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The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is about as multi-faceted as a diamond. It is as valuable too. It is so much more than an accepted apology. In forgiveness lies freedom. Freedom from past experiences and from expectations we have on the people and events in our lives. Forgiveness offers liberation as we open up a narrowed perspective and reclaim our power.

Perhaps one of the most surprising “facets” of forgiveness is the type directed at oneself. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it because it always came easy to me. Being of the people pleasing nature and not wanting to confront the uncomfortable parts of my life are aspects of my patterning that adopted forgiveness with ease. Forgiveness allowed me to brush things under the rug that I didn’t want to face – hurt feelings, sadness, loneliness, disappointment. “It’s okay. Apology accepted.” This process served me very well for quite awhile, until the metaphorical rug burst open in a slew of ugly crying and intense ache. It ripped open so widely that forgiveness begged to be examined. Self forgiveness was at the top of the list.

I am coming to learn, as with most things, that forgiveness is an opportunity. One of the stories my teacher, Scott Nanamura of Diamond Heart Yoga, used to tell us is one about a hot burning coal. Holding onto anger (or anything for that matter) is like holding onto a hot burning coal – you get burned. All you have to do is let go. And as with most yoga antidotes, easier said than done!

I was talking with a friend about an experience she had in deciding to bravely face some traumas she wanted to release. In the process of confronting her experiences, she told me how surprised she was that her anger in the situation landed on herself. In this experience, where she was undoubtedly the “victim,” she found it overwhelming how much anger she had toward herself for allowing her power to be taken from her. She had allowed it to be taken in the form of fear that had marked her life for over 20 years. In this realization, she saw that the only way she could reclaim her power was to forgive.

Photos: @michaelvidoli

Herein lies the opportunity – if we choose forgiveness, we have a chance to discover deep healing. We will never be able to change the actions of outside circumstances. By going inward and really being with the traumas of our lives, we can uncover the hurt and fear, the sadness and pain. We can look at our past perspectives with the lens of this now moment – offer comfort and let go.

Quite often forgiveness needs to be directed at oneself. We hold ourselves at such a high standard – I know I do. Some of the best advice I ever received was to “be gentle with yourself”. I can sit in disappointment over my actions in the past, or I can look a little deeper and remember exactly how I was feeling in that moment many years ago. Quite often, the woman dealing with whatever problem was afoot was rather scared and uncertain and really was just doing the best she could at that moment in time.

It is important to be clear that intricately woven into the fabric of forgiveness are necessary boundaries. Forgiveness is not allowing behavior that does not serve your highest good. Boundaries teach us how to honor ourselves and allow others to see the light in us. Each and every time I entered into the space of “auto-forgive”, I was stepping out of alignment and I felt the consequence. It came in the form of resentment, distrust, anger, and many other negative thought patterns. Today I am learning to sit before I forgive. I realize forgiveness, not bitterness, is where I would like to be. I also realize it takes time. I cultivate awareness around my part and the pain. I accept the very real hurt that exists. And then, I take action in a way that allows me to own my journey toward freedom. I move into a space where my personal power is paramount – protected by divine boundaries of honesty and trust.

This practice takes a tremendous amount of courage. It takes facing the darkest parts of ourselves. What made it worth it for me was realizing that when I cling onto the metaphorical hot burning coal, I do not allow myself the opportunity to collapse that which doesn’t serve me. My antiquated pattern of easily forgiving was not really forgiveness at all, but fear of acknowledging hurt. This habit forced me to give some of my power away. I am learning to bravely acknowledge the opportunity in the pain and suffering. By acknowledging a hurt, I am able to bring awareness and validation to my feelings. I can accept the reality of a situation. Then, I can make a choice. These days, my choice is to find forgiveness, let go of the hot burning coal and anything else that keeps me from standing in my full power.

 

 

Writer. Yogi. Forest Wanderer. Solo Mama. Stephanie has been practicing yoga for over 10 years and teaching yoga since 2017. She blends yogic wisdom with her writing and has been featured several times on Teach.Yoga. Along with her 200hr YTT, she holds a teaching certification for children’s yoga. Stephanie is also a forest school teacher and co-owner of The Creative Wild Forest School in South Lake Tahoe. She is a Cedarsong certified teacher. @writeyoga

The Power of Story: Writing Rituals to Complement Your Yoga Practice

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The practice of yoga teaches us the importance of developing regular rituals to enhance our transcendent state of flow as a means of accessing the intuition and divine guidance of our highest self. Yoga is a journey of unravelling and re-writing. Of profound honesty and integrity beyond a blissfully ignorant harmony. A peaceful warrior path of self-knowing – not exactly for the faint of spirit.

As a writer, surfer and yogini, the fluid experience of flow, style and self-expression is fundamental to the living art I know more certainly as my soul’s every day survival. And I’ve come to understand that like the liquid dance of life and death swirling around the epicenter of the stories in our hearts, the sensory feeling in the cultivation of our creativities is primal to our health and wellbeing as humans – particularly as women, and especially as yogis, both on and off the mat.

