Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Sexy Sacral Chakra; abuse and healing

The chakras fascinate me. They really do. And next weekend I’m teaching part of a chakra series, a workshop called the Sexy Sacral Chakra. We’ll twist and bend, breathe deeply and meditate on what this powerful chakra is all about. And each of us will work on our own stuff. Not everyone has the same issues with a chakra and that’s one of the reasons it’s so fascinating to teach a workshop on it. Each student is going through their own awareness, learning, and awakening.

On a daily basis if I focus in and listen to my body, it talks to me. And I’m not just talking the little aches and pains of life. I’m talking some of the big stuff.

When my stomach hurts it could relate to a feeling of powerlessness. An ache in my leg might mean I’m feeling unstable or afraid of moving forward. And maybe my fear of moving forward can be because of a fear of increased instability in my life.  The new and unknown might be too scary for me at the moment and my leg is telling me.

Or maybe I just pulled a muscle.

For me the sacral chakra is very personal, though. I am very centered in my sacral chakra, also called Svadhistana. This chakra is chock full of intuitive knowledge. It’s all about our emotions, relationships and of course, Sex. It’s about our sexual relationships as well as who we are sexually. It’s about creativity and that ultimate creative endeavor, reproduction.

At my age, sacral chakra is less about my sexual identity and reproduction than feeling comfortable and centered in my sexuality. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, sex has always been an issue. It’s always meant more or less than it should. I know, I hear it, and I use “should” lightly. Sex has either meant love and devotion, adoration and commitment or just another day of studying, laundry and carpooling. For a long time it would swing like a pendulum and I based who I was on which one I felt. Or maybe I felt somewhere in between.

How I felt about myself sexually became my identity. It’s not surprising, really, since I was abused in my pre-school years. The years I was supposed to be carving a bit of my identity and distancing my identity from my mother’s.

So I struggled. I struggled through adolescence with it. As with so many of us, my first “real” sex was fairly early. By the time I was in college I thought I had it mastered, I thought I was one cool customer .. “to the boys like a metronome”. I could take them or leave them and if I left first then that was even better.

By early 20s I was married and hadn’t really figured it out. If my husband was busy or distracted or was dealing with what we would later learn was Bi-polar Disorder, I was devestated. He didn’t love me. He certainly didn’t care enough to be in our marriage. And so I was in and out of our 20 year long relationship, emotionally and physically. I would date other men. I cheated. I hated myself and I took it out on everyone around me.

It was a dark, dirty, desperate picture.

I wish I could tell you I have an answer. I know my story isn’t unique. Couple it with a teenaged eating disorder to find some semblance of control, PTSD from my violent childhood, heavy drinking to escape and my story mirrors millions. The answer was my own. I stumbled and tripped and ultimately it’s not one thing that makes my life manageable today. It’s layers and a patch work of getting on the mat, laughing with my kids, eating well, talking to my mentor, getting exercise, working on my spiritual growth, making time to have fun, being in love, writing, and just learning to Be.

I do believe that after I got some things figured out, after therapy and support groups and a continuing to get on the mat, the thing that balanced that sexual, creative, emotional energy was chakra work.

Gently, quietly, slowly over time I unblocked, invigorated and balanced the sacral chakra. The sanskrit translation is sweetness and that’s what balancing this chakra has done for me. Through the meditations, breath work and poses sacral chakra work has brought a sweetness to my life that I never expected.

When it’s out of balance the sacral chakra can contribute to low back pain, which I had, but which was one of the first things yoga healed. It can make you quick to anger and my ex-husband can attest to how I used to fly to the ceiling before he could blink. We’d be in the middle of a major row before he even realized we were fighting, but I was heated up and ready to go ten rounds.

Conversely, an unbalanced sacral chakra can make you feel numb. This was more my early years. I can remember teen-aged years where I just wanted to feel something. And I found that sex and alcohol could help me do that. Later in adult years I needed the alcohol to help me numb and escape.

