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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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Me and my brothers in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

My very first introduction to San Francisco was at the tender age of six when my mother took me and my two brothers across the country on a 2-week train trip. I don’t remember much of San Francisco, except for this photo missing my two front teeth. That and the crookedest street in the world. It, like many experiences of my early years, faded into the recesses of my memory.

Some 20 years later I would be sitting in my office in Boston, daydreaming about moving to San Francisco with one of my best friends and colleagues. I’m not sure why we had it in our heads that San Francisco should be our destination; perhaps it was the fact that both of our older brothers had already moved there, perhaps it was the adventure of moving west towards a new frontier, perhaps it was the romanticism of a place we couldn’t fully imagine, some place new, different, exciting. Perhaps it was simply the fantasy of leaving everything behind and starting over, a new person in a new life.

San Francisco skyline

Despite our daydreams, life had other plans for both of us. She, my colleague and friend, ended up on her own adventures between New York City, Paris and Washington, DC. My own path led me to Washington, DC and then finally west, but to a different destination… Los Angeles. Though I had spent all of that time dreaming about San Francisco, circumstances had led me elsewhere, and San Francisco just didn’t appear to be in the cards. That is until 2009, when a series of events “inadvertently” led me right to the place of my previous daydreams… I had finally landed in San Francisco.

At first it was a love-hate relationship. My heart was stuck in Los Angeles, and that coupled with my love of the warm weather of Southern California, meant that I was pretty miserable and found every reason to complain about San Francisco. It was not living up to my dreams of all those years before.

But as it always does, time went by and things began to change. My heart-strings began to release their tight grip on Los Angeles and I began opening up more to the idea of San Francisco being home. Little by little I began to acclimate to the weather, I began to find a new community of friends, I began to plant roots. San Francisco was becoming home. As it did so, the beauty around me began to become more and more apparent. Every time I would walk to yoga, I would stand in awe of the spectacular view of the skyline that was simply the backdrop of my walk through Alamo Square. The succulent scent of California’s year-round flowers wafted into my nostrils everywhere I went. The breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge would render me speechless each time I passed over it or caught a glimpse of it from atop a high vista point in the city. The stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, dotted with beautiful sailboats, would come into my eyesight during a routine walk or drive. On almost a daily basis I would find myself amazed by the staggering beauty around me and exclaiming to myself, “My God. How on earth do I live HERE?”

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands

As a writer dedicated to focusing on the positive and seeking out the joy of life, I strive every day to appreciate the beauty that is all around me and to not take it for granted. But like any human, even I have my moments when I lose sight of it. Tonight was one of those moments. As we just changed the clocks and it is suddenly getting dark much earlier than it was previously, I found myself disappointed by the loss of light in the day. As I was preparing to leave for yoga this evening, I posted this update to my Facebook page:

“Really not thrilled about it being DARK for my walk to yoga.”

Looking out the window I could see that it was dark and I was not looking forward to the walk in the cold, especially when I was so used to taking this lovely walk with the warm sun on my back.

I headed out the door and onto my usual route to yoga, which takes me through Alamo Square, home of The Painted Ladies. The minute I set foot into the park, I once again stood in awe. In the crisp fall air, the city was sparkling with absolute brilliance against the night sky, cradled by the glow of the bright moon above. I was immediately humbled and realized the error of my ways with my previous Facebook post. It was ironic that I was on my way to yoga. One of the themes that we frequently explore in yoga is the embracing of not only the light, but also the dark, the shadow side of life. As the seasons change and we move into a darker time, the yoga invites us to explore the darker side of ourselves, our experiences and our emotions. And it invites us to embrace both, to see the beauty in both, the opportunity for growth which comes from each. As I reflected on my dissatisfaction about the days turning into night, I realized that I was missing out on the opportunity to embrace both the light and the dark. And as I walked through Alamo Square and marveled at the beauty of the night scene around me, I felt nothing but wonder and gratitude.

San Francisco at night, from Alamo Square

I thought about the 6-year old me sitting in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with my brothers, completely unaware of the fact that this would one-day be my home. I thought about the 20-something me daydreaming with my friend about San Francisco, about how we would get there and what it would be like. And I thought about the current me who had evolved from a place of daydreaming, to ambivalence about a city, to embracing it as my home. And as I looked at the stunning skyline glittering beneath the light of the moon, I was overcome with emotion and I once again thought to myself, “My God. How do I live HERE?”

This post is dedicated to Jules, who has forever been my ally and friend
along this journey.

