Change Your Hair, Change Your Life

29 Jul

  

  The past few months have been a massive transition, and an overall shedding of my old patterns and cynicisms, a mourning of the loss of my old life coupled with the embracing of a new one. 
I like metaphors, so I shed a huge chunk of hair and now feel light, open and ready to navigate yet another big change.
Life is inherently unpredictable and chaotic. We do our best at the time, hopefully learn, and then adapt to change with confidence. I’ve never been afraid to change my mind or try something new. But I have been afraid to fully embrace myself from the inside out, to shine my light as bright as I know I can, out of some stark fear of rejection or failure. No more.
With the release of some hair I also release any inner uncertainties, any fear of success or failure, and any question as to the purity of my own heart. My nature is good, my essence is whole. I ride into the future confident in this basic fact.
Life is taking my tiny tribe back to the west coast. Work and passion projects are abundant in California, not to mention mountains and ocean. It’s been imperative to transition into motherhood here in Chicago, with the ease of living and circle of loved ones surrounding me. But growing our tribe’s abundance and opportunities has taken a priority, and we are excited to be patient and make a true home in Southern California. I’m so grateful for the h(OM)e Chicago will always be and I’m excited for the challenges and potential out west.
Lots of love to all you beautiful yogis. I hope this fabulous planet keeps us connected.
Namaste 💜💚💙
Dani 

remembering what you already know 

24 Jul

you are a power. a force as strong and strange as any element in nature. do not shrink. do not hide. be the thing you were meant to be.-Nayyirah Waheed


Found this piece written in my phone from the day before I gave birth. I have no recollection of writing it, but I have every intention of taking it with me and believing it with a depth and a force that can only exude from within. 
Let’s not waste another minute picking ourselves apart, measuring ourselves against others or feeling any shred of dislike for ourselves. Seriously. It’s bullshit. No more.


Love & Namaste,

Dani 


Today I cried three times for no reason. The tears running from my eyes were not escaped moments of sadness; no, they were overwhelmed morsels of joy. I have this ecstatic feeling that seeks some form of escape from my body; it needs to move. But regardless what I do, I am forever trapped in this vessel. And the tears I feel are constructed of immense gratitude for my vessel, my body, my flesh. Sure, I am more than a bag of bones, than some curly hair and curves that just won’t quit. My being cannot be summed up by the sum of my measurements and physicality. But it is the conduit for experience. It is the form I wake up and absorb life with everyday. 
I see beauty because my amazing, brown, tree bark colored eyes perceive light. Because my incredible fucking body can do that! It has evolved to do that. 
I hear because my small, slightly pointy ears perceive sound waves. And because of that, I hear music, sounds of an artist’s making and sounds of my own inner space. It’s really quite astounding. 
I smell because my long, slender nose pulls in surrounding air. Immediately, without my choosing, my nose smells it all. I smell and it leads to tears. I smell and it leads to sleep. I smell and it leads to hunger. I smell and it leads to vomit. I smell and it leads to god knows what, but my nose is quite the catalyst for sensation and emotion. And that’s fucking amazing. 
I taste because my long, frenulum-less tongue has thousands of taste buds and a pallet that yearns to explore. Because of my tongue I can feel pleasure and satisfaction from any number of flavors in one day: the taste of my lover’s skin, the savory ingredients in my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce, the smooth, heroine-like joy of chocolate! 
I feel because my skin is highly sensing, nerve endings combusting with every step, every hand held, every hug given. Because of my skin and touch I am able to perceive textures, from rough to silky, slimy to rubbery, natural and fabricated. I can feel it all. And it feels so fucking good. 
I perceive and sense and experience this magnificent earth because of my weird brain and my passionate heart. None of the above would be possible without whatever the miracle is that turns my light on, making me conscious. Beyond the curse and blessing that is cognition is the simple awareness that I AM. And that awareness, coupled with all that I am able to perceive, is almost too much to bear. And at times, it’s not enough. 
The insatiable in us all forgets. It’s all here, within and without. It’s all a fucking carnival ride. Throw your hands up. 
I am about to have a fucking baby. For 9 full months my remarkable body has done what millions of other remarkable bodies have done: create and grow life. As I type I feel this little creature stirring inside of me. At one point, not long ago, he was the size of an apple seed, perceiving nothing, just absorbing my nutrients, doing what he was evolved to do: grow. And he did. And now, he perceives so much! And he’s only just begun. 
I sit on the precipice of probably the most transformative, challenging, life affirming right of passage of my life: giving birth. The previous 40 weeks have been nothing compared to what these hours/days will be. I don’t even know, can’t even fathom, can only minimally imagine what this experience will be and how I will fall even more deeply in love with my body, my being, and my child than I already am. 
This 240 days has served so many purposes. I feel the truth of so many yogic lessons. I feel them in my bones, know them to be true in my heart, rather than simply understanding them in my mind. Way beyond my intellectual understanding, I feel with every breath a gratitude, a love, an awakened sense of being that I’ve yet to truly feel. Not even in the deepest meditation, the most beautiful asana practice, the greatest travel adventures, wrapped up in the most captivating ecstasy with another, have I felt so in tune, so in love, so aware, and so god damn awake. 
And despite the knowledge that my vessel is about to skyrocket into space for the first time, enduring shifts and changes I’ve only heard stories about, I feel so calm in my being, so ready, so trusting of all that I’m truly capable to overcome. And I know whatever it is will be worth it because of the love I already feel, and the love that will grow exponentially, for myself, my child, and my tribe once we’ve made it to the other side. I can do this. We all can do this. We’re meant to live and to love and all that intersects to create a true living experience. I fucking love Being.

