Redefining Your Everybody

“But what will everybody think?”

How often has this question stopped you dead in your tracks?

I stayed at a job, in a relationship and in a city far longer than I needed to because of those five simple words. Repeatedly.

The funny thing is that we can usually narrow our “everybody” to about 4-5 people and it usually isn’t even a sampling of people that we find inspiring. Maybe it’s your super judgmental aunt. Or your high school teacher who said you wouldn’t amount to much. One of mine was an old boss at lululemon who told me that I’d never be a successful yoga teacher.

Who wants this crew sitting at the table of your most important, soul affirming decisions?

Not I.

Here are a few ways I started to reclaim my “everybody” and shift the majority of the focus to what I wanted instead:

#1 List your muses.
I have a doc on my phone with a list of people who inspire me. In the yoga space, the recovery space, the coaching space.. But also just good eggs that are up to good shit in the this world. However, just because I look up to them doesn’t mean I’d take their opinion and forget my own. That brings me to number 2.

#2 Know Your “Move a Body” friends.
Brene Brown refers to a “move a body” friend as the friend you could tell absolutely anything and they’d never get judgmental or disgusted. You’d never have to preface anything with “but please don’t tell anyone.” This is a person whose advice you can trust wholeheartedly. I have two of these friends and neither live near me. But I could pick up the phone at 2 am and they'd be on the next flight out. To move the body, of course.

#3 Celebrate What You Love. And What You Don’t.
You can read every single self-help book under the sun. You can do a gazillion chaturangas. But unless you know who you are or what you love, you are going to be stuck in the same ol’ people pleasing, “do-it-for-the-Instagram-likes” cycle over and over again. Take time to celebrate what it is you love. You like that wall bright blue? Paint it. You want to try improv? Sign up. You don’t want to go to that party? Don’t go. If you haven’t already, start the best relationship of your life. The one with yourself.

The Day I Woke Up

Tuesday, November 8th was one of my most proud days.

I donned my "Future is Female" shirt. I went to yoga and I prayed. I high-fived three older ladies in line after I cast my vote for the first female president of the United States Hillary Clinton.

I posted this that morning: I'm voting to ensure this little girl is valued, celebrated and empowered. That her body and her dreams belong to her and her only. And that she knows a woman's place is in the White House. I'm voting to ensure that for each of us. #imwithher #wegohigh

Tuesday was one of my most favorite days, until it wasn't.

On Tuesday I voted for love, while many others, including some family members and old friends, voted for Donald Trump, a man who has used racism, homophobia, xenophobia and hate as a way to become president.

I turned on the radio the next day and heard "Those of us in California woke up today and realized we live in a different country."

I drove to teach my yoga class. The room was filled with choked sobs and a heavy energy. Do you know why? 

Because one student is afraid her children will be bullied because that behavior as a way to gain momentum and votes.
Another is afraid that her marriage to her wife will be eradicated and discriminated against.
Another is afraid her children will be subject to racial slurs.
Another is afraid her best friend and her family will be deported.
Another is terrified that her two black sons will be subject to violence.

During these ten days I haven't had one conversation with someone here in Los Angeles that voted for Trump. I haven't had one conversation with someone who doesn't agree with me.

And this is part of the problem.

I am part of the problem.

I left Iowa when I was twenty-two years old to live in Washington DC and work at a travel magazine. In my neighborhood I was often the minority. I bought my daily groceries at a corner store where the cashier was behind bulletproof glass. 

I moved to Los Angeles where I've lived in a variety of neighborhoods. I've worked with homeless youth, I've taught in drug rehab centers, I myself am in recovery.

Many of my friends are gay. Many of my friends have felt discriminated against. Many have had abortions. 

I voted for love because life isn't black and white. It's messy. It's heartbreaking. It's downright terrifying at times.

When I go home to Iowa, I'm often asked : How could you live there? The traffic, the people, the pollution.

You know why I live here? 

Because I've had the gift of getting to know each of these people. To feel accepted for my shortcomings. For my hurts. For knowing that the only way forward, the only true way is the path of love. And that path is often covered in blood, sweat and tears.

