Gratitude: The Authentic Kind

*Originally written for Solyoga Trips

Yesterday afternoon I went for a long trail run in the hills–bands of rosy light were stretching through the tree branches and hitting the leaves so they would glow with late autumn reds and yellows. As I ran deeper into the hills, it got cooler and the moss grew more dense on the eucalyptus and redwood trunks; my exhales looked like puffs of smoke as they meshed with the crispy air. After I got to the top of a hard climb my legs were hot with blood and I looked out through a break in the trees, able to see for a few miles in the distance. The sun was setting and the hills turned gold. I stopped running and just stood, just looked. “I’m lucky,” I said out loud. This time I didn’t have the dogs with me, so I can’t lie to you and say I was talking to them. I said it to myself. Because that’s how I felt. It felt true.


I wasn’t looking forward to writing a yay-let’s-be-thankful-because-Thanksgiving-is-coming post. Every November, I struggle to write something fresh instead of the cliche Why You Should Be Grateful article. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. But one thing I promise is that I’m not just writing this because I feel like I should or I think it’s what people want to hear this time of year. I believe in this stuff. I believe in gratitude.

And yeah, Thanksgiving is coming so what the hell.

Gratitude is a weird concept for Westerners. It doesn’t always come naturally for us, because our culture doesn’t really encourage us to be thankful. Instead we’re bombarded with messages about how we don’t have enough money, happiness, and things, how we should somehow be better, stronger, healthier, more successful and less of a fuck up. No wonder we find it hard to be grateful–we’re constantly surrounded by the suggestion that what we have now isn’t anything to smile about.

As a culture, we don’t like to admit that gratitude is difficult for us sometimes. I mean, come on, weren’t we the ones who created mother effing Thanksgiving for God’s sake?! ….no? That wasn’t us? Oh…well whatever. What we are is stuck in a really confusing moral battle with ourselves–we know that we should be thankful for all we have, but in the next second we get bombarded with “your life isn’t good enough” from all different directions.

So what do we do?

I don’t think that gratitude will ever really work for us or feel authentic unless we can step away from the constant struggle to better ourselves and our lives. That’s not to say that we should stop setting goals and having big dreams–but we need to find a balance between being content with right now, and being excited for what’s to come.

Gratitude isn’t a pick and choose kind of concept. We can’t be thankful for our home but wish for a bigger backyard, or happy that we have a job but not so happy about the car that drives us there. In my experience, it doesn’t work like that. Either love it all or you really don’t love any of it. And maybe love is the wrong word, but maybe it isn’t. The things, people, and situations that make up our lives are infinitely woven together and connected, and if we aren’t grateful for one aspect of it, the whole spider web shifts.

For me, gratitude usually comes in moments, bubbling up to the surface when I’m surrounded by my family, see something beautiful, or sometimes just randomly–like when I was trail running. But it never really leaves, it’s not only present when there is a reason for it to be. Gratitude can be in every moment, and even though it might be kind of shy and quiet in the corner of the room, it’s still there. Always.

Gratitude isn’t about comparison, it’s not ‘hey at least I’m not that guy’, it shouldn’t feel forced or fake or phony. Being grateful doesn’t mean we aren’t sad when something bad happens, because yeah, sometimes shitty things happen. And sometimes, really shitty things happen. Gratitude doesn’t undermine or devalue what happened, and we sure as hell don’t have to be all giddy and happy for the bad stuff.

We know that having gratitude is something we need, for all of those cliche reasons listed in every November issue of a healthy living magazine or blog. But we also need gratitude for another, not so obvious reason–it is something that we must have in order to heal. Gratitude acts like a salve that eases the sting of being hurt, makes the throb of loss more tolerable, and helps transform what was a deep, vulnerable wound into a pretty cool looking scar.

Happy Thanksgiving.




I’m sick of adjectives

The other night I got a really strong urge to write, I didn’t know what about or why, but I knew I had to get some words on a page. I opened up a new word document and just let it flow, Peter Christopher-style.