  

All the feels 

14 Jul

feel it. the thing you don’t want to feel. feel it. and be free. 

-Nayyirah Waheed


So this has been my practice as of late (per the insightful guidance of my superb therapist). My post partum transition has been emotional, to say the least. Despite the fact that I feel as if I’ve moved to another planet, I placed unfair expectations on myself (do you do this? Don’t, it’s abusive. We can help each other) and expected to flow through new motherhood with an even keel and energized body. Well that ain’t most people, and it certainly ain’t me.

Part of my difficulty came from me feeling a certain way, and then feeling guilt or judgment over feeling that way. I never just felt it. I swam in the insidious waters of self loathing and criticism, but rarely just paused and felt the totality of sensation, emotion and experience of that specific moment.

And that’s precisely what the bodymind (our integrated being) needs to do and feel, exactly what we’re fricken feeling! Without labeling, telling ourselves what we should or shouldn’t feel, just listening deep within, into the murky, uncomfortable pit that flows in the pool of the gut.

As I practice(d) this, I feel more acceptance of my humanity, of being a work in progress, of being a very sensitive soul, and of being a well intended but sometimes flawed and confused momma person. And the more softness I gave to myself, the more forgiveness I felt in my heart, the more apt I became at navigating through the rough waters, back to the calm, still deep of my inner essence. 

When you feel angry, sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, etc., rather than chastising yourself, distracting yourself or avoiding your feelings, go further into the experience. Take a 2-3 minute sanity break, get quiet and still, and just listen. Observe intently. Describe all the feels. Feel all the feels. Let your whole self go there. And then watch yourself transfer into the next moment. 

Try this and let me know how it goes.

It’s helping me. I hope it helps you too.
  

Love & Namaste 

The Woman Before Me

6 Oct

The Woman Before Me

The woman before me knew
What I could only grasp
Years spent reaching
Stretching my heart wide open

But she knew inherently
And showed me in action
Inspired me through energy
And the rest was up to me

I learned the dance
Was no dance at all
Authenticity was breathed
Sincerity poured

From my pores and my heart
Who I was leapt forward
I didn’t need to try
She was already within me

Her blood in my veins
Her wisdom in my soul
Bereft of needs
I could now soar

Love deepened my roots
So my branches would grow
Guts and compassion spilled on the table
My being could thrive

No need to measure
Competition a dead end
Who she is was more than enough
And so my life could truly begin

The woman before me
Knew what I could only hope
I am whole
I am her, more than enough

Grammy, Me & Bodhi

Today is special. It marks the birth of my beloved nonna, my maternal grandmother Paola. She is truly one of the greatest gifts in my life, the woman before me I hope to carry into my present and future as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I cannot thank her enough or properly put into words what her love meant to me. For 30 years I witnessed her authentic being shine, generously giving unconditional love to us all, without expectation or need for return. She is love and therefore she effortlessly lives it and shares it with all who cross her path. She is funny, fierce, vibrant, forgiving, encouraging, and one of the most authentic souls I’ve ever seen roam this Earth. I’m happy to know her, better for being her granddaughter, and exceedingly proud to have her blood coursing through my veins. And she is the best damn cook this planet has ever seen.

