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Brahmacharya

“All things in moderation.”

As a child, teenager, and even a young woman in my twenties, my dad drove me insane with his pearls of wisdom. Most likely because the man knew what he was talking about.

Around the time I was twenty-four, fresh out of an abusive marriage and living in my father’s house until I found my feet again, I stopped rolling my eyes and listened to him. At age forty-one with a teenager in the house (the “King of THE Eye-Roll”, as my first born has named himself), more and more, I’ve been taking those pearls my father dropped on me throughout my life and stringing them into a necklace to wear. More often than not, my father’s wisdom comes into play  in my adult life.

Christians follow the Ten Commandments; Yogis follow the Yamas and Niyamas. Which brings us to this week’s spiritual Sadhana, Brahmacharaya: moderation.

Brahmacharaya used to be defined as celibacy.

Whoa! Remove your mouse from that “X” that’s going to close out this webpage, relax, and give me a second. Before you assume I’m going to tell you to go without sex, keep reading, and chill for a moment.

Brahmacharaya used to be defined as celibacy.  Used to, kiddos, not currently. Years and years ago, those who took the yogic path figured their energy could be put to better use if they weren’t reproducing. In today’s yogic world, Brahmacharaya is defined asbrahmacharya moderation in all things. Perhaps you’ll take it easy on plans out with friends, and instead option to take a peaceful night at home. Maybe if you do go out with friends, you’re going to keep it at one glass of wine instead of two (or four, not that I know anyone with pink hair and tattoos who teaches creative writing at the local community college who does that when she’s out with friends and has the guarantee of someone else driving her home at the end of the evening). Maybe you take a few minutes to consider if you really need that new pair of heels that you can only wear with one outfit. Or you only eat half the hummingbird cake and take the other half home to enjoy the next day (again, it’s not like I know anyone who can inhale a piece of hummingbird cake after eating grilled cheese and tomato soup with tortellini, making Joey from Friends look like an amateur in food consumption when she gets within a mile of that cake).

In my life outside the mat, I’ve over done it, more often than not, in all things. White chocolate is a huge weakness of mine, along with winter white cosmos, Gaja Sito Moresco wine, black forest cake, lasagna, bread, cigars while playing poker, and this fantastic fifty year port my friend’s father gave me as a gift for officiating his daughter’s wedding.

But with age comes a certain type of wisdom. I still enjoy the wine, the deserts, the unbelievable port, yet I’ve found that there’s a beauty in missing those people I love, foods I love, drinks I love, experiences I enjoy. As much as I enjoy the experience of all of the above, there’s this incredible feeling of returning to the experiences I deeply love after time away from it, whether it’s that first bite of black forest cake, or hugging a dear friend after not having had the chance to see them for quite some time. I’ve found more joy in those experiences when they aren’t fully present and accessible.

On my mat, I’ve learned the hard way that while finally getting a posture I’ve struggled with brings a rush of joy, going at it time after time is only going to harm my next practice. If I’ve over done it on working on handstands, the next practice I take is going to be impacted by my sore shoulders and legs. “When you feel sensation, stop,” is a phrase I hear Laura Beth, one of my favorite instructors, say when guiding us through practice. That means when my shoulders start announcing their fatigue when I’m practicing my handstands, I stop. If I plan on taking more than one practice, and my right knee, the one that’s had more sports related injuries than any other part of my body, starts hurting, I ask myself if I can honestly say I’ll go gentle with the next practice. If the answer is no, then I call it a day and hit the showers. Then I check in with my body the next day, and how my body feels determines what type of practice I’ll take the next day.

To celebrate Brahmacharya this week, I’ll be taking things in moderation, seeing how I feel in each moment, and enjoying things in small measure. We exercise Brahmacharya in an effort to better serve ourselves and others, to reserve our energy for more meaningful things.

Much love,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Pantry

My father grew up poor. The second youngest of fifteen children, they made due, learning how to hunt at a young age, and how to plant and harvest their own vegetables and what it was like to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

My father attended college on a baseball scholarship, and in order to save money, my grandmother would make my father a meatloaf that he would eat during the week. Sometime on Thursday, he would have finished the meatloaf, and wouldn’t eat until he returned to my grandmother’s house on Friday evening to do his laundry and help around her house.

I’d often hear my father lecture on the necessity of cleaning your plate. He’d remind us of how every bite was necessary, that food cost money (to this day I can still look at the price point of an item in the supermarket and factor in my head which size of the product is the better deal, down to the penny), and to “Waste not, want not”.

As an adult, I’d often go to his refrigerator, open the door, and razz on him about how many items were expired. Nothing was every thrown away; it either went in your mouth, or was saved until it could be consummed.

In 2009, my father had a very bad fall that broke his femur. After I secured childcare for my kids, I rushed to the hospital to be with my father. In a morphine haze, my father asked me if I would mind making sure his refrigerator was cleaned out, so that nothing in there would go past it’s expiration date, and then Dad fell asleep. Looking up, I caught the eye of my cousin, who said to me, completely dead pan: “So that’s how you get Uncle Gene to throw anything away: Morphine. Noted.”

Five years later, after he had passed, we began cleaning out my father’s house. Family would come over and help, or friends would lend a hand, taking donations to various organizations or books to be donated, or documents to be shredded.

Somehow, The Pantry was ignored.

I’ll admit: I was avoiding it. Cleaning out his spice rack had me sitting on the floor in my father’s kitchen, crying. Cleaning out the kitchen island where the cereal was stored was an adventure in laugh-crying: I had found a box of Grape Nuts that had expired in 1987. We had moved to Plano, Texas in 1989, which means my father packed up a box of cereal that had expired two years before and moved it four hours south, rather than lose the two dollars he had paid for the box of cereal in the first place. I had seen the expiration date on the box, and started laughing. And then I sat down and sobbed into my hands, missing the man who couldn’t let go of that box of expired cereal.

For weeks, my brother and I avoided The Pantry, like it was filled with the monsters of our childhood, hanging out in our own closests or under our beds, ready to grab our ankles and consume us as a snack. It became an in-joke: “I’ll clean out The Pantry” (and by that point, it was deserving of capital letters, because it had earned a title as a bad ass, scary mo-fo in our minds) was code for “Ain’t gonna happen, dude.” Friends and family members offered, but for some reason, neither one of us seemed willing to let go of the task. We were like those really bad boyfriends or girlfriends about The Pantry: We didn’t exactly want to do it ourselves, but we didn’t want anyone else doing it either.