You're pro-life? Well, I'm pro-human. I choose a bear hug over a dollar bill. I choose radical vulnerability over this painful facade. I choose to see a human being and not a statistic. I choose the God that loves all of us, not the white people who believe what you believe.

If you're scared, I'm here.
If you're mad, I'm here.
If you think I'm wrong, I'm here.

We gotta show up. Now. For each other.

What will you do to make a difference? To examine your own part in this?

Tuesday was a really hard day but it also marks the day that I woke up.

When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.
— Pema Chodron

Love Being Wrong

I love being wrong.

It's taken a very long time to get there but I can honestly say that it feels good to be wrong from time to time.

I was wrong about my high school boyfriend.

I was wrong about my belief that being skinny meant being happy.
And that alcohol would lead me home to myself.

I was wrong that any place or thing or person would fix the aching inside me.
(Apparently it's an inside job.)

I've been wrong about so many people. Just snap judgments.

Just this week I had a conversation that turned into an argument. It left such a bad feeling in me and I felt that I had been wronged. Then yesterday as I was laying on my yoga mat I realized, "It's me."

That meant a phone call. An apology. Some ownership. 
On both behalfs.
What a gift.

Perspective pared with ego is a scary thing. It's a belief with teeth that is willing to take down any unsuspecting passerby. At the root of it all, it's just fear disguised as pride. It can be lethal. Being wrong is humbling. Admitting our human-ness, that sometimes that wrong is the "best" we have to offer.

When I can let go of my grip of being right or getting it "right," I'm able to just be in the game. As Brene Brown says, "If you aren't in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."

Boom.

Because fuck guys, I'm in it right now. 

Just yesterday a colleague and I were reflecting on the past year and I said that there's been so much change and there's just no going back. The only way is forward and that's showing up as fully as I can every single day and doing the work. And loving myself when I get it wrong because I am bound to do so.

Try loving up your wrongs. 
Enjoy a more compassionate and spacious perspective in exchange.

Start Where It's Easy

I recently (and by recently I mean five minutes ago) Googled "supplements that enhance creativity."

A few of my findings: whole grains, Gingko Biloba, grapefruits.

But mainly: Less Googling.

I've been experiencing an ache as of late. It starts partly in my belly and moves toward my heart. As I spend more and more time with this ache I find that it's this - an ache to express, to be wildly myself, to stop giving so much of a fuck.

It's an ache to write because I feel like writing. To scribble in my notebook just because. To go wandering, both internally and externally, for the sake of the wander, for the sake of being slightly lost without Google Maps.

My friend Jenny recently said "Start where it's easy." I can't even recall what she might have been referring to but for me it means to start where it's simple and true. Like that first stretch or yawn when you just awake. Not for any reason at all except to fit a little more comfortably into yourself.

Right now what feels easy is this : solitude and trusted tribe, early mornings, quiet. 

This year has been all about shifting. And through that shifting I've lost my footing a little bit. So I'm starting by taking my high tops off and digging my toes into the good green grass. 

Starting where it's easy and working to love up what is.

Reflection + Intention: August + September

As I approach 33 at the end of this week, I thought I'd follow Jacki's lead in taking the time to review the past month and to set intentions for the month ahead.

September was always my favorite month for two reasons - it being my birthday month and the crisp feeling of "a fresh start" that I've always associated with it. Crunch of fall leaves, a new backpack, an empty notebook or two to scribble words upon. Even though I'm now a 32 year-old living in Southern California (our little bit of fall comes around the end of October), I still get excited for the approach of this favorite month. And I'm totally buying a new notebook.

So better late than never, here we go:

The two things I’m most celebrating from August are:

1. A new home. If anyone had told me I'd be living on the other side of LA come August, I would've had a not-very-minor meltdown. But after many years of living in Venice and Santa Monica it was time to make a change. We found a treehouse-like home nestled right into the hills of Silver Lake and directly across from two of our best friends (four if you count their amazing baby girl Bowie and pup Marvin).  

My favorite parts so far? My yoga room that overlooks the sun-drenched hills. Being able to wave to our friends as they head to work. Not having a TV and just loving up our record collection. The hidden staircases all throughout this neighborhood. And the eclectic collection of coffee shops, boutiques and green space all throughout.

