One time I stuck my tongue out.

and other tales from our 20s.

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I share Miley’s need to air my tongue out

(Make sure you scroll to the bottom to see more fantastic photos of me… being me…)

I have stuck my tongue out in a lot of photos.  This is the only one where I’m not trying to “sexy lick” someone’s face…if there is such a thing as “sexy lick”… and I figured it wasn’t fair to include my friends in my confessionals without their permission.

I’m shocked by the amount of people who are shocked by anything Miley Cyrus does or says.  Maybe no one remembers when Christina Aguilera went from

this: tumblr_m6xdtpdotb1r27dcdo1_500  to this: vmas-christina-aguilera

It seems like it took the girl 10 years to find the bottom half of her shirt.  And with abs like that, why should she bother? Getting naked (or semi-naked) is nothing new.

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Even Judy Garland lost some clothes in her 20’s

Neither is overt experimentation with sexuality.

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Elizabeth Berkley of Saved by the Bell fame.

Maybe we have collective cultural amnesia when it comes to our starlets, and ourselves, growing up.  But each time it happens someone cries “Outrage!” and accuses them of seeking attention.

Of course they are seeking attention.  A) A lot of them became stars for just that reason.  AND B) DO YOU REMEMBER BEING 20?  The fact that you were changing into a woman was of the utmost importance and obviously (to no one but themselves) the only thing around anyone should pay any attention.  If they couldn’t see all of the ways in which you had transformed, you were going to make sure they did.  What screams, “I’m grown up,” more than a few tattoos or a leather bustier?  Most of us were just as narcissistic.

It is often painful to watch.  Those of us past the early 20s can shake our heads, knowing that in a few years these stars just might look at that video of them half-clothed grinding on a chair and wonder what the hell they were thinking.  Even the most intelligent of us has inspired a friend to think, sometimes out loud, a big “AWKWARD”.

Not every celebrity follows the crowd.  One exception I found during my search for the “I’m going to take off all my clothes and kiss everything that moves” formula for breaking out of child stardom was Janet Jackson (who no doubt has some sexy photos, they just happened more towards her 30s, which might be because celebrities didn’t really double as models until the 90s).  However, the album she put out in her 20th year was full of songs with statements on sexuality.  “Nasty” and “The Pleasure Principle” were included on the album, aptly named, Control.  Because that’s what the reinvention is all about, gaining control of ourselves as an autonomous human being

Redefining yourself is an intrinsic part of the late teens early twenties.  Though some people start the transformation much younger due to their own maturity level or environmental factors, for most of us 18-22 is the time we begin to build our future.  As a newly enrolled college student I looked forward to it.  Some people go out and start a job or a family. You step out of high school and suddenly the people you grew up with are not around everyday to monitor your every move.   You can be anyone you want to be.  

Part of that reinvention inevitably revolves around sex and sexuality.  In college, I had my own “place” (if you want to use that word very liberally to describe the tiny box I shared with another female), no curfew, very little rules and boys and girls were living in the same building (Coming out of an all girls school, I did not even know how to speak to a boy so most of this was wasted on me…).  You might even see one standing next to you in the bathroom stall.  It’s a heady time.  Mix in alcohol and life just can’t seem to get any better.

If someone made a video of me dancing or flirting in college it would probably look a lot like Miley’s performance at the VMAs.  My moves haven’t changed much from then to now.  The difference is that now I fully occupy my body.  I no longer execute spectacular mathematical routines made-up to solve the mystery of men.  I seemed to honestly think that if I added the right amount of exposed midriff to the perfect lip part and threw in just enough sexy laugh that would equal boys falling at my feet.  This real-time self-analysis is what made Miley look like she was trying to hard.  Because she was.  She was trying really hard.

I remember when Christina Aguilera left behind the dreads and came out all blonde-bombshell pin-up girl.  That was her coming out, as a woman.  She no longer had anything to prove to anyone.  She occupied her body, clothed or not.  The pictures that pop up in the search for Back to Basics tell a completely different story than Stripped.  But she, and every other woman, had to get there on her own terms, even if the results do make us cringe.

