Venice Yoga Retreat & Final Summer Reflections
It was truly a spiritual blessing to spend another 7 days on the west coast in the Venice, CA area topping off an incredible summer of travel, adventure, mystery, fitness, nutrition, yoga, and spiritual curiosity leading into the next chapter of my life. Last week I attended 10 different yoga classes in 6 days in an incredible personal rest retreat week at an unbelievable newly opened studio called, The Mystic Journey. What a perfect name for a Yoga studio! I found the energy within this particular space to be powerful, inspirational, and moving. The Mystic Journey studio was exceptionally designed for yoga, with meditation rooms, fabulous art, and gigantic crystals all incorporated within the space. Each day that I had the privilege to practice at the studio which was both visually gorgeous and energetically magical. I can absolutly confirm that my practice of Yoga and prayers have positivity been one of the critical links within my physical, emotional, and personal healing, including incredible new self-development. I assure there was a time in my life when I thought yoga pants and sitting still in one space was a complete waste of time. Oh boy, I have come full circle embracing the yoga pants issue and have become quite fond of the stretchy sweat absorbing brightly colored fashioned tights. Learning how to quiet the chatter in my monkey brain has proved to be an important component of my daily routine, as I find myself much more content during the day with continued practice and deep desire to continue my learning.
Spending a week immersed in 3-4 hours of daily practice, meditation, and prayers have positivity set the stage for a beautiful start to the school year. I am very excited and resonating a peaceful light, soft love, and joyful presence within myself ready to greet my incoming students. The word light, which I am describing, is an internal spiritual flame of awareness within myself illuminating throughout and within my thoughts, feelings, actions, as I open myself up to new experiences. This is especially pleasing to me as I now realize that the peaceful, harmony, and balance I so desperately longed for within my life has been resonating within me the entire time. I often thought if I could find the perfect place to live that I would suddenly feel happiness and internal contentment, however to my surprise that is not actually what happened this summer. After months of struggle I finally realized one of my main problems was the tussle in my head with the artificial values I placed on the true journey to a higher self-realization. My awareness of this became loud and clear later this summer, as I was able to spend time in silence working on an onslaught of clutter. Through my yoga and meditation practice I was able to rekindle the nature ebb and flow of harmony and balance in my life to take up residence once again.
As I reflectivity process these feelings I have conclusively come home to a truly inspired self after such a long journey to a distant land not familiar, or benefiting me any longer. The more I fought the internal friction of trying to make something work that was absolutely not effective any longer, the further I fell out of balance with myself, the ability to see, think, and make any type of higher conscious choices. I remember receiving a poignant phone call from my dear friend Joey right before I left Arkansas for the summer trek. I was standing in the garage packing my kayak dry bags with safety gear for the Lake Powell voyage. My phone was perched on top of my kayak rack as I caught a glimpse of it vibrating and noticed it was my sweet friend Joey, whom I have known since high school. We truly became great friends when we taught together my first year in education in 1999 at Mathias Elementary School. I was the Physical Education teacher and Joey was the library media specialist. We both had another very special friend that year at Mathias Elementary School, Elizabeth who was the music teacher extraordinary. The three of us were young in our careers and green rookies in the first few years of teaching; nonetheless we bonded as professional colleagues and dear lifetime friends. As I look back into my career I noticed that I always seem to form close collegial relationships with the music teachers and the media tech specialists. As the years in our careers moved forward, Elizabeth fell in love with another musician and moved to New York to start a brand new life with Alex. Joey fell in love with an incredible man named Joe while surviving a near death experience; she truly was not expected to live through. Nonetheless, these two amazing women have continued to play an important part in my life even if we do not talk for several months and sometimes years. It is ironic how life has taken me on this incredible journey, so I could calm the chattering in my head not to miss out on the most important lesson, realizing I am enough while learning to love myself again. As I noticed my phone buzzing with a text message from Joey I read the following. Joey said, “I have something very personal I would like to ask you if you don’t mind.” I texted Joey back and said, “Sure dear friend what do you want to ask me.” Joey said, “Deb do you feel that alcohol had anything to do with your depression and melt down in December?” My response was, “Yes, my friend I feel there is a direct correlation over the past two years and my increase in alcohol consumption was probably used to mask my pain and try to get through the next day. I have already reduced my drinking by at least 75% since December and I am considering giving it up all together.” Joey said, “Thanks Deb I appreciate your honesty with me and being so candid and transparent about your journey.” I had never considered I had a drinking problem, however sitting here today I am not sure I could actually say that with a straight face. I without hesitation admit that I regularly would drink 1-2 glasses of wine at night hoping it would relax me, settle down my mind, however that was just a false illusion of me not wanting to truly deal with my shit.