In all honesty, I’d be making my to-do list every night before bed, and cleaning out The Pantry would always be the number one item on the list. Yet, I just couldn’t do it. Everything else in the kitchen had been handled. Refrigerator? Yes, only bottled water, the soda my younger brother drank, creamer for my coffee, and juice for our seven kids was in there. Kitchen island? Yep, cereal had been tossed in the bin, appliances had been given away or labeled with a post-it note with the new owner’s name on it. Spice rack? I had taken care of that one, an experience that ended when my friends Lauren and Tyler came in, found me crying hysterically on the kitchen floor with Lauren saying, “You’re getting out of this house, now. Time for dinner,” and pulling me out the door.

But The Pantry. Home of expired products, a testament to a life lived frugal, and stock pilled with way too much processed canned foods, ramen noodles, and South American Beer from the 1960’s (not joking about that last one).

The Pantry waited. I’d open the door to it (probably in the hopes that someone else had broken in, cleared it for me and left with the food neatly contained in a trash bag), look it over, grab a can of soup, check the date, then sigh, put the can of soup back, and go do something else that didn’t make me feel like crying hysterically.

A friend had joined me at my Dad’s house to pick up a few tools he could use. Walking him through the house, I had opened the pantry door and shown him all the cans of food lined up, the jars of sauce, ramen noodles.

“I keep  meaning to do this. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it, and my brother can’t seem to do it either.”

“Want me to do it for you?” my friend had asked, and I realized in that moment, I did.

Because I was emotionally and mentally tired from being the daughter of a man who had died. No one ever warns you about all the decisions you need to make after your parents die. Or if they tell you, you tend to roll your eyes and think they don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if they’re small decisions, those decisions add up, and it gets to be too much. You hit a point, not just when you lose someone you love, but when life is going rough, where you want someone else to make the decisions for you.

So, my friend cleaned out The Pantry. There were six large trash bags that were filled with expired products. There were actually eight beers my father had bought when he lived in South America in the late 1960’s that he had brought back to America, one of which had given up the ghost and had slowly leaked from the bottom of the can, causing a stain on the shelf in the pantry in which it had resided since September 1989. There was one jar of Ragu, a bag of pasta, and a four pack of fruit cocktail that weren’t expired.

When I told my brother that my friend had cleaned out The Pantry, he had said, “Thank God. Because I just couldn’t do it.”

I couldn’t do it either. It was just stuff. Just food. Same as in everyone else’s pantry, although I’m guessing you probably don’t have as many expired food items in such large quantity as my father did. But The Pantry was such a perfect example of who my father was, that to clean it out would be to admit he was really gone. As long as those expired items sat in that closet in the kitchen in the house that my brother and I hated because of how our mother’s anger clung, even years after she moved out, our father was still with us.

But post-clean out, post-sale of my father’s house, when everything that was my father’s had been donated, thrown away, or taken to a storage unit, I realized he wasn’t in those things. He was just as much with me as he had been when I was sorting through his items. Holding onto items he had bought or been given and had cherished didn’t keep him alive; he was still dead. But the memory of him, the memory of teasing him about how old the milk in the refrigerator was, that kept him alive long after he went peacefully to his death.

A funny thing happened when The Pantry was finally cleared out: I stopped crying openly. Maybe I had shed too many tears in the lead up to my father’s death and the two months following. Maybe the part of myself that handles protecting my emotions shut me down in order to avoid more hurt. Maybe I had effectively dried up and locked down. Or maybe I was tired of being the person who needed her hand held, the person who needed someone else to handle things for me, to tell me when to take a break. Whatever the reason, it would be another three years before I cried in front of other people, but that’s a story for another day, one in which I’m not missing my father so terribly that it’s like he just passed.

And one for a day in which I wouldn’t give anything to walk into his kitchen, check the expiration date on my father’s eggs, and ask him if he was looking forward to getting salmonella. To which he would respond, “I survived you as a teenager, I can survive a little bit of food poisoning, Maria.”

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Asteya

Years ago, a popular literary series came to a close. After the second to last book was released, the author announced they were working on what would be a final book in the series. For a year, myself, my friends who had read the series, and other readers waited to read the final installment.

The author got lazy as hell with the final book. The actual creative content related to wrapping up the storylines within the series could have been done in about ten thousand words. The rest of the book was fluff, nothing more than filler.

After I had read it, talking with another author friend of mine, we both said the same thing: selling at $7.99 for the e-book version, we both wanted our money and our time back.

asteya-logo3I often tell my students at the college and my publishing clients to be honest in their work. You write your first draft, then your second. Then you have your book editted. You make the editing changes your editor suggests, and maybe you send it back to the editor for a second look. You either format your book yourself, or you hire someone to do it for you. You have your covers created, you have beta readers weigh in on your book. You take those steps and do all that work, because when you release a book in the world and someone reads it, they’re not only giving you their money, they’re giving you the precious gift of their time.

That author from years ago stole from not just from myself by not putting in the work, by not giving us a full story, but from those in my life who I took the time from in order to read her book.

Which brings us to the third of the yamas: Asteya, non-stealing.

There’s the obvious, literal translation of “If it ain’t yours, don’t take it, dude.” You don’t shoplift, you don’t dine and dash, you don’t take money out of another person’s wallet. But what about the less literal interpretation? What about stealing another person’s time, either by being late, causing them to do more work (an adorable gentleman in my certification program used the example of leaving his dishes in the sink for his roommate to wash), or canceling plans last minute because something better came up?

On our mat, how often do we steal from outselves the joy of the moment (whether present or future moments) by not being fully present? I’ve often lost out on the joy of learning postures or furthering my path to the full extension of postures by focusing on what my neighbor on the mat is doing, what I did in a previous practice, or whether or not I’m going to get the posture in that moment. Handstands are the posture I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my whole life; in the process of working on them, I think ahead, stealing from the present moment, in the attempt to obtain the posture itself. It’s a yogic catch-22: I want it so badly, I miss out on the journey to get to my destination.

To celebrate Asteya this week, I’m not looking past each moment as they’re given to me, whether that’s dinner with a friend, time with my kids, work, or taking yoga practice. I invite you to do the same.

Much love,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

Mother F@(&!^$ Grief

“There’s no expiration date on grief.”

For the life of me, I can’t remember who I heard say this, and I can’t remember if they were quoting someone, or if it was their own personal gem. What I do know is I was twenty-two, my friends and I had put in a night of dancing and drinking at Red Jacket in Dallas on Sunday night for Red Square Retro, and had hit IHOP after to refuel with caffeine and carbs.

