Cancer doesn’t define me

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This week I was featured in Redding’s local newspaper, the Record Searchlight. I’m 12 years post the ovarian cancer surgeries, chemo, and death sentence and sharing my story on a broader scale has allowed me to talk and connect with others who are either going through cancer or are post experience as well. It has been a real revelatory and profound week.

My hope has always been to use what the devil meant for evil, for Good and I’ve had the privilege to see it happen over and over again. It makes me so glad to see that the sh*t I went through isn’t for not. That the darkest places I experienced can be turned around to shine light and hope. This fuels and inspires me to keep pressing on! And yet, I am so much more than a cancer survivor. I am so much more than someone who is strong. I am so much more than a yoga instructor. I am so much more than a woman. I am so much more than someone who works hard. I am so much more than someone who inspires. I am so much more, and so are you.

There is actually a small-ness and belittling effect when we singley identify ourselves with xyz, whether it’s being a Christian, a yogi, a cancer fighter, a woman, a college grad, etc. Our identity’s are not determined by what we do, by what we say, by who we present to the world. We are so much more. I am so much greater. You are way more important. Let us rise to the calling that is from heaven. Let us explore the depths of this being (self) that we have been created to be. Let’s try and work and explore and adventure into the innermost parts of God and ourselves to turn this world upside down and let Peace and Hope and Love and Beauty prevail! It’s going to be messy and hard and fun and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Who’s with me?

You can see a video of me sharing about the benefits of yoga as a healing process here, from this interview.

Namaste. Shine on!

xoxo

Bali Yoga Video: Day 25: yoga, market, stickers, Celeste and Jesse Forever

Radiantly Alive Yoga Studio was again my playground this morning. I took the RA Vinyasa class and the Core Yoga class for 2.5 hours of yoga delight. My thighs are sore from it and it’s great! I really enjoy taking other instructor’s classes so I can 1. Enjoy and not think about sequencing or leading, 2. Learn new poses, music, sequencing, cues, adjustments, etc. and 3. Because I just love yoga! After, I again had a kombucha at the Bali Buddha Café along with a salad and a raw cocao mint dessert. I am sincerely going to miss these $5 raw meals.

This video is of the Ubud Market which I strolled around after yoga and lunch. I was on the hunt for an I love Bali sticker which a friend had told me a stall at the market had. After about 30 minutes of sweating, wandering, asking, and not finding any, I prayed. Within 5 minutes, I found it, of course. I’ll be sticking it to my SUP paddle. It was really nice to wander around the town and see some new sights.

The roommate Joey and I just finished watching the movie “Celeste and Jesse Forever” and I really liked it! I’m pretty particular with my movie choices, as my good friends know (documentaries and real stories are my favs, although a good romantic comedy is a good choice too), and I was pleasantly surprised about this one! What I really enjoyed about it was the characters were so real. I have definitely been in both Celesete and Jesse’s shoes: breaking up with the guy and then it dragging on and on with no clear boundary while we each date other people, hurt each other, say really awkward and selfish things, but what was so great about this movie, was that it ended so maturely. Even with all the stupid choices they made, hurtful things they said, wrongs the did, they moved on. It wasn’t easy but it was beautiful and they both became better people because of it. (The yoga references were great too. ☺ ) I think this is such a testimony of the power of God. No matter how immature we are, no matter the bad choices we make, no matter how we may hurt others, He is good and the best will come to us if we are open and change to make room for it. There is so much more to this but as a whole, love wins.

May you know that you are not defined by your choices. May you know that you have a choice. May you know that goodness always wins. May you know that you are loved, regardless. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I fly home. Namaste. Xx

Bali Yoga Trip: Day 24: yoga all day long

It’s been a great day! I spent most of it at the Radiantly Alive Yoga Studio and the Bali Buddha Café. I took 3 classes at the Studio (Hatha, Roll and Release, and Fly High) and ate raw pizza, a raw food platter with spreads, kombucha, and raw chocolate pudding dessert. I spent maybe $11 on all that raw food and 2 kombucha’s. Ah-mazing!

