You're Not Broken

You're Not Broken.jpg

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

We all have issues.

Every last one of us has areas in our life where we feel stuck, hurt, and insufficient. I used to think that I had A LOT of issues. Now more and more, however, I’m starting to see that my multiplicitous issues are really just a few issues repeating themselves. Instead of having 26 different issues, I can see now that I really only have about three or four. But those three or four like to show up dressed in a different costume each time.

Same old story, different day.

You *could* see this information as encouraging: I only have THREE issues!!!

Or it might feel more like: Oh God when will these same three issues GO AWAY???

And when you get stuck in that second train of thought, (“When will I ever move past this? I clearly suck at life and everything in general because I can’t seem to make progress on this one thing.”) you might start to feel like you’re broken. Like you’re damaged goods, irreparably disfigured by whatever hardship or trauma has brought you to this place. But I want to tell you:

You’re not broken. This is just the shape you are.

We all have issues. Whatever your particular issues are, remember that we’ve all got em. No one is unshaped by the experience of their life. Every last one of us has been sculpted by whatever shit we’ve been through. If you’re like me, there’s been a lot of shit, and it can amount to a big ole pile of shame.

When you feel ashamed of your issues, you can get stuck in a cycle of blame, deflection and defeat, continuously feeling bad about how bad you feel, rejecting your own self-judgement, and wallowing in self-pity.

Remind yourself: you can’t be “fixed” because *you’re not broken.*

This doesn’t mean you can’t keep working towards betterment. You can and you must carry forward on the path towards liberation. But there’s a difference between taking responsibility for how your issues affect your life and blaming yourself for your issues.

Seeing yourself as fundamentally whole means looking your imperfections in the face without flinching or turning away. It's a call to do some of the hardest work there is to do: choosing to meet yourself there with compassion and love.  Let this be your mantra: 

I'm not broken. This is just the shape I am.

Much love, 



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How To Get Unstuck

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

Renew passport.

I scrawled this item onto my to do list in September, and there it sat for the better part of three months. I was going to Mexico in January and my passport wasn't going to renew itself.

Ten years before, I'd gotten my first passport, booked a flight, saved $1500 in cash from my waitressing job, converted it into two-thirds as many Euros and cavorted across the continent. I was visiting my best friend who'd studied abroad in Paris; we wandered around together in France and then Italy for five weeks. I finally spent my last cent in Venice on pizza, gelato, espresso and wine.

That passport had expired in June. In order to go to Mexico, I needed to get my passport renewed. I knew that. And yet, I put it off. Renew passport scowled at me from the page every time I looked at my list. When I started a new list, I copied and recopied it onto the page.

And yet I would not, could not get it done. The idea of renewing my passport seemed so daunting, so seemingly complex, that I even contemplated not going to Mexico, just to avoid having to renew the goddamn thing.

I was stuck.

Finally, three weeks before my departure, I realized what was happening. Renew passport was not something I could do in one sitting. It wasn’t even something I could do in one day. I had made the all-too-common error of putting a project on a list of tasks.

As I’ve written about before, a task is a discrete action, something that can be accomplished in one sitting, while a project is multifaceted and by definition requires coordination of multiple parts. When you put a project on your task list, you get stuck, too paralyzed to begin because you don’t know where to start. But when you break down a project into tasks, you can take action. And one action leads to more. As poet Kay Ryan says, "Action creates a taste for itself."

This is how you get unstuck.

Renew passport turned out to be made up of eight tasks:

  • Google “How to renew passport”

  • Go to my co-working space to print out required forms

  • Fill out all 1,000 forms

  • Google which Walgreen’s locations take passport photos

  • Go to Walgreen’s and have photos taken

  • Call passport office to schedule appointment

  • Drive downtown in the cold pouring rain, pay $12 to park, trudge through the rain up to the 10th floor, stand in line, and finally, turn in required paperwork

  • Wait for new passport to arrive


Progress is simply small actions in concert over time.

So, dear ones, am I the only one who has written File Taxes on their to-do list? Might I encourage us all to cross that off and write a new, better list? One that says things like, “Find shoebox of receipts,” “Organize said shoebox,” and “Call accountant to make appointment.”

Wouldn’t that help you get unstuck?

