogamy, the co-dependent, under-developed relationship of mutuality AS strength and receptivity didn’t exist. Perhaps it couldn’t. There wasn’t a ground for communication that supported this. And that’s the dance we are all doing in trying to figure out sex and relationships.

For me, though, too often the focus on the outer union of opposites – sex – was on merging with more than one . 

Do you see the incompatibility?

The desire for more than one is the desire for some level of “open relationship.” This looks differently for every couple considering and navigating this desire. To be clear, in my experience polyamory is defined as having more than one that you love.  So a “poly” person is focused on much more serious, long-term sexual partners that are actively engaged in a deeper level of relationship than those of the casual sex vibe that I’ve seen in more “open relationship” statuses. The range of relationships style varies, obviously, based on all the individuals involved.

Why do I care?

One definition of yoga is “to merge with your chosen object.”

The object that one chooses to focus on, and therefore merge with, is entirely up to each individual.  There is an inherent, unifying truth that each individual is the product of two beings (man and woman) that came together. Therefore, each human is the living embodiment of two opposites in union. (This includes all genders and sexual relationships regardless of how we identify or who we are attracted to.)

The point is, without this union of opposites, my inhale and exhale, I cease to exist.

That’s a pretty big deal to me.

My inhale and exhale ARE opposites because the inhale always comes from above, the exhale always comes from below. They merge at the center, the Hrid or Source Heart, in the anatomical flow and function of our living bodies.  In the place where they merge rests a peaceful power, my intuition, the seat of my mind, and much more.

So when I do my yoga, I experience this mutual empowerment of opposites that coalesces, fuels, regenerates and vibrates in relationship to all. 

Because my daily practice honors this power of two (as my inhale/exhale, above/below, left/right, etc.), yet my sexual partners were focused on merging with more, there was a fundamental incongruity with what I was choosing to focus on in my personal life and what I was trying to cultivate in my primary relationship with another.

Every time this has happened, I have experienced extreme suffering.

Ultimately, I could not deny that the experiences of my truth within and with-out were inharmonious.

AND, I emphasize this:

THIS IS ONLY MY TRUTH AT THIS TIME!

I am not here to proselyte or recruit followers. I trust that there are many other types of beings that exist in different forms, functions and capabilities, all evolving and changing. I honor you all and sincerely say more power to you!  

All I am describing here is my own experience of life, sex and relationship as the result of my experimentation in living life thus far. That’s all.

I know I have my own trauma. It certainly has informed my perspective. I am sure I can learn from what others choose to focus on and create in their lives.  I have simply learned to honor what my capacity is right now.

I acknowledge that even my own beliefs and desires may change over the course of my life.

I respect all.

This desire for inner and outer harmonious relationship has been my focus for a long time.

The majority of my past relationships have been wonderful, and because I learned from them what feels good to me and what I want, I now have certain clarity.

I bow down to the wisdom within each of you to make your own best choices for your own heart and health. You have my blessings, and I hope you have whatever support you need.

I have read many of the scientific arguments for open relationships and I get them. I also know some people who seem to successfully navigate them. They are totally logical and they can make a lot of sense considering the age we live in.

Awesome! That’s truly wonderful.

I’m not here to debate choices in an attempt to make some “right” or others “wrong.”

I’m convinced that whatever feels best to you IS your yoga.  So, I hope you honor yourself as the miraculous, completely perfect creature you are and let your breath and body’s pleasure and pain mechanisms inform your choices. 

For me, the question of whether or not to have an open relationship right now is punctuated.  It’s done.

I am tired of the fancy sex desires I found in non-monogamous relationships.

For me, they’ve resulted in an endless search for stimuli, as if my relationship was going to get better because of the next new thing (threesomes, elaborate toys, endless fantasies, constant explorations); all things that were extraneous to my being intimate with my own reality and in actual relationship with my chosen partner just as he is. 

The mental, emotional and physical stimulation that many are addicted to is found not just in abusing our bodies with food, alcohol, drugs, extreme exercise, overworking or any number of self-soothing mechanisms we indulge. It is most pervasive in our unending longing, our seeking for pleasure in an “other” because we aren’t appreciating the subtleties we already possess.

I think we probably all do it in our own ways.

The constant search for anything more interesting, stimulating, captivating, engaging, passionate, exciting, intoxicating, soothing, ultimately never provides the deep abiding pleasures like those that lie within, especially when one’s personal strength and sensitivity are engaged, repeatedly, by an equal and opposite partner. 