Popping a $40.00 bottle of wine and sitting under the stars in the hot tub wishing all my problems would go away only shoved me deeper into depression, frustration, and an attitude of helplessness. Of course none of my friends, family, colleagues, or students would have ever thought I was struggling so deeply with these inner demons, yet I myself was the demon in my mind with complete self inflicted blinders on. I continued to use my old patterns of attempting to deal with my pain by keeping my life completely hectic. I would task myself out for things I did not even want to do, working out obsessively at Planet Fitness, eat semi crappy foods, drink wine, sake, and totally ignore care for my mental and emotional health. When Susan was first injured in 2013, I recall multiple people consistently checking in with me to see how I was handling things. There was not a day that went by that someone did not stop me in the hall at school or send me a text saying, “Hey girl how are you doing, do you need to chat?” My response was always; “No I am good, as I have got this! I am the great compartmentalizer.” The entire concept of compartmentalizing the brain is bullshit, and I want to know who created that concept anyway? The brain can truly only do one thing at a time, as it is a sequential processing device. The thought that we can shut off one part of the brain to deal with another problem only confuses the situation, we lose focus, as the brain has to continually switch gears, and we forget the details having to go back, reworking things, and wasting more time. In my personal situation over the past 4 years I found the multitasking situation overloaded me with chronic debilitating stress, as I felt I was a returning soldier from the war with PTSD. While attempting to be a good teacher, trying to keep the lights on, a tough home life, professional obligations on multiple committees, presentations, taking care of Susan, my mother with dementia, loss of my dream home, and the continued financial spiral out of control, finally caught up with me. My constant brain switching back and forth non-stop for 4 years trying to figure out what in the hell I was trying to do from day to day reached the absolute point of, “I’m DONE!
This train has run out of tracks and the switching gate is immediately ahead. I was on a one-way ticket to derail the Amtrak.” I am speaking from my own experiences on this topic, as I previously was a poster child example of a person who constantly had to feed the EGO by keeping extremely busy with multiple tasks attempting to mask my own personal pain. As I reflect upon these old habits of over functioning all the time, I found myself spirally into deeper overstressed situations, loaded down with unmanageable deadlines, then would be terribly critical on myself with a mental bashing, if I did not meet, or could not stay up with a ridiculous personal standard of excellence. I truly have no idea of perceptions of my life from an outsider’s vantage point over the past 4 years, but I am guessing that I appeared to have most of my shit together on the outside. Nevertheless, I promise I was completely unraveling on the inside. I spent the majority of the time at least during the past 2 years in complete chaos overload of the brain. Once I finally realized that I needed help, a lot of people had stopped asking me if I was doing ok. There was a point where I truly felt as if I was all alone on a private barge floating in the middle of the ocean full of others peoples shit with no motor, no rudder, no sail, and me swimming with a rope around my neck trying to desperately get to an island.
Earlier during the month of May, I wrote a blog entry about how much I love the movie Castaway, with Tom Hanks. This movie resonates with me deeply on many levels, as the real life struggle of suddenly being tossed into the ocean from the comfy seat of life, feelings of complete isolation, constant testing of survival skills, being resourceful, and the finality of my situation where saving your own life was the only card left on the table. There was a scene in the movie where Tom Hanks had to make a very difficult decision to bust open a FedEx box where he found a pair of ice skates and used the blade as a knife-edge. One day he was forced to use the ice skate to knockout an incredibly infected tooth that had plagued him for months. In the movie, Tom knew that bashing this tooth out of his mouth with an ice skate and a large rock was going to hurt like hell, however, it had to happen to continue his survival on the island. This scene illustrated a great metaphor for me as the incredible power of the mind and ability to conquer the fear of the oblivious impending pain and discomfort had to unfold for the journey to continue. I have spent hundreds of hours reflecting on what actually brought me to my Lisa Nowak moment of fear and lean into the pain and discomfort of taking the big emotional blade hit.