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I love Joseph Campbell. I think his writings and his philosophies were and continue to be brilliant and thought-provoking, and when I read his works it is clear to me that he was tapping into a deeper, ancient fountain of wisdom. “Follow Your Bliss” is one of his most famous statements. We all know what that means: follow what it is that brings you true joy, and you will find true happiness at the other end. While I agree with that in part, the problem is that we humans tend to take it too literally. What do I mean by that? Well, here’s the thing: if you are living a full life, there will be dozens if not tens of dozens of things (hobbies, activities, careers, etc) that bring you Bliss. So how do you know if you are following the right one? 

When I was a kid, like many little girls I dreamed of being a dancer. If I had followed that Bliss, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have turned out very fruitful for me. But would it be because I didn’t try hard enough or that I didn’t set a strong enough intention and stick with it? Nope. Not at all. It would in fact be because I don’t believe I was good enough. I loved to dance, but truthfully I was only an average dancer. And as I watched the top students go on to be stars in the Nutcracker, I knew they had something that I didn’t. They were born with a talent that I knew I did not possess. Was I being too hard on myself and giving up too easily? Nope. Even as a child I had enough wisdom to know that not all dreams are meant for all people. Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve met a woman who is one of the soloist ballerinas for the San Francisco Ballet. When I watch this woman move, it is clear to me that she was born with a true gift: she was born with this special talent, but she was also born with the perfect stature and grace to be a ballerina. I was not. I believe this was her Calling. And I know that it was not mine.

Later on in life, in my late 20’s I found myself writing an extensive thesis to President Bush about all that was wrong with our foreign policy. Even as I wrote it, I found myself wondering “Wow, where is THIS coming from?” I was passionate about foreign affairs. So following that Bliss, I quit my job in Boston and moved to Washington, DC where I enrolled in a Master’s program in International Affairs at George Washington University. I was going to solve the Middle East Crisis, that was my goal. I was following my passion, my Bliss, so surely I was on the correct track. Right? Wrong. It didn’t take me more than one semester in Washington, DC to realize that I was NOT a bureaucrat, that the life of a government employee would not in fact bring me Bliss, that it would instead bring me soul-numbing frustration. So I left graduate school and gave up on that dream and went on to another. One could read that and tell me that I had simply quit, that I had given up. But here’s where they’d be wrong: one major mistake that we make as stubborn human beings is not knowing WHEN to give up, when to change gears. I did not quit. I simply was aware of the sign posts, and when the sign said “turn here” I paid attention and turned instead of wasting more time on what I knew was the wrong path. I had followed Bliss, but it was the wrong Bliss.

That experience of dropping out of graduate school was a perfect example of trial and error and this is what I think is so important with helping us to truly find the Bliss that we are meant to find. Many of the things that we LOVE to do, that truly bring us Bliss, are not in fact our true Calling and would actually be better simply as hobbies. This is what I realized about foreign affairs. I realized that I could simply read The Economist weekly and engage in intellectual debates with my like-minded friends. But it didn’t have to be my career, my livelihood. It could instead simply be a hobby. Years prior when I had been a Zoology major and was determined to fulfill my childhood dream of going to Africa to save all of the endangered species, I was disappointed to find myself earning C’s and D’s in the challenging science classes: chemistry, physics, etc. This brought me the same realization. I could love animals, and I could volunteer my time and donate money to animal charities (which I do), but it did not need to be my career. I knew that that path was met with too much challenge for it to be my true Bliss.

As we are such a stubborn race, so many of us foolishly cling to false ideas of what we think is our Bliss, and instead we lose the opportunity to be open to something that we never might have imagined. Several days ago someone told me that they had followed their Bliss to be a musician, but that it had only led to a life of pain. I would then argue that that was the wrong Bliss, and not the one that was truly that person’s Calling. When you’ve found your true Calling, it is true that the Universe conspires to help you: doors that were previously shut tight suddenly blow open for you, the right people show up into your life to help you at exactly the right moment, and magic happens. I know this because this has happened to me since I started writing. And here’s the beauty in this statement: I never in my life wanted to be a writer. Looking back, it would never have been my Bliss. So how can I then say that I support the idea, even somewhat of “Follow Your Bliss“. Because writing actually IS my Bliss, I just hadn’t yet discovered it. There was a whole path out there that I never would have considered for myself, one that I never would have imagined would bring me Bliss. So how could I have found it? I couldn’t have. I had to be OPEN to IT finding me. And once it did, that’s when I knew this was a Bliss I could follow. And just as with the trial and error that I had tried previously, I tried this path. And that’s when the doors started blowing wide open.