At age thirty-seven, the sentiment came home to me, hard, when my father passed away, one week after his seventy-second birthday.

“You’re going to have it lessen, and have it hit you hard,” one of my friends who had lost both their parents in their twenties had told me. “Think of it as the ocean: it’ll come in light, then it’s going to crash hard. You can’t fight it either way, so let it hit you, and then let it subside. You fight it, you’re going to drown.”

And hit me, it did. There were the obvious days it would crash into me: his birthday, the facebook_1530618087506 (1)anniversary of his death, father’s day, my birthday, my adoption anniversary, holidays. Then there would be moments when you’d least expect it: walking through the French Quarter with a friend in July of 2015, I’d seen a balcony that reminded me of the one in the hotel we had stayed in when our foreign exchange student Maria had gotten married when I was ten; I’d reached for my phone to call my father, more than a year after he had passed, and after dialing four of the numbers, I had stopped and started crying in the midst of the crowd. My friend had simply walked me back to our hotel, grabbed a bottle of wine from his room and joined me in my room to talk me through it.

Certain experiences in my life since his passing: The World Series, the All Star Game, driving Route 66, graduating from yoga instructor certification training, times when my kids have done something big or hilarious, there’s been a knee jerk reaction to call him and tell him about it.

With no direct line to heaven to call him though, what I’m left with is this ache that the man who raised me and taught me (either by his example or by his mistakes) how to live is no longer here to share my life with. I’m left instead with writing him letters I place in a fire proof safe, or going to the mausoleum where he’s interred and talking to the plaque with his name on it.

He’s been on my mind lately, like he always is this time of year. About a week before Father’s Day, a tightening takes place in my chest that doesn’t loosen until a few days after the anniversary of his passing. That grief rolls in, and it’s there, a part of day to day life for me.

I don’t fight against it. As someone who spent years hiding from what she was feeling, sheltering herself from potential hurt by not letting herself feel what she was feeling, I’ve learned to accept how I feel as how I feel. I don’t fight it; instead there’s almost this academic observation, and where as I don’t welcome that grief, that feeling of loss, I also don’t run from it. It just is, the product of having a damn good father who raised me.

I seem to have a lot of friends going through the process of the break-up, which has led to a lot of conversations about, well, break-ups. Talking to an old friend about his break-up, 40b80fba2e446e421d5059aadc52c7b1he stated that he just flat out hurt. Having had my share of break-ups in the past, I said to him what was written in a meme someone sent me when going through a rough break-up myself: “It’s supposed to hurt. That’s how you know it meant something.”

Hurt is a natural part of life. “No pain, no gain” is a common phrase you hear within the fitness industry (although we yogis somewhat smugly say “If there’s no pain, there’s no pain”), referencing the fact that when you feel pain while working out, you’re experiencing growth. The same is true of life.

In my past, I’ve thrown food, anti-depressants, alcohol, and filler experiences at the pain of loss. In the months after my father’s death, privately, I did not handle it with much grace, spending my personal time perched on a bar stool, sucking down cape cods like they were water. But coming up on two years past his death, I found myself right in the middle of one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life. Looking over my life, looking over how I had done things in the past, I realized I was tired of repeating the same mistakes, the same knee-jerk reactions, because I always ended up in the same place. I’ve spent the last two years facing hurt head on when it happens, and the result of spending thirty-nine years hiding from hurt is that I have to face it again, in the present, since I couldn’t handle facing it when it was going on. Facing it now is harder, because I have to reopen those old wounds. Had I just faced it then, it would have been easier. Had I just let it crash into me, instead of fighting it, I’d of had more time in my life to enjoy the beauty of life instead of having a shadow of things left unresolved hanging around.

The grief of losing my father is rolling in. It’s up to me to let it wash over me, accept it, and then let it go.

Much love,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

Satya

Good Morning, Dear Reader! I hope you’re well.

Last week, I gave you a brief overview of what yoga is, as well as telling you about yamas and the first of the yamas, Ahimsa. This week, we’re going to move onto the second of the yamas, Satya.

Satya is one of my personal favorites. Translated from Sanskrit, Satya means “truthfulness.”

In today’s day and age, it seems that we’re conditioned, at the very least, in the polite white lie. Go into most retail establishments, or even bump into a casual acquaintance, and you’ll often hear the question, “How are you?” The expected and socially acceptable answer is “Fine”, or “Okay.” Answer in any other way, you’ll generally get an eyebrow raise from the person who asked you.

How often do we have plans with a friend, or they ask us to get together, and rather than saying that we’re tired and need time to ourselves, we say “Sure”?

I myself have often put other people’s needs ahead of my own. If someone asks for help satyaor needs support, my knee jerk reaction is to offer my help, whether it’s listening, running errands, airport pick ups, etc., before checking in with myself. If I don’t have it in me to take care of others, my life lesson in Satya is to look at myself closely: Am I tired from work? Am I dealing with my own personal demons? Am I not feeling well? Far too often I’ve found myself emotionally and physically exhausted from taking care of others when I didn’t have it in me to do so. Had I of been honest, had I looked closely at where I was at emotionally and physically, I wouldn’t have drained myself. Just as you can’t pour from an empty cup, you can’t take care of those you love who are depending on you if you’ve drained yourself dry.

In our lives on the mat, how often do we take practice and go harder than we have the energy for? How often are we dishonest in our practice and in our attempts to take the full expression of the posture, do we sacrifice proper form, and lose out on the benefits of the posture itself? How often do we struggle through a sequence when we should be taking child’s pose in an effort to rest?

Ahimsa teaches us non-violence in word, thought and deed; Satya should follow the same guidelines. Life with truth in word, thought and deed. Be honest in how you are, what you have to give to yourself and to others, and practice with integrity.

Namaste,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Rebirthday

Six years ago today, a road sign changed my life.

I’d been struggling with a short story, and taken off for a long drive in order to sort my head out. Driving along the highway to the lake, I’d seen the sign for Texas 66. Which kicked off ideas in my mind of driving Route 66, a life long dream.

But of course, me being the me I was at the time, I told myself why I couldn’t take the trip. Family that needed me, not enough money, the length of time it would take me to drive the iconic highway. I had so many reasons why I couldn’t do it.

They were all excuses rooted in fear.

