Choosing the Warrior’s Path…again

When times get a little rough, when we have chronic strife, we can choose to complain about another person and make them wrong, make them small in any way our brain chooses to present evidence for that – or we can choose to learn. We can choose curiosity.

I know which I choose.

I have to actively make the choice; as I sit with anger coiled like bitter fire in my belly, the anger resolves into words – it recites the wrongs to me. It recites the good things I’ve given and the wrongs I’ve perceived and received, in my imagination. As I breathe and listen, I start to hear a pattern. The self-righteous bluster is flat, like the old-time stage scenery that was painted skillfully on plywood, shaded to look like structures of depth and substance. The more I look at it, the more I see deep grief underneath. The grief of a dream tarnished, a dream I’ve rebuilt, a dream I’m afraid of losing- a dream that was created by a child, a very young me.

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The grief turns into questions. “Was it real? Am I a fool?” and flashes quickly into labels like “Betrayal.” Then it moves to list what I did wrong, where I messed up. It holds some truth, here – I could have done better. I can do better. But the self-hatred that shows up is a twisted form of the “bargaining” stage of grief. I breathe and observe.

Then anger begins again. The list starts repeating itself. I don’t do or say anything; I used to journal, but I found that writing gave the anger more substance. I am a storyteller; when I write things, I paint them in great detail in my mind, most of which are edited off the page. The world takes on life; the things I write breathe in me, and grow. I do not wish to feed and give life and substance to this bitter dragon, so I watch, and wait.

I consider compassion. Not empathy-that isn’t a road to take here – identifying and plunging in with a heart all to ready to imagine, feel, and perhaps project, is not wise in this instance. Compassion is bigger than that. Compassion breathes and says “Yes.” Yes, what you are experiencing is valid. Yes, you are held and supported. Support doesn’t mean I agree with the stories that create what I’m experiencing, or what you are experiencing – it means that beyond the stories and the pain, there is support that sees my, your, brightest light. Support can also mean taking no action at all. Compassion doesn’t seek to control. It simply IS, and I breathe it in.

I stop writing stories about what the other person is thinking, feeling, choosing. I stop trying to follow the labyrinth of “WHY” to find some way to comfort my rational mind, which seeks to understand and seeks to answer every criticism it can imagine is leveled in my direction. Trying to understand, or think I understand, is a form of control. I breathe again and feel the knot loosen.

I survey the future I had built for myself: the vision, the lovely castle in my mind and heart. I breathe in again when a knot of grief, followed by resentment, quickly followed by story (“can’t they see what I saw?”)  forms. It loosens quickly, almost sheepishly. Good.

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This is the warrior’s path. This takes patience, self-compassion, and commitment.

I have this commitment to myself, and to the life I have been given. I made this commitment years ago, when I put on boxing gloves for the first time in earnest, and chose healing instead of despair. When I chose to walk on coals far hotter than anything I’m experiencing now. When I chose every day to face violent storms again, and again, and again – choosing day after day, even though my legs would freeze up and refuse to carry me some days; even though my hands would shake and refuse to hold my pen; even though the symptoms of the war I fought sometimes showed up in humiliating ways, stripping me in public, rendering me unable to hide PTSD; even when the symptoms made each miniscule step forward an enormous effort- an effort that took everything I had. I have often made mistakes, been unskillful and emotionally irresponsible, but I showed up. I learned to deeply celebrate the smallest of victories. I fell into self-reproach when I stumbled, but I kept showing up. I got myself to the counselor. I got myself to the boxing bags. I made the healthy food. I walked away from abuse. I chose myself. I apologized and took responsibility. I suited up, wrapped my hands, allowed my tears to fall in prayer, and showed up with relentless determination.

From that time, I know a core of strength lives in me that nothing can destroy. I’ve obscured it lately with self-reproach and unkind words, self-blame. I have assaulted myself, as though if I could figure out what was wrong with me and uproot it at the source, I would finally be chosen. I would finally be seen.
I kept learning, kept taking responsibility, kept building more lesson plans for myself and seeking out what I had done wrong. thinking I was still on the warrior’s path, the path of wisdom.

Do you see the disconnect, here? I only saw it this morning. The ego got fairly tricky on me, and decided to disguise itself as betterment. As “healing.” As thinking I know what someone else is choosing, and what they’re experiencing. “This person is angry at you because you are flawed and you messed up.  You messed everything up. Again.” There are so many flaws in this belief. This is all a form of control. It’s ego, thinking I know what is going on in someone else. Seeking to control someone else’s choices and the perception *I invented*, by changing myself. It’s choosing an imaginary someone else before myself, my real self.

