Monday, October 9, 2017

Rebel & Muse Yoga Retreat: The Enlightened Unicorn Transformation

The tree swing at Sagrada
Before we get started, make sure you have coffee (or water) in hand.  I have 12 pages of handwritten notes about my experience this weekend, so this is going to be a long post (and those are just my notes about this particular blog...my journal entries span many more pages).  Realistically, I probably should have made this into six blog posts, but I am so excited to get it all out, that I'm just going to type it up and let you decide how much you want to read. 

This weekend, I attended the Rebel & Muse yoga retreat at Sagrada Wellness in the San Luis Obispo area (my first EVER yoga retreat).  (And, I could write a whole blog post on how amazing Sagrada was.)  It was hosted by Melanie and Kaleo Wassman of Yoga Oceanside.  Before I even get to the events of the weekend, I need to rewind a little bit.  This is a bit of, "wow, what a small world" (or a "thank you, Universe, you always know what you're doing!") that can't be ignored. 

In 2003/2004, I attended a Slightly Stoopid concert in San Francisco with my long-time friends, Vanessa and Rachelle.  One of the opening acts was a band called Pepper -- three boys from Hawaii, who have come to the mainland to rock out.  My interest was immediately piqued, as I had a history with my friends, Sunburn, five boys from Hawaii (different island) who came to the mainland around the same time (1999/2000) to rock out.  I was hooked immediately.  I certainly enjoy a good mellow stoner band, but Pepper's energy and stage presence were indescribable.  I was an instant fan, and for the past 13-14 years, I have gone to see Pepper in concert a couple of times each year.  Over the years, I have separately run into each of the three members backstage or wandering big festival shows, and each really does seem to embody the island way of thinking.  They were always extremely kind to me. 

The most amazing gift bags ever!
I have been doing yoga for about 20 years.  I started in a women's only gym when I was 21.  It was purely another class to add to my growing list of things I forced myself to do to lose weight.  For years, I never cared about the spirituality of it, or even fully connected my breath with the moves.  I certainly didn't consider it a practice.  I did the moves I was told to do and I breathed if the move forced me to or if I was told to breathe.  That was it.  In more recent times, I have learned that studio yoga is a million times better than gym yoga.  But studio yoga is expensive and when you have a gym membership, it can sometimes be hard to justify the expense of a second yoga studio membership. 

Four or five years ago, I struck gold.  I joined the brand new big Walnut Creek 24 Hour Fitness and met Theresa.  I don't know what it was about her.  I liked that she made jokes during class ("turn towards the door you'd like to run out of") but she also infused positivity into class.  She made it spiritual without completely freaking out the gym rats who couldn't possibly understand there is a difference between gym yoga and studio yoga.  I liked her flow and her presence.  A few years ago, I was packing up after class, and I vaguely heard Theresa mention the band, Pepper.  I ran over and immediately fan-girl screamed: "That's my favorite band in the whole wide world!!!"  Turns out that Theresa trained with Melanie, Kaleo's wife, and had stayed at their home many times.  Oh yeah, Kaleo is the guitarist of Pepper.  What a small world!  I was so excited.  So we'd chat on occasion about the band, and about the shows when they came to town. 

This unicorn likes tequila
In 2015, I got a pass to meet Pepper backstage before the Sublime with Rome show in Concord.  The guys were all super nice and gracious.  They chatted and took photos with us (I laid around on the ground with Yesod's bulldog while she licked me in the face).  But I just didn't find the right opening to mention to Kaleo that I knew Theresa.  My second opportunity came in 2016.  I was in Vegas for Pole Expo at the Hard Rock and guess who was playing a show at the pool while I was there?!  PEPPER!  I almost lost my mind.  The guys did a meet and greet at the tattoo shop right down the hallway from my tower, so I decided to go down and say hello.  I was one of the last people in line and almost had to talk my way in.  I went down the line as the guys signed my poster and I mentioned to Kaleo that I knew Theresa.  His eyes lit up immediately.  We briefly chatted and he told me about Rebel & Muse -- and the yoga retreat that was happening about three weeks from then.  He said he thought there was one spot left.  I went home and looked into the retreat.  There was indeed a spot left.  I had a hard time justifying spending that much money for the retreat when I had dropped thousands on that Vegas trip.  So I told myself I'd check again in a week or two and, if the spot was still available, I'd consider it "meant to be" and I'd go.  When I checked again, it was sold out.  The Universe had spoken.

