Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Hangover

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We’ve all been there at one point in time or another.  Waking up and peeling your eyelids open and wondering at what point during the previous night did you eat a cat.  The light hurts, your stomach spins, and you pray to whatever you believe in that, if you could just hold onto the bed long enough to keep the world from spinning, you’ll never ever have another night like the one before. Until you do.

We often think of hangovers just in terms of alcohol consumption, but the reality is that we more often that not have hangovers that have nothing at all to do with booze.  We have mental hangovers, emotional hangovers, anxiety hangovers, trauma hangovers.  Those hangovers, believe me, are just as much of a bitch as the happy juice kind, maybe even more so because alka seltzer, a nap, and a greasy cheeseburger don’t do a damn thing to help them.

They say “hair of the dog” is what will cure you when you’ve had too much booze.  You know, the whole concept of “what got you in will get you out.”  Not so with the other kinds of hangovers.  While we might do things that feel or sound good or appropriate at the time, eventually the moment of reckoning comes and all we’re left with is doubt, guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, fear, or any combination of those.  In those circumstances, doing what got you there most certainly will NOT get you out, it will only get you in deeper.  It can be a horrible cycle of trying to explain things and that only makes things worse.  Kind of like when someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, it does no good to clear up the situation by simply repeating yourself over and over again or, my personal favorite, saying the same things LOUDER.

For years, I have taught “hangover yoga” the day after traditional days of celebration: New Year’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Homecoming, Halloween, etc.  Those classes were centered around asana that would cleanse the body of toxins, lots of twists, pranayama, forward folds, gentle inversions.  About 6 weeks ago, I realized that we all need to detox from our emotional and mental hangovers as well.  We need to learn to stop beating ourselves up over and over again.  We need to let go of the shame or anger we feel for ourselves or for others.  We need to let go of the poison.  We need, in other words, to get the toxic shit out of us so that we can forgive and move on.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but forgiving myself is the hardest thing in the world to do.  I often do things in the heat of the moment that cause me to feel shame or regret the next day or next week or next whatever.  It sucks.  It REALLY sucks and I have long moments of absolutely hating myself for it, but you know what?  We all do that.  We all do that because we are human.

1378623_10153428801170192_1386442562_nOddly, it’s not the original act that hurts us the most, it’s the squirrel cage circular thinking that does the most damage. There is a basic tenet of yoga called Ahimsa which essential means Do No Harm.  Listen, like I said, we’re human.  We’re going to fuck up.  The sooner we accept that, the better we’ll all be.  BUT here’s the thing, we don’t have to keep harming ourselves over our fuck ups.  We don’t have to make the situation worse on ourselves by reliving our mistakes over and over again.  We don’t need to keep beating ourselves up.  If we keep ourselves filled with shame, there is no room for acceptance.  And if there is no room for acceptance, there is no room for love.  We have to learn to let it go.  We might never ever be able to remedy what we have done.  Somethings just can’t be fixed, sadly, but we can keep the experience from hurting more than it already does.  Sadly, there is no AA for emotional / mental hangovers.  They are going to happen.  We have no choice over that matter.  What we DO have control over, however, is how we deal with them.  Feel the pain.  Feel the shame.  Feel the embarrassment or anger or anxiety or whatever it is, because if you don’t feel it, it will come back to haunt you.  Feel it, and then step away.  Ahimsa – don’t pour salt on the wound. Salt is for margaritas.

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The Day My Past Kicked Me in the Ass … and I Liked It.

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I’m a lucky gal.  My husband and I have a date night almost every single week, sometimes two a week.  While what we do and where we go on these nights varies, I almost always meet him at the bar / restaurant / night club / pool hall / city block sized watering hole for happy hour.  Since he’s worked there since little tiny 6lb Jesus was a baby and I meet him there at least once a week, we’ve built a little family of employees and regulars. I know that on any given day, I’ll find the guy who owns the auto shop / vintage pinball machine arcade, the guy who owns his own roll your own cigarette shop, the guy who works in advertising but specializes in smart ass remarks, the couple who are king and queen of WHO DAT nation, the banker and her husband who is at least 17 feet tall, the martial arts trainer, and a random assortment of employees and other regulars who get their mail at the corner of the bar.  While they might not all be there at once, some of them are always there and there are very, very rarely any new additions and when new people join this ragtag bunch of merry pranksters, it’s never been anyone I have known prior.

Until last week, that is.