The other issue with this attitude of searching is that it tends to scatter our energy and distribute our attention. These precious resources are finite. We can only do so much.

What happens when we go deeply in one direction, and give one thing our full attention?

In my experience, it is profound.  

Instead of feeling like we are always on the lookout, unsure, unclear, messy, empty, reckless, unsatisfied, like something is missing or we are wasting our time, we find our purpose. Without struggling, our whole systems relax. Clarity. Ease. Lightness.

We find a rewarding simplicity in knowing our personal pleasure as an extremely intelligent power, one we can trust. So we build this, and our gifts come forward.

Naturally, in their own sweet time, our magic is revealed.

This does not translate into a fancy personal yoga practice that seeks for anything. There are no tricks.

Generally, I do a handful of postures for 10-60 minutes (depending on the day) where I let myself participate in my breath, body and relationships to all… and for eleven years, I’ve done basically the same thing.

There’s nothing fancy about any aspect of my yoga practice.

I’m not craving new sequences or believing that if only I can wrap my leg behind my head, I’ll finally be “good enough.” I’m not searching to achieve anything in my yoga practice. I’m just allowing, surrendering and resting in the medicine of my mat.

Resting. Trusting the miracle of life I am. 

Any imposition or desire to attain anything or get anywhere is gone.

My only focus is to listen to my breath. It is my guru.  This is how I’ve learned to help myself. 

Self-help, on it. 

Self-centered, yes please.

In a real yoga practice, we literally create strength in our base/foundation with each exhale. In this strength, the exhale always gives over to the inhale. When we finally inhale, we receive our life force, our prana, and can feel the fullness of possibilities we contain. Then, without fail as long as we continue to breathe, the inhale gives over to the exhale, releasing that which no longer serves us.

Together, this cycle of giving and receiving, in service to each other and the whole is the mutual empowerment of Life.

There is also stillness.

Stillness in the pauses between the inhale and exhale. 

The stillness is significant because it enhances the qualities it proceeds.

Beautifully, paradoxically, we can notice total oneness as the total absorption of individuation intersections and overlaps.

Completely, equally, rhythmically, geometrically; so that each one wholly contains the other. It IS the other. You and your object are one.

Within us then is this reciprocal relationship known as one’s breath, heart, body, mind, and all relationships.  When we have this for ourselves, we can be with each other in robust relatedness, particularly with our chosen partner. This naturally extends then into our communities as real friendship from one to another. Real caring.

This can be healing of trauma and abusive cycles, something that is mostly inescapable in modern society.

At the core of this then is acknowledging that the power that is within our inner union of opposites IS the same power that exists when we focus on the outer union of opposites.

When sex is appreciated as this merge of two, something is born.

This new life (not necessarily a new child) can be created, seeded and nurtured just like all living things. In this relationship, we can develop ourselves and go deeper in the endless flow of giving and receiving that is our Hearts.

As we continue to focus on our chosen direction/partner and move with continuity towards it, the bond between the two gets stronger and more potentialities for what’s possible together become tangible. 

This union of two can only be outwardly supportive, as long as it is independently strong as well. When each individual is encouraged to form other close relationships outside the dyad…they all serve the partnership.

There are many ways to grow connection. They are all important.

For me, sexual connection with one is my practice of “un-fancy” yoga as “un-fancy” sex. 

Every moment I can choose what I want to focus on. I want to feel the synchronicity and alignment of what I believe is possible in the outer union of two to match my experience of my inner union of two. 

That’s all.

It’s just a decision, a choice, a way to focus my that feels powerful and peaceful and supports all the other parts of my life that are important to me. 

I choose to continue to create this peaceful power in myself because I know I show up for my family, friends and community more helpfully when this is my choice. I am no longer ashamed for wanting this or believe that I’m not good enough for needing to “be more” of anything to please anyone else. I have nothing to prove or defend in trying to be “more spiritual.”

I know the the radical experience of my entire life as the power of two polarities in union . Why would I not acknowledge that same power in my choice of how to give my body and direct my energy in my outer/sexual experience? 

Choice made. 

Decision done. 

Monogamy is my yoga.

TRIPURA SUNDARI YANTRA by Melissa Forbes


The Yoga of Relationship

Yesterday, my son made a joke that deeply hurt me.

I was offended.

I felt unappreciated, unloved, and unsupported.

I understood that from his perspective, it was harmless ; a humorous mocking of a current truth, and something I shouldn’t get so upset over.

