Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Unenlightened Yogini

An unenlightened yogini.  That's what I am.  I can judge, gossip, procrastinate, cuss like a sailor, act crass, be a bitch, attempt to control others, obsess on my body and food, overeat "healthy" food, overeat junk food, harbor resentment, skip my yoga practice, stay angry, act cynical, fight with my brother(s), feel insecure, and have dark thoughts.  There...I said it.  A few months shy of turning 46.  I don't know what I thought it would look like at this point of my life.

mom, circa 1942ish, around 17 yrs old
I recall a particular picture of my mother holding me as a small child..she was probably around 43 or 44; I was 3 or 4.  She seemed so grown matronly.  I'm nothing like that.  She had her hair all big and hair-sprayed and coifed and wore a conservative polyester outfit.  Mom had porcelain skin which became a trademark in my family...gracing most of the women in my family from my cousins and aunts to myself...and despite the lack of wrinkles and the youthfulness she still possessed, she had a grown up, matronly appearance.  Maybe it was the shock of having another first girl and the youngest of four children...I can only imagine being 40 years old with a newborn and 3 boys aged 10-16.  And I thank God(dess) that today, I am the proud single-parent of one incredibly bright and wonderful adult son.
a favorite pic of my son at around age 11 or so, he threw the hammerhead back, by the way!

Fast forward over 45 years to today.  I definitely am not what mom bargained for.  I'm not what I bargained for either.  And this is not a whiny, complaining entry on my blog.  It's actually one written after a few days of tossing around some thoughts in my head and realizing I better liberate them for my own good.  

As a yoga teacher and budding holistic nutritionist, I've put myself out into the world, often feeling pretty vulnerable..naked if you will.  I hadn't planned on this.  At age 20 I thought I had uncovered my passion...and I had.  My days were filled with yard sales, flea marketing, and running my antique store..eventually stores...and for many years I was very comfortable doing so.  Not that there wasn't the drama of family, relationships, and other challenges of single motherhood, health issues and life in general.  There was.  But it was comfortable discomfort  that I figured was the way it would stay.

But since growth generally involves pushing out of one's comfort zone into a discomfort zone, and nothing is permanent, life evolved.  The twists and turns of business, relationships, motherhood, and general life challenges led me to this day.  Okay, I am not going to get all maudlin here.  In fact, I have felt stronger and more positive about the present than ever and increasingly grateful as time passes.  A lovely conversation yesterday with my friendly mail carrier, whom I've known for at least 15 years or so, brought out that gratitude even more as we discussed the beauty of the day, and caught each other up on one another's lives.  We both agreed that the adage of the glass being half full or half empty was certainly applicable in life..we create our reality despite circumstances..and then I thought, no, I said: "I just love that I truly can look at things and see my glass as being about 95% full."  And then I thought to myself how truly wonderful that is.

Hence my topic today.  Perhaps one of the things I am feeling is a sense of relief.  For years I had thought that by a certain age...let's just say 45 or so...I would have figured it out.  I would have fine tuned my life to the point of some sort of state of enlightenment.  Or at least have stopped all the habits, the thoughts, the actions, of my earlier pre-yoga-practicing-and-teaching life.  And just when I think an old habit really is an "old habit"...meaning it no longer is practiced..the toxic thought or behavior rears its ugly head and brings me back in check with that damn ego which evidently is still hanging out.  My relief lies in the realization that this is okay.  It is.

Yoga is a practice of self awareness.  It's not a practice of perfection..of "nailing" a particular asana or releasing all negative emotions.  Practicing yoga is so much deeper than a physical exercise for the body.  It's about going inside.  It's not about not having a dark or shadow's about acknowledging it.  Watching the breath.  Feeling the feelings.  Processing.  Accepting.  Letting go.  

Being a yoga teacher does not make me perfect or evolved or enlightened.  It may mean I have more formal training in the principles of yoga than the average yoga practitioner who does not teach yoga.  But it doesn't mean I am no longer a student.  In fact, for me, it means I am more of a student today than I was the first time I stuck my Total Yoga VHS video in the player nearly 16 years ago to take a break from my exhausting running and workout routine that left me achy and chafed. (I still recommend this video to students who cannot make a "live" class..though I am a strong believer in classes and know that a video is no substitute for a "real" class.)  And being a student means I can learn from anyone or anything...a child, a new or seasoned yoga teacher, a stranger, a situation.  Endless possiblities.

For years, I have heard that whole "life's a journey, not a destination" thing.  It's certainly not a new concept nor my original idea.  And while I have heard it, spoken it, shared it with friends and students, and even sometimes believed it, still, my ego often edged its way inside my thoughts in attempts to tell me "sure, but one day, Lisa, you will arrive, and X will cease to be an issue for you."  I guess I hoped that somehow by wanting and wishing and doing more classes and jumping through whatever hoops life threw me, that I would be some sort of exception and reach some sort of enlightened state.

In this moment, I feel liberated.  I hereby declare I am unenlightened.  I like it here.  Before I began a dedicated yoga practice, I felt like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere...I had so much drama and negativity in my life in many ways and didn't know how to dig out of the hole I'd crawled into.  My world felt so small.  I felt stuck.  Today, I get to spend most of my time doing things I love...teaching yoga (, researching for my thesis as I finish my holistic nutrition degree from Hawthorn University, running my online vintage jewelry business, Family Jewels (, and, when I am really lucky, getting a few moments to connect with my son, who has grown into an amazing and bright adult.

Today, I feel very unstuck.  Yes, I still sometimes am catty, jerky, pissed off, and say or do things that probably should have been left unsaid or undone.  The cool thing is that I am not waiting anymore.  I'm here...not arrived...but I am here and I feel the pause in between my breaths....sometimes.  The world seems very big.  Scary, uncertain, unstable at times.  Yet, still, I feel in a state of surrender.  At least today.  

The world didn't end last month as Harold Camping had predicted...don't worry, he claims it's happening in October in case you're disappointed.  Regardless, even if the world does end in my lifetime, I still will trudge along, willingly, with awareness and even a bit of excitement.  With surrender, I also feel a sense of willingness and encouragement to continue on a never ending path of growth and evolution and hope I can continue to embrace the whole experience, warts and all.

Being unenlightened means no more chasing some ideal of perfection.  It means I can savor the moments, embrace the changes, find the pause, be the student, release guilt and shame and disappointment, screw up sometimes, enjoy a comfort zone then go past it a bit, and be human.  And most of all...get to just be.


  1. Lisa,

    What a great message of acceptance and letting go. I hear healing and lots of recovery in your post with an incredible sense of personal responsibility. You are a joy to know my sister from another mother.


  2. ...oh for all her readers out there...Lisa is an awesome yoga teacher and friend!

  3. Yes! This is such a brilliant post ~ I believe there are many people who will relate to your thoughts here and be inspired by them.

    Thank you for this positive, refreshing perspective on what is no doubt an ongoing process for us all!


    ~ Z ~

  4. Lisa,

    As you certainly have much more wisdom than I do...this is exactly what I'm dealing with. The pressures of being perfect when indeed, I'm not. I too am human and as humans we all have much different stories and issues. Because I teach yoga does not mean I'm no longer a student nor am I perfect, it means I am always changing and working on the deeper meaning of myself!! And that is exactly the meaning of yoga...union!! Thanks so much for your wonderful post.