Ask Parvati 14: The Death of Niceties and Feisties

DEATH OF NICETIES AND FEISTIES

THE BIRTH OF FIERCE COMPASSION

Dear Parvati,

I notice that when I am around other people I tend to go into people pleasing at the expense of myself. I wonder what you have to say about that.

DIALING “THEM” DOWN, DIALING ME UP

BECOMING AUTHENTIC

One of the pivotal quotes that shaped my life growing up was from one of my favorite musical icons, David Bowie. He said something like the worst trick God could play is to make you mediocre. Internalizing my version of his message, my motto became through high school and university that I would rather be an A or an F student than a C student.

Living by that belief, I developed two distinct personality traits, a tendency to edit myself to people please with niceties or plow through things with a fiery feistiness. Both extremes were fueled by a drive for what I understood to be “perfection”. The tension that lay between these and the fervour I put into trying to be “perfectly A” or “perfectly F” eventually consumed my health and wellbeing.

By the end of high school and into my first year of university, I was exhausted and stressed because I was not being authentically myself. Though it took me completing university and facing the rest of my life to figure it out, I eventually realized that I had allowed other people’s voices, wishes and dreams to unconsciously run my life. My feistily polite drive for “perfection” was based on the fear that if I were myself, I would not be loved.

I share this because I believe the fear that to be oneself would lead to a lack of love is not unique to me, but is surprisingly very common, even rampant in the human psyche. In the process of trying to come to terms with which inner voices were mine and which were not, I discovered that my extreme personality traits were like healthy qualities on steroids. Through various illnesses and harsh life lessons, I learned to dial down the intensity of my attachment to an idea of perfection and redirect the root energy that was driving it into more life affirming expressions.

I discovered that within my drive for perfection were many strong qualities. From this, immense creativity, powerful zeal and an ability to harness raw momentum out of almost any situation soon became my allies. Drawing upon these qualities, I learned to redirect my drive for perfection towards protecting my inner voice rather than the voice of others.

(I am very fond of the approach of self-help author Debbie Ford, whose shadow work helps people profoundly transform their lives, not by trying to get rid of “bad” qualities, but by finding the gems, the hidden teachings, in all we have within.)

Learning to be true to myself has meant letting go of a lot of excess. I have had to look at letting go of a tendency to become entangled in what others think. I needed to look at my defensiveness, learning to let go of a general, ongoing feeling of being judged or attacked. I have had to watch the death of my niceties and my feisties so that I could find the courage to go within and fiercely honour my own unique rhythm and voice.

As I began to live a more soul-directed life, I realized that doing so was not really the norm. Looking back at the construct I had started to leave behind, I saw that though on the surface it seemed that society supported excellence, the pull to live in the status quo was stronger in the collective consciousness. It seemed most people were complacently satisfied with fitting in and being “normal”.

WHY BE NORMAL?

Midway through university, I started to wear a pin on my coat that asked the question: “Why be normal?” I meant it as a provocative and sincere question as to what normality really meant to the world at large and to anyone who noticed me wearing it.

What I came to realize is that there is nothing wrong with being an A, B, C, D or F student, if that is who you truly are. We each are unique expressions of a divine force and it is our job to discover what that is and express it in our life. The problem is, most of us go through life on autopilot, as though we are asleep, wondering why life feels like a bad dream, tending to react to our unconscious thoughts and desires rather than learning to live fully and authentically.

When we begin to wake up, we wake up to, as the mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “the full catastrophe” of our lives. We learn to see the depth of our reactivity, the ways we give our power away to people and things and how we place happiness in some elusive place or person outside ourselves. Deeper still, we learn to touch and be present for the silent voices that rage through our actions, like feeling fundamentally “I can’t” or “I am not loved”.

When we come upon these old, hidden places within us, we must learn to pause and befriend them, rather than run from them pretending they do not hurt. When we welcome our full self into our self, we access our fullest power. We learn to see that our dreams are completely feasible, and that we have all we need to realize them. We begin to see that our main obstacle has been our self (no one else) and the antagonistic way we have seen the world.

As I began to find my own answers as to “why be normal?”, I started to follow an impulse, a powerful yet quiet force that lay waiting behind my conscious thoughts. It was within me and made no logical sense. But did it matter? I felt alive. I felt open. I felt connected. And in so doing, I was a better, fuller, more inspired, helpful and loving person.

In learning to find our unique rhythms, we need to try things out. I went through a phase of sporting short, electric purple hair with fluorescent blue eyebrows. My regular dress was multi-coloured body paint hidden mysteriously under a wardrobe of solid black. Only after a phase of leopard skin, tutus and combat boots, followed by a love affair with haute couture, did I reveal my joy of full colour. That was when I got rid of everything black.

When I was living in New York City, I went through a phase where everywhere I went, I carried a rubber goldfish in the palm of my hand, that I called “Fishy”. There was no sense in it. It was my own whimsical performance-art piece. The jelly-like goldfish was my friend, so it went where I went. People got use to it and accepted it. It was funny. It made people pause, do a double take and laugh. I loved that pause. I loved the space it gave because it allowed for more authentic connections as we stepped out of “normal”.