An out of whack sacral chakra can make you feel depressed and disconnected, emotionally drained and feeling that your relationships are lacking. That was exactly me. I took prescribed drugs for a while for the depression, but I still floated through not feeling the deep connection I was craving. Ithought everyone was shallow and upon moving to a new state couldn’t believe how the only thing people talked about was the weather. I craved home. And I constantly craved change.

The sacral chakra governs the fluids in our body. Blood, urine, sweat, semen, tears all flow based on the energy of this chakra. In our emotional and mental life it’s about flowing with the change. I craved change like some people crave crack. If life wasn’t in upheaval, I was antsy and agitated and I created drama.

By strengthing my back and abdominals, twisting and resting in poses that put pressure on the front of my body I felt relief from this life.  I meditated and felt my belly. I rested my hands whenever I could on a spot about three fingers below my belly button. Not surprisingly, this can be a tough area for women to want to focus on. We’d rather cover our bellies in layers, ignore the bulge as it grows or just cut it out all together. Pregnancy can be hard for some of us for just this reason. Focusing on the low abdomin can make us feel vulnerable and being vulnerable made me feel uncomfortable.

What we learn on the mat translates directly into our lives. When I learned that being uncomfortable on the mat was okay, that it was safe and that comfort would return or that being uncomfortable sometimes was almost fun cause it took me into poses I never thought I’d acheive or a calmness that was addictive, then I slowly opened myself to being uncomfortable in life. And when I learned that it was okay to be uncomfortable sometimes, and this is still a work in progress, then I learned how to live, grow, love and be without alcohol or looking for the next bedfellow or eating a pint of ice cream at a time.

I learned that Melissa is okay. Again, this isn’t every day of my life. Sometimes I even go a few days with this struggle, but then I do something like get on the mat or chat with a student or walk to the studio and then I remember. Being Melissa is okay.

This has been a long, long struggle. I’m just grazing the iceberg of work that needs to be done. But my life is not governed by my sacral chakra anymore. It’s a balanced place where I can draw the energy to enjoy the sensuality of life.  I write daily again, I am more contemplative and slower to raise my voice. I am in love and I have absolutely no desire to flirt, love or sleep with anyone else.

In general my emotions and feelings aren’t running amok. My sexuality feels grounded and pleasing. My creativity feels boundless and excites and inspires me.

This is the true sweetness of life.

What I give attention to grows and grows and grows. Ten things to shift your perspective.

This has been a really hard lesson for me to learn and I’m not there yet. What I give attention to grows. And therefore, I’m in control of my life.

Whether you believe in a power of anything, attraction or otherwise, it seems to hold true in my life. Giving my attention to the bad stuff in my life only makes it seem worse  and conversely when I put on the rose colored glasses and focus on the good in my life the good grows and grows and grows.

Now, I come from a family of worriers and people who live in their fear. This has been a really hard one for me to reverse, but I’m working on it. Every day I work on it. And on most days I do okay, but on some days I stumble. And that’s okay.

I won’t pretend that sometimes I don’t feel ridiculous, cause I do. Some of these things I started off thinking Really? Really? THIS is going to change my life? The thing I try to remember is that no one thing is going to change anything overnight. It’s a process. Today I look for the progress in my life, not necessarily the outcome. Because it’s about the journey, not about the destination. All my lessons come from the trip.

So here are some of the things I do. Some of them mentors and teachers have insisted I do and some of them I’ve learned from practice, habit and luck.

Here are 10 things you can do to shift your perspective and change your life

1. Watch What You Say –     This is one of the hardest ones for me, but perhaps the most imortant.  It’s really more about what I think, but it’s easier for me to focus on what comes out of my mouth rather than what rolls around in my head. But this one is really simple. If I complain or bitch about the stuff in my life-people, situations, places-that I don’t like or are causing me unease then the discomfort is all I feel. If I talk about the good things that are happening with people, places or situations then I get that great feeling that things are working out and I can build on that feeling to have a happy life.  I’m not saying never complain again, but we complain a lot and getting out of the habit would make our lives so much better. So, today try not to complain. Everytime you want to bitch about something see if you can say something good. If it takes a lot of effort this is probably an area to focus on. In a month you’ll be living a different life, one full of positive happenings and people.