It makes me extremely grateful that most of my experiments are but a memory.  I am blessed that my first attempts at expressing my sexuality were not caught on film.  My coming-of-age is not the subject of public ridicule.  I never had to explain my terrible choices, I just had to live with them until I learned better.  Even now, I’m gonna get a lil bit crazy when “Pour Some Sugar On Me” comes on.

This is not a discussion of whether these images are ok for our children or whether they should look up to these people as role models.  That is for each parent to mull over and make an informed decision that I should have no say in. This is also not an apology or excuse and the other stars coming-of-age in the public eye, it may not be fair that they are so ruthlessly scrutinized, but that is part of the job-description.  It is not a discussion of talent, accountability or appropriateness.  It is simply stating something I, and many others, have noticed among our peers, VIP, IP or just a “lonely little P” (10 pts for anyone who catches the reference).  Twenty-somethings sometimes act the fool.

Miley is nothing new.  She’s not even special (don’t tell her mom).  She is a 20 year old woman trying to figure out what being a woman in America today means.  People have criticized her team, her parents, her PR.  That all may factor in, but it is Miley making the ultimate decisions.  It’s her party, she can do what she wants.  And we all have the option of turning the power off.

Just for fun here are some pictures of me in my 20s…(they are hard to come by as a) I hate posing for pictures and b) I often prefer having fun over posing for pictures)

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my friends and I being sexy with a fan
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yea. i did that. And let someone take a picture.
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I like to dance
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and stick my butt on things
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notice my butt. please.

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Change my Mind

I love to change my mind about something.  There are times to stand firm on your beliefs, and times when rigidity hinders growth.  I always disliked Sara Bareilles’s songs.  I can’t tell you why.  I know she has talent.  But I just did not enjoy them.  Then came ‘Brave’.  It’s catchy.  I loved singing along with it.  I still wasn’t sold on Sara though.

This morning I heard Ms. Bareillis play live on XM radio.  She was talking about her songs and what they meant to her.  9 out of 10 times this will convert me.  First off her singing was so clear it sounded pre-recorded (I’m still not convinced it wasn’t).  Plus, she explicitly stated that she does not like going to concerts where the artist simply plays the album.  This is my philosophy.  If I buy a ticket to a show, I want a little flair.  I want to see that this person is a true artist.

So I changed my mind.  I like Sara Bareillis now.  No one else could have convinced me of her value to the music world.  I had to discover it myself.  Like always.  And I’m glad I did.

 

Just Around the Riverbend [repost]

This was first posted on my blog The Real World as I prepared to leave Namibia.  I have included some of the thoughts I had on the future just a year earlier.

“What I love most about rivers is you can’t step in the same
river twice.
The water’s always changing, always flowing
But people I guess can’t live like that
They all must pay a price
To be safe we lose our chance of ever knowing
What’s around the river bend”

Like the river that is flowing by, every moment is new. We all know this. It’s common sense. Every minute things change. People are born and die. People leave, fall in love, decide to follow God. We know this.

Even though things are changing on us every minute we cling to the illusion that we have control over each outcome, each change. We plan. We worry. We replan and recheck. We resist.

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The only thing that trying to control everything does is make it harder to admit we don’t have control over everything. In fact we have control of very little, mainly our reaction to change.

Resistance creates a dam in our river. The water backs up and becomes mucky, full of snails that carry disease or twigs that snag our thoughts, pulling us down. Resistance keeps us from moving forward.

I experienced this when I first decided to return to the States. I built a damn of resistance in my head. I filled my water with negativity. Everything from “I have no money” to “It is too cold.” I swam around with them for a while. Until I couldn’t anymore.

I took down my dam. I let the negativity come out to be pushed to the shore. I swam down my river, cleaning it of all the things that scared me and started to see all the beautiful things about going home. My family and friends, free time, new opportunities, my car.

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It is difficult to describe the feeling of rigid flexibility you need to get along in this world. You need to be able to plan, but when they fall through you need to be able to see the adventure that an unplanned span of time can bring us. When some volunteers and I were on our big road trip last year, we made a plan and it fell to pieces. Still each unplanned step brought things we would have never experienced on our own terms.

Let your plans fall apart. Don’t worry too much what is coming around the river bend. You’ll get there when you get there and when you do, it’s usually more fantastic than you ever planned for yourself anyway.