As meditation, mantra and asana practice allow us to clear our minds of chatter and connect with spiritual wisdom, developing a writing practice is a powerful complement to finding greater flow in living our yoga. As many of us know, our sacral and throat chakras (svadishthana and vishuddha, respectively) are fundamentally aligned at the junctures of creativity and voice, cultivation and expression – the sacred seeds of our most profound personal power. Writing is one of the most meaningful ways to access this sacral-throat chakra connection while attuning our energetic bodies to the unique rhythms of our divine creativity.

For women in particular, our stories allow us to speak our authentic truths loudly and unabashedly where the historical silencing of our profound knowing remains nothing short of normal, even in this modern day and age. In expressing otherwise obscured realities as a platform for sharing our deepest source of truth, our stories are our power.

And similarly, our stories matter. In the paradoxical place of knowing the self beyond the self – the sat nam at the core of our spiritual being – we are able to discern between the stories in our joyful hearts that speak of purpose, fulfillment and meaning, versus the life-defeating stories in our polluted minds that keep us living small, in constant fear of our own innate greatness. Ultimately, the stories we write and believe about ourselves create our realities, our identities, as well as our inner and outer experiences of the world. And perhaps most important to the process of self-knowing is the willingness to observe our stories with compassion and awareness, granting ourselves the permission to abandon with love the old stories that no longer serve us, and the soul-space to craft the warrior courage within to write ourselves anew.


Writing is first and foremost a conversation with the self, a place for sitting with our truth, expressing unexpressed selves, unearthing realities that live in our consciousness, and transforming thought, experience and emotion into story, art and, inevitably, life. Writing is the thinking, the doing, the knowing and the being. The creativity and the creation. Flow, style, and expression in connection with oneself, in subtle yet profound union with divine. The space where the boundary between the thinking-perceiving self and the higher spiritual self becomes blurred into words, prose, poetry, and memoir. In that sense, writing is a lot like yoga, if you think about it. Which is exactly why developing a regular writing practice provides a beautiful complement to living your yoga both on and off the mat.

So where might we begin? New rituals start as a process of commitment, acknowledging that the benefits may not become visible without days, weeks or months of practice. Am I willing to commit to a 21, 30 or 40-day sadhana of daily journaling? Will I write in the morning, or perhaps in the evening? Will I give myself a set amount of time, a number of pages objective, or allow for more flexibility in my ritual? Am I writing for myself or for an audience? These questions can help determine the specific commitment you choose to create with yourself, honoring the unique, personal nature of any writing practice.

Next, I encourage you to experiment with the bounds of your own creativity. Do you feel called to write in the early hours of the day, in the blissful moments between dream time and waking life? Or do you receive energetic downloads of creative thought in the evenings just before bed? Do words come to you in full sentences and organized trains of thought, or are you a free-form creative with a habit for snap-shots of words and poetic phrases? Do you need to write and write until you get it all out, in order to make any sense of yourself, your thoughts, your dreams and your life? Do you feel inspired after a long walk, a seated meditation or lively asana practice? We all have different moments and means of accessing our creativity, and regular writing practice allows us to explore the sources and sensations of thoughts and perceptions as they materialize into art in the form of words on the page. Mix it up and allow yourself the flexibility to discover the moments of the day you feel most inspired in your creative flow.

Finally, I invite you to approach your writing practice as a profound act of self-empowerment, an integral part of your self-care regimen. Honoring our more introverted, yin aspects of the self, we tap into the vital potential within us to express, heal and evolve. Writing offers a means of channeling our energies and transforming deep-seated stories as a fluid process of catharsis and self-healing. Once you’ve scratched the surface of certain subjects that speak to you – be they personal, political or planetary – you can deepen into the more obscure pieces that give your writing its own authentic artistry as distinctly yours, while honoring your mind’s spiritual connection to the collective consciousness being channeled through you in your words and stories.

Who am I when nobody’s watching? And what do I have to say when nobody’s listening? These are the questions at the heart of developing your personal writing practice. And as you deepen into your daily writing rituals, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that writing is both the journey and the destination, all in the space of a few lines on the page.

Are you feeling particularly called to nurture your writing rituals as a complement to your yoga practice on and off the mat? Join Tara on retreat in Costa Rica for an intimate experience cultivating your inner artist while developing the courage and confidence you need to write yourself anew.

Cover and flyer photo by Jennifer Harter

Revive Retreats presents: Power of Story: Surf + Yoga + Writing Retreat for Women / March 10-18, 2018 / Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Full retreat details: www.tarantulasurf.com/surf-trips-retreats

 

 

 

Tara Ruttenberg is a writer, surfer, and yogini based in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Tara created Tarantula Surf (www.tarantulasurf.com / @tarantulasurf) as a space for authentic story sharing and engaging with new social living paradigms.