I love you, Nonna. Can’t wait for my own son to feel your love and I hope he one day sees the same light from your eyes shining through mine.

Don’t Make Assumptions: Lessons from Robin Williams’ (and other’s) Beautiful Lives and Tragic Deaths

20 Aug

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Don Miguel Ruiz’s brilliant little book, The Four Agreements, has weighed heavily on me for a few years now. It has inspired more contemplation and reflection than most, and even inspired my own piece on the 2nd agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally. The recent news of Robin Williams’ tragic death has many bewildered over such a bright, vibrant and funny personality succumbing to such darkness. And it is the onslaught of opinions and reactions that has me reflecting on the 3rd agreement, Don’t Make Assumptions.

Years of memes and quote sharing has helped us all see, even for a brief moment, that we never know the struggle of another, that we’re all winding our own weird path, often filled with deep pain and sadness, and there’s no way to know another’s plight unless we walk in their shoes. And we simply can’t. It’s impossible. And even within our closest loved ones, it is difficult to empathize and even understand their pain.

I do not personally struggle with addiction. That is not how my darkness manifests. It would be arrogant for me to assume to know the depth of pain, solitude, and endless confusion one might be enduring every single day to just survive. It would be just as arrogant for me to assume the whys and hows of one struggling with depression and anxiety, something I do have personal experiences with, both within my own psyche and as an outsider attempting to help loved ones.

We make assumptions about others, the reasons for their behaviors, the backstory to their pain in an attempt to square away some cognitive dissonance in ourselves. We don’t want to believe that sadness can cut so deep that fame, fortune and adoration cannot elevate it. We can’t fathom a loneliness so potent that a person surrounded by love isn’t somehow at the same time filled with that love within.

All the beauty in the world and all the examples and demonstrations of love simply aren’t enough. It is one thing to see, it is quite another to feel, understand and live in the truth of it. And often our forays into both lightness and dark are attempts to understand and receive glimpses of just that: Love.

Out of respect for our fellow humans we should make no assumptions about their lives. As innate as it feels to analyze thoughts and actions, it serves no one to draw conclusions based on nothing but our own mental machinations. And out of concern for our own sanity we should also make no assumptions about why someone is behaving in a certain way, whether it directly affects us or not. Easier said than done but the wiser choice.

Similar to not taking anything personally, often when we assume the truth of another it is merely a projection and reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Most human beings fall into the trap of making something about ourselves, allowing ourselves to feel offended, hurt, misunderstood or forgotten simply from assumptions created by our own minds.

Here are a few examples you may have heard yourself or another say:

“Why would she look at me like that? She must…”

“Why won’t he text/call/message me back? It’s because…”

“I haven’t heard back so I probably didn’t get in/win/make it/etc.”

“They’re just being a jerk because they’re jealous.”

“They had a leg up because their more attractive/rich/popular than I am.”

“They’ve been gone a while. They must have diarrhea.”

That last example was just for levity, but you get my drift. I’ve fallen into these patterns of assumption so many times, too many times to even count. We’ve all most likely, at some point in our lives, been on the giving and receiving ends of assumptions. And at neither time does it feel good, does it satisfy whatever discomfort we’re trying to dissolve. It simply keeps our minds stirring, distracted from real life, pulled away yet again from the present moment.

The questions and statements above are very generic and broad, obviously we can get much more specific, detailed and often mean in our assumptions. And with the case of Robin Williams’ death and the tragic happenings of many other people we feel (assume) we know, the unkind and presumptive thoughts that suicide is selfish or cowardly, there must have been some lack of gratitude or perspective, or that there were any real choices in the matter are more reflective of those judging than those whose lives we’re carving hypotheses about.

Often the line between darkness and light is quite thin. And those providing the most light and levity frequently deal with deep, private darkness. As one who considers herself a bit of a comedy nerd, I’ve learned how many of those most talented are engulfed in crippling depression, anxiety and dread.

And I think many of you are aware of similar occurrences within Yoga.

It is my own experiences with darkness that led me to Yoga, a practice and career that I feel balances me, helps me share mere moments, lessons and aspects of light I wish I felt more. And sharing those experiences does just that; helps me feel. More.