Tomorrow I face the next bend in my river. I leave Namibia at peace and excited for the things ahead. Back out into the World! What a Real World it is!!

Summer Nights

There’s just something about a summer night.  The sun drops slowly, and the air starts to cool, just a little.  The chorus of crickets begins to sing, orchestrated by the stars as they appear overhead.  A breeze brushes past and your skin buzzes.  Possibility fills the air.  Anything could happen.  You sit and watch dusk turn to dark and let all your secrets out.

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To me summer was always camp.  Going to camp, working at camp.  It was all the same.  A bunch of people who saw each other once a year, or maybe met once and never again, come together and share experiences that bring them together like nothing else can.  It was the place I shared things that only my journal got to hear the other 46 weeks out of the year.

This summer I did not work at camp.  I longed for just one “summer night”.  Just one night where I let my guard down and let the magic of summer envelop me and the person I was with.  I’ve had a lot of great nights this summer, dancing and laughing and having fun.  But something was missing.

This past weekend I went to visit my friend in Brooklyn.  We walked to the park and drank smoothies.  We laughed as all the owners let their dogs run free and hump one another.  We talked.  Deep.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Loving.  And when we had finished we climbed up onto her roof.  We meditated, right on the edge, floating above all the twinkling city lights.  We were filled with possibility.  Anything can happen.

It was the perfect summer night.

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Love and Faith [Journal Entry]

“I was outside looking at all the trees on the mountains and the blue in the sky and realized I was home.  Now I know why man has lived so long on earth.  I know why we haven’t all wished accidents or caused accidents upon ourselves just to get to heaven faster.  The cities, and even the suburbs, are cold and impersonal.  Here it is warm and welcoming, and you know why everyone here can survive even with so little, how they can be so full of hope, because they’ve seen a piece of heaven.  If god couldn’t give them money he could give them hope and love and beauty.  Because that’s really what counts, not the money and power but love and faith.” – Journal entry, June 2002

There are times when I’m not really sure how I travelled down this path called life and ended up a yoga teacher.  Then I read my old journals.  Amidst all the millions of crushes I developed, there are real gems, describing the life I wanted to lead, the life I dreamt for myself.  I may not have been able to predict exactly what I would become, but I knew what I wanted her to be like.

I have been journaling for more than half my life.  There are entries that don’t sound remotely like something I wrote.  I don’t remember the strokes of the pen and the words sound foreign and wrong.  There are other entries I know so well I can almost recite them from memory.  In the spirit of “getting personal” (one of my goals) I thought I’d share some of my entries as time goes on.

The entry above was written on a mission trip to Appalachia.  I went every year for 5 or 6 years, and each time it was the best part of my summer.  I cannot truly express what those trips meant to me, other than they changed my life forever.

Throw a Pity Party

Been learning a ton of not so fun lessons as of late.  Learning the hard way has me feeling a bit beat up, but I definitely feel I am becoming stronger and more capable than I have been for years.  

A lot of shitty stuff went down the last few months.  And I let it get to me.  There’s turning the other cheek and then there’s paying someone to punch you in the face so you can maintain the shiner.  After the first unsolicited blow, I kept going back for more.  Poking at the bruise.  Finding ways to make it all worse.  People pity you more when they can see your pain.  I throw a good pity party.  Sometimes, being the center of attention is all your bruised ego needs.  Invite some friends, complain, cry, hug it out and then let them give you the swift kick in the ass that you deserve.

After a few legit bad things happened I sort of threw in the towel for a little while.  If life was a marathon, I tripped and fell over a log, then sat down where I landed pouting and claiming that I was losing buckets of blood from the tiny scrape on my knee.  I’m not proud of my behavior.  I hope that this is not my reaction to every bump and bruise.  But I do believe the time I took to feel awful, and invite others to commiserate with me, helped to jumpstart some real growth.

During this time, I was able to identify and learn from my mistake.  However, I also really slacked off in my classes.  I was not fully planning flows or studying anything to get inspiration for themes.  (Part of me really wants to go back and erase this confession so that no one I know finds out the truth…) I was working on autopilot and my students were the ones who suffered.