Peter Tileston, my high school band director

Life is not meant to be difficult, and so often we waste so much time swimming upstream, and we fail to recognize that the fact that we are being met with nothing but obstacle, challenge and uphill battles is actually the Universe trying to hit us over the head and tell us that we are on the WRONG path. And if we would just let go, and let the current take us downstream, we would find that life can be so much easier, and beauty that we never would have imagined will come to us. So many of us are clinging to ideas that we THINK are right, but we are too afraid to let go and surrender to the idea that there may be something entirely different meant for us. What about that person who had followed their Bliss into a life of pain as a musician? Perhaps, their TRUE Bliss would have been not in being a performing musician, but rather as a teacher, bringing the magic of music to others? I was blessed with an incredible music teacher and band director in high school. This man had gone to school for music and I’m sure at one time or another thought that his Bliss was to be a professional musician. But I can tell you that from the 1,000s of students lives he has impacted, and the beautiful and life-changing lessons that he instilled in all of us, that this man had found his Calling as a teacher.

What about the person who is clinging to the idea that they are meant to be an artist, they are trying to follow their Bliss, but instead it has led to a life of struggle and destitution? That is not true Bliss. Perhaps if this person opened themselves up to other ideas, they might find their true magic in doing art therapy with disabled children. Perhaps the person who is certain that they are supposed to be a famous, published author, is actually instead meant to be the one-of-a-kind, special teacher who nurtures and mentors the NEXT Nobel Laureate. Or perhaps it’s something entirely different than what we want and imagine for ourselves. Perhaps the person who insists that their Bliss is to be a filmmaker is actually meant to be an internationally-renowned Yoga teacher? This one is actually a real-life example of which I just learned. When I was living in Los Angeles, one of my earliest yoga teachers who inspired me onto the path of yoga was this fabulous teacher named Tara Judelle. She is an internationally-renowned Anusara yoga teacher who travels the world leading workshops and now lives in Bali teaching yoga in paradise. I did not know this about Tara, but just the other day she posted this message: “9/11 marks the 10 year anniversary of my decision to stop making films and start making change as a yoga facilitator- be the change.” I was shocked because I had never known that she had previously been a filmmaker. All I knew of her was that she made magic on the mat as a yoga teacher. It is clear to me now that by releasing her career as a filmmaker, she was able to find what I believe is her true Bliss, her true Calling: to be a soulful, beautifully impactful yoga teacher who spreads light, and Bliss, all around the world.

Tara Judelle

So how do you find YOUR Bliss? Trial and error. Try lots of different things, explore all of the different activities and adventures that bring you Bliss. BE OPEN: Be open to the idea that any one of those examples of Bliss may in fact be better meant as a hobby and not actually as your Calling. BE ATTENTIVE: If life is too difficult and wrought with challenge, and is not simply flowing, the Universe is trying to tell you something. Listen. BE FLEXIBLE: When you get these blaring sign-posts from the Universe be willing to change gears, be willing to give up what you are doing and turn to the right and try something else. Be like the water and go with the flow. BE BRAVE: Be willing to try something completely new, something you never would have imagined. You just never know what Calling may find YOU.

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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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They say that during your toughest times, you find out who your true friends are. I am learning that this is also true during your best times.

In recent months I have begun to see positive movement forward in my writing career and while most of the people in my life have truly been avid cheerleaders, and for that support I am eternally grateful, others have been noticeably silent. They have made no acknowledgment of my successes, have offered no kind words of encouragement, and frankly have offered no words at all. Some are very simply jealous, envious of the success I am seeing, others disapprove of what I am doing or how I am doing it, while still others think I have simply gone off the “new-age deep-end”. At this premise I simply have to laugh because for one, what mainstream society unwittingly calls “new-age” philosophy is actually based on ancient wisdom, wisdom as old as the stars. But secondly, even if inadequately named, to this notion I would have to respond, “Yes, proudly. ; )” But I digress..

When I was younger and I would express to my Grandmother my distress about friends who were being unsupportive, she would simply say to me, “Oh nevermind.” I now realize how much wisdom was held within that simple statement. For I have realized that it doesn’t matter what any of those detractors think of what I am doing. If they choose to be unsupportive or disapproving, I have realized that that is their problem, not mine. And it is not worth a moment of my precious energy trying to please them.