A friend of mine from New York, Kelly Cutrone, has a recent book called Normal Gets You Nowhere that shares her own brand of self-love. She believes normalcy inhibits the unique gifts everyone can offer the world and doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. I agree with Kelly that when we are true to who we are, it’s easier to be honest, it’s easier to be compassionate, and the world is a much better place.

FIERCE COURAGE AND COMPASSION

Being true to who we are is an ongoing process as we meet each moment of our lives. It is not a final destination point but a ripening as we get to know ourselves more fully. We all are works in progress, letting go of excess, reclaiming what we lost, discovering the new and rediscovering the forgotten.

It requires a fierce courage to be oneself. “Fierce courage” to me does not mean acting like a bully or railroading people. (If that is naturally who you are, then ok – but I would doubt it to be so. Most bullies are people who are deeply afraid.) We need fierce courage because there is momentum to normalcy, there is social momentum to staying asleep and not awakening one’s true nature. In effect, there is no “normal”. There is either “asleep” or “awake”, to varying degrees.

When we begin to honour our true nature, we shed light for others to do the same. But not everyone is ready for such honesty, nor does everyone want it. Connecting to our inner fierceness keeps us honest, instinctual, and in alignment with nature. Tapping into courage helps us move towards greater expansion. Developing compassion helps us understand the tendency to want to remain asleep. Because that tendency exists within us all, we can see ourselves in others. However, in this moment, we choose to live awake.

When we are naturally who we are, we align our energies with the force of nature, a most potent force. It does not apologize for who it is. It does not sheepishly try to be something else. It does not look for approval. It simply is.

The flower does not question that it is a flower, nor does the lion question its nature. The flower quietly reflects beauty. The lion will tear off your head if you get too close. The flower does not question if it is too beautiful, nor does the lion struggle with guilt, doubt and self-reproach due to the force of its claws. If the lion pretended to be a mouse, the lion would be unhappy. If the flower were crushed by concrete, it could not grow. We must be who we are.

Driven by the ego that knows only fear and disconnect, our minds tend to seek control and manipulate reality to suit our core beliefs. In turn, we create complexity in the moment, in which we become entangled. By becoming mentally convoluted, we lose touch with the force of our innate intelligence that arises from deep within through our connection with nature.

If your joy is singing, then sing. If your joy is being a lawyer, then love it. If you want to sit and read a book, then lap it up. If you need to tell someone how you feel, then let that person know. And do it completely, with every ounce of your being. Whatever it is, if you crush that connection with nature, your connection to who you are, everyone loses. When you honour it, everyone wins.

If there is truth in my desire to be either an A or an F student, it is that neither being driven by wanting to be “nice” nor by being overly “feisty” was right for me. Both were a form of pushing or pulling at life, rather than riding the river I am. Each one of us has to find that flow, our own unique expression of the life force that moves within us. Groundbreaking modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham provides an inspiring quote to illustrate this: “There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. Because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

We often mistake compassion for sentimentality and love for sweetness. Love to me is fierce, an unbridled force that defies reason. It is the force that says, “I am that I am.” Compassion is an expression of that force through action. It calls us to serve through love for being here, for being part of it all.

When we don’t say what we need or share who we are, we are living in fear and, in effect, we waste our lives and everyone else’s time. This life is short. The perils are many. We need to sharpen our inner clarity to see who we are and connect to our unique inner light so that we may shine as beacons in the world.

Many people won’t get it. Many people will. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you feel alive, plugged in and real. In tapping into such rooted, vital expansiveness, you send a message to the universe of possibility, of interconnection, of “yes” to life. Without any aggression or warrior rage, you have created a radical revolution – by being exactly who you are. 

Today, and every day, I celebrate you.

Parvati

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As noted sports talk show host Jim Rome says “give me an A or give me an F!” From wearing a fake wedding ring to actually believing I would be better off as a power-suit-wearing MBA-holding Bay Street bigwig (even though I knew while still in my 20s that I wouldn’t be happy in that line of work), for years I tried to make other people think I was closer to perfection, or at least more “normal” or “mainstream”, than the failed underachiever I thought myself to be. Even now, I feel I have to stuff down Amma, check my spiritual practice at the door, so people won’t think I am involved in a cult of some kind. Is it any wonder Amma seems like a weekend hobby to me.

Keval, I hear you saying how painful it has been for you to try to conform to the expectations you felt from others, and to live in attachment to the fear that you will be misperceived for your devotion to the Divine Mother. I think Parvati addresses these fears very well in this blog entry, and points the way forward. Now is the time – for the sake of our evolution, for the sake of our joy, and for the benefit of all around us – for each one of us to take the courageous step to be fully and unapologetically who we are. The past is gone. You don’t have to beat yourself up for it anymore. You have the opportunity in this moment to begin to celebrate the unique, sensitive, devoted, gifted and playful person YOU are. Why not go for it? Sounds like a whole lot more fun than heavying yourself out with old stories. 🙂

Being normal is really the most bizarre thing in anyone.