In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't get into the retreat last year.  Although I think I was beginning my transformation period, I wasn't fully ready for the intensity of the emotions that came out of me at the retreat.  I think if I had made it last year, I may have been scared off from the work I needed to do -- which I have been doing over the last year.  I kept my eye on the website and as soon as I saw the retreat was open for 2017, I signed up. 

Our yoga space
A couple of months ago, I also started listening to the Rebel & Muse podcast.  It was a nice appetizer before the retreat because it helped me get to know a little bit about Kaleo and Melanie.  I love them as a couple.  Their respect for themselves and each other is so beautiful -- and it comes out in their podcast.  It also helped me see Kaleo as a person.  I'm not trying to lie to you -- we can't gloss over the fact that this is an extremely handsome man who is the guitar player in my FAVORITE BAND IN THE WORLD.  Had I not had the pre-introduction, I feel like I may have embarrassed myself being a fan-girl (and I probably did anyway but everyone was kind enough not to point it out). 

The last year -- and especially in the last few months -- I really have been on a new path.  I have been reading a lot of books about generally making my life better.  I love Brene Brown.  In one of her books, she specifically states that gratitude is what helps create a joyful life.  Before I even read that book, I had named my 41st year my Year of Joy.  I've been putting photos in an album on Facebook to remind myself of all of the great things I have going in my life.  I also start each morning and end each evening recounting the things for which I am grateful.  Another step in creating a joyful life is self-love.  I struggle with this one sometimes.  On this blog (and the corresponding Facebook page), I constantly preach loving your body and yourself.  Have confidence!  Be yourself!  But it all felt like a lie.  I can talk the talk but I don't walk the walk.  Deep down, I didn't love myself.  And how can I be complete or expect someone else to love me if I don't? 

On the way to the retreat, I finished an audiobook, "Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl."  I had actually stopped listening to self-help books recently because I feel like they all just point out how fucked up I am and they don't offer any real ways to help fix me.  This book was in my queue and I had been ignoring it and I suddenly decided it was time to give it a listen.  I feel like it was kind of the final nail in the coffin of old-Lori.  Only-half-enlightened-Lori.  There's a great line about not accepting crumbs and convincing yourself they are loaves.  I am worthy.  I do deserve better.  And I am a whole and complete person, just the way I am now.  I got out of the car feeling like I had truly turned the corner on this transformation period. 

The girls' room
I didn't know what to expect at this retreat.  I knew there would be yoga and there would be journaling.  That's it.  And what kind of yoga?!  Is everyone going to be doing headstands and pulling their legs behind their heads?  I may be a 20 year yoga veteran, but I'm not super flexible, and I'm still working on gaining strength.  When I arrived, I was greeted by Melanie, Kaleo and Tracy, another retreat member.  They were so warm and welcoming.  I was given a tour around the property and we took my things upstairs to the "girls' room."  I actually immediately recognized the building as something I had dreamed of about a week before the retreat.  The outside of the building was the same -- green and two-story, although in my dream, the inside was set up more like a hotel.  It was pretty cool.  I felt instantly at home. 

