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Posts Tagged ‘heartache’


Photo attributed to Flickr User: CaptPiper.

It was with every ounce of energy that I could muster from the deep recesses of my soul, that I dragged myself into my neighborhood yoga studio. I hadn’t set foot on a yoga mat in years, and as I was still relatively new to Los Angeles, I didn’t know a soul at this yoga studio. But despite that, something compelled me to enter the studio that day. That day was the first day of the rest of my life…

It was February of 2008 and I was living through the deepest, most paralyzing depression of my life. It was not by any accident that I had found myself suddenly living in Los Angeles, after having spent my entire life living on the East Coast. All of my life I had dreamed of moving to the West Coast, but at this particular time in my life, there was a love in Los Angeles…a love for which I needed to fight…and fight I did, with every breath in my body.

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Our society largely teaches us that if we hope to find happiness, we must have a myriad of very specific things, among them: romantic love, marriage, children and a stable, high-paying career. I have none of these things, and yet I am living more fully than I have ever lived before. Only one month into 2012 and I can already see that my 37th year is gearing up to be the best of my life. And I am yet again reminded that if we are open, if we pay attention to the signs, if we listen to our instincts and trust, we can create and experience nothing short of magic in our lives.

One year ago today, shortly after being fired for the first time in my life, I reflected on the idea of the “life plan,” the idea that there are certain milestones towards which we are “supposed” to work and specific benchmarks by which we measure our success in achieving said milestones. And I am now able to see that it wasn’t until I rejected those measurements, and let go of any idea of the life I had planned, that I began to see the true magic unfold in my life. It was truly by surrendering that my life began to flow with the current.

Today I turn 37 years old and I stand in awe of the life that has manifested before me. It is not a life I ever could have dreamed of or imagined. It is, in fact, the farthest thing from any picture I ever could have painted for myself. Nor is it a life that any of my friends or family ever would have predicted for me. Yet I look back in wonder and amazement at the incredible journey, the unexpected twists and turns, the surprising detours and the life-altering and mind-blowing experiences that have delivered me to this very place in time and space.

Simultaneously, I am mesmerized by how much has happened, by how quickly the years have passed, a blip on the dashboard of universal time. And I find myself sounding like my father when I say, “I never thought I’d get to be {insert age}!” Just the other day I expressed this same thought to a friend of mine, who very wisely responded, “You’ve earned your 37 and you have to admit it is probably better then 17 or 27 for that matter.” As I pondered this, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the veritable accuracy and poignancy of that statement. I looked back on my life at those ages and this is what I realized: 17 was the year of my first broken heart; 27 was the year of my second broken heart…So what of 37?… 37 is the year of my LIBERATED HEART.

For much of the two decades between my tender 17-year old adolescent self and my now 37-year older and wiser self, I have been through the wringer of broken hearts, time and again left dripping helplessly into the floor. I have touched every range of emotion and their deep and often painful polar opposites. I have lived, breathed and tasted them. And I have drowned in them. I have looked for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, and I have fought tooth and nail for loves that left me broken and wrung out. And in the process I have seen the inner fibers of my heart carved out, leaving me with gaping holes of emptiness.

Whatever remnants of an intact heart were left after the first two broken hearts, were finally completely shattered by the third (and hopefully last!). But though I did not realize it at that time, it was that utter smashing of my heart that would actually be the key to cracking me wide open. I saw a beautiful quote the other day:

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”~ Rumi

The day that my heart was shattered into smithereens, was the day that my true healing could really begin. Since that time, I have dived more deeply into my soul than I ever dared dream possible. I have touched the source of the divine within me, the deep well of wisdom and knowing, and I have connected with the celestial forces all around me, above and beneath me. I have drunk, tasted and touched the pure light of love. I have found Bliss.

So yes, it is true: I have no romantic love. I have no marriage or children. And I don’t have a stable, high-paying career. But I lack nothing. I have found true happiness in myself, with myself and by myself.

On that note, age 36, I bid thee a loving farewell. You have been a true and trusted friend on the journey to the heart, you have been the gateway to my liberation. I will always look back on you with reverence as the year that changed everything and I will carry you with me as I walk forward into what I know will be one of the most powerful and transformational years of my life.

Hello age 37. I welcome you with open arms and a fully intact heart.