All of my life I have cared way too much about what other people think of me. I don’t know where this personality trait comes from, but even from a young age I have always been a people-pleaser. Whether I was trying to please my parents by getting the best grades, or trying to please my teachers by being the model student, if I wasn’t doing perfectly and making people proud of me, I was not content. As an adult I carried this into my professional life by always striving to be the top employee and climb the corporate ladder. But I have realized that over the years I have acted this out to a fault: I have spent years walking on eggshells, agonizing over my choice of words, and ensuring that I did or said the right things in order to not offend or upset the people around me. And while that was always from a place of good intention, and there are certainly moments when being a diplomat is the right course of action, as a whole I have realized that trying to please everyone else is a futile effort and frankly a waste of my valuable time. Simply put, it does not matter how well-intentioned I may be, or how hard I strive to act from a place of highest good, there will always be people who are unhappy with me. Being a writer has forced me to face this reality, and for this I am grateful. I know that no matter what I write, no matter how sincere or heartfelt, that there will be people who hate it, people who are enraged by my words. And so I realize, yet again, that that is their problem, not mine.

Oprah Winfrey spoke on her final show about the idea that everyone on this Earth has a calling:

“Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing. We saw it in the volunteers who rocked abandoned babies in Atlanta. We saw it with those lovely pie ladies from Cape Cod making those delicious potpies. … We saw it every time Tina Turner, Celine, Bocelli or Lady Gaga lit up the stage with their passion. Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

As I watched Oprah beautifully express her final soliloquy, her words came out of the television screen and enveloped me. I was moved to tears and goosebumps ran up and down my spine. As she described what it means to have found your calling, I knew that I had found mine. This message further reverberated with me only a few weeks later when one of my yoga teachers was talking about the first time she stepped onto the mat, and how she knew immediately that it was her calling to be a yoga teacher. As I sat on my own mat, legs folded in a seated meditation position, I resonated with everything my teacher was saying, and I felt exactly what she must have felt that day she realized her own calling. I too realized that I had found my calling.

This life has the possibility of presenting us with profound spiritual experiences, experiences that allow us to expand our consciousness and to access our deep, inner truth. By living through one of these experiences, and going deep into the recesses of your spirit and your higher consciousness, you are able to access ancient wisdom. And if you are open enough to “see”and brave enough to trust what lays within, you may be fortunate enough to find your calling. This is exactly what happened to me. The type of life experiences that can lead to such a powerful opening and awaking of consciousness are often experiences of the most painful and tragic kind. Traveling to such profound levels of grief can allow you to blow wide open. This is exactly what happened to me when I lived through my “dark night of the soul“.

I went into my “dark night” having been a manager in the .com world. To my surprise I emerged a writer. As I listened to Oprah Winfrey’s experience, it struck me that often times we have no idea of what our calling will be. We may think that we are supposed to be a doctor because society says that is the best career, or a lawyer because we come from a long line of lawyers, but the truth is that what we think we are supposed to be doing, may in fact be the farthest thing from the truth; it may have nothing to do with our calling. Never in my life did I want to be a writer. It was never remotely a thought in my head. I was not the kid in English class dreaming of being a literary master (and believe me I know plenty who were!). I hated writing. Hell, I even avoided certain college classes because there were too many required research papers for my taste. But when life happened to me, and I suddenly found myself placed on the path of the writer, without having any idea of how I had gotten there, that’s when I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

This brings me back to those people who are being less than enthusiastic about my new-found path and reminds me of another story. Earlier this week my yoga community was celebrating the 14th Birthday of Anusara Yoga. The same teacher I mentioned above was giving a tribute to Anusara founder, John Friend, and she was telling us that when John Friend first started what was a brand new branch of yoga and a new lineage of teaching, while he was blessed with the support of many, he also had a number of detractors and was met with some criticism. Of course he was, he was doing something different from the mainstream. He was taking bold actions to develop a brand new style of yoga and this was threatening to the “old guard.” But as my teacher reminded us, John had already found his inner truth and he knew that he was on his true path, that he had found his calling. Despite the criticism, he knew he had to stand in his truth. Now, 14 years later, Anusara Yoga is one of the fastest-growing yoga movements on the planet, and John’s teachings have profoundly and beautifully impacted and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (I am one of those!). John Friend was right to trust his inner guidance and to stand in his truth.