2.  Grounding. While we did move in in August, I also had a chaotic travel schedule and traveled to Quebec and Colorado to teach. Through quiet time, meditation and my onslaught of herbs and teas I stayed pretty grounded. Only a couple of freak outs and a minor head cold.


The two things I’m most grateful for from August are:

1. Framily. In the short time we've lived here we've had our framily visit - the entire Hynes clan, my parents and so many of our friends who live close by. One of my reasons we moved was to see our crew on a regular basis and it's so fun to have our friends just pop by. And so very, very fun to show my parents a whole new side of LA they've hardly seen. 

2. Creativity. I feel that I'm slowing down enough now to start to tap back into that quieter, more creative voice inside. And I've really missed her and am ready to make words, art, classes, projects!



Anything to release or let go of from August, speak now: Complaint. No time or energy for it.


The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from August is: In order to make things happen you have to speak them.
 

My intention word for September is: Home. Creating home with me wherever I go and most certainly cultivating it here, where I live.
 

One thing I aim to do every day in September is: Write. Not necessarily publicly but for me! I want to spend time scribbling and letting my mind wander and just getting words on paper. Especially in a Moleskine notebook.
 

Because I am brave, here are two new/scary things I will do in September:

1. Say no. Say no to the things that I need to in order to carve out space to ground and create. Even if it feels hard.

2. Get on my mat. Now that I'm home I will spend time every single day on my yoga mat, even if I took a class at a studio. Getting back into relationship with my body and my creative whimsy.


The one book I definitely want to read in September is: Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton. Bought it yesterday and cannot wait to dive in.


Just for fun, I will.. spend an entire day at the ocean digging my toes into the sand and reading a trashy paperback.


As an act of intentional kindness, I will.. put together a care package full of goodies and surprises for a friend who is suffering.
 

Bigger Than Your Fear

“I hate public speaking.”

This has been my story since I was 14 years old. From the first time I felt my heart pound and my cheeks blush and I felt… stupid. 

It got worse and worse from there. I remember working all day on a paper I was to present in my college lit class. I spent so much time making sure the concepts were solid and my writing was concise. But then I stood up and shook and stuttered my way through the whole thing. Afterward the professor raised his brows as he asked, “Um, what just happened?” The hardest part was that I had absolutely no idea.

I’d constantly Google “getting over fear of speaking in public,” and it seemed my only options were Toastmasters, thinking different thoughts, or just doing more of it. (And apparently a magic pill called Propanol.) If I’d ever been told that I’d stand in front of more than ten people and speak, I would’ve given you an exasperated look and a big “no way Jose.” Regardless, I was dead set on solving this problem. 

When I completed my yoga teacher training more than eight years ago the biggest hurdle between me and teaching was my fear of speaking. I stopped trusting myself because it seemed that every time I opened my mouth an imposter had hijacked my body and I was unable to convey what I so badly wanted to say. I claimed that I wasn’t actually interested in teaching and I was just there to deepen my practice. This was partly true—but the more I learned the more I wanted to share.

After I got my certification, I was asked often to teach an evening class are busy studio down the street. I always had a reason why I couldn’t: I feel sick. I have an event. I have to wash my hair (OK, I didn’t go that far.) This often wasn’t the truth. The truth was: I was scared shitless.

My body has a physical response to this fear. My heart beats like a 200-pound hummingbird. My skin grows hot and red. I feel faint and foggy headed. Rather than be sweet and inquire where this fear was coming from I’d berate myself for being a failure. I’d shrink to fit the fear. I came to reside there.

This self shame may not seem very yogic. Self-love is an important part of practice—and this kind of doubt certainly wasn’t it. But just like finding our edge on the mat and eventually breaking new ground and trying on new perspectives, so too was my journey to overcoming this fear.

The bottom line: You just have to do it.

I still get butterflies when I get up to teach or am describing a new concept to a room full of people. Now, however, I remind myself that these butterflies are a reminder that I’m doing what I love, that I’m excited and challenged by it, that I’m most certainly pushed past my own self-imposed limits. Just like any evolving practice there are days that are more challenging than others. I remind myself again and again: Fear is just excitement without breath.