2. Walk-or get some sort of similar exercise daily-  This is fairly straight forward. As many of you know I’ve been walking a lot lately and extolling the virtues. Here’s my experience. When I walk my mind gets quiet, my muscles relax and I’m more present in my body. This is big for me because for a long time the only place I found that was on the mat. I’ve been a walker for years, but I often did it in groups or with my headphones on. And those are all some good ways to get some exercise, but now I purposely walk solo. I’m not distracted, I’m putting one foot in front of the other and that’s a powerful metaphor for where I am in life today. 

3. Meditate- It doesn’t matter when or how you do it. Do it for twenty minutes, do it for two. It’s a powerful way of changing your life. Clearing your head is more than just getting quiet so you can focus. Meditation can heal, it can change your brain chemistry, it can put you in a different place. The saying is that when you pray you talk to God, when you meditate God talks to you. Just sit quietly for 5 minutes every morning for the next week. Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Sit outside and be still. Watch the flowers in your garden, soften your eyes and just breath. Go online and listen to a guided meditation. If you’re in Lawrence join us for Inner Focus Meditation with Beth Murphy. It’s free and it’s a great practice.

4. Write A Gratitude List- Okay, this is one of the ones that I thought was ridiculous, but I swear by it. I often give it as homework to my private clients. Every day for a week start the day by writing 5 things you’re grateful for in your journal. It can just be a list and it can be silly. You can be grateful for your toes, your house, your cat, your new toothbrush. It doesn’t matter. Just write five things. But if you’re like me and you want change fast, focus more on the things that make your life worth living. You can repeat items on the list. Again, if this is hard you’ve probably identified an area of your life that needs some work.

5. Practice yoga or another mind, body, spirit centered practice like Tai Chi- Obviously this is a no brainer for me, but I can’t tell you how much yoga has changed my life. If nothing else for the time I’m on the mat I’m getting to know me. I know my knees, my back, my inner arm, my heart, my brain and my belly. Whenever I practice I get a chance to slide down deep in my body. And-well, it feels good. No matter how busy I am or what I’ve got going on in my life I am ALWAYS happier when I get off the mat.  So look up QiGong, Tai Chi or Yoga in your area. Find someone who leads a choir who is mindful of the mind, body, spirit connection. Attend a class, commit to the practice. When you live your life from that centered, mindful place your life will be better. You be capable of making choices rather than reacting to circumstances. You will be able to just Breathe.

6. Write A Wish List- This is another one that was hard for me, but is sooo simple. Write a list of 50 things you want in your life. Just write, don’t think. If by 10 you’re out of things, start getting creative. Maybe you want to take a trip around the world-write it down. Maybe you want a house in the Bahamas-write it down. Maybe you want a just one quiet Sunday morning every month-write it down. It doesn’t have to be attainable, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. Write it down  and put it away for a few days. After three days or so revisit it. See if there’s anything that pops up as something you REALLY want that you didn’t know you REALLY wanted. Put a star next to the things that you really want. Keep pulling the list out for a few weeks, read it, add to it, don’t worry about it. After a few weeks identify the top ten things you want. Write a list of those things. Pin that list to your fridge, mirror, reading lamp. Put it somewhere you can see it every day, preferably more than once a day. Now, I’m not promising you that things will start to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised it they do, though. I am suggesting by seeing this list every day, several times a day, you are going to get really clear about what’s important in your life. You’re going to start seeing yourself laying on white cotton sheets under a big lazy ceiling fan with an incredibly blue ocean outside your window in your house in the Bahamas. And you’re going to start thinking about that more and more and maybe you’ll talk about it and maybe you’ll research it and maybe you’ll realize that if you got three other families involved you could indeed have that little slice of heaven pretty easily. And maybe you’ll make it happen and you’ll have the life you always wanted. Maybe, but until you write it down, you’ll never know.