Much love,




You're Not A Machine. #resilientresistance

This is the fifth post in a series called Resilient Resistance, happening in conjunction with a workshop series I'm co-leading with herbalist Jen Stovall of Maypop Herb Shop here in New Orleans on March 18 + 19. We're sharing strategies for doing justice work without burning out or giving up, using mindful movement, meditation, breathwork, nutrition and herbal medicine to nurture the resistance. Learn more and sign up at

Because of capitalism, we tend to think of our bodies as machines on an assembly line: they should endlessly produce, zipping along at a swift and consistent pace, no need for rest. We treat some bodies more this this way than others: think of the enslaved people who labored on plantations in south Louisiana. Or now, the migrant farmers who pick tomatoes in Florida for pennies a day.

But even for those of us privileged enough to not work under such extreme conditions, this mindset pervades. How many of you have gone to work anyway when you’re sick? Or when you’ve got your period and all you really want to do is curl up with your hot water bottle? Count me in that number as well.

I’m not blaming us for this--I’m blaming our culture and our society that makes it damn near impossible to give ourselves a break. Many people simply don’t get sick days, others who get them can’t afford to take a sick day, and some simply won’t let themselves be “off” even when it’s what the body is calling for most.

But our bodies are not machines.

They cannot work endlessly until they die. They're part of nature, and nature takes breaks. Nature has cycles. Machines do not.*

Certainly for some of us it is easier to take a vacation or even just take a day off of work, and I don’t mean to minimize those distinctions.  And it can feel like if we step away from the work even momentarily, it will all fall apart. In the social justice world, we think that if we take breaks that we're selling out.

But if we don't take breaks, you’ll be burning out. My most seasoned teachers and mentors in this work, many of whom live and work in frontline communities, all espouse this wisdom. It is from them that I have learned this lesson.

Taking breaks doesn't mean taking breaks from caring. But it does mean taking breaks from the things that wear you down: the 24-hour news cycle. Social media. Being deeply engaged with every single terrible thing happening in the world.

Take a day (or forty!) off social media. Decolonize the part of your mind that insists that if you stop working, you’re worthless. Do something sweet that replenishes yourself.

Let yourself truly rest.

(*This metaphor’s not perfect because apparently machines actually do take breaks! As a student more experienced than me with factory work explained in class on Sunday, once a year all the machines in a factory are stopped for the type of maintenance that can’t be done while they’re running. Everything broken gets fixed; things get disassembled and cleaned; all the rusty parts get oiled. So EVEN MACHINES TAKE BREAKS!!)

Much love, 


P.S. I’m co-teaching a new workshop on using yoga and herbs as tools for resistance. Click here for more info:

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Seek Beauty

This is the fourth post in a series called Resilient Resistance. We need all of us to stay engaged for the long haul, so I’m sharing strategies for doing justice work without burning out or giving up. We can’t afford to lose any one of us. Want next week’s edition? Click here to subscribe.

Our culture tends to treat aesthetics as frivolous, the realm of the rich and cultured. When you’re fighting for your life, stopping to appreciate the sunset can feel out of reach. But if we forget to notice the beauty, we can quickly lose sight of what we’re fighting for.

“There's a sunrise and sunset every day. You can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”

That’s the writer Cheryl Strayed. Notice the elegance of the natural world, the humanity in another person’s eyes, the way the colors of the houses play off one another. Remembering to take even the smallest moment to seek beauty can transform you, fortify you, and bolster your commitments to undoing this system that seeks to oppress.

In New Orleans we have this one pretty easy this time of year; Carnival is truly a feast for the senses. Not only do we get to witness a plethora of gorgeousness, we are all invited to participate in making beauty. Mardi Gras Indians debut their intricate beaded and feathered suits. Seamstresses sew elaborate gowns. Ordinary citizens get out their glue guns to co-create the magic of Carnival.

Charles Eisenstein, thinker and writer sums it up this way: “In the face of the impending crisis, people often ask what they can do to protect themselves....I would like to suggest a different kind of question: ‘What is the most beautiful thing I can do?’”

What is the most beautiful thing you can do today?

What is the most beautiful way you can engage with this fight for justice?

What is the most beautiful sight you’ll see?

Much love, 


P.S. I’m teaching a new workshop on using yoga and herbs as tools for resistance. Click here for more info:

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Get Embodied. #resilientresistance

This is the third post in a series called Resilient Resistance. We need all of us to stay engaged for the long haul, so I’m sharing strategies for doing justice work without burning out or giving up. We can’t afford to lose any one of us. Last week's post was Pick One Thing. Want next week’s edition? Click here to subscribe.

My call for us this week is simple: get out of your anxious, hectic brain and get back into your body. Through years of practice, most of us are pretty good at ignoring, overriding, and shutting down the sensations of the body. We’ve lost access to our own intuition, even though it’s the one voice that truly knows what you need. This isn’t because of some personal failing on your part, though. Societal factors are at work to keep us disembodied, so getting back in your body becomes both an act of resilience and an act of resistance.