As people arrived, it became clear that pretty much everyone knew each other.  So then I worried I would feel out of place, like I was crashing a party.  And it wasn't like that at all.  I never felt left out.  There were four couples (three of which were celebrating their anniversaries) and three single girls.  Everyone was so kind and open.  I felt like I was hanging out with old friends.  I especially enjoyed watching all of the couples model loving relationships.  I also appreciated that everyone was so open to hugging each other.  We all could use a little more appropriate touch in our lives.  I feel like often when men who aren't family members hug or touch me, it is in a sexual way (whether welcomed by me or not).  Here, everyone could hug each other, or put a hand on your shoulder to reassure you, or rub your back to comfort you and there was zero sexual connotation.  It was a bunch of people offering healing touch as a gift with nothing expected in return.  Later in the evening, we had our first yoga class.  I sweat like a pig, but I felt like I totally nailed it.  It helps that my instructor was trained by Melanie, so their styles are very similar and I never felt lost.  I judge my yoga classes by how often I can close my eyes or stare straight ahead and zone out.  I hate having to stare at a teacher whose cues I completely don't understand.  Later, we all ate dinner together, and then we were given journaling prompts.  The evening group session was a little intense for me, and I let myself be vulnerable and cry in front of strangers (the horror!!!), but everyone was so supportive and sweet.  I am realizing we need to let ourselves feel all the feels rather than stuffing them down.  Also, I need to accept that, without hard times, I would never appreciate the good times.  Crying isn't a bad thing.  The group sessions were very powerful. And, the entire weekend was, in fact, filled with yoga and journaling.  It was also clear the theme of the retreat was completely in line with my life: let go and love yourself.

Morning hike
One of the things I decided to try while I was there was to be present in each moment.  I often spend so much time at events taking photos and videos that I don't necessarily enjoy myself.  And what am I trying to do?  Remind myself later of the amazing time I should be having right now?  Make you jealous that you missed it?  Well, in the process of trying to keep everyone else in the loop of my life, *I* am missing out.  (HERE is my recent post about being busy and FOYMO.)  So, although I did have my phone in hand during certain times for photos, I left it in my room more often than not.  And if I started to feel antsy that I wished I had it to take a photo or video of something, I just journaled about it instead. 

Saturday morning, I got up early and hiked straight up a crazy hill to watch the sunrise.  Initially, when we arrived at the top, I was bummed because a hill was blocking my view of the actual rise.  But then I turned around and realized that all of the gorgeous colors of the sky (and a view of the still-present full moon) was fucking amazing.  It made me wonder how many times I had my eyes on a prize in front of me, when what I really needed was right behind me -- I just never turned around to notice. 

Saturday afternoon, I had acupuncture for the first time.  I didn't have anything extremely specific that I wanted to address, but I told her about some of the emotional stuff I've been dealing with lately.  She decided to help me release some of that.  She placed the needles and asked if I could feel anything.  I kind of felt something near my ears but nothing too exciting.  She left me to relax for half an hour or so.  I started to fall into that pre-sleep phase.  I was aware of the music and the temperature in the room but my mind was blank.  Suddenly, I felt like I was going to throw up.  I didn't want to sit up or move because I didn't want to knock any needles out of place.  So I kind of lifted my head a tiny bit and swallowed it down.  I fell back into that relaxed state again fairly quickly.  A little bit later, I became aware of my surroundings again.  My entire body felt like it was buzzing and it felt like there were kaleidoscopes spinning inside of me.  It was a really intense and interesting experience.  I left feeling more open.  Another step down the path of enlightenment.   

Saturday evening, we had a jam session.  Musical instruments, singing, dancing.  Old-me would have felt silly participating.  I can't sing in tune to save my life.  I can barely keep a beat, so playing an instrument is comical.  And I know I can't really dance that well.  So, I was worried I would not fit in during this portion of the event.  Well, guess what?  I played some of the instruments, sang, and danced.  Never once did I have any fucks to give about how silly I potentially looked.  And no one else cared either.  Because we were all too busy laughing and enjoying ourselves.  It was freeing. 