Today I stood in front of 1,000 people and spoke with confidence. I had butterflies in my stomach and they felt strangely good. I didn’t medicate. I didn’t shrink. I started my day the way I usually do—with an Americano and some meditation. And I allowed myself to feel gratitude. Gratitude for working hard and being brave and expanding.

So hey, you. I’m really proud of you. It would’ve been easier to be quiet. To hide out. You were really good at that. But you are learning so much on this journey. Continue to trust and be led and unfurl.

You are always bigger and more beautiful than your fear.

Lovingly Know Your Hell No

I was 21 years old when I was given my “dream job” at a prestigious travel magazine.

I’d been interning at the magazine for several months, living in D.C. and trying to adjust to the bustling, always “busy, busy, busy” energy of living in our political center. I wasn’t adjusting very well. I missed riding my bike around my old campus in Iowa City, taking creative writing classes at the Writers’ Workshop, and spending hours journaling in local cafes and my favorite park off Washington Street. Life in Iowa was slow, mostly blissful, and the way I lived felt creative and fulfilling.

So when I wandered into the editor-in-chief’s office for a random meeting he'd scheduled, I had no idea what to expect. He was a big, burly man who carried himself with a lot of confidence, and though I truly respected him, I also feared him. Frankly, he absolutely scared the shit out of me. The minute he offered me the job I knew it was a "no" but instead I heard a resounding "yes" escaping my lips. I felt the effects physically—a pit in my stomach, sweaty palms, and a tidal wave of anxiety. My body said no but my mind argued.

“Four years in journalism school and you want to turn down National Geographic?”

Not happening.

So I took the job, moved all of my belongings from Iowa City to Washington, D.C., and, to be honest, I learned a lot. I learned what I love and what I don’t. I fell madly in love with yoga, blogs, and traveling during this time. All things that have well served me since.


Saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no” (or even shout it from the rooftops) is something I’ve done countless times. I’ve said "yes" when I felt "no"—to relationships, jobs, and even sometimes coffee dates.

At the turn of the new year my Instagram feed was full of intentions, affirmations, and saying a big, resounding YES to every adventure. But you know what my gut reaction was? NO. A big, fat no. That "no" was going to be my word this year and that I was going learn to love this word... Hard.

I’m approximately 37 days into 2016 and I’ve said "no" to a lot of things so far.

I’ve said no to Facebook and deleted my account. Why? I always felt utterly drained five minutes into it and couldn’t remember why I opened my computer in the first place.


I’ve said no to alcohol because at 32 hangovers hurt and I’m getting up to some really big, fulfilling shit this year.

I said no to teaching extra yoga classes to focus on coaching, writing, and digging into my own home practice.

I’ve said no to a few evenings with friends because I’ve just really needed to be at home and to feel grounded. And man, Netflix is so good lately.

How is saying "no" (something considered negative) actually self-love (something positive)? Well, when you say no to busyness, mindless scrolling, and complaining, what are you saying yes to?

No gets such a bad connotation, but in order to truly know what lights us up and our non-negotiables, we must, must, must (!) know what we don’t want. We can even feel our "yes" or "no" physically. Many people feel this energetically or often in their gut. Life coach Martha Beck refers to this as “shackles on, shackles off” and encourages people to move toward what feels like freedom. What feels shackle-free.


What we nurture through self-care and healthy boundaries is what grows, and honestly, saying "no" is healthy for you. According to research from the University of California in San Francisco, the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience burnout, stress, and even depression. So say "no" with gusto.

Honor your boundaries and existing commitments and understand that it’s an offering of self-care.

Don't Forget. Love, You

I recently opened a new business email account and for the past 48 hours I've been flooded with every single email I wrote twelve years ago at 20. Then ten years ago at 22. And on and on and on.

Nostalgia central.

New jobs, break ups, moves, boyfriends, travel.
All back into my inbox.

And man, my young heart was tender. So much happening so fast. I just wanna reach through the screen and hug this girl I hardly recognize. Tell her that 22 is actually really fucking young and I should take a little more time. 

But I did come across this email I wrote to myself on February 1, 2008. 

Thank you young, wide eyed, brave soul for making moves.