Yet here, my friends, is our fire. This is the place where we can crumble or we can rumble. (Thank you Brené Brown for defining a Rumble! Please see her definition at the end.)

This is a place that every relationship experiences at some point. This is when differing points of view and expressions rub our raw edges, exposing the places within us that are hurt, perhaps making vulnerable the flesh of our usually armored bodies. Yes, my son’s joke exposed a truth – and I didn’t like it.

How we navigate these moments is where relationships grow closer or dissolve.

Over the years, I’ve certainly had my moments of throwing my hands up in the air, walking away from the flames of conflict and disengaging from communication altogether in frustration and /or exhaustion. I’ve not listened with empathy as others have expressed their truth and have only wanted to be right. I’ve interrupted, spoken rudely, and said mean things that I later regretted.

As a Mother, my relationships with my children are THE most important thing in my Life. I also know that the communication and behavior patterns I model are what my children absorb more than anything I say.

Even so, I don’t always lead by calm, loving example. I lose my temper, I speak sharply and I act out of anger (which I have come to realize is only masking a deeper grief). When this happens, though, I do my best to take a moment (or a few) and consider my personal responsibility, acknowledge my errors, take swift action to say I’m sorry (and mean it), make amends, repair the rifts, and ensure that our relationship is truly loving again.

Learning to not react in this knee-jerk manner when I feel hurt or offended has been the most difficult and significant process in forming good relationships that I’ve ever known. The internal process of choosing not to become defensive and shut down can feel like a major effort, especially at first. Yet this is the yoga of relationship.

This is the practice of becoming sensitive to the full range of our emotional, mental and physical edges. These are the delicate, always moving boundaries of what we are capable of at any given moment. They demand our attention and appreciate our respect. Simultaneously fragile and fearless, these edges expose our truth.

This is why I get on my mat – every, single day – to feel my body, listen to my breath (because it never lies) and participate in the miracle of Life that IS undeniable strength that is also utterly receptive.

My practice is firstly to focus on my experience of body, breath and relationship with everything. The natural result of this is acceptance and surrender to whatever my truth is at that time. Then, unabiding peace flows to and from my heart without the need to change, qualify or mitigate the intensity of feelings I may have. It simply creates space for everything to be felt and loved exactly as it is.

Because of this, I leave my mat more capable of engaging in the activities of my daily life and relationships with empathy and compassion towards myself and others. I’m more grounded with inner stability and more capable of receiving whatever Life presents. These are the energies of yoga in action as Active Listening and Rumbling; where the courage to stand tall in my own experience AND also receive others in all their truth is possible – even if I feel offended by it.

Because when the fire of Life is hot, and I am tempted to run away for fear of being burned, I remember… that is not what I really want. I want to be warmed in relationship; tended, stoked, seen in all my dirty ashes and glowing embers; and I know this is what others desire, too.

When the heat seems unbearable, these are the moments I must make the choice to stay committed to the rumble and not shrink away from all of the feelings that arise. I must choose to stay in the fire’s glow, and allow my full-body experience to be seen AND actively listen to others. I believe this is the greatest gift I can teach my children – autonomy and harmony, dancing in the flames.

In the heat of these moments, when conflict and dis-ease are simmering, we must allow the pain we feel to have its place and not shy away from or suppress it. This is the practice of the yoga of relationship.

As I circle the fire with my teenage children, both sides can feel the desire to dampen the heat. My intention is to practice the lessons from my mat, and communicate authentically, empathetically and with yoga’s wisdom to cultivate deeper, more intimate, loving connection.

Here’s what I ‘m saying:

Yoga IS Relationship.

~ I am strong in my own skin, AND receptive to others. So are you.

~ I am grounded in the truth of my experience, AND know everyone’s experience is also true for them. So are you.

~ I am capable of communicating my heart’s most vulnerable aspects, AND I am safely and lovingly accepted just as I am. So are you.

Yoga is your participation in The Given Reality.

“Given” means “just as you are.”

All of you is perfect. All of your emotions. All of your perceptions. All of your desires. All of your confusion. All of your beliefs. ALL of you is true and perfect just as you are, and you have every right to be here in all of your glorious existence.

Participating in all that we are allows us to feel the fullness of our experience, where nothing is denied or shamed, and the healing function of pain simply serves to identify a desired change.

Pain IS the healing.

Yoga is feeling good , and feeling good.

Feeling good can be defined as becoming sensitive to your body, mind and emotions. It does not imply just feeling the “positive” side of Life; it means sensitizing ourselves to all of what our Life experiences offer us.