And then I realized that all the reasons I told myself I couldn’t go, they were bullshit. They had some merit: I did have three kids and a sick father, and money was tight. But there wasn’t enough weight behind them, and I looked at everything that was stopping me and realized that wasn’t why. I was why. And I was terrified to step outside of my comfort zone.

I woke up the morning after, with a very clear head, and a new drive to truly begin living, to step out of what I knew to be comfortable, to actually experience my life.

I drove Route 66 almost four years later, flying into Chicago the day before the Cubs home opener game, finally seeing Wrigley Field, another bucket list item I had long dreamed of completing. For the next sixteen days I drove the historic route and saw all the incredible landmarks.

But I digress.

June 29, 2012 was a day in which I finally realized that no matter what the goal is, the only thing stopping us is ourselves. The person I was when I woke up that morning is so far removed from who I am now, that it’s like looking at two different people.

In January 2013, coming up on my birthday, I had groaned to a friend that while I didn’t mind getting older, the lead up to my birthday always held bad news and bad memories. (I’d give you guys this list of birthday drama I’ve experienced, but you guys have better things to do, like maybe buying a certain multi colored haired author’s seventeenth poetry collection and reading it). My friend’s suggestion was to pick a new day, and celebrate that, calling it my rebirthday.

So, I took his advice, and the date I chose? June 29. Because in a very real way, that day was a new start for me.

A funny thing happened once I started celebrating June 29th as my rebirthday: my actual birthday stopped being so traumatic. The year I turned thirty-nine, nothing happened, with exception to me waiting for the other shoe to drop. When I woke up the morning after and realized I had finally had a birthday with no drama, no bad news, no heartache, I arched an eyebrow and wondered if it was done.

My fortieth birthday was amazing, and my birthday this last January was everything I could have wanted.

The thing is though, June 29th still deserves recognition, even if it’s just me saying “yay!!!!” and bouncing around. And whereas some people might not get it, or might think it’s stupid, I don’t care, because this is for me. This date means something to me, because I finally began to move forward with life, healing old hurts, finding forgiveness, and letting go of things that were hurting me.

Last year, I celebrated by publishing my twenty-fifth book, and having dinner with friends at one of my favorite local restaurants with my favorite bartender on staff. It was quiet and lovely, and just what I wanted.

This year? I’ve released my seventeenth poetry collection, and will be celebrating quietly, but with a great deal of joy. Because on that night six years ago, I finally let go of fear of stepping outside of my comfort zone. The experiences I have had over the last six years have been incredible, and in the past six years, I’ve lived life more than I had in the thirty-five years before it. Where I am now is nowhere near where I thought I would be when I envisioned life at forty-one. And I have no idea where I’ll be in five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now. I’m not focused on those future destinations, just focused on the journey to them, and living each moment fully present with joy and love.

It’s an amazing, beautiful life that I’ve made for myself.

Much love,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Return, Part 3

Hello, Dear Reader, and thank you for returning for Part 3. It’s good to have you here again, and I promise this is the final part. There’s no “to be continued” at the end of this, instead there’s a quiet wrap up of my recent adventure to New Mexico and Colorado. You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. Settle back, settle in, and I hope you enjoy the conclusion.

Part 3.

I woke up around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning when I rolled over and the movement set off pain in my right knee, the result of a baseball injury in my early twenties being irritated by the fourteen mile hike the day before. I carefully got up, took a few ibuprofen, drank some water, then laid back down on my bed to gently stretch and flex my knee. Lying there, my knee throbbing, I thought to myself that the first chance I was able to the next day, I’d buy a compression sleeve for my knee.

A year ago, I’d of been angry at the walk, because of course, the walk had caused that old injury, that old hurt, to come to the surface. That morning, laying on my bed, smelling the sweet air that was coming through the open window in our hotel room, I realized I didn’t care my knee was hurting. Sure, it wasn’t my idea of fun. But I had no regrets regarding doing the hike the day before, despite the pain I was in.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Our lives are a balance: there’s good, there’s bad; there’s light, there’s dark. The pure, natural beauty that surrounded me on the trail up to Lost Lake was well worth the pain of my knee. The loss of people in our lives, whether through death or the end of a relationship, that type of hurt is very much worth it to experience the joy of having shared a time with people, for having had the honor of loving them and them loving us.

It wasn’t Red River that was the eye opener for me on that weekend away. It was everything surrounding it: the stress in the week before, the knee jerk reaction of panic when I realized I didn’t have cell service, how often perfect strangers said “Good morning” and “Good afternoon” on the streets, how we’d talk with other groups on the trail, and parting, someone would call out, “Have a wonderful time and be careful.” It was the almost continuous (yes, even I shut up occasionally) conversation between my friend and I throughout the weekend since we had so much time together in their car. It was the woman next to me at the sinks in the bathroom at Coors Field who rushed to get me a bag of ice when the high elevation in Denver caused a nose bleed, and stayed with me until the bleeding stopped. It was conversing with perfect strangers in the restaurants at Denver’s airport while I was waiting on my flight. It was the man sitting next to me on the plane who offered me his hand in kindness when I said I was terrified of flying (“I’ll just leave this here,” he’d said, placing his hand palm up on the arm rest. “If you need it, feel free to take it.” I took his hand and said thank you).

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m holding onto values that are obsolete. But what I want are real connections. Real conversations that (when possible) are done face to face and in person. I want to hear and see my friends’ reactions when I tell them about experiences in my life, whether those experiences are from trips or just moments when something simple and beautiful happens. I want to reach my hand out in comfort to those who need it. I want more comments, and to give more comments, than simple clicks of a “like” or “love” button.

I look back over the losses of loved ones, and it hurts. Marcus’s final weekend alive was spent celebrating his life with a living funeral. Some people flew in from all over the country, and in two different cases, from other countries, in order to say good-bye and celebrate the life of a man who meant so much to so many people. There were no social media posts about it, because that would have been disrespectful to a man who lived in the moment and fully present with those he was around. When he died, I and two other of his dearest friends were holding his hands.

I used to spend all my experiences snapping photos and then posting it out on social media. I still snap those photos, yet, some of the most important and poignant moments of my life in this last year of change, they’ve never made it to the public’s eye. If you’ve read me for a time (or if this is your first time reading me), you’ll notice that there are times where I don’t even refer to the person I’m talking about by anything other than “they/them”; because I have learned to guard certain parts of my life, and want to afford that respect to those in my life if they don’t live as public of a life as I sometimes do. There have been experiences I have shared with people that never made it onto my Instagram or Facebook pages, because they were private, either between me and another person, or something I wanted just for me. Because they were too important, too meaningful, too special, and moments I’m going to remember when my final breath takes place.