Patriarchy prioritizes the intellect at the expense of physicality (and emotionality, but that’s a post for a different day). Because of this, we tend to think of the intellect as the highest realm of being, to the extent that we get so wrapped up in the realm of the mind that our bodies seem to completely disconnect. If you’ve ever had a long day studying or working in front of a computer, alone with your thoughts, only to snap out of the trance 8 hours later and finally feel your aching back and shoulders, you know what I mean.

White supremacy (and patriarchy and cisnormativity and...) criminalizes some bodies while praising others. I’ve talked before about the skinny, bendy white lady yoga norm and how damaging it is to all of us, including those that happen to meet this norm, and especially those who fall outside of it. Meanwhile Black bodies, trans bodies, and immigrant bodies (among others) are routinely harassed, criminalized, and killed with impunity. We are shown over and over again that our bodies are never enough, that our bodies aren’t safe, that simply by existing, our bodies will betray us.

But our bodies matter! These weird sagging bags of bones are our constant companions and how we move through this tender, brutal world. Your body is the path to your deepest knowing, so tending to it is of paramount importance. Getting back in the body is a way to get grounded and get out of your spinning brain that’s (understandably) terrified about the future and get back to this moment right now.

This isn’t to make the uncertainty of the future go away, but to try to balance it out with the reassurance of the present.

Here is a short list, compiled by your brilliant minds in class this week, of ways to reactivate your body when you feel disconnected:

  • Sit in the grass.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Work in a garden. Touch dirt.
  • Chop vegetables.
  • Eat something delicious.
  • Dance to your favorite music.  
  • Take a hot bath.
  • Have an orgasm.
  • Sniff an essential oil or something else with a strong smell.
  • Wear something with a nice texture (like velvet.)
  • Breathe slow deep breaths.

What else would you add to this list? What else helps you get embodied? I’d love to know!

Much love,


P.S. I’m teaching a new series on practicing inversions that starts next week. Another excellent way to Get Embodied! Click here for more info:

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Pick One Thing. Do It Well. #resilientresistance

This is the second post in a series called Resilient Resistance. Last week's post was Cynicism Is Not An Option. Want next weeks's edition, entitled Get Embodied? Click here to subscribe to get my weekly love notes filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. 

Right now it can feel overwhelming to envisage all the fronts upon which our rights are being attacked: immigration, education, women’s health, the environment, etc etc etc. And if you’re as fired up as me about all of it, it can also feel overwhelming to try to accomplish all the actions needed to fight back.

I want to call every senator, sign every petition, write every letter, march in every protest, paint every banner, and shout at every town hall meeting. But I can’t. My personal capacity is not enough to dismantle these systems of oppression on my own. This fight will not be won by any one of us.

One of the points that was emphasized in my first yoga teacher training was to give no more than three alignment instructions in any pose. Any more than that is overwhelming for the student, and generally impossible to accomplish attending to all of those instructions. Can you imagine being in Down Dog, for instance, and your teacher says:

Spread your fingers apart and press down into all ten fingers, especially the index finger and thumb. Lift the wrists away from the floor. And rotate your upper arms externally. And widen the tops of the shoulder blades apart to make space at the base of the neck. And lengthen the crown of the head towards the floor to lengthen the neck. Now stretch the spine long. And find a neutral pelvis. And press the thighs back. And draw the heels down. Aaaaaaannnnnd breathe.

You’d be crying! (Also sorry if you’ve been my student since the beginning because I definitely used to try to give all these cues in every Down Dog! Apologies to your wrists and shoulders.) Truth be told, we're actually not that good at multitasking. So instead, I just pick one (or three) of those instructions to focus on.

And we do the heck out of that thing.

For the moment, we don’t worry about the other ones. Not because they don’t matter, but because you actually can’t do it all. And it tends to be violent to try. Catholic mystic Thomas Merton says, "There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork....To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism...destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." h/t Desiree Adaway

The same is true about our movement work. Trying to do everything all the time is a straight shot to burnout. Here’s the good news: just because you can’t do it all doesn’t me WE can’t do it all. We can. And we are. My friend and teacher Kelly says it this way:

“I think a lot of us feel like we're showing up to a barn-raising with a teaspoon, which makes us think we're not contributing, not doing significant work, don't have the right equipment or training, or aren't big enough to make a difference. It's not spoon vs bulldozer. It's not the tool that counts. It's the resistance of *all* of us. So bring your spoons, your paintbrushes, your laptops, your phones, your canvases, your balloons, your bread, your comedy routines, your massage tables, your oils, your poems, your voice. We are the people. And we can do this.”