Last week, I dropped my kiddos off with my mother for an overnight visit and made my way to the gathering place.  I walked across the floor and out the door to the patio and stopped dead in my tracks.  There, sitting at the table with the regulars, was a face I hadn’t seen in close to 20 years.  Shit.  This was not going to be pretty.  This girl – woman (hell, we’re both in our 30s) – was sitting there looking happy and confident (ish – confidence was never her strong suit,) and talking to my buddies and, at first, I wasn’t sure how to handle this situation. This was a blast from the past that I wasn’t quite prepared for, but here it was so I just took a deep breath, walked on out, and sat down.  Then I saw it: her face fell into her lap.  Her shoulders slumped.  She visibly withdrew. And, once more, she was the girl she was 20 years ago and I was faced once again with the truth of who I once was.

Mean Girl

I was a strange duck in high school.  Weren’t we all?  To some extent, I felt like I didn’t have a “group,” and to another extent, I felt like every group was my group.  I was a fairly attractive, thin but curvy girl who was in student council, the highest level performance choir, AP classes, and was a part of a peer support group, and I was the daughter of a prominent minister at a high class church.  I was also hanging out in cars with friends, chain smoking before class, running around with outsiders and dropouts, and  anyone who could and would get me a bottle of something at least 80 proof and a bag of something I could roll and smoke.  I was fairly well known in many circles, but that doesn’t mean that everyone liked me.  I’m sure there were a lot of people who hated me and, honestly I can’t blame them.  I could be mean.  I could be really vicious with my words and my eyes.  I was often highly judgemental and quite vocal about my judgement.  I was egotistical and spoiled and self righteous and … if I was your friend, I was your very good friend, but if I wasn’t, watch out.  This woman who was sitting at my table with my friends wasn’t my friend all those years ago.

While I don’t remember any specific moments of me being cruel to her, I know that I had to have been in some fashion or another.  I remember what I thought of her at the time and all those feelings came rushing right back when I saw her.  I had to stop and take a breath and remember that  a lot of time had passed and maybe she wasn’t the same person she was then.  I certainly don’t think I’m the same person I was back then.  The fact that I’m writing this and putting it out there is proof of that (I would have never admitted fault or failings all those years ago.)  Suddenly, I was awash with so many feelings and emotions all at once.

  • Damn, why am I running into people from my past now?
  • Hrm.  She looks almost exactly the same as she used to (unfortunately for her.)
  • Wow, that was snarky!
  • How do I look?
  • Wow, that was vain!
  • Shit, I was really mean to her.
  • Dammit, I was really unfair to her back then.
  • I’m probably being unfair to her right now.
  • I’m scum.
  • I aged better than she did.
  • WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING HERE?
  • I wasn’t a good person then.
  • Am I a good person now?
  • Guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt
  • Shame shame shame shame
  • Ego ego ego ego ego ego
  • Fuck, I have to do this (see the disclaimer page – I cuss. A  lot.)
  • How could I have been so horrible then?
  • Can I be different now?
  • Again, FUCK!!!

I waited a couple of minutes before I said anything to her.  I wanted to pretend that she didn’t know who I was, and she certainly pretended that she didn’t know who I was. I sat there at the table, hiding behind my mirrored aviators, and observed her wither.  I just sat and observed my own feelings.  I was panicking.  I will admit that it was SO VERY TEMPTING to return to my state of behavior from 20 years ago.  It was, in fact, my first instinct to do the wrong thing.  Have I changed at all???  Ugh.  I sat in discomfort for seemed like 45 minutes but was probably closer to 2 minutes and then it hit me: Feelings aren’t facts and, even though those feelings came rushing to me, I don’t have to act on them.  Yes, I felt the same way that I felt then, but I didn’t have to act the way I acted then.  LIGHTBULB MOMENT!

I took my sunglasses off, called her name, and rose to shake her hand saying, “Hi! It’s Sarah Wells, well, Sarah Kohl now.  I haven’t seen you in so many years!  How are you?”  And then I sat back down and proceeded to mentally pat myself on the back. She opened her mouth and, after saying Hi, proceeded to pull out her only weapon – she mentioned my ex in front of my husband and the entire table of my friends, most of whom don’t even know I have an ex.  I believe she mentioned him in an attempt to hurt me, to undermine me, to throw me off my game.  Once upon a time, it would have worked.  Once upon a time, I would have taken the bait and I would have behaved the way I used to and shown my evil side, but I didn’t.  I didn’t do anything at all like what she was hoping for.  I smiled, said I saw him very recently and he seemed to be doing well.  I mentioned that we are Facebook friends and we have no animosity between us.  I stated that my husband and I have been together over 13 years now and that relationship is ancient history and we have both moved on.  I smiled.  I breathed.  I moved on.  I realized that I *have* changed.  I have matured and grown up and found compassion and empathy and the true understand that we’re all just humans and we’re all just trying to walk each other home.  I have learned to live my yoga – most of the time. Hey, what can I say?  I’m human!