The result of yoga is feeling good because we tangibly experience our life as literal strength and release with each exhalation, and soft openness with each inhalation. When these two seemingly opposing forces come together, we feel better because we accept ourselves just as we are, surrender into that which we cannot control, and as a result feel more confident and supported in the Given Reality. True empowerment is the collaboration of these two energies.

Yoga reveals the Hrid.

The Hrid is the Source Heart.

It is the space where Life’s opposites merge / yoke / unify, and each opposite empowers the other. (Read more about the Hrid in Mark Whitwell’s Hridaya Sutra.)

Giving and Receiving. Strength and Softness. Expansion and Contraction. Above and Below. Left and Right. Sun and Moon. Male and Female. Each of these exists BECAUSE of the other. We CANNOT have one without the other. It is an impossibility.

Where the exhale releases, detoxifies and strengthens from the base of the body to the crown, the inhale brings new energy, expansion, and softness from above to below. The Hrid is where these energies merge and reveals the miracle of Life – a miracle that is a greater power than either one can create on their own.

This is the “strong back, soft front, and wild heart” of which Brené Brown speaks. The practice of Yoga give us this experience in our spine and skin.

When we relax into the fire, feel our truth and vulnerably share it, we realize our connectedness – within, with each other, and with everything. Despite any conflicts, we all share the miracle of Life, and in the end, we all want the same things – to feel loved and supported.

I encourage us all to know the Yoga of Relationship not as a forceful attempt to achieve a lofty goal, but as a practice of relaxing into things just as they are. The daily practice of attending to your inhale and exhale as it moves your body is what allows us to develop the courage to rumble when the fire of Life is raging out of control.

From “Dare to Lead” By Brené Brown.

Rumble
• A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a
commitment to:
◦ lean into vulnerability,
◦ to stay curious and generous,
◦ to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving,
◦ to take a break and circle back when necessary,
◦ to be fearless in owning our parts,
◦ as Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with
which we want to be heard.
• We use the word rumble to say, “Let’s have a real conversation, even if it’s tough.”

  • Photo of Reggie and Sarah Townley – Yogi and Yogini whose relationship is a beautiful example of this power in action!

Durga ~ I got this.

“I Got This.”

This is my mantra for this new moon.

For over a year now, I have honored each new moon with a ceremony and listened to whatever messages have come from my heart.  I’ve learned to pay attention to the words / phrases / ideas, and allow them to stay as my focus for that full lunar cycle.  The practice has been rich. Sometimes it takes me a few days to understand the messages I receive.  This one is pretty clear now…

The night before this last new moon, I had one of the most prophetic dreams I’ve ever had. I was killing “bad guys,” hiding their bodies in closets and drawers, and knew that I needed to dispose of them lest I get into real trouble. I thought to call upon my three closet Brothers for help, but the message was clear…”You’ve got this.  Don’t worry. You don’t need the men-folk to come to your rescue.”  Keep in mind, I was slashing throats and slaying demons with one wave of my weapon. Killing was easy. It was only the physical burden of the dead bodies that was the issue because I knew I would get into trouble if I didn’t take serious action to get rid of them! Nonetheless, the message was clear: I didn’t need anyone else. I got this. 

This is Durga.

The Warrior. The Protectress.  The Heroine righting wrongs. The Mother who wields her eight arms, seamlessly conquering, loving, healing, justifying and activating the power of Strength that is Receiving. 

Undoubtably, this is an energy I am cultivating, now more than ever.

– – – 

When people ask me what I do for a living, I often tell them I am do many things:

I am a MOTHER : ~ Raising my 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter is unequivocally the most important “work” I do.   ~ We have an eclectic family with serious love and incredible extended “framilies” (friend families) that create a unique web of support…it takes a village. I value these people like kin.

I am a TEACHER: ~ I offer the gifts of yoga, one friend to another, as participation with the miracle of one’s own Life. In this process, I have established a network of beautiful friendships that span the globe, inspiring and teaching me just as much in return. ~ I share the power of plants and natural medicines to empower healers in every home, and harness the value of prioritizing pro-active self-care.~ I teach people how to create personally meaningful, daily rituals that illuminate each person’s unique talents, creating profound peace and sense of purpose.

I am a CONNECTOR: ~ I work with my children’s school assisting the admissions team and supporting this exceptional community that is dedicated to developing radically poised, reliant, caring young people during such delicate teenage years.~ I notice people and opportunities in my life that have synergy and create collaborations; I know that we are more powerful together than alone!