I have surmised that I personally was not willing or ready to do the hard work within myself to finally resolve old pain, damage, frustrations, the guilt of being human with failures and disappointments. I continually was bombarded with so many triggers going off from old pain that had never been resolved that I could not surrender to the transition that needed happen for transformation to occur. I realize that I waited too long to actually ask for help in many areas of my situation with Susan, and quite frankly viewed asking for help as cowardly and shameful. I foolishly felt it was solely my responsibility to take care of Susan and all our affairs, as again my EGO took over in an area of my life that completely did not serve me or benefit the situation in the least. By the time I finally reached out to friends and family asking for help, I was way too far down the rabbit hole of depression and I had to take the biggest emotional ice skating hit of my life and knock out the toxic infection that was taking me on a one-way flight. I truly felt that my friends and family were basically tired of the situation too, and worried that I was not brave enough to face the necessary hard decisions to actually step out of the situation to save myself. I wrapped myself in a cocoon of shame so deeply that if I dared to try and help save myself by leaving I feared to be so harshly judged by others it would feel like a death to me all over again. I honestly have feared being judged my entire life, yet I myself have been guilty to cast judgment on others without even considering the pain I casted into the world. I am deeply sorry to those friends who I have hurt in the past, and especially friends and family who I critically judged during some very low moments over the past few years when the phone stopped ringing years after Susan’s injury.
I am so thankful to my dear friend Lynda, who introduced me to the Brene’ Brown series of books. After reading Rising Strong back in February I actually started to see my situation from a completely different vantage point. Never before did I even conceive that leaving a 17-year relationship would actually be an act of love, bravery, and courage, whereas before I viewed leaving Susan as a cowardly act, weak in the mind, and a direct slash of character. I will say with complete transparency that I now know that my drinking had a direct correlation with my inability to actually get in the arena and do the necessary dirty work within myself. It was just easier for me to mask the pain with a bottle of wine, stay in a constant fog, continue to feel disappointment, frustration, anger, sadness, and not deal with the situation with a clear head. I believe that alcohol is one of the most prevalent masking devices in our society and we have all contributed to normalizing of it in our lives. I too fell right in the middle of this category, whereas it was completely in my normal category to get buzzed at dinner or during the week as a part of mainstream society. I never felt like it was a problem until I really took a hard look at myself and wondered why I continued to feel so helpless and finally said, “Deb, what could you gain in your life if you truly committed yourself to raising your level of consciousness into a higher level of living in the future?” The answer was pretty loud and clear once I asked myself the hard questions and honestly did not care what others might think. In fact, I love myself much more today with much more peace, joy, filled with daily happiness, and ambitions to create fun in every moment, then when I had a glass of wine in my hand. I am free to have great insightful conversations without worrying what stupid things might fly out of my mouth and really regret the next day. Of course another candid quality and benefit for me living a sober life is that my body, mind, and soul are in the best shape I can recall in over 20 years. The thought of putting something toxic in my system with the potential to make me sick is just not appealing to me anymore. I first started to think about living a sober lifestyle about a year ago after a very bad hangover one morning. I vividly remember my failed attempt to sweat it out at the gym while running next to one of my students on a treadmill. I remember feeling like a stinky slug bug with really bad body odor that should have been clicking at a nice pace with this kid 1/3 my age. That did not happen, as I was attempting to detoxify two bottles of wine from the previous night. I have always strived to be a positive light bearing role model for young people by living an adventuresome healthy life physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and now finally truly authentically without alcohol. When the time is right this year for one of my renowned Deb Walter metaphor locker room chats, I will share this story with my students about how I truly found the missing link of inner peace within me. I continue to bravely lean into my own personal fears of self-judgment, forgiveness, by deeply reconnecting my life spiritually through powerful uplifting prayers and a grace filled inner light.