One of my three journals for the weekend
I was journaling about this experience before we left on Sunday.  Initially, I felt like this retreat was the exclamation point on my transformation.  As if the transformation was complete and I was suddenly going to live this perfectly enlightened life.  However, since we all know life is a journey and not a destination, I feel like the semi-colon is actually a better choice of punctuation (the semi-colon is often used by survivors of suicide to show that their story isn't over).  My story isn't over.  This retreat did help me feel like I have fully stepped into my power, but my journey continues.  I wrote in my journal: "I had a fucking fantastic weekend at this retreat; and I will take the things I learned to help me have a fantastic life continuing on."  We must all continue to grow and learn -- otherwise, we will become stagnant and die. 

I told this story during a group session.  I truly grasped the meaning of the whole "life is a journey, not a destination" thing when I visited Maui in 2010.  People suggested we do the Road to Hana.  I didn't do a ton of research, so I just figured out where we needed to go, heard we needed a couple of hours to get there, and away we went.  I was traveling with my ex and he is legally blind, so he couldn't really see the views well.  He also gets car sick so I was mostly rushing on this windy road to get to Hana.  We made it and were extremely unimpressed with what was there.  Why is this place special?  (No offense, people of Hana!!)  It's a little town.  There's some water.  What I then learned is that the ROAD to Hana *is* the attraction.  We should have been stopping to go see beaches and take little hikes.  Hana is not the reason you take the Road to Hana.  So we completely missed the point and spent a day just driving, when we should have been exploring and going on adventures. 

Here's what I feel like I have learned over the last year: I am not broken; I just have some things I'd like to change.  I feel like I am finally in sync with the message I put out on this Confessions page.  I have been preaching self-love, confidence, and body acceptance for almost eight years.  Well, now it is finally time for me to believe it for myself.  I am worthy.  I am complete.  I am whole.  I am enough.  Just as I am.  Right here.  Today.  Tomorrow.  And for the rest of my life. 

Thoughts become things.  So be careful about the thoughts you allow to creep around in the back of your mind.  You may not realize it, but those are the limiting beliefs that are holding you back. 

I will no longer stuff feelings by using food, alcohol, shopping, sex or over-scheduling (okay, that last one might take awhile to really get down).  I will forgive people for not being what I expected them to be.  It generally is my expectations that cause my disappointments, rather than the other person's actions.  I will then forgive myself for putting those expectations on others.  I truly believe that, with some exceptions, most people are doing the best they can with the tools they have.  There's a quote about holding a grudge that I love.  It is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  I'm not going to drink the poison anymore. 

The gorgeous sky at sunrise
I feel like I have been spending a lot of time trying to figure out my life purpose over the last couple of years.  Although I feel like I am supposed to be part of the body acceptance movement, I also recently trained to be a hospice volunteer.  I truly believe that it is part of my journey to help people at the end of their time on this earth.  I actively (albeit unconsciously) started this journey a few years ago when I started working with Ellen and taking ownership of my health by choosing healthy foods and supplements.  Separating spirituality from religion (based on my upbringing) has also been key to finding that connection.   It feels like the final puzzle pieces in figuring out that whole Mind-Body-Spirit connection have now come together.

So, all weekend, I kind of broke myself down, trying to release those final bits of whatever has been holding me back.  On Sunday morning, Kaleo led a yoga class to the soundtrack of Bob Marley's album, Uprising.  The album cover is Bob coming out of a volcano with his fists extended in the air.  Pure exaltation.  It was the perfect way to build myself back up after letting all of the other crap go.

I have so much more to write but I feel like this is already too long.  I will organize these notes and put a Part 2 together soon. 

Thank you to Melanie and Kaleo for creating a safe space for all of us this weekend, and for intuitively knowing exactly what each of us needed.  Thank you for being part of my journey and helping me transform into a more enlightened unicorn.  Time is valuable, and I truly consider it a gift when people bless me with their time.  I am so grateful for the experiences I had this weekend, and for the people who shared it with me.  We all agreed that the right people are called to appear at the times they are needed, so each of us had something to share that someone else there needed to hear this weekend.  Being grateful is a practice.  It is easy to share memes on Facebook, and it's a good start, but making gratitude part of your daily practice helps keep your thoughts and actions in line with your core values. 

Namaste.