I am a CARETAKER: ~ I care for our simple home: cleaning it, loving it, sharing all the feel-good vibes in our nest.~ I create quality time (I literally time-block this into my daily calendar!) to nourish our bodies, hearts and minds with love for all we ingest with our food and experiences.~ I tend our sweet animals and lush garden, relishing every opportunity to commune with the plants and animals as they are my teachers, too.

Life is Beauty-Full. 
Days are Full.
Time is Precious.

And, I am conscious to not use the word “busy.”
Busy-ness is not a characteristic I want to cultivate.  
I have an abundance of inspired, heart-fueled projects that are weaving together.  Balancing all these is my daily practice; it is the skill of artful living. Slaying my inner demons of self-doubt, anxiety and fear can be subtle, yet inevitably constant.
This is my Life’s tapestry.

What I do, is also who I am. I am grateful for this union.

I am Mother.
I am Woman.
I am Friend.

And, I am Durga. 

🐙 My 8 Arms 🐙

1) Capability ~ When I feel overwhelmed, anxious or notice doubts and fears arising, my daily yoga and oils ritual is my sanctuary.  I surrender, I pray, and I am reminded that I possess deeper strength and capacity then I remembered.

2) Trust ~ I know the mysterious, magical weaving of my Life’s journey has always unfolded with amazing – and often unexpected – support. I know I am always taken care of, that Life is functioning perfectly, and without any forceful effort on my part.

3) Courage ~ I foster vulnerability, knowing that this allows for honest connection.

4) Patience ~ I do my best to relax, smile, breathe and go slowly.

5) Vision ~ With clarity and passion, I know what is possible. I feel it. I sense it. I believe in it. I allow the details to manifest secondarily.

6) Listening ~  I empathize and activate artful communication.

7) Love ~ Fiercely.  Compassionately. Everyone has a story. Everyone has pain. I love, regardless. 

8) Harmony ~ To the beat of my heart songs, I flow.  With the sound of my voice, I pray. With the movements of my breath, my body knows the rhythm of the Universe.

Thank you, Durga. 🐙

I got this.

Why Yoga & Oils

 

So…why have I chosen to focus on Yoga + Oils?

Honestly, it’s always been what has inspired me, and what I‘ve taken the most delight in – learning, exploring, studying, practicing, building meaningful connections, fostering understanding and appreciation of myself, friendships and with wonderful communities of people around the world. Focusing on learning natural ways of living with simplicity and intelligent design that cooperate with Mother Nature… beginning with how we participate in our own breath and body.

It’s been my very sincere desire to want to help people, for feeling so fortunate for this Life that I’ve been blessed with, that I want to offer whatever little bit helps. Because for me, Yoga + Oils are the two practices that most nourish and guide my life, and what has been a long, healing journey of self-discovery through trial and error.  Sometimes, probably most of the time, I’ve found that in order for me to be of service most legitimately, that my focus is all about listening to others.I’ve been through my fair share of difficulties, and I believe we all have a story to tell. I’m interested in learning about you.

What’s your story? What do you want? How do you want to feel? What’s reality? What’s true for you? What is manifestation? What are you focused on? What moves you?

For me, it’s the desire to want to understand people and let them know that miracles happen all the time, even if they don’t see it, believe it, or understand it. I know that each of us – with our beating hearts, lungs that breathe, hair that grows and eyes that shine – is being moved by some “unseen, extreme intelligence” (as Mark Whitwell likes to say), whether we believe in God or a Higher Power or not.  

As Mark also says…this is not a philosophical idea or a poetic saying. This is a mathematical equation.  Because you are here, there is an unseen extreme intelligence operating in you, as you. Just by your sheer existence.

There is no other unique being that ever has been or will be in this precise space, showing up just like you are, with just these feelings and ideas and beauty. I believe your presence is a present.  Like my favorite poem, “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, says, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

So it is my hope that through the self-care practices of Yoga + Oils, we can all know this unseen extreme intelligence that is operating in us, as us, as obvious truth; celebrating each other’s rare talents and gifts, loving and supporting each other one friend at a time, knowing the abundance of love and happiness that is each of our rights…and realizing the miracle in every single breath, interaction, and relationship.


I feel like I was saved by a miracle when I was 19 years old, and I know that at that moment it was the first time I had ever really prayed in my entire life.  