I felt a bit like Julia Roberts in “Eat Pray Love” today. If you haven’t seen the movie, Julia visits Bali (Ubud even, if I’m not mistaken), as part of her journey to find herself, discover more about life, and do things that she’s always wanted to, all by herself. I brought a book with me, Richard Branson’s “Losing My Virginity,” and read it at the Café in between classes. I met and talked with some of the other yoga students (one was even from CA) and explored a few of the shops near the studio. It started down pouring with rain at around 4:00 pm and I thought it would be over by the time my class ended at 6:45, but it didn’t. I walked back to the home stay in the steady rain covered with only a shawl. I got pretty wet but happily refused taxi’s and enjoyed living in the moments. It’s been a great day: one of slight uncertainty, one of adventure, one of exploration, one of trying lots of new things, one of meeting some great new people, one of exploring new yoga classes and areas of my body, one of testing limits, one of prayer, one of raw food eats, and one of lots of love, not to sound cliché. I am planning on doing something similar tomorrow. I want to try the Radiantly Alive Vinyasa Flow class tomorrow and follow it with the Core Yoga class. We’ll see how I fell after tonight’s Flying High class. I might be a little sore from it.

I hope you enjoy this video of my Home Stay! I just tried to take a shower but the hot water lasted for about 30 seconds and as I tried to get the cold to make it warm, I lost all the hot. I’m planning to shower at the studio tomorrow. It’s actually a much nicer facility.

Until next time, may this inspire you to follow your dreams, to roll with what comes your way with childlike amusement, to try new things, and to talk to strangers. Namaste!

Bali Yoga Training: Day 16: perfect

This has been day 2 of sitting out of asana practice. ☹ My arms have been tingly and somewhat numb for a little over a week, progressively getting more so as the days have gone by. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an acupuncture treatment because my wrists hurt and that it relieved some of that pain, but it has slowly crept back on.

It’s an interesting place to be: at a yoga teacher training where we are doing yoga daily, sometimes twice a day, and not able to participate physically. I was pretty upset about it yesterday, but it was a powerful moment. One of the many things Awakened Life School of Yoga is good at is cultivating a space to let one sit with and work through stuff. Chris, one of the co-founders, let me cry, laugh, cry, and process these feelings of disappointment, frustration, awareness, pity, realization, and then enlightenment. He did such an incredible job of lovingly sitting beside me, but not stopping the process. “Getting a tissue” as we have jokingly yet realistically called it. I saw, yesterday, that it’s not a big deal if I don’t complete every single yoga asana class! I realized that it’s not normal for people to have tingling and numb arms. I realized that I had been pushing through this just for the falsity that I “needed to keep up and be like or be more advanced” than the other students in the class. When I realized that, I laughed and laughed, and then cried some more. I told Christ though, that I wanted to create a new normal. His response: “You will.”

Today I had a 1.5 hour “healing massage.” I’m giving myself some more time to determine how much help this has been, but there has definitely been some shifting. He did some good work with pressure points, muscle, myofacial tissue, tendons; it was intense, yet relaxing! My body is settling into this new alignment. We will see how things are in the morning. I’m hoping, and expectant, for a miracle. One of the yoga instructors told me yesterday that I need to take a break from yoga asana practice until I don’t feel pain, then slowly ease back into it, determining which poses are bothersome. I think it all stemmed from shoulders stands, which I am pretty sure I was actually doing as neck stands; however, as I was sharing with both Chris and the yoga instructor yesterday, I have been through a LOT of trauma, surgeries, near death experiences, chemotherapy, organs removed, chemo, broken bones, falls, etc. And as the yoga instructor so eloquently stated, things are all interconnected. With my abdomen having a lot of scar tissue, it can create a pulling forward of my spine and tension on my neck.

In tonight’s Restorative Yoga class, we ended the class with some chanting and contemplative silence. As I was sitting there, I began asking myself the question “when will I be fixed? When will I be healthy?” What immediately came to me, almost audibly, was: “you are perfect just as you are.” It rocked me. It was so freeing! I am absolutely perfect, right now, right here! There is no “fixing” that needs to happen! I am free to be me.