You make it sound so easy, yet I know it’s hard work. I have trained my surroundings to believe that I am a certain way, obviously to guarantee being loved. So now I have to not only find out who I really am, but in the process retrain my friends and family that I am not the person I pretended to be. This meets with resistance and requires adjustment on their part. Not only that, our habits are pointed in a certain direction and it is like a ball rolling downhill, it has momentum. Then there’s the question: who am I really? So I agree, it takes fierce courage. And perseverance in the face of fear, resistance and doubt.

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WHY YOGA IN THE NIGHTCLUB

I am often asked what inspired me to bring yogic expression into the club scene. I answer easily. Yoga In the Nightclub is a natural expression of who I am as a musical artist and dedicated yogini. Yoga is not a physical practice but a way of life. It is about learning to be present in all one does, to see the divine here, now, in this moment. As such, yoga is everywhere. It is about feeling connected to something much greater than our limited ego or will. It is about being in service to life, feeling interconnected to that very life force. Yoga In The Nightclub is a celebration of life and a reminder that we can find awakened presence everywhere.

Yoga in the West is mostly known as a series of bendy physical exercises. Yet there is much more to it than fitness. Yoga’s systematic breath and body exercises, designed to clear the subtle channels in our energy system, prepare us for meditation, through which we may experience a life inspired by our interconnected, multidimensional true nature. Our body, that once was seen as “mine”, is no longer our identity, but a gift on loan from the divine. We care for it, but we are not attached to it. The practice of yoga offers us the opportunity to experience the transmutation of matter into pure light, embody the multidimensional and rest in the eternal.

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

Hatha yoga, the physical practice of yoga, is just one of many aspects of yoga, which range from selfless service to astrology and prayer. The Sanskrit word “yoga” most simply translates to “union”, implying that the practice of any yoga will bring together our perceived sense of separateness. As a whole, yoga is an ancient science of life. It is a practical method of shedding excess and bringing us back from the self-delusion of separation from the divine so that we may realize our inherent interconnection to and ultimate oneness with it.

As we begin to understand that yoga is everywhere, we come to see how we are all connected in vast ways far beyond the limitations of our personal will and ego. What I do affects you, and vice versa. We are one earth family. At the heart of it all, we share the same heartbeat. Breathe to be. We are one.

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AWAKENED LIVING

When we are open, life blossoms, just as a flower opens to welcome the morning sun.  We see that the sun, though it is millions of light years away, has a tender yet powerful relationship with the flower, as do the rain and the clouds. From this perspective we see that we are part of the whole. Life is a symphonic masterpiece with which, when we are open, we are completely resonant.

As we come to understand our oneness, we can revel in it with wonder and joy. We can consider in awe how immense it all is. We can let go of the idea that an illusory, isolated sense of self could possibly be in control, and open to an exquisite unfolding of life in absolute perfection. Our actions become not about “me” but about the whole. Each moment is integrated within the whole. No one decision is separate.

When we begin to see that each decision we make affects not just ourselves but everyone and everything on the planet, we act with more compassion. When we have more compassion, we realize the impact of our actions and we naturally want less and practice more kindness. As stewards of the Earth, we each are called to learn to live in harmony with ourselves, each other and our planet. We all breathe the same air and live on the same living organism, our planet. Varied in race and creed, we are all one family, children of the same mother, the planet Earth.

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THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GRACE

In each moment, there is infinite grace. By becoming more conscious as we practice yoga on the mat, at work, at play or in the nightclub, we let go of the unnecessary and develop greater internal spaciousness which blooms throughout our lives. In this space new life and possibilities arise.

As we rest our awareness on the simple purity and grace of the breath, we realize - we are alive! We let go of wanting things from the future and the past and open to what is here and now. We feel as vast as the sky and rooted in the richness of this moment.

When we “breathe to be”, we understand our interconnection. We see that we are not the doers but a part of the whole, the same energy that is in the flowers and in the stars. We know that our essence is divine - from which we have come, to which we return.

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PARVATI'S NEW SINGLE - MARCH 2016
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I AM LIGHT

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Let me know how yoga and YEM have touched your life. You can send a link to a video by you if you would like. Comments may be shared on my website if you check the "permission to share" box.
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SHARE YOUR YOGA
I am light!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gone, gone beyond. Oh what awakening!
Gone, gone beyond. Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
I am the light, liquid gold light
I am in delight! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

I am the light (gate gate), liquid gold light (paragate)
I am in delight (gate gate) transforming the night (paragate)

Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Oh what awakening! (paragate) (I am)
Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight
I am light, dancing through the night
I am light, in delight
I am light, dancing through the night

I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (gate gate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (paragate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light

I am light!

© 2015 Parvati Devi
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