My parents divorced when I was young. As sadly common as it was and still is, being the only child of my biological parents made the experience feel endlessly confusing, sad and lonesome. This caused many sleepless nights drowning in the depths of assumption. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I doubted real love existed, certainly didn’t expect to feel it myself. And it is precisely through art, films like Mrs. Doubtfire, practices like Yoga and Meditation, and raw, honest comedy that I was first able to glimpse real light and real love.

I hope Robin Williams can truly rest now knowing he provided so much joy and light to an often dark world. Don’t be afraid to reach out, friends. Hug someone. Tight. Let assumptions lie. And as Robin brilliantly said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.”

Stop and Smell the Roses

21 May

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I am a born traveler, a mover, a shaker. I have an insatiable thirst for what’s next, too much focus on what’s around the corner. I am rarely satisfied with myself and adventures provide distraction for me to discover more. Sometimes the lessons we learn hit us abruptly and unexpectedly. And other times, they come to use in quietude.

In the span of three months since I returned from Haiti, I got pregnant, got hired, got fired, received two unfortunate traffic tickets and countless headaches. I’m recognizing now what the Universe is trying to tell me. Slow Down. Take it in. Take care. The future will always arrive on its own time and growth only happens Now.

It is no wonder it feels so natural to teach Restorative Yoga, even more so than Vinyasa, Power Yoga, or anything fast paced. It’s what I need. I need to restore. I need to slow down. I need to stop and smell the roses, truly the whole point of Yoga and many other spiritual teachings: Life is short, dummy, what are you racing for?

Beyond the question of who I want to be and how I want to feel is the energy and space I want to create for my child, for my tribe, inside and out. And that is an energy of love, first and foremost, but also of calm acceptance, of joyful peace, of trust that we can ride out whatever storms blow our way, and of treating life like the gift it is, no matter what we do, where we live, or what we have. What we all are is enough.

It is in this vein that I choose to take a major break from social media, on the professional front. As a teacher and writer, a self employed woman, I’m encouraged by society to use the tools of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the numerous others to market myself better, to sell whatever “brand” I’ve deemed myself to be. I think many do this brilliantly, with humor, dignity and respect. But it’s just not in my instinct to do this well. I’ve enjoyed my connection with readers and students, but my greatest joy comes from in person exchanges, email correspondence and deep telephone conversations. Not from digital connection but real connection.

The expense of energy trying to play a game of social media chess is just too much at this time in my life. I want to focus on being a great teacher for my students, an honest writer for those of you readers I’m so grateful to have, and most importantly, a present and reliable loved one for my family, friends and animals I’m fortunate to love.

I will keep my website and blog alive so those interested can know when and where I’m teaching and have access to my pieces of writing. I’m grateful and hope you’ll stay connected. Social media will always be there, I’m sure I’ll return at some point, hell, maybe sooner rather than later, but for now, I need the clarity of simplicity. I need to stop and smell the roses. I need to Be.

Today I will shut up and listen, sit still and Be, and remember that there is always an adventure lying inside of me. And I hope to help you remember the same.

Please enjoy a two minute video on my favorite restorative pose. If you have a bolster, you may use that instead of the two blocks. Give yourself permission to be still and bliss out, open your body without having to burn calories or sculpt it. Rest and play are just as important as action and productivity. Give yourself the gift. Stop and smell the roses in your life.

Email me anytime at danieatslife@gmail.com

Yoga Insights for Body Image and Self Love

14 May

Please feel invited to watch the short video below and/or read the corresponding piece of advice written in response to a great question posed by a wonderful student. I’ve received many similar questions and felt it an important subject to discuss. The written piece has more organized and outlined advice on dealing with negative self-image. The video is a heartfelt, off the cuff response involving my own experiences with this and the helpful insights I’ve learned in overcoming it.

We’re all works in progress. Be kind to yourself. I hope either resonate, and if they do, please feel welcome to share and continue the conversation. Apologies for the video being sideways, I find it apropos given the subject matter. Perfectionism is bullshit, embrace all the quirks.

Hi Dani,

I find myself struggling with body image in such a way that it affects all areas of my confidence and negatively affects my sex life. In truth, this has been with me my whole life. It feels like it’s simply who I am and that feels like an impossible mountain to climb. Is there hope and what can I do?