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Cathedral of Cusco

I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. We were walking through the main square of Cusco, Peru, towards the majestic Cathedral glistening in the afternoon sun, when Danielle said to me, “It’s all perfect Jeannie. You are simply in the gestation period, things are incubating. You are getting ready to have a rebirth.” Who is Danielle and to what on earth was she referring? Danielle Hougard was the Anusara Yoga teacher who was leading me on my first ever yoga retreat. But she was not just any yoga teacher. Danielle is one of those special “Earth Mother” types, the type of woman who exudes love and motherly instincts from every cell of her body, the type of woman who is truly in touch with her intuition, the Spirit of Earth and Sky, and the energies of every living creature around her. This is a wise women who just seems to “know” things, and somehow when she says them you just know that you can trust her.

Danielle was responding to my story of how my life had fallen into ruins: I had moved across country to fight for love, only to find myself rejected and abandoned. If that wasn’t enough I had arrived at the beginning of the recession and was thrust headfirst into months of unemployment. Running out of money and desperate for work, I was compelled to take a minimum wage job at a retail store. It was depressing enough that I had gone from a successful, high-paying management career in Washington, DC, to making minimum wage, but in the depths of my own heartache, I was now forced to endure hundreds of happy couples strolling about arm in arm as the irritating Christmas carols pumped out incessantly through the loudspeakers of the shopping mall. But worst of all, every day I lived in fear that the man who had broken my heart would stroll in with HIS new girlfriend on his arm. This was my rock bottom. If there is a Hell on Earth, this was definitely it.

Fortunately through a stroke of “luck,” I was finally able to find a “real” job. Things were looking up, I could finally leave my minimum wage job and get back to building my career….Or so I thought. Sadly my luck would not last and I was laid off several months later, and found myself yet again in a period of protracted unemployment. So here I was in Peru, six months after having been laid off and I hadn’t had a single bite to the hundreds of resumes sent. My life was completely stagnating. I was having no luck on the job front, no luck on the love front, every cell in my body ached and mourned for the loss of my best friend, and I was depressed to the point where I did not want to get out of bed in the morning. The only thing I could feel in my life was a palpable feeling of stagnation. I was completely stuck.

Danielle’s response to this story was a friendly smile and a reassuring nod, telling me that everything I had just described was actually “PERFECT,” that although on the surface it felt like things were stagnating, that actually behind the scenes there were forces at work, and that I was simply in the gestation period…that I was simply getting ready for a powerful rebirth. Though to my rational (and depressed!) mind this sounded a little bit unusual and way too good to believe, the certainty with which she spoke these words gave me a momentary peace. I prayed that she was right.

By now you may be wondering what I was doing in Peru after the story I just described and given my obvious state of unemployment. Well, call me a risk-taker, but when life gets really dark and gloomy, that’s when something deep inside of me says “SCREW IT” and propels me to go do something incredible and adventurous, to try to drag myself reluctantly out of the muck. All of my life I had dreamed of going to Peru. When I was in high school Spanish class, my teacher would show us pictures of Machu Picchu and I just knew that I had to go there one day. So when I found myself in the midst of my “dark night of the soul,” and completely stuck, I knew I had to do something to try to unstick myself.

Several days after walking through that square in Cusco, we found ourselves on the very tip-top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, high above the breath-taking, mind-boggling and awe-inspiring creation that was Machu Picchu. This masterpiece defied human logic and comprehension. Its ruins were perfectly intact, each of its thousands of individual stones stacked so flawlessly and at such exquisitely engineered angles that they would remain intact and stable for hundreds of years of enduring the elements. There are honestly not any words I could ever use to adequately express what it felt like to be standing up there at 8,920 ft, literally on top of the world. As I looked around us, I was overcome with goosebumps at the beauty of the jagged, majestic mountains that shot dramatically up into the heavens, hugged and nurtured by the blankets of fog. If there was a God, he/she was certainly here. I felt the great Spirit of the Earth in the wind that whispered into my ears, in the Sun that warmed my back, and in the solid stone beneath my feet, stones that had held the weight and cradled the souls of hundreds of thousands of humans across the centuries. I was awed to my core. Standing up here at this great height, surrounded by the magic and mystery of Mother Earth, I knew I was being supported.