Peter Christopher was one of my writing professors in college who died of cancer when I was a junior. When he was still teaching, and even after his death, his name was always brought up in conversations among writing and linguistics students–he was THE teacher you just HAD to have. He was THE one that was gonna pull the best writing out of you, THE guy that could really teach you how to be a writer, THE professor that would make you fall in love with writing.

Rumor had it that his class would completely change your life. We called him PC for short.

I signed up for his Magical Realism class and prepared my mind to be blown. It was different from how I thought it would be. I went in there thinking I was about to meet some super inspirational, deep, wisdom-filled guy who was going to teach me how to write. PC was all of those things, but not in the way you’d think. He wasn’t in your face about it, preachy, soft, or sugary. He hated fluffy stuff like adjectives. He wasn’t at all like a yoga teacher.

PC pissed me off every single day. Even when I didn’t have a class with him. I can’t even describe why. Something about his no frills and bullshit made me mad. Like he could see right through all of our acts and for someone like me, who at this point in my life was pretty good at acting, this cracked me wide open. And no, it didn’t feel good, it got me mad. He made us write every single day, for at least fifteen minutes. When he asked us if we were writing every day we would lie about it. We lied to him all the time about the work we were doing because we wanted his approval, we wanted him to think of us as writers. But he knew. He’d say things like hmm…well…it seems to me like it wouldn’t kill you guys to be writing some more.

He had us do a lot of free writing–where we would just sit down, no thinking, just writing, and get it all out. “Keep your pen moving,” PC would say. Even if we had nothing to say, he would make us write, I don’t know what to write. He said that eventually something would come. “Don’t cross things out that you think sound bad, just keep going. Just keep writing. Don’t stop. Have it be like a stream of consciousness. Just get some words on the page.”

So this is what I did almost every day for fifteen minutes while I was in his class. And the other night, this is what I did too. I hadn’t done this in a very, very long time.

What came out was a lot of blabber, a lot of I don’t know what to write, and something a little more surprising–anger. It was anger like PC used to make me feel. That anger that comes with getting really honest, the stripped down to the bones, no one cares about your feelings kind of honest. The kind that we hate but that’s really good for us.

It turns out that I’m angry about a lot of things, but especially about yoga. About how yoga is supposed to be this thing that helps us get closer to that kind of honesty, the truth, but that sometimes, it’s actually just another thing that covers it all up. It’s full of the stuff PC hated: frills, bullshit, fluff, adjectives.

Over the years, I’ve bought into a lot of the frills and fluff that yoga promises. If you just eat like this, you’ll be happy, if you practice every day, you’ll be a better person, if you’re ever angry or sad or hateful then, well, something’s wrong with you. You must not be doing enough yoga.

Yoga teachers usually don’t admit when they’re flawed, especially if that flaw is anger. We’re supposed to be peaceful and calm and enlightened and shit. But we aren’t. I’m angry that no one admits when they’re angry anymore.

Anger can be kind of a good thing. Noticing the things that really piss you off can teach you so much about yourself. When something really gets on your nerves it’s worth it to wonder why. I’m pissed at how full of shit yoga can be because for a while I bought into some of yoga’s shit and I don’t like that.

The things that make us mad are really just reflections of what we don’t like about ourselves.

PC taught me that. Well, actually, I taught me that. But PC pulled it out of me. No OMs, lavender essential oil, soothing music, vegan-friendly restaurants, Yoga Sutras, eye pillows, lululemon pants, coconut water or kombucha required.

That’s the kind of yoga I love. Just me and my mat. And that’s the kind of yoga I try to teach. Stripped down. Maybe a few lessons every now and then but nothing frilly. Nothing fluffy. And definitely no adjectives.


Movement, as always…

So I know I said “im back!” in my last post and then…left you all hanging, again, but this time I’m back for real. Hope you all aren’t too mad at me, but somehow I think you’re surviving just fine without my weekly ramblings. And I’ll warn you, usually I try to post about things that relate to everyone’s life, just so this blog doesn’t turn into some egotistical dumping ground for uninteresting happenings in my life, but this one is pretty me-centered. I truly hope that you can relate or get something out of this other than knowledge of what’s going on with me.