6. Do One Thing Daily That Creates The Life You Want- Okay, I’ll be honest, this was another one that I thought was silly. One thing wasn’t going to change my life. One thing didn’t really matter in the unsurmountable mountain of mess that I felt I’d created. One thing! Ha! I had two million things and each of them was going to take more than one day to work on. I was so sure that this idea was crazy that I wasn’t even starting. I was just sitting around depleted and miserable.

Somehow, I got so tired and exhausted and sick of the pain of being me that I decided to try one thing. It happens that way a lot. We have to roll around in our own muck to make some changes.

So today I do one thing. One thing every day. Some days it’s writing because I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. It’s the thing that helps me feel me, helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something and helps me add up the pages that might lead to something like a book one day. That’s an awesome one thing.

Some days it’s getting on the mat to practice so I can be a better teacher. Some days it’s working on my gratitude list so I can see, on paper, what a great life I have cause I forget a lot. It’s just one tiny thing sometimes, but one thing grows and builds. So at the end of the week I’ve done seven things that give me a great life and at the end of a month I’ve got 30 things. And you can not do 30 things to create the life you want without something adding up and coming to fruition. So if your dream is to go back to school today your one thing is to pick up the phone/get on the computer/visit the admissions office. Tomorrow do the next thing.

8. Surround Yourself With Wonderful People- Now this one, I wanted. I wanted fabulous friends and confidants, but I had a big block. Me. I was sure that none of the fabulous people wanted to know my name let alone be around me for any length of time. But here’s what happened. I met a person or became aware of someone I thought was kinda cool and I asked her out to coffee and every time I did, the person was happy I asked and I’ve made some great friends. The trick is to find people that inspire you and that you aspire to be like, but in a healthy, non-obsessive way. We’re not talking Single White Female here. We’re thinking more Beaches.

The biggest change in my life the last few months is having a mentor that I can trust, love and listen to. My mentor lets me vent, lets me struggle and has wonderful things to say about me and to me. She is someone who inspires me and believes in me, always. She always, always, always knows that I can do things that I don’t think I can do. That is a powerful thing to have in your life.

9. Eat Well-  This is one of the more fun. I think it’s important to make a ceremony out of eating. To relish and cherish what you put in your mounth. Feel it between your teeth, in your belly and nourish your body. Some foods make me feel a little quesy minutes after ingesting them. Obviously things to avoid. Some make me feel happy and some even make me feel even virtuous. But more than the foods it’s about HOW you eat. Eating well is about more than what you eat, but where, when and how you have meals.

Are you stuffing fast food down your throat while you drive? Are you heating up processed, frozen food while you watch reality tv? Are you noticing what you’re eating, really being present with the experience. Is eating this way adding anything to your life. I know we all have to grab food just to tide us over sometimes, but these should be rare occasions, not the norm.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or special. One of my favorite indulgent meals is an open-faced fresh sandwich. I lightly toast my favorite lusty dark rye break and with a thin layer of mayo or sometimes plain. I pile on fresh mozzarella/baked brie/creamy goat cheese and then I add a slice of juicy tomato/crisp cucumber/biting red onion/spicy pepper and I walk to the garden and snip a sprig of fresh basil/dill/cilantro. Sometimes it’s a combination of embarrassingly gigantic stack of these ingredients. I pour myself a sparkling water with lime in my favorite wine glass and sit on the deck with a great book/magazine or just watch the birds playing on the grass. It makes me feel special/sexy/luscious. I don’t spend a lot of money or time, but it feels wonderful and more than my belly is satisfied.

Make a ceremony out of your next meal. Be thankful for the animals and plants that gave their lives to nourish yours. Relish your food. If you’re not enjoying what you’re eating ask yourself why.