Enjoy this video. I hope it’s not too shaky. I obviously took it while walking.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are inspired to keep on moving forward, regardless of your past traumas, pains, hurts, and to stop, be vulnerable, be real, honest, and open, and realize that you are perfect: right now, without changing a single thing. You are loved.

Namaste!

Bali Yoga Video: Day 8

I’m sitting pool side right now. I know. It’s pretty nice. ☺ We had a shorter day today so that we could have some rest. We still had our morning meditation, 2.5 hours of Vinyasa Flow asana practice, breakfast, and then we had group presentations! Wow. They were so fun! Each group had 3 or 4 people and a different yama or niyama. My group had saucha: a niyama. If you are curious as to what saucha means, watch this video! Hopefully you can hear. We ended our skit with a catchy fun song about the 8 limbs of yoga, another aspect we had to incorporate into our project. I love theater and this was a really special treat to get to watch all 30 of my classmates be creative, funny, deep, lighthearted, and wacky. We ended this time with a group dance session and then circled together, hugging as one group and where as one moment ago we were laughing and giggling, many started to tear and even cry a moment later. The honesty, the openness, the unity, and the love felt was mystical. The day’s organized events ended with another meditative session with deep relaxation and lunch. I washed laundry in the bathtub, hung out with people by the pool, and swam some laps. I have a massage in a bit (included as part of the Yoga Teacher Training program!) to round out this day quite nicely.

Maybe in another post I’ll explain the yamas and niyamas. If you catch my video and/or post from yesterday, you’ll get the general gist though.

Happy day to you and until next time, Namaste!

Bali Yoga Teacher Training: Day 6: rest, strength, grace, love

It’s amazing what some good sleep can do. I didn’t sleep well the night before and my yoga practice yesterday was like moving through sand. I could barely lift my leg. Today, however, I got a good amount of sleep and I felt strong and way more able to participate in the entire 2.5 hour class. It’s amazing what a day can make! It’s such a good reminder to give ourselves grace and that tomorrow is a new day. Some of the biggest ideas we are discussing here in our Yoga Teacher Training is to enjoy the present moment, be in the right here, right now; notice what is, what we each feel, notice the truth about ourselves and surroundings, but not to let these things ruin us, not to let these feels/truths/etc. dictate how we respond or behave. My yoga practice yesterday is a good example of that: I enjoyed where I was even though my yoga practice wasn’t much to speak of. I took a lot of child’s poses and/or watched our instructor adjust and cue the other students in the the class as I rested. There were a few moments where a lie tried to creep into my head saying I should feel shameful or inadequate because I wasn’t doing what all the other students were and that I wasn’t good enough, but I consciously chose to not believe it. I consciously chose to give myself grace and take breaks and actually make use of that time and learn, instead of pouting in child’s pose the whole time. (Believe me, I have done that in the past, but I have chosen to not be so selfish anymore.) It feels good to be so present, so able to enjoy the right here, right now. It’s good to be here!!

Happy Thanksgiving by the way!! Nothing too out of the ordinary happened here because of the holiday, there are a lot of non USA students here (actually maybe even most are not American even!) But one of the girl’s, Kate, a lovely new friend from England, made cards for a few of us where she actually drew out typical Thanksgiving images. It was so sweet and cute! I got an incredibly cute turkey wearing cowboy boots, SO American! 🙂

I hope you enjoy this video. This is part 1 of the movie “I Am” which we watched last night. It’s a documentary about the director of the movie “Ace Ventura,” among others, and how his life changed after he had a serious injury. Here’s what the Youtube write up says about it: “We have created a world based on the notion that we are all separate. Fundamentally, there is no separation.” What is cool about this movie is that it interviews some 10+ people of all different walks of life, faith, and beliefs, and shows scientifically how we are all literally connected. This movie shows the power of thought, speech, and how we are shaping our future through it; we are not victims to the world going to hell, we are the ones steering the boat. It’s a powerful movie and I hope you enjoy it!