So. Here’s the quick and dirty update on my life: I got hired as an intern for Solyoga trips (the coolest yoga/travel company EVER), and as a yoga instructor at Square One Yoga Collective (the coolest yoga studio in the East bay EVER). I’ve been writing a lot too, and have even gotten some articles published. Don’t read that one unless you’re okay with swearing and want to know the definition of luluWhore.

So yes, everything has been going swimmingly for me here. I spend my days teaching and practicing yoga, working and learning at Solyoga trips, rock climbing until my fingers bleed, and writing about whatever is on my mind. I’m not making a lot of money, well, actually, I’m really not making ANY money, but for right now, that’s okay.

And for all of you softies out there–yes, I am still really in love with Alex, more so than ever. Our relationship feels strong, fun, honest and supportive, despite the geographical distance between us. I love the shit out of that boy and he makes me happy all day.

My life these past few months has been exciting, creative, new, and always evolving. All has been well in the West.

And then, Colorado happened.

I went to visit my sister for a few days in Durango, and, as always, fell devastatingly in love with those mountains. Happens every damn time. The rock in Colorado is different: it’s dramatic, it stands out in the distance and taunts you with it’s perfection, sheer beauty, and unmistakable energy. It makes you feel different, wild somehow, and it just begs to be climbed. Climb me! It screams, loud enough to be heard all through the Aspen-dense valley.

God damnit. Just as soon as I start getting rooted down in the Bay Area, Colorado has to come along and be all, ohhh but wait George, look at me, I’m awesome and perfect for you and look at all these rocks I have.

Mother fucking Colorado.

As I hiked with my Dad and sister along the Animas river, I got that feeling like…yeah, this is where I want to be. And admittedly, I get that feeling from just about any place that’s beautiful and has rock, but Colorado has always been different. It’s on the top of my list of Places I’m Madly in Love With.

And yes, some of you know that when I was in Colorado I also visited Moab, Utah but I don’t want to talk about that because I’ll start crying about the fact that I’m sitting at a computer right now and I’m not there.

My heart has officially been broken by a Moabian boulder field. And I don’t wanna talk about it.

And so now, I’m faced with the same damn question I’ve had way too many times: should I move? Those of you who have read my blog from the beginning have seen that question come up for me more than once. If I go back and count it’s probably more like five times. And I’ve only been writing this blog for a little over a year.

Movement. Funny how that mindless, last-minute, slapped-on title has become nothing short of a perfect name for what I write about, for what I do, for what brings me the most blissful of joy and lands me in the most confusing of dilemmas.

I have come to realize that my passion (or should I call it a problem?) for geographical movement stems from fear. The fear of being rooted down, in any way, to a certain city or community. I’m afraid that if I settle, root, and grow in one place, that I’ll be missing out on some other experience (most likely involving the Rockies and being just a few hours drive away from Moab).  Not having the option to hit the road running absolutely scares the shit out of me. But how am I ever going to get rooted into a yoga community, get a long term job in the future (that actually makes me money), or have a family (in the way distant future) if as soon as I start to settle down, I run for the hills (or the Rockies)?

The gypsy life is glamourous and all, but doesn’t lend well to getting this little thing called dolladolla billz, something that, even though the yoga culture doesn’t like to admit it, we all really need.

I almost wish I hadn’t discovered this about myself, just so I could keep on unknowingly being a broke dumbass who can’t stay put. God damn yoga and it’s self-realization powers.

What I need is a way to get rooted, because being rooted to certain extents is good, while still having the ability to adventure and be the movement-junkie that I am. I need balance. Well good, at least I know what I need. Or think I know.

The difference between this Holy Shit Should I Move or Not Moment and all of my other ones is that I’m actually having fun with it. I’m so grateful that I can even ask this question, that I’m at That Age, that dreaming about packing up the car and driving until I’m just a speck on the horizon is something that I can actually do.

It feels good to be where I am, confused as all hell about what I’m doing with my life and sometimes even my day, but I’m happy.

So beloved reader, if you made it this far through my me-centered post I congratulate you. I hope this post finds you happy and healthy, and I love all of your comments, messages, and emails. Keep them coming, especially if you’re just as confused as I am about what to do about all this Life bullshit.

Love always,