No shortcut.

July 26, 2016

Those of you who live in Atlanta know that highway 285 allows us to bypass traveling through the center of our city to get just about anywhere we want to go.
You also know that there are times when 285 is painfully congested. The other option takes us straight into the heart of our city.

Transformation and change require us to get right into the center. To bypass the challenges is to skip over the rich experience derived from the feeling of every single track we lay down as we tread our path to a new ground.

As a new mother, I could not bypass the critical and profoundly demanding first two weeks of me and Oye’s life together. There was no way around the sleepless nights, cluster feedings, and painfully tender wrists from holding, lifting, and carrying him.

Returning to the work I passionately love, there is no way for me to bypass feeling both the fulfillment of being exactly where I am when I am teaching a class, private session, or CHILLshop AND the intense longing to return to my son.
The access I gain when I take a route directly into the truth of my experience drops me at the front door of humanity. There is so much strength and softness, pain and healing, misunderstanding and knowing there. I do not want to pass over any of it.

And it is intense.

The world right now is intense for many of us.
We cannot bypass this moment of feeling all of the potholes, ditches, obstructions, and debris spread out in all directions around us.

We must not take our eyes off of the road as we make our way forward.

Let us not use our yoga to bypass hard realities being re-exposed from the well-worn highways of our history, no-not this time.

What road will you take? Will you take the path that will not allow you to miss the pulsing, churning truth of the diversity of our oneness?

Is it education? Is it reading books that challenge your view about an “other”? Is it listening and feeling someone share his or her experience of being Black, Woman, Muslim, Gay, or any “other” beyond your own experience without guilt or the need to interrupt? Is admitting that you don’t know how it is for her, him, them, or even simply me? Is it signaling, like a flashing red light, to a family member, friend, or co-worker who keeps telling that same “joke” about those people? Is it investigating how and where systemic and institutional privilege exists for you more than others? It it then using that very privilege to hold our institutions more accountable to our most marginalized citizens? Is it praying for your heart to be cracked open so that you might have space for “the other” without judgment, fear, or condemnation?

As yogis, we cannot bypass our reality by simplifying oneness to a singular experience.

We can no longer stay in our prescribed and “safe” lanes based off party lines, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Not challenging injustice, bigotry, hate, and untruths- even if it does not affect people “like” us will wreck us all.

In all of this though, we must pull over and rest before we get weary.

We need our energy to stay “woke “and present within the vessel of life- as we ride toward tomorrow, together.

Beginning again

June 6, 2016

Yesterday I taught my first CHILLshop yoga session since Oye’s birth.

A month ago I believed no one would come to yesterday’s session because no one would be interested, because who wants to rest and be still, because I needed to work on my visibility and messaging, because I’d been gone on maternity leave—-because because (I was on a maddening hamster wheel)

Two weeks ago I was anxious and convinced that I should forget the whole CHILL thing. It can’t be photographed, ain’t fancy, and will not get my or your abs together.

One week ago I didn’t know if I could show up and hold space for others because generally my heart, head, and hands are over flowing with baby rolls, spit, and mini human stuff these days.

The Saturday before I reviewed the plans and sequences I’d created and felt surprisingly unprepared.

The morning of I felt sick.

The hour before, I was sweating in an air-conditioned room as me, Jemar, and Oye set up the practice space at evolation yoga atlanta.

15 minutes before I lost my voice and started silently praying.

10 minutes before I sat outside staring at my notes and plans.

5 minutes before I carefully tucked my notes away and continued to pray.

1 minute before I scrapped my well-made plans and pushed my notes aside. They were a distraction.

And so I began. I opened my mouth and really, nothing came out.

I paused. Inhaled. the room exhaled.
Grace.

Grace tiptoed in and sat herself right up on my mat . She held me+my doubt. She brought with her a humble knowing- all of that became my voice.

so I began again with the next breath.

13 years into practicing yoga, 9 years into teaching and— 3 months away from all of that.

I am not who I was. She cannot return. So I begin, again. building- from the mud up again.

Thank you. to every single person who showed up yesterday.
As I held space for you, you held space for me to be muddy and sit with doubt, knowing, reverence and humility for this- a new beginning.

Yesterday, your presence whispered Amazing Grace to me.

Warrior’s welcome

May 20, 2016

A while back I read something regarding postpartum women in another culture from a by gone time.

The article noted that for weeks after giving birth, the mother was mothered and her primary role was to connect to and nurture her baby. The women of the village tended to her so that her and baby could begin and thrive (not simply survive) through the 4th trimester or time immediately following giving birth.

Once that time ended, the new mama and her baby would go back to the village. When they re-entered society they were given a warrior’s welcome.

This struck me: a warrior’s welcome.

I think a warrior’s welcome acknowledges that even in the most peaceful pregnancies and birthing times there is a fight.

Every woman slays her own inner and outer beasts, dips into her own valley, climbs her own rugged or smooth mountain, faces her own Goliath with the dual sling shot of both her strength and surrender in order to bring forth new life.

Her body expands and is broken open so that the circle of humanity and her linage is not broken. In labor she pours her heart over an altar lined with trillions of raw threads- spools of hope, anticipation, defeat, and triumph.
The welcome acknowledges that she is a new being, not simply the same one, returning.