Bitches.  ;-)  (I'm still me, even if I am a little more zen.)

P.S.  Just for fun.  In 2008, I was side stage during a Pepper show at X-Fest in Modesto.  My ex grabbed Kaleo as he left the stage.  He was very gracious, although he was clearly tired, hot and sweaty from playing outside in the heat, and we took a photo.  Nine years later, we recreated the photo. 


 
From the meet and greet at Concord Pavilion in 2015:
 



 


From the meet and greet at Hard Rock Las Vegas in 2016:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Photos by Somer of Lockbox Studios

I did another photoshoot with Somer of Lockbox Studios at Pole Expo in Las Vegas last month.  All I can do is squeeee....enjoy! 

(And if you like the Artista Apparel outfit, make sure you use the code ABALM10 for 10% off non-sale items!)



















Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Operation Upside Down: Month 3

Handstand on the Golden Gate Bridge
If you've been following me lately, you know I've been on the hunt for inversions.  If you haven't, you can check out my Month 2 update HERE.  September began with recovery from NCPP, a long weekend and a trip to Las Vegas for Pole Expo.  So, I missed the first two weeks of Bottoms Up class with Janet.  I did make it to lyra twice with Jen.  I did a choreography class with Jill.  Plus, I did a floor flow workshop with Morgan.  I also performed (if you could call it that -- I could barely walk in those heels) at Robert's Twirl for a Cause show.  I feel like I got some decent practice in this month.  At my final Bottoms Up class for September (just last week), my first chopper actually felt strong.  I felt like *I* actually lifted myself up.  You won't be able to tell on the video, but I felt it and Janet felt it.  The choppers that followed went back to feeling like Janet was pushing me into them.  BUT, that is PROGRESS!  I have been frustrated because I feel stronger in lyra than I do in pole.  Maybe because I can throw myself around a little easier in lyra.  So this was the first time I felt stronger in pole as well.  I am so excited!

So enjoy some videos and photos from the previous month of strength training and fun!

Preparing for a photoshoot at Pole Expo in Vegas

We love our Vegas nudies
Jill's Pony routine:


Learning new things in Lyra wearing my new She-Fit bra, which I loved!


Whoops...sideways chopper:


Flowing with Mo:


Look who hauled her ass up into the tall hoop!


Robert's show:


I did it!  Almost by myself!






Mermaiding...cuz mermaiding

Something about these glasses automatically makes you a bad ass

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Art of Being Busy

 As many of you know, I've been on a little bit of a journey -- a spiritual awakening, perhaps -- moving toward self-acceptance and love.  I'm trying to spend less time criticizing myself and more time adding positivity to my life. 

One of the audio books I downloaded to help me through the last few months was Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection.  I am going to overly simplify one of the messages, but she talks about gratitude being essential for feeling joy.  This was awesome to hear since I have named this year my Year of Joy, and I have been focusing on gratitude lately.  I have often felt like "happiness" was an unattainable life goal.  No one has a constantly happy life.  But having a joyful life, which I used to call "content," is completely attainable.  It doesn't mean I don't have hard times, bad days, or sad moments.  It means my life is generally full of joy, which helps me better deal with those moments.  And those moments pass a little faster now that I am better equipped to deal with them.  I remind myself every morning and every evening of the things for which I am grateful -- mostly people, since most "things" are merely comfort items that I don't NEED to live.  I am grateful for the obvious things -- a job I enjoy, a place to live, etc.  But I am most grateful for a family that is close and friends who "get" me.  I am grateful for the experiences and adventures I get to have, and the traveling I am lucky enough to do.  I remind myself of all the good in my life, which helps me lead a more joyful life. 

One of the things Brene talks about in the book is how we use things to numb ourselves.  Some things are easy.  Food.  Alcohol.  Drugs.  Shopping.  Sex.  One caught me by surprise.  Being busy.  Overscheduling yourself is really no different than numbing your feelings with ten margaritas after work.  Holy shit.  Welcome to my life. 