The “reunion” fizzled slowly after that and she left.  I was very proud of myself.  I didn’t succumb to my initial reaction.  I did fall into a bit of self-loathing when I thought about what I did all those years ago and who I was, but that makes perfect sense because all of those heinous traits of mine were born of self-loathing even back then.  I was able to look at the situation and choose a better course of action.  I was able to breathe and realize that the past is the past and the future has limitless possibilities.  I was able to see that I get to choose who I am and what I do and that I am capable of making the right choices.  I was able to do all those things and do them sincerely, and if I could do it in that situation, I can do it in other situations, too.

I have since run into her again.  Same location, same people.  This time she wasn’t hiding her head, she was able to be around me without visible qualms.  She was still kind of standoffish, but it was better.  I noticed something, though.  Not much about her has changed.  She still does all the annoying things that she did all those years ago.  She is still kind of a social nightmare.  She is unkempt and unhealthy and unattractive.  She is also human.  She is curious.  She is a survivor.  She is a mother.  She is doing the very best she can with what she has.  She is being true to herself.  She is a part of my human family and she is worthy of love and respect.  This, my friends, is huge progress for me.  This is living visible proof that yoga has changed my life inside and out.

We talked for a bit.  She asked me a few questions about yoga and what she could do to relieve an issue with her neck.  It was still awkward, but we made it through and, when she left, I gave her a hug.  I HUGGED HER.  I think it blew both of our minds.  LIFE MOMENT RIGHT THERE.

You cannot have a yoga practice without it changing your entire being.  While you might start out practicing because you want Madonna arms or Mick Jagger’s ass (hmmmmmmm Mick Jagger’s ass……,) eventually you cannot help but having an internal makeover, as well.  It opens your heart.  It opens your mind.  It opens your eyes. It opens your soul right up.  It changes the way you see things, other people, and the way you see yourself.  Eventually, you can start to face even the ugliest truths with acceptance, compassion, and love.  Even if it takes a kick in the ass to realize it.

Namaste

Banking: The Yoga of a Balanced Emotional Budget

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<—- I found this on Pinterest the other day.  I absolutely love Pinterest and pin all sorts of things.  Some snarky, some helpful, some yummy, some absurd.  You can find me there if you want, but I have to warn you right here and now: not everything I post is yogic, not everything I post is healthy, and not everything I post is without controversy or the likelihood that it will piss you off.  I am, however, the Yogini Outlaw and what you see is what you get.  Anyway, back to the point…

I pinned that image to my board “What They Said,” and thought YEP, I AGREE WITH THIS TOTALLY!  You see, my budget has been wildly overdrawn as of late. I suppose it’s more accurate to say that it had been.  I am currently trying to get out of the red and in to the black.  It’s a process and I have come to see, however, that the person writing the bad checks on my account wasn’t always who I thought it was.

I read this lovely piece today by the incredible Anna Guest- Jelley and was smacked right upside the head with a dose of reality.  I haven’t been doing my morning pages.  I haven’t  been sitting as much in meditation as I know is good for me.  I haven’t been spending as much time on my home mat as I know is helpful to me.  This is a pattern with me.  I start and maintain a lovely practice in all three of those areas for quite some time and then, somehow, for some reason, I start to let it slide.  I forget.  I skip it.  I cut things short.  I say, “Tomorrow.”  What I realize is that it’s a circular pattern.  I start when things are bad and write until things are good and then I stop.  OR conversely, I start when things are good and then, when things take a downward turn, I decide I don’t want to look anymore and I stop.  In typical yoga fashion, I have to go in both directions, don’t you know?