As I wrap up the summer blog series I reflect upon some of my personal Post Cards from the Edge lessons learned. I learned by creating my own future by being responsible for my own experience, increases in happiness and newfound optimisms for prosperity has taken a quantum leap forward. I have the innate ability to grasp both logic and the spirit of the situation opening new doors possibilities each day. I heard somewhere that the pursuit of knowledge often reveals more questions than it does answers and I fully agree with this statement. I have reconnected with trusting my intuition and not questioning the ebb and flow of my daily experiences. My true desire in life is to continue to be involved in human relationships where I can help bring peace, harmony, and improve the lives of those I care about and respect. While reflecting upon my journey over the summer I have come to realize that the time I have spent praying and meditating about the critical lessons in my life have provided a roadmap for the future by following my heart without allowing people to take advantage of me. I'm practicing and still need to slow down to make wise decisions in a more organized and systematic approach to my business matters and finances, but at least I have identified that as an area for growth over the next few years. I am learning how to be more present in my daily choices of creating my personal destiny through emotional mature choices. I fully accept the responsibility of my own doing for impulsive financial decisions made in the past and in the future am making changes in a responsible way to catapult the rest of my life into a positive prosperous path. I have learned that not everyone makes correct decisions all the time and I am learning that it takes time and a better understanding of myself to move in the direction I now desire. In a recent article I read, the Dalai Lama once said, “To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.” I am sure I will continue to search for truth my entire life, as I truly love to delve deeply into the secrets of nature and the human mind. As I reflect upon my spiritual journey and what I desire I know I have often feared deep sharing my inner world, thoughts, and truly trusting others. I am consciously aware of this now and seek to associate with people that have similar interests and will appreciate my contributions into learning about deeper spiritual understanding across the many worlds. I am extremely interested in the supernatural and the many spiritual sides of life. I fully recognize by investing myself in a divine love of continued growth I will find a partner who is interested in perusing their interests with me. In the past, I have found this area of my life to be challenging as when I have an emotional investment in the situation I would dig my heels in and resist change at all costs and especially had a hard time of letting go of things and people who could no longer support me emotionally. I have always had a hard time saying NO and over committing myself to projects that I was really not invested in. However today I am dedicating my focus to lead a balanced life full of passion, adventure, with compassion and love for others yet feel free to be responsible for doing things my own way. I love when life offers me new opportunities, as I feel empowered when challenged with complicated situations and I can get straight to the bottom line and figure things out. I learned this lesson while in Santa Cruz, CA when my car keys were stolen at a Starbucks one morning.
A few more insightful lessons I have learned about myself this summer is my deep desire to explore and travel to places unknown. I have an enthusiastic spirit and am embracing my true authentic self of independence creating and adapting to lots of changes in my life. I have spent a lot of time quietly reflecting and gaining greater clarity into myself while understanding how important it is for me to have a balanced peaceful and gentle life with security for myself. I have a strong creative expression and I know this trait is fuel for my happiness and future as I am always looking for ways to reinvent myself and help others in new ways. I have always leaned towards leadership roles and desire to utilize more of my creative talents spreading my wings into an eventual writing lecture series career. I strongly feel new doors of opportunity are right around the corner as I am listening to my intuition, passions, and courage. I am proud to have begun new routines of time management, money management, and other more practical forms of disciple within my daily routine. I am using this time in my life to assert my individually and move forward with new plans for the next year by partnering with congenial like-minded friends and associates. My daily intention is to stay on task and embrace these new changes, committing my time and resources from the heart, gently delegating tasks to others, and expanding my horizons by sharing my talents with others. By finally embracing the unknown with no expectations from people, places, or things I am learning new perspectives and actually Rising Strong within myself. I remember the past, yet embrace the light today, dance and sing, close my eyes tonight, while dreaming about tomorrow's possibilities. I understand why I do what I do and how I choose to experience my life. I am my own agent of divine purpose. This summer I immersed myself in some excellent reading and I will close out this blog with a quote from the Teachings of Gautama – The Buddha, “When you understand the truth of suffering, it’s causes, it’s remedy, and it’s means of cessation you will walk the right path. Right view will be the torch that lights your way. Right aspirations will be your guide; right speech will be your dwelling place on life’s road. Your way will be straight, for it is the right behavior. Your nourishment will be the right means of earning your livelihood, right endeavors will be your steps, right thoughts will be your breath; and right contemplation will provide you abiding space. I have truly been blessed beyond comprehension with the hundreds of people who have shared their stories and lives with me this summer. I treasure my time spent on horses, a lot of Starbucks, sidewalks, airports, parking lots across the US, trailheads, mountaintops, riverbanks, lakes, and beaches. I am eternally grateful for the continued sweet whispers from my angels who say, “Deb your on the right path, continue to go forth as a beacon of light, guiding, sharing, inspiring, and love all those who cross your path.” My first of several books will be coming out sometime around the summer 2018. Stay tuned for upcoming pre-orders and release dates.
May the Journey Begin Within You