I was lit up as my teacher told this story. As seems to happen more often than not, I felt that her message was magically directed straight at me. I knew immediately that I am no different than John Friend. I have accessed an inner truth that has given me 100% certainty that I have found my calling and that I am on my truth path on this Earth. My journey is to write inspirational stories from the heart, stories of hurt and healing, of betrayal and triumph; to help others with their own healing, by writing about mine. And as I move forward and I am inevitably met with additional criticism, I will always remember the wise words of my Grandmother, “Oh Nevermind.” And I will stop trying to please everyone around me, and instead I will STAND IN MY TRUTH because I know that as long as I am on my true path the rest will follow…

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Earlier this week I learned the very unpleasant tidbit of information that a former colleague of mine had betrayed my trust, and that this had in turn contributed to my losing my job. Was I livid? You better believe it. Did I want to immediately lash out and confront this person? Affirmative. I have always prided myself on being someone that doesn’t take crap from anyone, someone who is able to stand up for herself and fight back. “Nobody better mess with Jeannie Page!” had been a life-long credo…

Thankfully I had been on my way to yoga class when I got this news. Furious from the news, feeling absolutely betrayed by someone I had trusted, and completely keyed up as a result, I knew that I had to calm myself and meditate on the issue. Once on the mat, I began to breathe deeply. As I moved through the poses I focused deeply on the issue at hand. What was the right response? Would I email this person, tell them that I knew what they had done, and essentially tell them off? Here it was 4 months later since I’d lost my job. Would there be any point to confronting this person? Would it help me in any way?

Well, my main purpose with starting this blog was to write about life’s challenges, with the intention of approaching them from a more enlightened space. I immediately recognized that I was faced with an opportunity to do just that. I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation long enough to know all too well about the human ego. I knew immediately that my response of anger, my desire to retaliate, was an entirely natural human response… but that it was in fact a response of the ego. My ego had been wronged and my ego wanted revenge. But what would that accomplish? It really didn’t matter WHAT or WHOM had contributed to me losing my job. The fact of the matter was that I had already lost the job and there was no turning back.

I knew there was only one right answer, one enlightened answer. The answer was to do nothing, to say nothing, and to simply rise above it. Now this certainly would leave my ego feeling entirely unsatisfied, but I recognized that the way to truly have strength in this situation was to walk away from it and move beyond it. I had to be stronger than my ego. But beyond that, I also recognized that I had an opportunity to take this to a place of even higher vibration: a place of gratitude. You see, I actually owe this person a “thank you”, for they have helped to liberate me from the chains of corporate oppression and to release me from a very unhealthy situation. They have allowed me to make a much-needed shift in my life and to align with my true path, a path of higher awareness, conscious creation and {hopefully!} inspirational writing.

So, how am I going to react? I am simply sending thoughts of gratitude.

And I say to you, that if you find yourself in my position, and having been betrayed or frankly screwed over by someone…stop and think for a minute. Find the silver lining in the situation, look for the good that has come from it (or that WILL come from it!), and instead of seeking revenge, send them thoughts of gratitude.

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We live in a society where we are constantly barraged with advertising, whether on the television, the internet, billboards, the sides of buses, movie theaters, airplane dinner trays, you name it. These days it seems that if there is a blank space anywhere, corporations will find a way to place an ad on it! Not only has the number of advertising channels increased ten-fold in recent decades, so too have the types of things being advertised.

One such item is the advertising of pharmaceutical drugs. This still boggles my mind. I’m sure that many of you will remember a time when you would never have seen a pharmaceutical ad on the television, when instead it would have been up to a medical professional (rather than a team of advertising executives!) to recommend a particular drug to you. But now, on a daily basis, we are inundated with suggestions that with the help of a “magic” little pill we can cure all of our ailments, whatever they may be: diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, arthritis, and of course the most awkward, and somewhat comical to watch, erectile dysfunction. You name it, there is a cure for it… at least according to the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. Now, I could write a separate thesis about the problems with that in itself, but I’m not going to go down that road today. Instead I’m going to focus on one particular drug category, one of the most profitable, and one that I can talk about with first-hand knowledge:  depression.

Lately a couple of different friends have told me about hard times, periods of depression that they are living through. As I listen to these friends talk about the darkness around them, how nothing is going right, and how they feel so unhappy and that things will never improve, I am reminded of all of the television ads for pharmaceutical drugs that claim to treat depression. And I am reminded of how upset it makes me, upset because so many people are deceived into thinking that it is the only way, the best way… and in the process are overlooking other, more natural ways that can be just as, and often times more effective, for the treatment of depression. One such way is through the practice of yoga. When I hear a friend talking about their own depression, all I can think to myself is “how can I convince this person to do yoga?” Of course nobody likes to have something pressed on them, including me, but when you’ve discovered something yourself that you know works so well, you of course want to share that discovery with others.