I feel like I've been working on this issue for years.  It used to be that my weekends were scheduled out for months.  No joke.  If you had a party coming up, you better give me at least three months lead time, otherwise I was already going to be booked.  Every evening and each weekend was packed to the gills.  And my friends all knew.  I had them trained to give me a head's up if they were thinking about planning something.  Often, I would go from event to event, never really enjoying them, because I was thinking of where I had to be next.  So a few years ago, I tried to implement the "one thing per day rule."  Sure, sometimes I have to break the rule, but I do try hard not to over-schedule important events like birthday parties.  Also, I have made Sundays my recharge day for the most part.  Sundays generally consist of yoga, grocery shopping and hanging out with the babies.  Of course, other things come up, but I try hard not to let that become the norm. 

Although, I see how I use being busy as a numbing mechanism, how do I not do all of these things?  I have to work to pay the bills -- 40+ hours gone.  I have to work out -- yoga and pole are essential.  Hospice volunteering.  Visiting with friends and family.  Horseback riding.  Concerts -- live music makes me so happy.  NCPP planning each year.  Journaling, meditation and gratitude practice.  Weekends filled with events...  This month has been awesome: A beach adventure with the family and walking the Golden Gate Bridge.  Vegas for Pole Expo with friends.  Last weekend was epic: mermaid'ing, performing in Robert's show, attending Folsom Street Faire, and playing at Diana's gymnastics school.  This weekend I'm going to a friend's birthday party, the Renaissance Faire, Dave & Buster's fancy dress party, and am hoping to make yoga Sunday before I go see the babies.  There's a drag show Sunday night, but that has to be an optional event since I've been burning the candle at both ends lately and need to sleep sometime.  I used to say I'll sleep when I'm dead, but I'm starting to realize I'm going to BE dead if I don't sleep sometime soon!  Next weekend I'm off to San Luis Obispo for a three day yoga retreat.  While I am looking forward to it, and it will be relaxing, it is still a three to four hour drive, and all three days seemed packed with things for us to do.  The following weekend, I have the Out of the Darkness Walk at 6 AM, and then I leave for Disneyland with my family on Sunday.  We are going to be making a six plus hour drive with the kids, and then we will be in the park for two days.  The weekend after that is a pole show at Twirly Girls (although I will not be performing).  The following weekend is Disney on Ice, and a costume party with friends.  November consists of a three day weekend in Carmel with friends and Thanksgiving.  December has me returning to Carmel and then heading to Vegas with the family.  Oh, and don't forget Christmas! 

I have so many trips I want to take and not yet enough time off work or money to be able to do them all.  Thailand to visit family, England to see Rachelle, Hawaii to see Jake.  The Maldives.  A million other places I'd like to go!

Honestly, I'm exhausted.  I enjoy all of those things, though, so how do I start saying no to fun?  Life is about the adventures.  I work so that I can afford to do all of these fun things. 

And why did I just feel compelled to list out my entire itinerary for the rest of this year?  Am I asking you to validate my life or asking you to commit me to a mental institution?  Oh, well perhaps this is just addict behavior.  I don't have FOMO (fear of missing out), I have FOYMO (fear of YOU missing out...on my awesome life).  I have always wondered why I feel compelled to take so many photos and videos everywhere I go.  I've always told myself it was because I wanted to make sure people were included in my fun.  Maybe the truth is I just want to prove to everyone that I have a cool life.  Or maybe I'm trying to convince myself -- that I do have a great life and I deserve all of the joy that I have right now.  I honestly don't know.  I'm just typing out loud here and throwing around ideas. 

I guess I could end this by saying I'm going to try to do less, which is something I've "tried" to do for years.  I feel like I actually DO a lot less than I used to.  I make time for the people who matter to me, and the people who matter to me make time for me.  I am eating healthy and taking care of my body (well, except that whole sleep thing).  I am happy with my life, and although I may still be leaning on the crutch of being busy, I know I'm not perfect, so this is going to be another work in progress.