Your future self thanks you.

mary beth,
when you get scared because you are making a big leap remember these things:
• good things come to those who take risks and lead from the heart.
• i don't like being pent-up in an office for eight hours.
• i want my creative juices to flow again.
• i hate programming web pages, pushing the photo of the week live, and writing and programming the newsletter. it is mind numbing.
• i want to take a risk.
• i want to freedom to spend two months in bali if that's what i really, really want.
• i'm scared of staying.
• i can always go back to the office but i might reach a point in the future where i just couldn't leave. (kids, mortgage, etc.) i want to find out how to leverage my passions into money now.
• i want to take a yoga class at noon and work on an editing project until four in the morning.
• i hate fluorescent lighting.
• i want to be happy now; not in fifty years.
• i can always move to dubai.
• the people i adore are risk takers. i belong in that club.
• i'm smart and compassionate and i want to be recognized for that.
• if it doesn't work out, i can always go back to school or back to the office.
• i want to become a strong yoga teacher and strong wellness writer.
• sometimes i can't remember the excitement and creativity of me as a college girl and that was only a year and a half ago.
• i may go back to school eventually.

don't forget.

love,
you

Beating Cancer with Panache

A couple years ago my dad celebrated his 70th birthday in a basement Irish pub with pints of Guinness, a shot of Jameson, and a band that played well into the early morning. My brother and I flew home from opposite coasts to celebrate with him.

Dad had just returned from Ragbrai, riding his bike across the state of Iowa—an event in which you dip your rear wheel in the Missouri and your front wheel in the Mississippi when you finish. And for those 468 miles in between, you ride through Iowa’s hilly, corn-filled landscape and stop for beers, to camp, and to listen to live music. (If you are sensing a theme here, you are right.)

My dad has a heart with no limits, and a sense of humor so key that he wins Cards Against Humanity every time he plays it. He is a good man, in every sense of the word, and I know this in my being—like I know that the sky is blue and the ocean is approximately one mile from my front door.

He’s the guy who gets up when someone needs a seat. He’s the guy who walks all the way across the airport to thank someone in uniform. He’s a legend who played rugby well into his early forties, hauling my family to matches in Colorado. I grew up with a lot of “uncles,” sweaty, mustached rugby-playing men who smelled of canned beer and had the best laughs ever. He’s forgiving. He’s curious about life. He has a twinkle in his eye and a sense of joie de vivre.

My dad is my Achilles heel.

I remember the night my parents called with the news. I know “news” and I immediately knew that what was coming was nothing I wanted to hear. I was 23 years old and thought I knew it all. I didn’t.

He had prostate cancer.

I remember that next day I promptly took a day off work while he kept up with his life as is, saying the Rosary, hitting the gym, and having happy hour on the back patio with my mom. His spirits were high, his positivity almost more stressful than if he was mad.

It was a serious roller coaster of a year. My dad was diagnosed, my best friend’s mother passed away suddenly, and then my grandma.

Rather than deal with it I bought a Vespa, an English bulldog, and took a trip to Dubai with the money my grandma left me. Impulsive? Oh, certainly. Did my dad approve of me living life by the seat of my pants? Mostly yes.

I am so grateful to tell you my father celebrated his 72nd birthday this past August. And he’s in Ireland right now with my mom, having switched to an international phone plan so he could call my brother and I from the pub. He’s been in remission for eight years and his thirst for life has never been so great.

Dad, you inspire me more than you will ever, ever know. Cheers.

Love Letter to My Life

Thank you for bulldog snuggles.
For cotton candy sunsets and morning ocean walks.
For a farm table surrounded by my favorite people. And lots of wine.
For chai. 
For a yoga practice that supports and inspires me.
For my man.
For those who aren't afraid to show their underbelly.
For the smell of the ocean.
For Iowa, which will always be home.
For 90s R&B.
For vulnerability.
For the moments when I surprise myself (in a good way.)
For the moments when I surprise myself (in a bad way. It's called learning.) 
For a mid-afternoon bubble bath.
For my family. Blood. And best friends. And a furry one too.
For my teachers.
For sunshine. 
For occasional rainy days with movies and ramen.
For the snooze button.

A real prayer has nothing to suggest to God except a deep gratitude, thankfulness. It simply accepts whatsoever God is pouring. Prayer is receiving the gift.
— Osho