You see, like my friends, I too have lived through dark periods of depression, when my life felt like the bottom had dropped out from under me, when it felt like things would never get better, when I would drown in my own sorrow. And like many people, I have tried various different ways to cope with such periods. The first true depression that I lived through was in my late 20s, when I experienced my first devastating broken heart. I had never loved anyone as passionately as I had loved this guy and we had fought hard to make our relationship work. So when he finally gave up and walked away, I was beside myself. I could not eat for months on end, and as much as it worked, I’m sure you’ll all agree that this is not a good manner of weight loss!

I went to a therapist wanting desperately to be given anything that would numb the pain. After evaluating me, he determined that there was nothing clinically or chemically wrong with me, but rather that I was living through a situational depression, the type of depression that most of us will experience at one time or another in our lives. He determined that such an experience did not call for anti-depressants and that I simply needed to work through it with time, and therapy. Well, I was stubborn and impatient, and the pain was unbearable (and therapy had never worked for me). I needed to stop the pain and I was desperate for a quick fix. I went to my regular primary care doctor and I convinced her to prescribe anti-depressants to me.

The anti-depressants worked… at least in the sense that they completely numbed the pain. I was suddenly able to cope again, I didn’t feel the unbearable anguish that I had felt before then. Instead, I didn’t really feel much of anything, I felt numbness. While I went about my day to day routine, and my life seemed fine on the surface, I was basically stumbling through my life, in an emotional vacuum.

Many months later, when my doctor and I felt that I was better equipped to handle the grief on my own, she began to wean me off of the anti-depressants. However, what happened next, I did not expect. Forget about the awful physical side effects that came from the withdrawal period; that in itself was bad enough. But what was even worse than that, was that the grief, the pain that I had felt prior to the medication, came instantly rushing back… like a tsunami. It was as if the painful event had just happened and I suddenly had to live through the pain and anguish all over again. And I realized that the little “miracle pills” had been no such thing. I realized that all they had done was numb the pain, but they never allowed me to DEAL with the pain. This was a monumental realization for me…

Several years later I found myself in an even more profound heartbreak than the previous one. While I thought I could never again experience anything as dark as that first heartbreak, I learned immediately that that heartbreak had been a walk in the park compared to this one. I was about to enter my first (and hopefully only!) “dark night of the soul.”

Having previously experienced for myself that the anti-depressants (and I had tried various different types, not just one.) were nothing but a crutch and did nothing to resolve the deeper, inner emotional turmoil, I knew that I could not again walk down that path. I knew this time that I had to walk THROUGH the pain, that I had to experience it, live it, breathe it, no matter how difficult… for I knew that that would be the only way to truly process it and overcome it. I knew that the only way out was through. So how would I cope with the day to day pain, the anguish that prevented me from getting out of bed in the morning, the tears that were never-ending, the feeling that my life was useless? One word: Yoga.

Now, there are dozens of scientific studies that I could quote from various medical journals and leading research hospitals, that show the scientific evidence that yoga can in fact successfully treat depression. And I encourage you to google and find them for yourself. But as I am not a scientist and have no interest in boring you, I’d rather share with you my own personal experience.

I had stumbled upon an Anusara yoga studio down the street from my apartment and I started going regularly. As I went through the motions of the poses on my mat, I had to fight back the tears. But thankfully the yoga forced me to focus on what I was doing right then and there. If I was standing upside down in a handstand, I had no choice but to focus on that moment, and nothing else. I could not be focusing on the million emotions and reasons that I had to be sad. So I continued to focus and I continued to breathe. And through the yogic breathwork and the physical asana, I began to notice that the energy inside me was shifting, that the deeper, darker emotions were slowly but surely beginning to work themselves through, up and out of me.

Now I am by no means saying that yoga is a quick-fix for depression. Nothing is (and anyone that tells you differently is lying to you!). It is a commitment and something that takes time. But what I do know for sure, is that if one commits themselves to a regular yoga practice, they too will begin to feel something shift inside them; they will begin to feel lighter, more at peace. The dark feelings that once dominated their days will begin to take up less and less space and time. And little by little they will find themselves feeling better and better, until one day they will find that those dark feelings are “magically” gone, that they have worked themselves up and out.

So I say that if you are human like me and experience a period of depression in your life, don’t be fooled by the television ads. Don’t let the pharmaceutical companies convince you that their chemical drugs are the only solution, or even the best solution. Instead, I encourage you to try a drug of a different kind: the yoga drug. You may just be surprised by what you find.

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