All of this rambling to get to the point. I know, a lot of words leading up, but remember the journey IS the destination, so stay with me.  After reading Anna’s post today, I grabbed my journal and starting writing.  I wrote about the feelings of failure I have for starting down the journaling path and then stopping.  But then I realized something : it’s not failure because I keep coming back, I keep starting again.  Okay then.  I moved on to things I was worrying about.  I realized that most of those things are tiny, insignificant problems and there are solutions to them all, so no need to worry.  Alrighty, moving on…

But I didn’t want to move on.  I hit a wall and I essentially wanted to plug my ears and close my eyes and start singing, “La-la-la-la-la!  I cannot hear you!  La-la-la-la-la-la!  I cannot see you! La-la-la-la-la!”  The big thing was waiting there, hiding somewhere between my fingers and my pen and I didn’t want to free it, didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to examine it.  I had no choice, though.  It was there, it was waiting and it wouldn’t go way.

I made the painful decision to forever exclude someone from my life a few months ago.  Now, people do this all the time with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, hell, even spouses, but I chose to do it with a member of my family of origin.  It had been a long time coming and the final straw came on Thanksgiving and the Ustrasana broke right in half.  Enough.  This person made almost zero deposits into my account and yet continually withdrew as much as they wanted without warning, without permission, without any thought to what it would do to me or my family.  I bounce back and forth between saying it’s not their fault (this person has severe mental illness,) and saying it’s totally their fault (this person continually refuses to treat the illnesses and repeats the same hateful, hurtful,destructive patterns over again.)  It doesn’t really matter, this issue of fault.  Pain is pain and I had had enough, so as horrible and final and hurtful as it was, I cut the ties that bound us.  Interestingly enough, this isn’t the part I didn’t want to look at.  This isn’t the part that I was avoiding.  THIS isn’t what I was hiding from.

What I didn’t want to face was my part in it all. Not anything that I might or might not have done (if you know anyone with severe and untreated mental illness, you know that there is nothing – ever – that you can do,) but I didn’t want to face my part in my feelings.  It was so easy to just blame everything on the other person – the pain, but also the relief when it was gone.  Today I faced the truth of it all – and it was ugly.  The truth is that, when dealing with this person, I often did feel superior.  I often did feel better than.  I often did  feel self-righteous and, at the same time, incredulous.  I told you it was ugly.  Far uglier, in fact, than the feelings of pain this person inflicted upon me.  The relief I am feeling, I came to see this morning, isn’t the relief from this person’s actions, but relief from the pain of my own nasty, unyogic, unbalanced feelings.

I thought I was freeing myself from another person’s insanity.  I was wrong. I was freeing myself from my own.

I have closed that account. No more checks will be written, no more debts to be had.  When I think about the things that happened,   I still feel pain.  I still feel anger.  I still even feel resentment.  I might feel those things for a long time.  It’s impossible to eradicate over 20 years of pain in a flash, but I believe it will start to fade, little by little, as the space between us grows, like a town blurs into the distance as you drive into the horizon. When the pain and the negative emotions arise, however, I’m starting to be able to let them come without putting my own ugliness on them.  I don’t have to feel superior to survive the pain.  I can simply feel it, acknowledge it, and move on.  I can stop digging myself deeper into debt.  I can start to, maybe eventually, see this person with compassion.  I can hold firm to my boundaries.  I can prevent myself from getting into the red again.  I can forgive because forgiveness is not about the other person.  As someone said, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” (I think it was Oprah, but she heard it from someone else, so I’ll stick to ‘someone who isn’t me.’)  There is nothing that can be done to change what has happened and it’s very likely that, should I continue to let this person into my life, the future would never be any different than the past, but I can stop mourning what never was and start living in the moment, as things are, without the pain, without the ugliness.  I can balance my emotional account, one journal, one look inside, one meditation,one deposit at a time.

Namaste

#365yoga Day 35: Growing Wings of Forgiveness

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Well, she did it again.  Judith Hanson Lasater is right inside my brain.  Not sure how she does it, how she got there, but there she is, sitting pretty and sipping tea and showing me how it really is and that there really is nothing new under the sun and that we are all in it together. She’s also up there giving me permission to use long, complicated run-on sentences, so there!  Thanks, Judith.

From A Year of Living Your Yoga:

February 4: Become a larger container for spirit.

Living Your Yoga: [snip] …  imagine yourself with a bigger heart, and from there bestow your generosity.  [snip] … give your long overdue forgiveness.

This sat me down on my ass fast and hard.  Kablam.  Knocked the wind out of me, knocked my feet out from under me, knocked me on the noggin’ and said, “HEY SARAH, IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW, THIS IS FOR YOU.