Around my fortieth birthday, I was contacted through my website by the sister of a former friend. Years before I had broken ties with her, due to continuous fighting and her focus on the negative. The sister told me that she had died the week before. My first thought was not, “Oh, I regret…”. Instead, I felt badly for her daughter, her sister, her parents, those people in her life who loved her. My memories of her were negative, and worse, sad.

But it kicked off a question in my mind: if I died, right in that moment, how would I be remembered? Would I be remembered for the trips I took, the brightly colored hair, my tattoos, the things that don’t really matter? Or would I be remembered as being kind, thoughtful, considerate?

The expression “Don’t go to bed angry” is one that’s applicable. If we were to die, or someone we love dies, what would our last words be to them? Were they kind? Compassionate? Filled with love? Or were we angry, hateful, lacking compassion? How often have we lost the chance to say what is written in our hearts towards others in our lives?

So my focus shifted, and still, today, it’s shifting. Red River was just the pivot on which I fully shifted over into acceptance of what I truly want in life.

On the first day of the road trip, my friend asked me if I thought people were born good or evil. It’s not the first time I’ve had this conversation, and it certainly won’t be the last. I believe that we all have equal parts good and bad within ourselves; the important thing is our choices. Do we chose to make the right decision? Do we chose to act with kindness, compassion, and love?

“What do you want for yourself?” That was the question that gave me pause, the question that has lingered in the back of my mind daily since that pivotal meeting in August 2016. “What do you want for yourself?” The question I’ve been asked more times in my forties than in any other part of my life.

I have lived so much of my life in fear: fear of hurt, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of physical pain. Last October, during a twisting workshop, the owner of Gaia Flow Yoga shook up my life by a simple statement. Attempting to assist me deeper into a twist, she had taken my arm in her hand and pulled. I pulled back. Smiling at me, she tried again, and again, I pulled back. After the third time, Chrystal let go, placed her hand on my arm, and looking me in my eyes said the words that would shove me directly onto the path I am now on: “Amber, stop resisting. I love you. I am not going to hurt you.”

Twelve words is all it took to break me open again. Twelve words, said with love, said with compassion, said with understanding. Six months later, walking up that narrow mountain trail, I initially resisted my muscles aching, trying to keep up with my friend. Then I stopped, and kept to my honest pace, the pace my body could handle.

“What do you want for yourself?” I couldn’t answer in 2016. Fear of facing what I wanted deep down, fear of hurt, fear of repeating past mistakes, it kept me from answering the question. Yet a year and a half after being asked that question, and six months after being told to stop resisting, I found my answer on a mountain path, in a town I fell in love with at the young age of seventeen.

As our lives change, as we gain new experiences, as we meet new people, we’re changed. I fully believe each person who comes into our life, whether for years or just moments, come into our lives with the purpose of teaching us something. We might recognize the lesson in the moment it happens, or maybe we don’t recognize it until years later. So what we want, what we think we want, what we need, and what we think we need, all of those things can change, and it can change drastically.

Walking down that trail, keeping my eyes on the path in front of me to watch for rocks (I stumbled a lot that day), I thought over that question. Aside from the obvious answer of a shower, a cup of coffee and a big dinner, what I wanted was more basic than any other time I had attempted to answer that question in my life. I wanted peace. I wanted more quiet. More time with those I love. I wanted more time to continue my yogic journey, more opportunities to teach. I wanted to do more for others. See my children happy and healthy. I wanted to love and to be loved, not in a swept off my feet kind of way, but in the way where you love with your whole heart, no reservations, no fear of future hurt and disappointment. I want to be remembered, not for how I looked, not for what I did as a career, not for those things which I survived, but for how I treated people, whether they are in my life for five minutes, five weeks, five months, five years, fifty years.

I thought of how many times I had blocked out people and experiences, simply out of fear of hurt. Simply out of fear of risking myself or my emotions. I thought again of Marcus, one of the most significant people in my life. He was in my life, as a dear friend, for twenty years. Looking back over the years we spent together as friends, the experiences, all of it was worth it. If I could go back to my twenty-one year old self and say, “Amber, Marcus will die in twenty years, and it is going to devastate you. If you don’t form this friendship, you’re going to avoid one of the biggest heartbreaks of your life,” I would not. I would not trade the twenty years of laughter and memories to avoid the pain of losing my dearest friend.

And maybe, just maybe, had I lived my life with that mindset, I would be a much different person today.

But that’s the thing: who I am now? I fought hard to become her. Every single moment of my life, every single experience, good, bad, beautiful, ugly, short, long, joyous, painful, all of them led to here. It led to a woman who laughs hard and loud, who loves deeply and loyally, who is blessed in having friends in her life that are family. It was worth the pain of the thorns to experience the beauty of the roses.

“What do you want for yourself?” To live a life filled with joy, with love, with adventure, with compassion, and lacking in fear. To have more moments filled with laughter, that don’t make it onto social media. To truly connect with others, to be more fully present with them. To continue to inhale and exhale, and move forward with my life.

My name is Amber Jerome~Norrgard. I am forty-one years old. I have survived an abusive adoptive mother, and an abusive first marriage. I am an adoptee, and I found my biological mother when I was twenty-four. I beat infertility three times, and lost my ability to have any more children to endometriosis and cervical cancer. I have survived severe, suicidal depression. My oldest child is a transgender male who has more courage than anyone else I’ve ever met in my life. Over six years, I lost over 100 pounds. I am an author, a publisher, a college professor, and a yoga instructor. I am terrified of heights and flying. I love hard, and I love deep. I snort when I laugh, and if I’m not drinking vodka, I’m a fan of wine. I love baseball, and have recently discovered the joy of hockey.

And I believe all things happen for a reason. And that reason? Love.

Love yourselves, and love one another with compassion.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

 

 

 

#notepadpoetry

I can already hear my editor grinding his teeth at the title of this blog post.

Sorry, Dear Editor. I know this goes against everything you know about proper writing. But seriously, the title is hashtagged. And “#notepad #poetry” just doesn’t look as good as a title.

It’s been an amazing six-and-a-half years since I hit publish on The Color of Dawn back in January 2012. Had someone sat me down and told me where my life would go and what I’d experience over the last several years, I’d of laughed and called them a liar, because no way would I have believed this is where I’d be.