Me on top of Huayna Picchu Mountain, with Machu Picchu far below

At the end of our 10-day journey, completely moved and humbled by the Grace, beauty and humility of the Peruvian people, we returned home to the States, and I back to the chains of stagnation in Los Angeles. The minute I touched down in Los Angeles, I knew I had to leave. I am a stubborn person. And because I loved Los Angeles and felt a profound spiritual connection with her, I had previously been determined to stay there, despite the fact that the signs seemed to point elsewhere. But now the Universe had given me a breadcrumb to follow. You see, this yoga group, led by this sweet soul Danielle, was actually from San Francisco, and I only found them through an “accidental” twist of fate through a web search. Nobody on the trip could figure out why I was staying in Los Angeles after the horror I had described. They encouraged me to move to San Francisco. Considering that my life was completely stagnant and that I had already lost everything of importance that I could possibly stand to lose, I decided it was time to break free of my prison.

This is when Grace took over. Only five days after moving to San Francisco, for what was intended to be a one-month temporary sublet to test out the waters, a job offer had fallen unexpectedly into my lap. Over the weeks that followed, I frantically looked for a permanent apartment in San Francisco, searched desperately for someone to take over my lease in Los Angeles, packed up my entire one-bedroom apartment in 24 hours and drove the entire load, by myself, the six-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and then started my new job the next day. Just like that, my life had shifted dramatically. Danielle’s words about an impending “rebirth” were ringing in my ears. But what I didn’t know was that this was just barely the beginning. I was only in the earliest contractions and still had over a year of “labor” ahead of me.

17 months later, after months and months of undue stress and anxiety in my corporate job, I was let go. Bowled over by the unexpected blow, I picked myself back up and threw myself immediately back into the job search. But the minute I did so, another breadcrumb was laid down for me. I had written my very first blog post, about my journey of healing through yoga, and it had felt good. But not only did it feel good, it got a good response. Somehow, as if in a daze, I suddenly found myself with my own blog and I began writing. Never having had any interest in being a writer, it was as if a higher force had suddenly taken over and was simply pulling my puppet-strings and moving me along a new and unexpected path. But this path felt right.

Now only eight short months since losing my job, I have over 20,000 beautiful, bilingual fans in 35 countries around the world, my work has been published in several different publications, I am now a regular contributor to Elephant Journal, writing in both English and Spanish, I’m about to be featured in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine, and I have just completed and submitted my very first book proposal, with the hope that I will soon be a published writer. I couldn’t have imagined this dramatic turn of events in my life even eight months ago when I lost my job. In fact almost daily I look back and scratch my head with delight and wonder. But there would be no way in my wildest, craziest dreams that I could have imagined this, as we walked through that square in Cusco talking about my impending “rebirth.”

A few weeks ago we had a reunion from our Peru trip, now just past the two-year mark since we took our trip, and I was reminding Danielle of this moment from Cusco. Danielle then told me something that I hadn’t yet known, something that made this entire experience even more unbelievable and magical to me: the name Cusco means “navel of the Earth.” Danielle had been right, I was in the gestation period and I was getting ready for a “rebirth.” What I hadn’t realized was that I had to go to Cusco, the “navel of the Earth,” in order for the “rebirth” to begin…

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grief (n.)= keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Grief is a funny thing. Our society teaches us to avoid it at all costs, and yet it is part of the natural cycle of life. We will all experience it in our lives, that is if we have a pulse. And we will all experience it in different ways, different times and in varying degrees. Some of us will suffer the horrific grief from the loss of a child, others will suffer the heart-breaking grief from the loss of a love or spouse, and still others will suffer profound grief from the loss of a pet. That is just to name a few losses which we may face over a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter what the source, but life pretty much guarantees it: the grief will come, and for a time it will be debilitating. And what is for certain is that there is no way to measure the level of one’s grief. Nobody can say “my grief is more intense than yours” or vice versa. There is no scale of 1-5 that allows for an objective measurement and comparison. For each person, grief is different, and it is their own. One can try to empathize with someone who is grieving, from having been through their own grief, but at the end of the day nobody else can truly put themselves in your shoes. Your grief is yours and yours alone.

Everyone has different ways of coping with their grief: some will turn to therapy and others will turn to prayer, and some to both. I fall somewhere in the middle: I turn inward to meditation. What is clear is that not all methods of coping with grief will work for all people, and it is important for each of us to find the path that works best for us. While I’ve always been hopeful about its effects, and despite various attempts, therapy has never made any meaningful impact on me. But meditation has. By going deep within, calming the inner turmoil and mind chatter, and through lots of practice, I have found ways that I can literally raise my consciousness above the turmoil, where I can look down at it from above, objectively. Of course meditation is not a magic bullet. It takes consistent practice and considerable commitment. And it too is not for everyone. But what I do know for sure is that nobody can say to you, “This is how you should be handling your grief.” Nobody has had the exact same experiences that you have had, and therefore nobody, no matter how empathetic or well-intentioned they may be, can truly know what is best for you. Nor do they have the right to tell you so. When it comes to deciding how best to handle your own grief, you are the only person who can make that decision.