It’s Black Panther’s brother, choosing death “instead of slavery,” when really, he was choosing death instead of the firewalk that is swallowing pride, making peace, honoring himself, and choosing to live. Choosing to learn. Choosing the fight towards freedom that comes with walking the warrior’s path. pri_66417644

Other people’s choices HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Others’ perceptions aren’t my business. And so I release it.
I return to my power by realizing my worth. By focusing on myself again, my own life, and what a deep gift it is, and has been. I return to my power by focusing on what I choose. By choosing my own life.

I ask a question: If what someone else chooses for their life has nothing to do with me, and “self-improvement” is not what I thought it was, how, then, can I transform this? I thought I had let go. Apparently, it’s a matter of letting go, then letting go again. Maybe we’re never really “done” with releasing. Maybe that’s one of the most important lessons to learn in this life.
Love and release. Love and release. Love doesn’t seek to bind. Love allows. Even when my mind doesn’t comprehend another’s choice, love says “Good. Choose. Choose for you. If you don’t choose me, it isn’t personal.” Release. Love myself.

This is what I can learn, here. Lessons and self improvement that come with a sense of self-compassion, love and curiosity, those are the lessons I will follow, now.
Because how can I be walking the warrior’s path of love, if I refuse compassion to myself? So I just gently bring myself back to the path. This time, I feel so much lighter. I feel joy – this will be a dance.

I breathe again. I hold the fluttering bird that is wounded me in this instance. Her eyes are dull with pain, and she’s thrashing around a bit, one broken wing trailing stiffly through my fingers. I can feel her heart stuttering wildly, panicked, in my palm. She’s nearly incoherent – “he was- I thought – we had- he said – he hasn’t – he chose – but I brought – I was- why can’t -” these are the words that she gasps. I just hold her, breathe, soothe her. I imagine her surrounded in warmth, safety, comfort, and also freedom- I don’t restrain her with my hand. She is free to fly at any time.

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I whisper to her, so gently, the way I’d talk softly to a child who had awakened from a nightmare – “it is all unfolding as it should. whatever you are trying to make happen, release your hold. come back, now. Come back to my heart, and when you are ready, open up again with me. believe again with me. trust again with me. love again with me. it is all unfolding as it should. You will see; the painting of this life will be a beautiful masterpiece, when we are done.”  I stroke her feathers, and feel her calm. “I know it hurts. It is okay. Let it hurt. Let go of blame. Let go of reasons. Let it hurt, accept the hurt, and let go of any thought of why or predictions of what. Just be.”

The choice I make again: what can I learn from this? What can I learn in curiosity and playfulness, without reproach to self or others; how can I expand from this, how can my life and my heart become a bigger place?

This is the warrior’s path. It is deceptively gentle at times. It seeks stillness in the midst of story, talk, jagged energies that blame and criticize, rumor, choices not made from the highest self – and, as I just learned, it also recognizes self-harm in the seductive form of self-reproach and self-blame; it walks back to center, takes responsibility, which doesn’t look like shame- it looks like a gift. The gift of learning and improving.
How wonderful, really – the opportunity to see where my aim was off, my arrow didn’t fly true, and improve my aim,

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The warrior’s path winds to the center of the labyrinth and tries again. Patiently, without pride, without carrying anything but determination and curiosity, slow step by slow step, firmly, never giving up.

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The Distance

The Distance

My ancestor was named “Gentleman Jim” because not only was he one of the first to wear gloves, he was one of the first to box in a new form that had something called “the distance.”

The distance: a specified number of rounds. A stopping point, even if no one had fallen. To “go the distance” meant you had boxed all the rounds and you were still standing.

It’s my hardest lesson right now. When to stop boxing. I’ve hammered it into my very bones – my guard is up, that glove next to my cheekbone so familiar I don’t think about it now – my body knows what to do – and I love it. My gloves are a part of me. They feel like home. I feel strong; I feel ready.

But the distance is a new, scary, unfamiliar lesson… and it’s a hard one. I was not prepared for my next challenge to be… stopping.

To take the gloves off and leave the fight… go the distance, and then stop – that’s going to be the toughest fight yet.

Put down the gloves. Let down my guard. I’ve forged a soul of steel and now
softness is the scariest thing imaginable.

love – it is the only match I fear – he will still come in past my guard patiently, though my glove has stung him a few times. I don’t know how to do this anymore; I was never going to allow this again- So I slip. Feint. Even pull out the “Ali Shuffle,” then jab with a slip so I can load my uppercut, just outside his view …

but this is not how to win this kind of match.

Pause…and learn something new: perhaps this man is different. There is a good man out there, who doesn’t deserve to stand in the ring, to fight a battle and take the blows meant for a far lesser man. It’s time to stop that fight – that creep is long gone, banished with a hundred thousand hits over the course of a year, when I watched my sweat form pools drop by drop on the floor and knew it was my body’s way of weeping – knew I was washing him away in a tide of salt- I could see his weakness, his lies, his toxicity leaving me with every drop. I forgave myself for allowing him into my life- I learned to trust myself again, to trust that I would never again allow someone to treat me badly.