So much has changed since then. The first year of my life as an author involved way too much self-doubt and fear. I’d sit with my hand hovering over the mouse, terrified of clicking on the publish icon, certain no one would like my work. Then I’d spend hours hitting refresh on the product page on Amazon to watch my sales and see where I was ranking.

But things change. Newbie writers turn into seasoned writers as they release more work and gain more confidence when their readers review their work.

Life as an author has at times felt surreal. I’ll go to Amazon, search my name, and then be surprised that so many titles come up. I’ll be making the rounds of pre-event interviews and media pushes before IndieVengeance Day, and someone will call or email me to say they saw my picture on the front page of the local paper and read the article. Or I’ll be giving a workshop or at a speaking engagement, and the person introducing me reads my bio and I’m sitting there going, “Damn, I actually did all that!”

It might be the fact that my life generally revolves around yelling at my kids to put their laundry in the hamper, or household cleaning (kids are incredibly  messy in the bathroom), or endless baskets of laundry. Or I’m walking and trip over my own two feet, or more hilariously, go to take Crow posture in yoga, and finally get it for two seconds before the sweat on my arms causes me to slip and face plant hard in the middle of yoga.

On paper, I come across as put together, intelligent, accomplished, and well spoken. In reality though, well, if you’ve actually met me, you’re aware I’m accident prone, I’m damn good at getting my tongue tangled up, and unless there’s an act of God and Congress simultaneously, or at least my hair dresser Sarah’s hand in it, my hair has a mind of it’s own.

Yet somehow, I managed to pull off putting together my twenty-sixth book (and my 1000px Notepad Poetry Ebook Cover 6x9seventeenth poetry collection), set to release this Friday, June 29. #notepadpoetry came about when last summer, I was without pen or paper, and with nothing to write on (or with), I used the notepad function on my phone, intending to write it out later on. Which never happened, probably because there was more laundry to do. A few weeks after, inspiration struck again, and again, I opened up the notepad function in my phone. Eventually, I had enough poems to put together in a collection, and the name was a no-brainer.

But this book is different from any other poetry collection I’ve written and published. Before, my work was inspired more often than not by things I was struggling with, by the painful parts of life. As my life has changed over the last six years, so has my writing. To be completely honest, I began wondering a year ago if I had any more poetry left in me: Life had been (and continues to remain ) happy and I had been content for quite some time.

Writers often talk about how they use their experiences in their work. Certainly, my poetry has been influenced and inspired by what I’ve been dealing with, and is definitely a form of therapy for me. But I wondered if being happy, if being content, if finally being at peace with myself would cause the inspiration or ability to dry up.

Really, there’s only one way to find out and test the theory: hit publish. So I set #notepadpoetry as a pre-order on Amazon, and it’s now available. True to form, I’m keeping my e-book pricing at $1.99 for the book, and the price won’t go up.

If you’d like to snag a copy, you can do so here. And that’s all the sales I’m going to throw at you, Dear Reader, because if you’ve been reading me for a time, you know I loathe promoting my own work.

If you do happen to read it, I hope you enjoy it. I hope it speaks to you, and brings something to your life.

Much love and huggles, Dear Reader. Thank you for being a part of my life as an author.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Return, Part 2

Welcome back, Dear Reader. I’m happy to see you’ve forgiven me for my “to be continued” at the end of Part 1 of this three-part blog series. If you’d like to catch up, you can find The Return, Part 1, right here.

We good? You caught up? Same rules apply as with the first part of this post: grab your favorite beverage, maybe a snack, and make a pit stop in your bathroom. Settle in, relax, and I hope you enjoy this…

Part 2

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“Why hello, delicious birthday cake!”

 

I couldn’t sleep the night before, partly due to the immense amount of my youngest sons’ birthday cake I had ingested, but partly due to the fact I was returning to New Mexico, the only state who’s symbol I have tattooed on my body. I was returning to New Mexico, and I was going to stay in Red River, a town that had gotten a hold of my heart twenty-four years before.

I managed about two hours of sleep before calling the attempt to get a full night’s rest a failure at 3:30 a.m. I got up, got my coffee going, did some last minute work. At 6:30 that morning, we were on the road. By 1:00 pm, we were at the Cadillac Ranch, enjoying some legally sanctioned graffiti. By 1:45, we were eating a late lunch at the MidPoint Cafe, one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.

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Yoga at the Cadillac Ranch, after a little bit of legally approved graffiti….

Not long after, we crossed into New Mexico, and like every other time I’ve crossed the state line, I felt peace. More than that, I felt giddy joy.

It took another four hours to hit Red River, owing to wild fires, and a nine mile section of our route being unpaved. But that unpaved section of road was beautiful and the temperature was low enough to roll down the windows and let the air mess up my hair.

Arriving, I was once again taken by how amazing the town was. After checking in at the hotel and getting situated for the weekend, we took a walk down the main drag. What amazed me was how quiet it was. Bar patios were filled with people, yet their voices were quiet to my ears, as were the sounds of cars driving by on Highway 38, which serves as the main street to the small town. Compared to Dallas, and the constant noise, it was a balm to my soul to be in such quiet. Add in that my cell phone service only worked in certain areas of the town, and I was unplugged, away from the stress of day-to-day life.

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Handstands in the Sangre de Cristos Mountains

The next morning, we had breakfast, then set off for the day. Initially, we had planned on hiking only until lunchtime; but coming up on a mile marker that gave the option for a shorter hike one mile away or a longer hike four miles away, we debated which to do. My friend pointed out they’d attempted the longer hike up to Lost Lake several times, and had never been able to complete it.

“Flip a coin,” I suggested. The truth is, I didn’t want to say yes or no to either. I figured if the universe had made it possible for me to be on that trailhead, the universe would know which was the better path. We’d chosen Lost Lake as heads, and when that’s how the coin landed, we began hiking up.

And up.

And up.

When four miles was marked off on my FitBit from the trailhead, and Lost Lake was no where in sight, I realized it had been correctly named. My legs were aching, my hamstrings in particular yelling at me that I was going to be feeling it the next day. But every time I paused for breath, and to rest my legs, I lost the breath I was gathering in the sheer beauty of the place. I took photos on my phone, but they in no way encompass the magnitude of how incredible the place was.

