Exhale Fear

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

~Rumi

Many years ago when I was young I was very ill and went through about 5 years of multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. It really sucked. My 20’s and early 30’s I was “sickly” and I lived with a great deal of uncertainly and fear. Meanwhile I was a young mother, quite poor at times and trying to manage multiple things. After each surgery I would withdraw inward from the pain, rarely looking at anyone, talking or moving. I had no practices during most of this time to rely upon, only my youth, stubbornness, my love for my children and refusal to accept the label SICKLY. When I would make it home from the hospital my mom would take care of me and the next day we would walk to the mailbox. The next day I would walk to the next driveway. Then the third day I could usually make it all the way down the street. After that, things would generally fall back into place and life would resume…until the illness began again.

The way of recovery was to DO something physical in order to become stronger. The way out was to BELIEVE that I could do it. The way out was to PERSEVERE despite the pain. I went through this cycle so many times until my last surgery which was about 14 years ago. I was in the step-down ICU for 5 months and left the hospital with a walker. 2 months later I went backpacking (I was 38 after all), that is how quickly I recovered partially because by then I DID have practices.  Read More »

Walking the Line of Doing Fine

“How are you? Are you ok? How are you feeling. “

I’m not an “ok-er”. I’ve come to know this about myself. As philosophical as I am, as much as What Does It All MEAN tends to drive my life I see I am also I realist and a practical person.  

I am NOT ok. Yet of course, I am OK in that way that only someone who knows that All is Well can know. But I also know that the Susan part of me is not ok. I hope that is ok with you because I’m just into being real. If you need me to be like perfect or always ok then don’t read this. (and I’m also ok with the fact that this might not be ok with you).

Everything has changed now. And of course everything is always changing but everything has REALLY changed. And I’m angry. And I’m sad. And I’m grateful. And I’m ecstatic. And I’m afraid. And I am not afraid of anything. And I’m curious. And I just want everything to go back to how it was.

Brave people grieve. Vulnerable people grieve. All people grieve. Do you see the pattern here?

Grief is a walk on the line between acceptance and attachment, letting go of yesterday just enough to accept and live today yet never letting go of the joy of flying through the sea, the wonder of your child reaching for your hand the first time, the sweetness of love given by your partner who knew you at your core and loved you exactly as you are—all of your amazing, neurotic, wonderful, ok-ness even if you never put the toilet paper back on the holder. Read More »

Staying Sane in a Turbulent World

Outside a gentle rain is falling on the tin roof of the cabin. Curled up in bed with my laptop, the slanted ceiling of the bedroom loft is alive with the sound of rain. My gaze lands on the sloped hillside outside the second story window where the colors of fall light up the landscape even through the rain. The leaves of the trees blow freely in the wind. I am present, tuned into the clicking of the keys as I type, the rhythm of the breath inside me, and the changing beat of the drops on the roof. In this moment, the world is safe and quiet, a simple heaven of sight, sound and touch.  

This week I am spending a few days in a cabin in the woods, hiking, writing, and watching the stars. For a time, the rhythm of the days are not determined by the ping of the phone, the arrival of emails and the busy preparation for yoga class, offering my energy and presence to others; for a time I am offering the gift of presence to myself. The reward of this attention is clarity, inner quiet, and the exquisite sweetness of moving slowly. The morning rain is an added bonus, a message from nature to take my time. Read More »

Patience and Letting Go

At the end of my recent nine day training at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, I was asked to reflect on what I wanted to remember about being there and the teachings I learned. If I reduced this to two words, they would be “patience” and “letting go.”

For me, patience most often happens when I have taken the time to center myself in the morning in preparation for the day ahead. Then, throughout the day, using my breath to relax and soften into life just as it is has been invaluable. Maybe it’s a “letting go” breath (deep breath in, big exhale with a sigh) or maybe it’s a longer meditation that’s required and it can mean the difference from being caught in striving or centering softly into the present. Read More »

The Story of No Story

Yoga teaches us that when we identify with our “story” (an identity or belief that is developed from our individual ego rather than identifying with our true nature) we are suffering, blinded by illusion. I was originally introduced to this idea by Sudakar Ken McRae and the concept allowed me to move beyond the limiting beliefs of my mind that held me hostage for many years. As a result of that I rarely talk about my experience with chronic illness because I do no longer define myself by that story. Yoga practices (Big Y Yoga) allowed me to use connection to the present moment to overcome the limitations I once experienced in body that therefore impacted my mind. However, I am making an exception to revisit my past experiences and share them with you.

II was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) when I was 16, unfortunately it was a very severe case. After years of suffering from anemia, pain, malnutrition and frequent hospitalizations I was sent to the Mayo Clinic to have the diseased gut removed at age 29. Unfortunately, the surgery resulted in a confounding number of other complications including obstruction, infection, and poor motility resulting in frequent hospitalizations for about 8 more years. My life at that time was one of severe pain and was limited by this severe illness.
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