My life was turned upside down a year and half ago.  A very long, very deep, very important relationship I had ended abruptly and badly.  It was honestly one of the most painful things I have ever experienced and, while we both moved on, there was no resolution, no peace, no understanding.  I dealt with it by ignoring my feelings, ignoring my pain, ignoring my confusion and shame and guilt and anger and grief and all the rest.  But I also ignored the huge number of years of love and laughter and connection and friendship and trust and life and learning and compassion and joy that we shared.  Ignoring wasn’t healthy, it wasn’t helpful.  I moved on and made huge professional affiliations and new personal friendships and I grew as a person, but there was always a hole in me that was not getting worse, but wasn’t healing, either.

As time went on, my feelings became less intense.  I had forgiven my friend.  I had stopped feeling anger towards her and resentment towards her.  I sincerely hoped she was doing well and was happy.  On paper, it looked like I had moved on and that things should be smooth sailing, but I hadn’t and they weren’t.  I couldn’t look at pictures or hear certain songs or eat certain foods or drink certain drinks because it made me almost double over with that feeling you get in your gut when something is really really really not okay.  I didn’t understand it.  If I was no longer angry, if I knew that I missed her and would welcome a chance at reconnection, if I had forgiven her, what was punching me in the stomach?

I had forgotten to forgive someone else.  I had forgotten to forgive myself. 

When the student is ready the teacher appears, so they say.  My teacher was a moment a few weeks ago when my phone chirped signaling a text message.  It was my friend.  That moment was my teacher.  I was ready and it appeared.

I have slowly started the process of forgiving myself for my part in the Falling Out (to borrow a phrase,) and it’s helping.  I feel that when I forgive myself, I am able to be more present and more appreciative with and of my friend (we’re rebuilding.)  I can really hear her now because I’m not so busy trying to shut up that inner voice screaming that I don’t deserve another chance or whatever.  When I can be okay with me it is SO much easier and lovelier to be okay with others, to “be a larger container for the spirit.”  I feel wide open, huge hearted, and eager to give more to my friend, others in my life, and myself.  I have to say, it’s a wonderful, freeing experience.

Where you can you grow bigger in spirit, in heart today?  Who can you forgive? What can you release? Try it.  It might start as your yoga for the day, but I’ll bet it quickly becomes your yoga for life.

Namaste

A life less complicated: 2011 made simple

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I woke up this morning and found my kids layering strand after strand of beads and bobbles around their necks and shoving rings on each finger with wild abandon.  My sons LOVE costume jewelry.  I’m not sure why and I don’t care.  They love it, it makes them incredibly happy, and they feel awesome. It’s a very simple thing.

Wrapped in my new chenille robe (thank you, honey,) I made my way into the kitchen for a cup of plain black coffee and a breakfast of multigrain bread with butter.  Nothing fancy, nothing gourmet or special, but oh so good.  Simple, easy, perfect.

 

You know I love Hank. I think he’s amazing. I learn a lot from him. All it takes to make him happy is a pat on the head, a scratch behind the ear, and a tennis ball.  Simple.

 

It seems to me that simple things really are the best.  There’s nothing to argue with.  Nothing complicated.  Nothing to gunk up the cogs and gears of enjoyment, contentment – santosha.  We complicate things much more than we need to.  When we add too much or worry too much or DO too much, things get a little (or a lot) crazy.  We are human beings not human doings. There is a very simple, very famous prayer which has been been around for a long time and helped millions of people make their lives better:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Simple.  Perfect.

What if we just let things be?  What if we adopted a “wait and see” attitude?  What if we let the Universe take control of things and we just go along?  What if we simplified ourselves and our lives?  What would that look like?  Maybe a little something like this:

If it feels good and hurts no one (including yourself,) do it.

If you don’t want to do something and it’s not going to hurt anyone (including yourself) by not doing it, don’t do it.

If you’re tired, sleep.

If you’re hungry, eat.

If you need love, give love.

If you need forgiveness, forgive.

If you want something, get it and also give it to someone else.

If you’re sad, cry.

If you’re happy, smile.

If you’re scared, hold someone’s hand.

If someone is scared, hold their hand.

If you can, do.

If you cannot, don’t.

If you cannot, but want to, ask for help and learn.

If you’ve learned, teach.

Share.

Say “please” often and “Thank you” twice as much.

Breathe.

Move.

Wait.

Love.  Love.  Love.

 

Welcome 2011!  I know it’s going to be an amazing year – it’s simple!