At places on the trail, there was barely enough space for one person to walk, let alone

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Lost Lake.  Bucket List item for my friend, worth the seven miles up, the achy muscles, and the chance to breathe and just be still.

two, with the mountain sheering off down below. I kept my eyes towards my right foot as I was walking; my phobia of heights was coming up, and I essentially had a “come to Jesus” talk with my anxiety: “You’re in a place you’ve never been before. You’re standing smack dab in the middle of a mountain, on top of a damn mountain, in a town you’ve dreamt of staying in for over twenty years. Cut the shit, take a deep breath, and keep going.” Still, having to hug the the incline next to me when someone would walk or bike by (as a mom, I was terrified watching people cycle by on the narrow path, but kept watching, to make sure they made it safely) would cause my fear of heights to kick off again.

My anxiety elected to shut the fuck up.

One mile past the four the trialhead sign claimed was the length of the upward journey, we came to the lake. I sat on a rock, and just looked out over the water, tears in my eyes. I thought of how at my age, my father had already had one of his hips replaced, how he already had to walk with a cane. I thought of a dear friend with a heart condition who never could have made that hike (my heart rate was hitting 140 bpm at several points). I thought of my oldest and dearest friend, Marcus, who had lost his battle to prostate cancer the week before my forty-first birthday this year, who would never see that view. In my early twenties, we had taken a spur-of-the-moment road trip to New Mexico, and he had been just as taken with Red River as I was.

I thought of how three years before, my doctors had told me my fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis were progressing enough that I had three years before daily pain management would be a necessity. I thought of how when I was fourteen, I could hardly walk due to Grave’s Disease causing my feet to swell up so large that they would crack open and bleed. I thought of surviving endometriosis only to gain one hundred pounds due to my metabolism dropping to nothing and the medications the doctors put me on. I thought of how six years before, a half a mile walk would have been too much for me. I cried for the teenager I had been who was not allowed to take physical education due to the heart complications related to Grave’s Disease, and I cried for the woman I had been been unable to move due to extreme pain from endometriosis. Maybe I had started the hike for myself, the Amber I was in that moment, and for my friend who I was traveling with, but I kept going when it hurt, when I was tired, when the fear of heights made me dizzy, and I kept going for my dad, for my friend with the heart condition, for my friend who had died, for anyone I know who has physical limitations, and most especially for those younger versions of myself who couldn’t have taken the hike. Because the me at age forty-one could. Because finally, for the first time in my life, at age forty-one, my body has healed and has become stronger, and because I am finally healthy.

It took four hours to make it to the top of that mountain to view that beautiful lake. It took about half that heading down since we were on a decline. Due to the fact my friend has at least a foot of height on me (and probably double the leg length), the journey down the trail was primarily done alone. Occasionally, they’d pause, look back and check to make sure I was still on the trail, and not, you know, crumpled in a heap at the bottom of the mountain.

Most of the hike down was spent in quiet reflection. I thought over my life this past year. I thought of the people who were no longer a part of it, and those who had come into it. I thought of where I had been, and where I wanted to go. And my mind kept returning to a conversation I had with a stranger I had met in a bar in August of 2016 when he asked me what I wanted. When I told him “For my children to be healthy and happy,” he looked me right in my eyes and said, “That’s a bullshit answer, Amber. Everyone wants that. What do you want for you?” Back then I thought I’d had an answer to that question, but in reflection, I didn’t have an honest answer. Because I was terrified to admit to my thirty-nine year old self what I wanted.

Walking down that mountain trail that day, it occurred to me that something has been leaving me unsettled for quite some time. Maybe it’s how so rarely do you see people focused on one another at dinner; their eyes locked on their cell phone screens. Maybe it’s how communication with others is rarely more than a text message

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“Colorful”, my kind of place.

or a private message on various social media sites. There’s a lack of communication, a break down in sharing that is lending to a feeling of sadness and loss in my life. Sure, we all like one another’s photos on Facebook and Instagram, but how often do we weigh in with a comment that’s not an acronym? How often do we really sit down, and invest a couple of hours in talking with those we love in person? How often do we meet for dinner, shut our cell phones off, and go without checking in to wherever we are, taking photos of the places we’re visiting and the food we’re eating? How often do we neglect to take half a second to hit “o” before “k” when we respond to text messages? I’m no better than anyone else; it’s become a knee jerk reaction to open up Facebook and Instagram on my phone to record what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with, and where we’re at.

Seventy-five percent of my trip to New Mexico and Colorado left me without cell phone service.

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Another ballpark visited, and quality time spent with one of the great loves of my life.

 

There was the understandable eyebrow raising thought that what if something happened to my kids, or what if when I was hiking I did fall (or my friend) and was unable to call for emergency help? But aside from that, being without service for most of the long weekend was refreshing. On Saturday night, while watching a baseball game on the television, I saw something that reminded me of a dear friend. I unlocked my phone to text her, then called her instead to share that I had thought of her, and we both laughed over the shared inside joke from a baseball game we were at together last summer. When we ended the call, she said it was wonderful to have heard my voice, and I echoed the sentiment. Because it was.

The drive from Dallas to Red River was around thirteen hours. In which my friend and I talked about anything and everything and nothing in particular. The conversation flowed easily, and what we actually discussed wasn’t the important thing: the important thing, the healing thing, the thing I had been needing in my life without knowing I needed it was a real conversation. No real interruptions of focusing on our phones, no long length time spent on social media. Just two people, being honest, being real, and actually being fully present in the time we were together.

I had a longer wait at the airport (my friend had offered to hang out in Denver with me before my flight, but I told them to go ahead on with their road trip, that I’d be fine.), and parking my rear end aspect on a bar stool to do some work, I’d converse with strangers

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Amazing artwork at the Denver Airport

who were also waiting, either for their flights or their loved ones. I made three new friends that day, and again, our conversations were real. The only times our phones got attention was when we friended one another on Facebook.

Technology is wonderful. The way we’re able to be in touch with, get to know, connect with people in far flung parts of our world is nothing short of miraculous. But it’s a double edged sword. There’s a decline in face to face time, there’s a decline in actually being fully present with others.

About six months after my father passed away, the nail salon I frequent offered me a free trial of eyelash extensions. I figured why not? If I hated them, I could remove them and never do them again. And it wasn’t that I really enjoyed them; I was rather indifferent to having them on, and could achieve the same look with false eyelashes in three minutes at home. I kept having them done because for one hour every two weeks, I was forced to keep my eyes closed. I was forced to unplug, forced to put my damn phone down, forced to actually be alone in my thoughts, rather than locked in on some social media site or app on my phone. Eventually I stopped having the eyelash extensions done, and revisited meditation. Not long after I entered instructor certification, the studio I was taking my certification course from began a weekly sound bath meditation. On weeks where my mind won’t slow down, shut down, when my heart is heavy, and my shoulders are bowing under the weight of life, it’s been a blessing.