I still received compliments for my classes.  No one yelled at me or stopped coming.  Still, I felt awful.  I was only half there.  I was not connecting with anyone in class and I shut myself down so that no one could possibly connect with me.  I had lost my confidence, but worse, I lost all hope of finding it by giving up.  Instead of trying to demonstrate that I was a good teacher and this was the right path, I opted to believe that because sucky things were happening, I sucked too.

Until one day when I decided to try to clean my room.  I uncovered some old Yoga Journal Magazines and flipped through the flows.  It inspired me to research alignment of Warrior I.  I sat in the middle of a ring of books and training manuals with YouTube videos on cue and really felt that spark once more.  The spark that made me want to share this practice with not only those I know and love, but with complete strangers.

The past few weeks I have been re-exploring poses and creating new flows.  I have been stockpiling intentions for those times of idea drought.  I have been giving classes, not just leading them.  I have been able to truly connect with people, and know that this is what I’m meant to be doing.  At least for now.

So go ahead.  Throw a pity party.  Make it grand.  But don’t stay too long or it will be harder to wake up from the inevitable hangover.

Sutra Sunday: The Truth Hurts?

Bringing back the Sutras!

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives five yamas, or restraints.  These are the things we should not do.  I outlined the yamas in Being A Bad-@ss YoginiThe first two yamas are ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth).  During teacher training, we discussed how sometimes these two ideas seem to work against one another.  As we often hear, “The truth hurts.”  Right?

I was taught by my teacher that ahimsa always comes first.  Above all, do no harm.  All other yamas are subsequent to this.  However, this does not give us a free pass to lie.  Little white lies are an easy way of preserving someone’s feelings, but this is not the lesson that we should be learning through these two yamas.  The real lesson here is awareness.

Some truths are simple.  They are harmful and therefore probably don’t need to be heard by anyone else.  A character from How I Met Your Mother put it this way, “Just because something needs to be said, doesn’t mean it needs to be heard.”  Taking a moment before you say something gives you the power.  It makes you a deliberate speaker and one who is an advocate for non-harm through real action.

Other truths are more tricky.  Sometimes the possibility of hurt feelings may save someone from harm in the long run.  This takes more discernment than deciding whether or not to say something.  Discerning what your intention is in saying something comes first.  Jake at InstantKarma.org says,

“Often, people say hurtful words and than justify these words by  saying that they had good intentions – they only wanted to help the other  person. This is usually associated with the idea that a person wants to teach someone  how to be a “better” person. If someone leaves their clothes on their floor, they  are given a lecture on how lazy and sloppy they are to help them become a  better person. The intentions of the lecture are to “help” this person. The truth  is, these lectures have very little to do with improving the person, these lectures are  given to change something about a person that someone does not want to live  with. A person usually does not give lectures on being sloppy or lazy because they  really want to help the other person – they give the lecture because they are  tired of cleaning up after them. The motives of such speeches are completely  for oneself.”

If the intention of the speech is truly to help someone, then the task is to decide how it should be said.  Creating a positive sentence takes more time and care than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.  However, it can often save people’s feelings as well as motivate them to take action.

“We can see that the idea of hurtful words and intention do  go together. Telling someone that they are lazy, forgetful, thoughtless,  uncaring, etc. are all hurtful words. Even if they are said with good  intention, i.e. to help “improve” the person, the hurtful words will create a  negative affect. There is an amazing difference in the affect that “Please,  honey, could you put your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of the floor” has  than “Would you stop being such a lazy pig dropping your dirty clothes all over  the damn floor!”. ”

Often we feel that people will be motivated by a blunt or somewhat harmful version of the truth.  This is probably true.  When people say hurtful things to me I automatically find a way to change so that I do not have to hear them again.  It is pain avoidance.  Not true learning.  Sometimes, as Jake stated, the person really does not need to change, you would like them to change to make you more comfortable.

No matter how kind the words, the truth might still sting.  We cannot always predict someone’s reaction to our truth.  But we can use kind words.  We can have good intentions behind our words.  And we can take a moment before we speak to decide.  Tap into your breath, become fully aware of your body in space, repeat a mantra, whatever brings you into the present moment.  Take that moment and make a choice.  Taking control of our words is a powerful message to the world, and ourselves.  We all have the potential to be messengers of truth AND love!