10. Love Yourself- Ok, I left it till ten cause it’s BIG. My biggest obstacle was HOW. How do I love myself? I looked in the mirror and there was so much I didn’t like. There was so much that made me cringe. How was I going to change that?

Well, it didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen because other people told me I was great. It didn’t happen from that weekend Love Yourself seminar. It happened little by little, day by day, year by year. And I’m not out of the self-hatred woods yet.

I had to look at myself deeply. Had to see myself objectively. Had to really dig deep. It was easy to focus on the things that were wrong or the things that I hated. It was soooo hard to start liking even one tiny bit of myself. And that’s how I started, with one tiny bit. I focused on one thing, Just one thing that I liked.

And I did the things above. I found that I liked the calm and centeredness that came from walking. I liked the creative sparks and the peace that came over me and I found that when I felt peaceful there were more things that I liked about myself. So I kept walking.

Then I realized that when I worked on gratitude I was aware of a pretty good life. Sure, there were problems. but I had the skeleton of the life I really wanted. And every day I do something that makes that life more of a reality.

I found that when I was with those people that inpsired me and were living their lives in ways that I wanted to live mine, I felt good. I felt awesome! I felt like I could do anything too. So I kept doing that.

Learning to love myself was a process. Learning to forgive myself, accept myself and truly be vulnerable to myself were great lessons and all led to a lot of love. Don’t get me wrong, the flourscent lights and my thighs are not best friends in the dressing room at Kohl’s. But today I can look, whereas I used to turn away from the mirror.

It’s all about the journey.

New and Unexpected, Learning to Just Be

Last week, I had the special treat of both doing something new and having unexpected results. Jeff Klein, Institute of Transformational Studies performed at Breathe Holistic Life Center. For those of you who don’t know, this is my business. I am the owner and Director of Breathe, as well as a yoga teacher. Of course, I’d heard of healing through crystal bowls. I regularly see a Neshamah Energy practitioner who studies at ITS and works out of the center. I know that energy work works. It heals. It helps me center and focus, feel present and rested. It’s rejuvenating and soothing. But I’d never been to a crystal bowl concert.

Let me say that Jeff was in town about six months ago and performed at another venue. My intention was to be there, but I was feeling like I was coming down with something and I decided to stay home on the couch. Now, my Neshamah Healer said that when you’re feeling like that it’s the perfect time to go to a crystal bowl ceremony. Later, I heard that it had been something going around. Lots of people were picking it up and felt awful. Some of those people went to Jeff’s crystal bowl ceremony. Those people felt fine just a few days later. Actually, they reported feeling better walking out the door.

So on all levels I believe in this healing. I’d never personally experienced it, though. First, let me say that Jeff has great energy. He’s kind and charming and very real. He speaks with pride and love of his son Joey Klein, founder of Institute of Transformational Studies. He came to healing later in life, but is truly a gifted practitioner.

So we sat comfortably. I sat in the window seat so I could turn the lights off, control the fans and say goodbye and thank you to anyone who had to leave early.

Jeff explained the service, that he was going to play one of Joey’s meditations on cd. I inwardly groaned. One man left. I looked around nervously to see if others might be rolling their eyes or feeling like leaving. Everyone stayed put and as he started the cd Jeff picked up one of the crystal bowls. A clear, calm tone rang out and as he started to walk around the room, Joey’s voice helped me sink down into myself, opening my heart and quieting my brain. 

Jeff strolled in and amongst us for almost and hour, changing bowls and letting the tones swirl around, over and inside us. At one point he stood within six inches of me moving a large white bowl from one side of my head to the other. Flashes of color exploded in front of my eyes. The tones sounded almost like a siren in it’s movement closer on one side and then closer on the other, back and forth, in and out. I was curious why he chose this for me when I’d seen him through slitted eyes put the bowl above another woman’s head.