Thanks for your time,
Rena

Hey there Rena,

It probably doesn’t provide much solace to know that you are not alone, but trust me, you are not alone. In fact, you are in some great company, the company of most western women and a surprising number of men.

Something we practice often in Yoga is making conscious choices to let go of what no longer serves our health and happiness. Our psyches become so accustomed to patterns that we’re then uncomfortable and unsure of how to break them. We have no idea what it feels like to be confident and that unease makes self esteem seem fake or out of reach.

Know this is a process. No one snapped their fingers and decided to let go of insecurities. They grew from knowledge and experience, and more importantly, they grew tired of being the unkind voice in their heads. However comfortable they felt in their patterns, the smarter, more accepting voice within finally spoke louder. And they decided to put in the work to move on.

Some actions you can take to grow your confidence:

By focusing your energy predominantly on your physical, outward attributes, you neglect and dismiss the vast beauty you carry within. This is beyond the cliches of beauty being more than skin deep, it’s about you working to change your vision. You know there is good there, innumerable strengths, but your focus is on external flaws so there is no attention given to boost the positives. Practice this: for every negative thought you have about yourself, body or mind, replace it with 2 positives. And repeat them until you believe them. Practice is essential.
Acknowledge what you do to contribute to your health and happiness, what physical activities you do or don’t do, how you feed your body, and more importantly, how you feed your mind.
The body is a machine and it needs to move to stay vital. This has nothing to do with losing inches, burning calories, fitting into clothes. It has to do with feeling your body work from the inside out. Regardless how your body changes, you’ll feel better when you move it. Find something you like to do, be it walking, dancing, gardening, biking, hiking, playing with your pets or children, Yoga, Pilates, anything to get your blood pumping and pores sweating. And give yourself this gift everyday.
As challenging as it is to change your nutrition, it’s helpful to remember the strong ties our diet has not only with our physical health, but with our moods and energy levels as well. I am a self-confessed foodie. I love it all, healthy, unhealthy, and everything in between. I don’t believe in deprivation or resistance, but rather balance. Take in more of the good (whole foods like fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean meats if you eat them) and leave a small percentage for indulgences (chocolate, fried foods, saturated fats, etc.). The better you eat the better you’ll feel, no matter what the scale reads.
Pay close attention to what consumes your mind. Are the books, articles, TV shows, films and other influences positive? Helpful? Inspiring? Uplifting? Art is most certainly an escape and a means of expressing a truth otherwise uncovered, but if the majority of the material you’re absorbing leaves you feeling less than energized, enthused or informed, then I’d replace it with something that does.
Who’s in your circle? Do your friends and loved ones support you? Are they confident themselves or stuck in similar cycles of discontent? If someone drains you, makes you feel inferior in any way, or contributes more negativity to your life than positive, it may behoove you to take a step back from those relationships. It could be as simple as changing the dialogue within the relationship, expressing your desire to be more positive and open to growth. And at times, it may require stronger moves in a direction of your choosing, either closer to ones you find encouraging, or further away from those less positive.
Be honest with yourself and be honest with others. In order to truly change, you must take a big step outside of these conditioned patterns and acknowledge out loud what you want to feel and how you’re going to make it happen. Trust you are capable and believe you are worthy.
No one is perfect. The western world has set an unfair paradigm for human beings to live up to. It’s unhealthy and unrealistic. Try remembering what a gift it is to be a live, be in awe of the machine you get to live in, and don’t forget it is far more important how you feel than how you look. Sex is meant to be enjoyed without any thought at all, without reverence to measurements and cup sizes. It is unadulterated bliss and can only be fully lived by saying “Fuck it, I’m alive! Someone gets to have sex with me and I get to enjoy all the pleasure my body is capable of feeling. So I’m going to feel it, dammit!”

Patience and practice are pivotal. The more emphasis you place on accepting yourself, as you are, the more your true beauty will be revealed, to both yourself and to others. Happiness and a zest for life are magnetic and human beings are attractive because of the energy they radiate, not because of they’re symmetry or six pack abs. You are already beautiful, you are already enough. Start everyday remembering that simple fact and you will see tremendous growth in your health and happiness sooner than you can imagine.

Please keep me posted!
Dani

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Please feel welcome to engage via social media and follow me at Dani Eats Life on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, or email me at danieatslife@gmail.com.

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