This was kind of strange when you consider the facts: I’d grown up going to Sunday school and singing in the Presbyterian youth choir with my mother and grandmother. My father is Jewish. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school. My first boyfriend was Greek Orthodox. My uncle is Buddhist, and I was fascinated by ALL world religions…but I’d never really prayed.

Until that night, when I truly believe something intervened on my behalf.  

I realized at that moment how many “mistakes” I was making in how I was living my life. Most importantly, I realized how many people I was hurting in the process…most of all, myself.  I felt deep regret and shame for the lies and abuses I had said and shown my young body.

Then, in a near-death experience, I vowed to the universe that if I survived, I would do something meaningful with my life.

As it turns out, Yoga + Oils are the most meaningful ways I have learned to help others… so far at least …


I’m not an expert scholar in either of these subjects; nor am I healthcare professional.

When I was a child, I was surrounded by medicine. My father, grandfather, uncles, aunts, and cousins were all doctors – anesthesia, orthopedics, pediatrics, emergency, psychology, general practice – yet, I was always drawn to natural medicine. 

My family loves to remind me of the time I was stung by a Portuguese man-of-war and four doctors from my family quickly surrounded me wanting to help…and I screamed at them, “I want a REAL doctor!!!”

With all sincerity, though, I do have the deepest respect for allopathic medicine, especially my family 🙂 I believe it’s equally as miraculous as natural medicine, and that everything has its place in our healthcare.

When I was 25 years old, I created a natural health clinic called The Revolution Centre in Whangarei, New Zealand. We had more than 30 different health practitioners in two separate clinics that served over 100,000 people during our five years of operation.

Ironically, I closed the clinic because my own health was having serious challenges, and I immersed myself in studying with Mark Whitwell and supporting the Heart of Yoga community around the world. (If you read my first blog, you can appreciate that Mark had been a dear friend for me, and I was happy to help him as much as I could because he had served such a massive role in my life’s journey through love, grief, and motherhood).

Five years later, I was introduced to dōTERRA and the Corazón Healing Arts community which has a multitude of natural health doctors that have served as my teachers as well. Most significantly: Gigi Chiarello, Dana Schwartz, and David Watts. (Interestingly, they all know Mark through the yoga world, too!)

Thus, what I share with you in Love 2B Here is based on my own experiences in connecting with my heart’s joy, it’s pain, it’s dreams and its desires. I’m only practicing; and offering you, what I have learned from them.

Mark often tells his students, “Yoga is not information gathering.” He usually continues with something to the effect of, “It is participating in the ordinary embrace of your life.”

It is this guidance that has allowed me to learn aspects of Yoga + Oils practices that have been personally useful to me. I do not claim to know it all, for I feel as if I will be a student of life forever. These topics are vast. They have been studied and used as the artistic medicines of our Mothers who always know exactly what will heal us. (There’s also the wisdom of Ayurveda, which I have studied briefly, that has been used Yoga + Oils for millennia.) Again, I reiterate, all this wisdom lies within in you, as well.

The secret is this: There’s nowhere you have to get to, no enlightenment to attain, no need for pain before gain, or sacrificing your joys for the beliefs of another’s idea of a future heaven.

Look around, the miracles are here. The miracles are you and me, and all that we are surrounded by.

This is why I wanted to begin sharing what I can with you now. I have seen that anything worth value of sharing is simply communicated from one friend to another. If I waited until I thought I was ready, I’d never share much of my real self with you.

Granted, you could argue that I’m full of just another gimmick, another scheme, selling yoga classes, essential oils, and products; it’s just commercial activity. Well, yes, yes it is….AND money is an energetic tool that comes and goes, just like all things (I’m working on another blog about this!).

To be clear: My focus is on serving you. If Yoga + Oils speaks to you, and you are interested in what I have to offer, then please reach out.  I’d love to get to know you and share anything that I can to support you.  May the fruits of our relationships and the wisdom of Yoga + Oil, bless our lives and be abundant in all ways.

This is my offering. The rest is up to you.

To Begin:

Atha yoga anushasanam

Auspiciously, now, yoga begins.

—Yoga Sutra 1.1

 

To Begin:

This is written with respect, love and friendship to my Teacher Mark Whitwell, my Guru – in the deepest sense of the word: a weighty, serious (not humorless!), relationship.

 

– – – – –

 

I have been blessed to have a few gurus in my life.  

 

February 2, 2004, was an auspicious day on the northeastern coastline of New Zealand, where on a 250-acre private property named Oruaya Bay, I met my Mark Whitwell. And I also met Wayne Buss.