Here and now- we usually simply return. We return to expectations about how we ought to look, keep company, keep house, keep it together, sleep, work, dress, feed, love —it goes on and on.

And so, many many of us forget that indeed we are immeasurably powerful, even as we enter the most vulnerable, humbling, and softening times of our lives.

Besides let’s be real, who can peel her whole self back, reach through walls and generations of muscle, bone, and blood to retrieve another’s body, bringing life earth side?

Who but a warrior can do all that and live to tell about it?

Giving birth

April 7, 2016

He’s here! Me and Jemar’s son, Oyetunde Nasir Raheem arrived Saturday April 2, 2016 at 5:37am.

Our birthing time/labor was yoga in the most profound sense. Lots of yin and yang. Lots of fire and water. Sound and silence. Some CHILL. Plenty FIERCE.

Clearly every birth experience is different. For me, the newness that is my son’s life, that is my life, that is NOW, would not emerge until I went all the way IN.

I had to go IN to doors, crawl through barred windows, and scrape against deep caverned walls within my body, mind, heart, and soul to bring NOW about.

I had to go IN
dark crevices (contract /down)
expansive light (open/up)

For me to get to NOW and rest in it, I had to go through.

Going in, I came out with a tangible being, my son, Oye.

AND with this truth sewn into the red clay fabric of my cells:
No matter what task is before you. No matter what course – murky or luminous- must be traversed. no matter what valley must be staggered under. no matter what mountaintop stares you down. no matter the power of the wind battering against your face. the messy kiss of sun against your head. Or the howl of trees bending against your back. No matter if you are barefoot or well heeled on your path,

Own it. Walk it. It belongs to you. You belong to it.
No matter how dusky the morning or bright the night, no matter how strange the landscape becomes as you travel
You cannot just quit. You cannot just leave.

The only exit is to fully enter the passageway of NOW, be with one small contraction/expansion- one wild, feeble, loud, or silent step at a time.

Because THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH.

Nothing is something

March 20, 2016

I have a space on my retreat registration form where those registering can write additional comments, thoughts, or things they want me to know.

One of the registrants wrote this:
“I’m so glad you listened to your calling and bless others every day with what you do! You have no idea how much your classes have helped me through one of the most difficult and transitional times in my life! I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. But most of all, I’ve changed in your classes. For that, I am truly grateful.”

I deeply appreciate this student’s message and her acknowledgement of my work as “listening to the call.”

Listening is challenging. The longer I listen, the more subtle nuisances I discern in the call. Listening to “the call” continually asks me to go against the grain, to measure the grain, to soften the grain, to refine. Refinement is not big. It’s attuning. It’s inner alignment.

It’s not something I can whip out and show you on here. It’s not “insta”, though it is happening now. Sometimes, it even looks like nothing.

Like in restorative yoga… I look like I am doing nothing, but I am tuning in. I am listening. Is that something?

I don’t practice asana every day any more.
Lately meditation has been me staring at the dark brown lines that have traced their way across my belly to my heart over the last 9.5 months.
I lost my mala beads a long time ago.
I chant and I cuss. (Sometimes at the same time) I am not vegan. I haven’t attempted headstand in two years, though I practice tadasana, standing firmly on my own two feet everyday.

Right now, my personal practice is holding space for myself to be broken and whole, raw and undone, to feel the constraints and expansiveness of my being human in the most simple shapes and ways- on and off the mat. Sometimes my practice is to do nothing but notice.

Since that is my personal practice, this has shown up powerfully in my teaching over the past year.

I’ve been known to say less than 100 words… almost nothing in a yin or restorative class. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I am listening and hear that my students’ voices, experiences, and truths are rising up in the form of laughter, tears, and prayers. I trust that their listening into those moments communicates beyond anything I might say.

This student’s message affirmed what I’ve been hearing on this side of the call these days:

I do not have to fill up every single space and gap for myself or students with words, philosophy, music, “challenging” poses etc (I love all that for sure, sometimes I know it’s just filler though)

Holding space can be plenty.

AND a quiet seat in the class is an asana that I MUST practice as a teacher, because what seems like nothing can lead to so much of something.

the look

March 11, 2016

Being with child I have become ACUTELY aware of how often people comment on my looks and women’s looks/bodies in general. I even had to ask my husband do people comment on his looks/body multiple times a day. He said “uh, no, hardly ever.”

Being a yoga teacher and engaging with people’s bodies as my own body has been rapidly growing is interesting to say the least. (more on that later later)

My new look has been described as huge, fluffy, “wowzers”, “increasingly heavy”, and some other funny- side ways- “are you really talking to me right now” type things.

It has also been described as Glowing. Radiant. Pretty. Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful is so beautiful, right?

Just now, I came across these words that moved close to my heart and captures some of what I think “gets” me with the constant commentary on my\women’s looks/bodies even when it’s something as beautiful as beautiful:

“i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that” – rupi kaur

Being with child is beautiful. the kind deeper than looks. true.

It is also courageous. powerful. untaming. soulful.transforming.liberating.

a ritual.a passage.

It is REAL.

Womenfolk- mamas-to-be and such.

we don’t need anyone’s commentary on our bodies (not even our own)
but if one must go there and say anything.

Real.

REAL. is the word.
It’s the look.

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