For so long in my life, I shut down and shut out people out of fear. Back then, I thought I was being brave and strong by putting up walls. Wasn’t I just so amazing and independent, alone in my tower, surveying those who were dumb enough to let people in? I thought that if I kept my emotions in check, if I didn’t let people see me, see my flaws, my hurt, my scars, I was saving myself from hurt and loneliness. I was risking nothing, so I wasn’t going to hurt. If I kept up a shield of keeping people at a distance, if my only interactions were superficial, if I kept my conversations less than real, if I didn’t allow people close enough to touch me, I would be okay. I’d be without pain, without hurt.

….To be continued….

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah…. you want to know the rest of the story…. I promise, it’s worth the wait.

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Ahimsa

Last night, out with my nearest and dearest, I got in a conversation with a gentleman on the next bar stool over. As with most first-time conversations, after we got through the parts about our ages and how many kids we have, he asked me what I did for a living.

“You’ve got about three-quarters of a beer left, that should be enough time,” I said, and launched into the longgggggggg list of things I do to make ends meet. When I got to “yoga instructor”, he responded in the way most people do.

“I’ve never done yoga; I’m really not that flexible.”

Ah yes, I’ve heard that before. I’ve said that before. And I’ve said it recently, but ended that statement with the word “today”. I totally get it. You see all these photos and videos on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, Flexi-Lexis all twisted up into pretzels and launching their legs up into handstands with ease. Guess what? Those postures took some time to get. A few days ago, I posted a video of myself taking a supported headstand (salamba sirsasana), a posture I take before any practice because of how it realigns my spine and resets my mind. I’ve often been asked by other members of my studio how I’m able to take it so flawlessly without falling over, and without using the wall or an instructor for assistance. The answer is simple: I took the posture daily, for several months, against a wall, or with the assistance of a friend. Once I was able to come up without touching the wall, or being kept in balance by a friend (having developed muscle memory for the posture), I moved away from the wall. What that video doesn’t show is all the times my feet landed against the wall before I straightened up my legs, it doesn’t show all the times I fell out of the posture, and it doesn’t show all the times a friend or an instructor was there keeping me from falling over. Whereas there are postures that come natural to each person practicing yoga, they’re all different, and different factors lead to what our strengths are. A yogi who can take full Lotus might not be able to get their handstand, and vice versa. Postures that were easy to come by on one day, might not come so easy the next day, or the next week.

Here’s a brief overview of what yoga really is: yoga is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual practice that dates back at least 5,000 years. Pantanjali, the father of yoga and author of the Yoga Sutras, divided the practice of yoga into eight limbs, postures being the third limb.

That means that when you’re talking about being flexible, or not, as my friend last night described himself, you’re just dealing with one part of the larger picture. Let’s break this down in a way that’s relatable to most of us: Say you have a pie. The pie is cut into eight slices. If you eat one, that one slice you just enjoyed covers the physical aspect of yoga, the asanas.

And if you’re like me, that one slice is just not enough. I want the whole damn thing. Give me more pie, or in this case, yoga please. I’ll take the whole shebang.

Remember those limbs I was talking about? Well, I’m going to start telling you about them. But let’s start at the first and go from there, shall we?

The first limb of yoga are the Yamas. Yamas are simply things we abstain from,The Yamas guidelines in living a kinder, more mindful, more compassionate and loving life, not just towards our fellow man, but towards ourselves as well.

The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa. Ahimsa translates to “non-violence”. There’s the obvious no-brainer that you don’t hit people. But taking a bit further, practicing Ahimsa omeans we live without harm in word, thought and action. Not just to other people, but to ourselves. We approach all situations with compassion and understanding. How often are we driving in traffic, and someone cuts us off, and our reaction is to give them a single finger salute, or curse loudly? What if we took just a moment and considered that maybe, that person was rushing to the hospital because a person they loved was hurt? Maybe they were rushing to get home to their child. Or maybe they just weren’t thinking. Just because someone behaves in a negative manner, we don’t need to respond in the same way. We are not responsible for other people’s actions, but we are very responsible for our own reactions.

How often are we in a situation where we beat ourselves up over an error in judgement? We tend to be our own worst enemies, when we should be our own best friends. We should handle ourselves with love, first and foremost, and remember that past mistakes aren’t what matters. What matters is what we do moving forward in our lives.

On our mats, how often do we come to our practice with unrealistic expectations? How often are we angry when postures aren’t coming to us as easily as they have in prior practices, or when our neighbor on the mat can take the full expression when we’re barely able to take the posture?

Last December, I became determined to get my handstand. I signed up for a private lesson with Becca at my studio. For an hour, we worked on different techniques, Becca very patiently guiding me through possible ways to get my handstand. At the end of the hour, I got…… Nope. Didn’t get it. Because my focus was on the destination, not the journey itself. The more I tried, the more frustrated I became, the farther I was from my goal of getting my toes up in the air with my shoulders over my wrists.

I worked on my handstand practice before class for the next few weeks. Rolling into the New Year, I finally decided to just let go and stop putting pressure on myself. On a Friday afternoon, after an intense HIIT weight session, I had gone to the studio after, due to the gentle and detox classes being beneficial in eliminating most, if not all, of my muscular pain the day after weight training.

Unrolling my mat, I debated: did I work on my handstand? I was tired, my body was aching, and what I wanted was to sprawl out on my mat in the ten minutes we had before practice began. I finally decided to give it five handstand attempts. If I didn’t make it, I didn’t make it, but at least I would know that I had tried.

By the fourth handstand, my calves and hamstrings were signaling me it was about time to consider stopping. “Just one more, then rest,” I said to myself. I planted my hands, inhaled and exhaled while lifting my right leg higher with each inhale. On the third inhale, I lifted off, both legs coming up, my feet landing on the mirror behind me. “Oh my Lord,” I’d said, as the yogis in the room applauded. I held the handstand for about twenty seconds before laughing my way out of it in joy.

I had come into my practice that day with no expectations, no goal in mind, other than to be in the moment, and accept what was presented to me. I had put no pressure on myself, experiencing no anger when I didn’t make my handstand. I simply allowed what was meant to be, to be.

Be kind to others and yourself, no matter the situation. Approach all things with love, with kindness, with gratitude, with compassion.

Much love,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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