May you enjoy the moments. May you realize that you are stronger than you think you are. May you know when to say no and be confident in that decision. May you experience deep rest. May you know you are loved.

Namaste!

Bali Yoga Video: Day 5, swimming release

20 minutes in the pool and the pain in my knee is gone! I’m one happy camper. It was hard to leave the pool, frolicking, twisting, butterflying, free-stylin’, stroking on my back, diving, being weightless, it was glorious! But I had to leave to go and watch an INCREDIBLE movie with the group. Thankfully there’s more swimming to be had tomorrow! I’ll share the movie we watched tonight with you tomorrow as my video. Yes, I know, it won’t be me and Bali, but actually, it will be. You will LOVE it.

Namasate!

Day 4 Video: Bali Yoga Teacher Training

Yes, we are doing meditation. Yes, are doing 2.5 hours of Vinyasa yoga (my intention today was joy and I had 2 significant moments while in the practice of hard to describe joy/love/ecstasy of just that!!! YEAH!). Yes, we are learning the history of yoga. Yes, we went through the sun salutes and started to break them down one pose at a time with proper form, adjustments, breath, etc. And, we also are tying it all into awareness and being present in the right here, right now. I also want to add that I came face to face with feelings of “freak out.” I’m not sure how to describe it, but one of the other students mentioned feelings of loneliness and I think it’s partly that. Do you ever feel that? For me it felt like an uncertainty, a deep longing for more than what we see/feel/smell/sense/etc. I have learned techniques through the 3 years I studied at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry to check in with God, ask Him where He is, where is Holy Spirit, where is Jesus. I did that today when I felt that “freak out” and immediately felt a great sense of calm, peace, love, acceptance, and support come to me. I became aware of the angelic world that that the Lord had placed 4 protective angels inside the room at each of the 4 corners and I relaxed. I feel so strongly that there are great tools, great experiences, great teachings, great people, great stuff in this life but there is this element of tangible love, tangible other world/heaven reality that is outside ourselves that we have to receive. I am so thankful for the Lord. I have tried so often to trust to feel safe to rest and be present on my own and it has only been through the knowledge that God is here, that He is the creator, that the Divine is bigger than me and outside of me (but yes I know, also in me), that I have come to really trust, feel safe, rest, and be present. All the other stuff are just tools. I am thankful for them both.
Namaste!

Why I practice yoga

I practice yoga because it brings me life, it brings me joy, it brings me peace, and it brings me healing. I practice yoga because it brings freedom.

I often come across naysayers to yoga, for a whole host of reasons, you can probably think of some right now, but the spiritual aspect of yoga is really what makes the whole exercise or practice so alluring for me. I am a Christian and in a world of Buddha and Hindi Goddess statues, I can get a lot of push back from what I am beginning to really understand are my own insecurities, fears, and lies. This is what I love about yoga: it embodies growth not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Yoga allures and provides an opportunity to reach and obtain heaven on earth, a higher place, and an ecstasy if-you-will, in peace, love, and joy through all three aspects of ourselves: spirit, body, and soul (mind, will, and emotions). It is unlike any other form of exercise or even learning opportunity.

 I began my yoga practice 13 years ago and admittedly have been a weekend warrior for most of that time. I grew up doing gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance, but it was just after college that a friend invited me to a yoga class. That first instructor was so empowering and encouraging, she embodied what I now know yoga, and God, to be about: she planted a seed of hope and exploration that has shaped my practice, and life ever since. I see how my childhood activities prepared me for the physical asanas or poses of yoga, but those can come with regular practice.  We are all born with an innate hunger for the Divine and yoga allows us to explore Him, however inflexible we may be, IF we so choose. The seemingly paradoxical safe-challenge of yoga is unlike any other. It allows for our whole self to explore together thus creating a synergy found nowhere else. For me, yoga has become a transcendental way of growth in the Divine as I explore and now teach others the physical asanas, breathe, mental, and spiritual awareness that is inside a yoga class. Yoga has become a gift, which like God, is never ending and fully good. As with all things the depths of your personal practice is a choice. I like that and it is one more reason I practice yoga.