It’s exciting, really – it’s the one thing we can say “never” about; I will never allow someone else to treat me badly. I will never again experience that particular kind of life-wrecking pain.

As I became stronger, he became…utterly ridiculous.

Eventually, after 20lbs had been sweated away and my boxing gloves had faded, were worn and cracked with use, his face no longer swam in front of my glove as a target on the heavy bag. If he came into my mind at all, it was with surprise, and “what on earth was I thinking?”

Every time I wrapped my hands in preparation for another bout, binding my hands and arms like tefillin, I told myself I was binding my heart to my own power and locking that loser OUT. Then twenty pounds shed turned into thirty pounds; I dropped the weight of him I was carrying like a rancid crucifix across my back – left it behind in drops of sweat on the floor measured over the course of a year. Shed the way he had aged me, found joy again and youth again in new companions and new life — I stopped being a victim.

Every painful fight was a triumphant step forward.

Waiting for a good man to walk into my life, I met a few who made me realize that I had forgotten how to put down the gloves and open my arms. That I can fight may still be a good thing, however – there IS a time to fight – to ensure I will never be treated badly again…

But even so, I believe that not all men are untrustworthy. That not all men seek to control; that not all men will try to chip away at me until I am small enough for them to feel bigger – I still believe there are men out there who deserve all the love a woman can give, though I have yet to meet him, and though it’s scary, so scary, to open this heart –

I’d best accept it. Go the distance. Leave the ring. Learn what true courage is and be vulnerable sometimes, be open again; only this time, with a power that nothing can shake. This time, there is a difference. I bring more of myself when I love that self for the first time in my life – and no one can take that from me.
What I have to give I can give freely now, knowing that there is a solid core of strength in me that no one can diminish.

I don’t need to fight because I am now a warrior. It’s a paradox that comes when you’ve fought your way out the other side – the deepest strength is required for not fighting. The biggest fight any of us will ever face is : no fight at all.

My ancestor did it. He wore gloves in a world of bare-knuckle boxers; he went the distance in a world of “fight until someone is down,” though it was a new thing and I bet he came under much criticism. Perhaps his nickname “Gentleman” began as a mockery, schoolyard bullies giving him a title to wear through the ages – he turned it into fame. His courageous blood lives in my veins. I can do this.

Boxing Fueled by Veggies Experiment day 10

it’s only day 10 of following a vegetable-based diet.
No meat, no dairy, extremely minimal processed foods– a diet consisting mainly of home-juiced green veggie juices (with a limit of one fruit), power foods smoothies (chia seeds,maca,cacao,berries,wheatgrass, chlorella…)
vegetable stir fries, miso soup, nuts & fruit as snacks, and some tofu, some rice & some oatmeal…
having a history of anemia, thinking I *needed* animal protein, I was scared to do this…I thought I would feel weak and tired – especially when boxing. I had tried to follow a vegan diet before, but had become so exhausted & ill, I was reluctant to do this again – until I listened to some IIN lectures and realized that I’d been working for a lawyer at the time and I’d been so rushed, I had relied mainly on processed foods. Not Good.
Could my exhaustion have been from processed foods & not enough leafy green vegetables? I decided to find out.

Day 10: after an hour of impact (including focus mitts), drenched with sweat, I felt like I had just had the warmup. I needed another hour of class. I jumped rope after class & still felt like…when’s class going to start?
I’m going to continue this experiment with my eyes open for changes, but I’m thinking that there is plenty of protein to be found in vegetables, especially kale & broccoli…mushrooms are a powerhouse…”protein complimenting” is not necessary (ie. eating beans w/rice to make a “complete protein”–I have not been eating beans.) it’s just important to stay away from processed foods and eat lots of greens, and actually pay attention to chewing your food well–during the chewing a lot of important sh*t happens, yo!

veggie-fueled boxing!  I’m excited.

Overcoming Post-Thanksgiving Slump!

I had someone ask some advice about post-Thanksgiving slump, and I feel like addressing this here.
“How do I get going [on my diet program] again? Thanksgiving really set me back! I feel defeated.”

This morning, not gonna lie: it was difficult to pry my eyes open at 4:45 a.m to get ready for boxing. Breaks are GOOD for us- giving the body a rest is actually essential to progress- but once we’ve lost the momentum, it takes an extra push to get going again–laws of physics, yo!

So: remember that. Give an extra push.

Once you begin it, it will be easier.
Once you get started again on whatever it is you’re trying to get back into (whether it be diet or fitness or work or all of the above,) you are sending yourself the message that you can trust yourself.
You’ll feel that sense of completion, which is really important for us to experience every day.
You’ll have kept your word to yourself, which is of the utmost importance to building momentum and success–once you trust yourself that you’ll do what you say you’re going to do/ want to do, there will be no stopping you 🙂 It’s important in relationships, yeah? it’s also important in the relationship you have with yourself.