 

I want to tell you the story of how the three of us met because ever since that meeting on that fateful day, my life audaciously transformed.  I continue to be supported by those two great men and all of the fruits of our relationships, personal and professional in profound ways.  It is through both of them that I have found myself at 38 years old with two blessed children, a fabulous partner, living in my own home in Santa Barbara, CA, linked with the best communities (locally and globally) I’ve ever known, and sending my children to the best school I’ve ever known.  I cherish the fact that I get to be present in my children’s young lives as they learn about the world, and it is my greatest gift to love them, encourage them and hope for a loving, peaceful, bright future for everyOne. I hope that my work is true to the yoga that Sri T. Krishnamacharya, U.G. Krishnamurti and Mark have brought forth.

 

In this spirit, I dedicate this blog to continuing friendships, everywhere, with everyone. I believe in miracles, the human spirit, and I love to be here, with you.

 

– – – – –

 

And now the story of my Gurus Mark and Wayne.

 

When I was 22, I ended up in New Zealand.  (How I got there is a great story for another time!) I was supposed to be working my way around the world, and this was the first stop. I’ll never forget coming around the narrow, backward road to see the Ngunguru Estuary at dawn.  Mist covered the blue-obsidian, mirror-like water as the golden rays of sunshine began to beam through the clouds. The sandspit. The oystercatchers. The grand pohutakawas’ arms hugging the river banks.

 

The only way I’ve ever been able to describe it is this – I was overwhelmed with a feeling of being home.

 

So I stayed. There were travelers like me from all over the world that I quickly lived, worked and surfed with…all day, every day.  We all became rather close 🙂 I loved the community so much, I lept at the opportunity to help organize a surfing competition and became even more involved with the locals’ lives in the first few months of my arrival. I also had a miraculous encounter that led to my being able to obtain Permanent Residency in NZ.

 

I also began to dive deeper into my studies of yoga under the tutelage of Agnes Hartley, the legendary crone who co-created the Integral Yoga Academy of Australasia. Through her, I became introduced to the World Oasis team – four local women (Alison, Lynne, Robin, Lucia) who had a vision of building a retreat center on the Tutukaka Coast.  They knew about an American man who held a similar vision and had the property and means to make this a reality.

 

That man was Wayne.

 

On February 2, 2004, the World Oasis team invited me to Wayne’s property, known as Oruaea Bay. He spelled it Oruaya because, he said, then people could pronounce it.  To get to the property, I first had to drive past the famous surf spot, Sandy Bay, up the hill to the Whananaki Coastline Trailhead.  At the gate, where it says No Trespassing, I got to drive through.  All the way to where the trail ends, at Oruaya Bay. That road is pure heaven. Imagine passing seven tiny bays as you curve in and out along the coastline, cattle grazing the terraced, steep slopes, old groves of ancient forest popping out to create tunnels and havens for the animals, and the turquoise blue water finding its rhythm along the rugged rocks and tranquil beaches.

 

Driving down the last hill into the valley, I could see all of the women setting up their tents, with many young children running around gathering their swim gear to take to the beach.  I quickly parked, found a place to park my car (I was car camping; a luxury of not having children!) and then began the stroll to the beach. The dirt path twisted and turned alongside the narrow creek.  Hidden valleys immersed on both sides, and deep within I could see huge Totara and Rimu trees, hundreds of years old. The alluvial fingers of the creek meeting the sandy beach emerged, and I could hear laughter and shrieks of delight.

 

Then I saw Wayne, body-surfing with the boys and girls, just like a big kid himself.  He was adorable. And kind. And I knew he was a good man from that very first moment.

 

That evening, as the adults were making dinner and the children were playing games in the tall grassy hills, a rusty, old, beat up jalopy slowly rambled down the road towards our camp.  When it parked and the dust settled, the door opened and two legs with skinny red jeans stood up to produce a Gandolf-like figure wearing a white t-shirt, a black jacket and a grey beanie, his long, grey wavy hair elegant and messy simultaneously.

 

That man was Mark.

 

Mark introduced himself.  He’d been invited by Alison.  She was a student of his and believed he’d appreciate meeting Wayne and learning about their vision to create a retreat center. I said hello and smiled.  He smiled back.

 

Dinner was ready then. Before we ate, though, Mark said prayers to the land and people in Maori.  It was beautiful, guttural and sweet altogether.