Times during the 50 minutes I dropped so deeply in my own meditation that I’d forget to listen to Joey. When the bowls came around my attention shifted and I stood outside my body to observe my own reaction to the tones, but I also sat deeply inside myself and experienced the shifts that the tones evoked in me.

After, Jeff told us to drink water and eat dark chocolate and not to drive for 15 minutes or so. I was light, but present; calm, but buzzing. I was so in my body and clear that the whole experience feels like it happened yesterday. 

And the crazy thing? I’ve been nursing tendonitis in my thumb for the better part of a year. That afternoon my thumb was pain free. That day I didn’t get my mid-afternoon slump-or the next. And even though I still get a little tired in the afternoons, it’s not at all what it was like the week before I met Jeff Klein.

I saw people there that I’ve worked with and knew suffered from depression, or back pain, anxiety or knee issues. This week, I haven’t seen one of them in class.

They’ll be back. Because at the end of the day yoga is more than a physical practice. It’s a spiritual way of life and while my students may want to heal their backs they also recognize there is something else they’re getting from the practice. If people who are suffering find a reprieve from their pain and hurt, even for a few days and even from a practice that is not mine I can only rejoice.

This week we’re all better for having met Jeff Klein. Better for layering another level of healing. Better for, once again, daring to open our hearts. Better for allowing ourselves to close our eyes and just Be.

Take a Breather-the wisdom of stillness

I’m a whirlwind.  A dervish. I like movement, fast talking, fast decision making. I like things speedy and I get frustrated by things that are slow, not fast or boring.

Okay, that’s a bit of the old Melissa.

I can be a whirlwind, a dervish, a fast talking, fast acting, antsy, over-stimulated yogi. Sounds like a contradiction, huh? It’s all about progress.

I do get antsy sometimes, but I have learned how to be okay with things that are different or difficult. I am learning, I should say. I won’t lie to you and pretend that I’m perfectly content and calm while the building crumbles around me. I panic and get angry, rant and rave (more to myself these days), but when that’s over I know that walls crumbling are the way of life.

May is the month we’re learning to just be. I’m learning to accept myself, learning that I’m human and flawed and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to change. Or it can. It’s up to me and me alone.

The lesson is to learn how to lean into the discomfort. The discomfort…the hard place, is where we learn and grow. If I can be okay with the discomfort then I can learn how to accept you and me and all those around us. I can make changes that serve me and let go of that which isn’t serving me.

The hardest lesson I’ve learned is that when I get uncomfortable, it’s okay. I can use it to change or I don’t have to, but the discomfort has a purpose. So often, though, we get uncomfortable and we run. We run the other way and leave the discomfort behind. And then we miss out on the lessons. And since we don’t learn, we’re going to be that kind of uncomfortable again. We will keep getting uncomfortable until we learn how not to be.

I’ve been a runner for years. I’ve picked up and moved. I’ve ignored difficult situations. I’ve messed up and messed up and run from all my messes. It seems the universe is asking me to clean up my messes. Play time is over and if I ever want another playdate, I’m going to have to clean up after this one.

I have a life that I like. Sometimes I even love it. Okay, when I really review my life I pretty much love it all the time. I can get hyper-focused, though, on this moment and forget the big picture. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit together in ways that make me happy, but it’s kind of like the walls crumbling. That’s just life. It’s up to me to accept the way the pieces fall together. Through acceptance I can learn how to just be.

And what’s so great about learning to just be?

When I can just be I can stop feeling so agitated, antsy and bouncy. I can settle in and create all the good things I want in my life. I can help the puzzle pieces fit together in a way that is pleasing to me. I may not be able to fit them together to make the picture I thought they were going to make, but they’ll fit and it will still look nice and it will be okay.

When I just be I can feel the energy and flow of the universe. I can be present in that power/light/love that surrounds me all the time. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but it always is.

So this month the work is just to be. Be still. Be present. Be accepting. Ne happy. Be love.

Mindfulness in Motion

Recently, I started walking again. I need to drop the winter weight, but more than walking for my body, I’m walking for my brain.

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