Some concrete steps:

Image-stay away from regret or self-recrimination. those things will keep you bogged & toxic.
– drink water, say “let the healing begin,” and let the holiday excess go.

– create a few affirmations for yourself. keep them short & sweet. Mine today was simply a bit of gratitude to keep me going while that jump rope was killing me : “thank you, body, for being so strong.”

– If you’re REALLY having trouble getting going, if your brain is coming up with all kinds of arguments that you should stay in bed or should eat those leftovers…visualize how you’ll feel once you have completed your workout or gone back to healthy eating. Really feel that in your body. That’s how I get to boxing just about every day- that flood of good feeling, of power & accomplishment, is something I want more of- so I crawl out of bed in the dark, and I get myself to the gym.

-If it’s gym we’re talking about, it’s harder to go in the dark and cold winter mornings. Get a routine ready ahead of time so it’s less effort to be ready. lay out your favorite clothes, set up your tea, organize what you’re going to eat to fuel your workout. The comfort of a routine feels like great self-care – while getting ready, you’re also sending yourself the message that you are worth care, consideration and effort. 🙂

– If it’s healthy eating we’re talking about, consider adding good things IN to your diet, rather than going cold turkey (wokka wokka) on the leftovers. Drink water, make something like one of my favorite snacks – kale & portabello mushroom stir fry, very simple– and eat that. The vegetables will “reset” your taste buds back to green & savory, so you won’t be craving that pumpkin pie so much.
Also, it helps to really imagine how you feel AFTER you eat sugary stuff…visualize it..feel it… and ask yourself if you want to feel exhausted & bloated!
Then, keep the portions small. A bite of pumpkin pie or stuffing or whatever tastes just as good as a whole serving. Fill up with the good stuff & remember you are doing this as an act of love & nurturing to your body and yourself.

– remember: a little bit at a time. don’t compare yourself to others- just do a little & keep going. If you go to an exercise class, stretch & breathe when you need to, but stay the whole time. You’ll have that sense of completion, you’ll know you didn’t give up, and each time you go, you’ll be able to do more!

bottom line is, if you feed your body with loving thoughts, it will surprise you. If you are patient with your body as though it is your child–patient and loving– it will respond. If you are compassionate with yourself and just keep going, you WILL see massive change-  give it time.  Thoughts are as important as good nutrition, because our body responds to negative thoughts by kicking out hormones, trying to “fix” stress and stay in homeostasis.

You are beautiful just as you are. A break is good for us — it will kick us out of any plateaus or stuck places. now let’s get moving again!

feel free to message me with any questions — I’m a rookie holistic health coach, gaining experience 🙂 

Jacob’s Ladder – God Was In This Place (yes, even this)

“Good. Strong back,” he says, and traces two fingers down my spine from neck to tailbone. (There is only one man in the world at present who can get away with this without risking injury.)

חלם –  chalam – to dream. What does it mean? Dream.  There  is immense power in a waking dream, or disparate pieces of a dream in the process of coming together. The blacksmith holds the steel in the fire, not until it is red hot, but beyond that- until it is a really terrifying thing he’s holding, capable of harm, at the white-hot edge of creation. What courage it takes to hammer it then; what strength and care, and trust in himself. Image

It is the “The Shabbat of Jacob’s ladder. Of dreams that move toward reconciliation,” Rabbi Wolpe says.

I feel like I’ve been been in the fire a long time, not truly trusting myself. It’s been a long quest, this “Tigger Leaves the Theater World” adventure.

Now, today, with the feeling of two fingers tracing down my back which used to be broken, which used to radiate pain and be my reason for shutting myself away from the world and losing hope- two fingers tracing down my strong back, straight and enduring as steel, I have a new feeling: I can hold these weights in this pose indefinitely. I have truly healed. I am stronger than I ever knew… and right in that moment, I know why I have been doing this crazy thing…I know why I’ve been doing all the separate, seemingly incompatible things I’ve been doing and learning.

Every blow, each terrible, hard lesson, everything I tried, every failure or loss tempered me. Made me strong. Showed me the depth, breadth and resilience of my own heart.
Because of it, I know now what I have to give the world. I know what stories I can tell, I know what I can teach, what healing I can bring to others.

חלם –  chalam – to dream, also means to be healthy , strong, to restore to health.

I can look back to many moments over the years and say truly, “God was in this place, and I – I did not know it.” There was a reason for everything- even the car accident.

Trust yourself. Keep going. Whatever you burn to do, whatever gives your soul joy- there will come a time when each separate piece begins to come together and make sense. Don’t listen to doubting voices; listen to the wild beat of your own heart. Keep going! It is the Shabbat of dreams… What is your dream?