 

After dinner, we all sat by the fire and shared stories.  Before going to bed, Wayne asked me if I wanted to see something special.  I followed him through the tall grass, into the bush, up the hill, to the top of the peninsula and then out to the edge of the cliff.  Here, on Seagull Song Point (he named all of the places on his land) we sat shoulder to shoulder, our feet dangling over the edge 100 feet above the ocean crashing on the boulders below, surrounded by water a full 270 degrees, and the full moon rising above the Poor Knights Islands miles off in the distance. We sat t(here) for hours, talking about our greatest hopes and dreams, our fears and regrets, the beliefs we held most sacred and what we most-longed for in our souls.

 

We knew we’d found something special in each other. We didn’t think it was a coincidence that two Americans transplanted themselves on this tiny coastline in the middle of the South Pacific with the same visions and aspirations. I had no idea how significant our love would be, though.

 

Two days later, my parents came to visit for the first time.  As I took them out to the Coast, we drove past Wayne’s other home in Glenbervie.  I had to return something, so I thought we’d pop in really quickly.  As we drove down the walnut, macadamia and avocado-lined driveway, I said to my parents, “I don’t know why, but I feel that this man is going to play a very important role in my life.” Moments later, they all shook hands and said pleasantries.  We took a quick tour of his home, my parents took a picture of us, and then we were off.

 

Three months later, Wayne called me.  He had just returned from being in the USA, and he had made the decision to live in NZ permanently. He wanted to get together.  And we did.

 

We fell in love very quickly, and within a month I had moved in. I’d never known anyone as brilliant, loving, generous, capable and all-around phenomenal in my entire life.  A couple of months later, he asked me to marry him. I didn’t hesitate.

 

In discussing our wedding, we knew we wanted Mark to be our celebrant.  There was just something about Mark that we loved. Wayne contacted him and they began to make plans.  I spoke with Mark briefly over the next few months, but I wasn’t able to tell him, or anyone about what was starting to happen with Wayne.

 

After our engagement, he began to have days where he was first incredibly dark, then more and more deeply depressed, and finally suicidal.  I did not understand what was happening.  I did not know that he had a pattern of manic-depression.  I did not know that he had battled with this for more than half of his life. I didn’t know much.

 

I loved him with all my being, and in the end, he took his own life on December 2, 2004 – exactly ten months after we first met.

 

My mother immediately flew out to be with me, and I was grateful for my “kiwi family,” Denis and Marilyn Eltringham. I called Mark and told him the news.  He was devastated, too; it was like losing a soul brother.

 

As the grief process began, I started to feel physically unwell so I went to see my doctor. Lo and behold, the doctor told me I was pregnant! It was the day before Wayne’s funeral.  

 

During this time, the range of emotions I experienced was intense, as you can imagine. I’ll go into more details of that time later, though.  For this story, what matters is this: Life carries on.

 

I gave birth to my son and named him William, it was his father’s middle name. I also went on to meet another man and have my daughter, Elizabella, with him.  

 

About five years after Wayne’s death, my contact with Mark and the World Oasis team had become minimal.  I had neglected my own yoga practice, and the dreams I had once held with Wayne had been damaged, rectified, destroyed and reinvented so many times that I was exhausted.  I also had two little kids and was managing a natural health clinic with over 30 practitioners that my husband and I had created.

 

It was when a nurse told me over the phone in a mechanic’s garage that I might have cervical cancer, that I knew I had to make some changes.  I decided to return to my yoga studies and dove into preparing for a two-week intensive course in Australia.  After completing the required reading early, I remembered that I had fifty copies of Mark’s book in my garage – unopened gifts to wedding guests that Wayne had purchased.

 

I got the dusty, cardboard boxes down from the garage’s top shelf, and sat at my kitchen table. It was late at night and the fire was crackling when I opened Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection to a page that said, “A guru is no more than a friend, no less than a friend.”

 

Of course. Mark was my guru.

 

Thus began my re-connection with Mark and my introduction to learning my yoga. In 2010, I went to Fiji for a two-week training with Mark that solidified my yoga, my heart’s direction, as my practice.  During this time, I also experienced the deepest healing of my grief and began this last period of my life that has been dedicated to helping Mark teach yoga to as many people around the world as possible.

 

Now it is my time to teach.  First, I practice myself.  Second, I have a good relationship with my Teacher. Third, I care about you.

 

– – – – – –

 

I’m eternally grateful for Mark and his teachers, Sri. T Krishnamacharya, TKV Desikachar, and U.G. Krishnamurti. And to Wayne, my love and gratitude are endless – you made me a Mother.