There is no formula for how long it will or should take someone to get over grief. I’ve heard it said that to get over a love relationship, it should take you 1/2 of the time that you were together. According to whom?? Based on what??? That would falsely assume that all people are the same, and that everyone feels the same level of emotions, and that every relationship is the exact same level of love and intensity, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are dealing with human beings, not algebra! We are all unique. For some it could take weeks to grieve, for others years, and still for some it will become a lifelong struggle. I know that anyone who has lost a child will tell you that it is a loss you never get over; instead one has to learn how to live WITH it and incorporate it into a new reality, no matter how gut-wrenching. But I also know that you don’t have to have lost a child in order to feel that level of grief. There are other types of losses that can be just as intense for people. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “She died of a broken heart.” That phrase didn’t appear out of nowhere and it doesn’t just happen in the movies. Sadly, it can and does happen.

The most important element in the process of overcoming grief is simply time. But there is no way to predict the amount of time, and it is also the nature of grief that it can and will come in waves. One can be feeling fine for months or even years, and then suddenly out of the blue a reminder comes pounding in like a wave, and drags them into the undertow: it could be an Anniversary date, a song, a photograph, there are a million little things that could trigger a wave of grief to wash over you. And when that happens the best thing that the grieving person can do is try to “ride the wave”, knowing that it is a temporary storm in the sea of life and that this wave too will pass. The only way out is through.

How many of you have been told, “You need to get over it. It’s been too long.”? Every time I hear someone say that I want to spit, and I am reminded of how impatient and lacking empathy human beings can truly be. Of course people mean well when they say that, but by doing so they are belittling the loss that you have lived through and they are not respecting the grief process that YOU are living. The grief process is yours and yours alone. If anyone tries to tell you that, and it hurts or angers you, don’t fret. Step back and know that you are standing in your own process and be true to yourself: do what you need to do for yourself and do not be concerned with what anybody else thinks of you. At the end of the day you are your own best friend, and you know better than anyone what your own spirit needs.

I am often shocked by how few people want to deal with one’s grief, how afraid of it people tend to be. From writing in this community, I have met several other writers who are dealing with their own deep grief, and I’ve seen a reoccurring theme: they’ve all had friends and family who have pulled away from them, and in some cases permanently, because the friends or family were too uncomfortable and unequipped emotionally to deal with the other person’s grief. This is a sad statement; because of course when one is grieving that is when one needs their friends and family the most. But I have learned this same lesson in my own life, multiple times. Some people simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth, sensitivity, patience or level of empathy necessary to handle someone else’s grief. If everyone had that ability, then everyone would be a Priest, a Nun …or at the very least a grief counselor!

But most importantly it is a stark misconception to think that grief is bad and that we should in any way try to rush through it, push it aside or numb ourselves to it. Sadly so many people do this: they try to avoid the pain of a lost love by jumping into the next love; they push the devastating emotions down and try to pretend that they don’t exist, which sadly will often lead to the manifestation of disease; and others will try to drown out the pain with drugs and alcohol. None of these escape mechanisms will work. To quote Ovid,

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”

By trying to distract ourselves from grief, we are making a mistake. By trying to ignore the grief, we are not honoring the loss that we have experienced. We are also denying ourselves one of the most powerful opportunities for growth and learning that this earthly life affords us. Our darkest times are our most powerful teachers. The sage knows that to try to skip over such difficult times, is to deny himself of powerful learning and soul evolution. In the wise words of Marcel Proust,

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

There is no doubt that grief is painful, and in many cases, devastating and debilitating. I’m sure none of you will argue with that. It can change your life forever, and often against your will. That has certainly been the case in my life. And while it may get easier with time, it can still be something that we simply have to learn how to live with, as difficult as that may be. But even in that circumstance, if we can dig in deep and instead of running away and hiding from grief, if we can muster up the strength to walk through it and experience it, and allow ourselves to ride the wave, it has the power to transform us.

“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”- John Adams

This post is dedicated to my friend Judy.

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