So pick one thing. (Or three things, if you have the privilege, capacity and wherewithal.) Take that action thoroughly, consistently and well. Don't get anxious about the rest. Trust that others are doing their work alongside you. 

Show up daily, with heart and with might. We need all of us to stay engaged for the long haul. We can’t afford to lose any one of us. We need to show up and keep at it. This is how we will find collective liberation. This is how we will bend the arc towards justice. 

This is how we build resilient resistance.

I'd love to know-- what are your strategies for #resilientresistance? Comment here or tag me on Facebook or Instagram @bearteachesyoga.  

Much love, 


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Cynicism Is Not An Option

This is the first post in a series called Resilient Resistance. Want next weeks's edition, entitled Pick One Thing. Do It Well? Click here to subscribe to get my weekly love notes filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation.

The world, while always pretty skewed, has felt particularly bleak and intense these past few weeks. I have found myself saying, “The world is burning,” many more times than is reasonable. Or rather, I’ve said it an exactly appropriate number of times, and that is unreasonable. I’m sort of joking, but in that dark humor is a real fear.

Despite how terrified I sometimes feel (particularly for my Muslim and Latinx friends right now), cynicism is not an option. Cynicism is a luxury we cannot afford. I am not implying that we must all be happy kittens and rainbows all the time. But we also cannot afford to let ourselves drink the poison of cynicism.

Here’s the thing: Cynicism is a tool of the oppressor. They want us cynical and discouraged. They want us too tired and fatalistic to fight. If we believe that things can’t change, things won’t change. The system requires that we believe what is happening is inevitable and that there’s no way to stop it. As Terry Eagleton puts it, “After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.”

Cynics say "Why bother?" Put another way, “The cynic thinks that he is being practical and that the hopeful person is not. It is actually the other way around. Cynicism is paralyzing, while the naïve person tries what the cynic says is impossible and sometimes succeeds.” That's Charles Eisenstein. 

Cynicism is deciding that there’s no hope. And we must continue to have hope. What gives me hope is US. Everyone who showed up to march last weekend. Everyone who’s been calling your senators and representatives every day, multiple times a day. Everyone who, without any planning, at a moment’s notice, heard there were people in need at the airports and heeded that call. I have hope when I look at art being made by my community members. I have hope when I hear friends sing a beautiful song.

We need inspiration, belief, faith in order to fight. To stay engaged. To show up. So feel your feelings, yes. Feel all the grief and anger that’s welling in your heart. But don’t let it harden you. Don’t let your rage steal your belief that things can and must change.

Don’t despair.

For as long as there has been oppression, there have been resisters. We are supported in all directions, from the past and the future, by those who believe in freedom. We are on the right side of history y’all. Let’s go.


Much love, 





Together We Are Everything

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

One of the biggest lies of the systems that oppress us is that it is your individual merit that earns you anything you gain. If you work hard, we are taught, you will ascend the social ladder. If you are rich or successful, it is of your own doing. The inverse is also supposed to be true: if you are poor or struggling, it is because you haven’t worked hard enough.

The myth of the individual meritocracy is a belief that is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy. I don’t believe this bullshit, and I don’t expect that most of you reading this do either. We know how race, class, and gender privilege lift some of us up while holding others down. We understand how these systemic factors are intertwined with individual behaviors, and that the two cannot be unwound.*

In the face of the impending crises of our time, it can be tempting to want to protect yourself and yourself alone. But I believe a better strategy is to always keep looking back for those who still need to be protected. As has been said by many advocates for justice, “None of us can truly be free until all of us are free.”**

As evidenced by the millions of people who came together at protests and rallies around the world this weekend, the fight for justice will not be won by any one person. Despite our cultural longing for an individual savior, the truth is, we are stronger together. 

So as you bolster your skills for self-care, commit yourself also to community care. Integrate yourself into your community. Ask for help when you need it. Offer help when you can give it. Seek support from friends. Build relationships like family with those around you: become each others siblings, cousins and elders. Find your kin.

Share when you have an abundance, so you may lean on others when you come up lacking. Interweave yourself with those around you. Seek interdependence rather than independence.

This is how we find safety: by being indispensable to each other. This is how we survive: by holding each other up. This is how we win: by striving towards one goal of liberation for all. 

Much love, 


*My thinking in this article has been variously influenced by the work of Kelly Diels, Desiree Lynn Adaway, and Yashna Padamsee.

**This quote has been attributed to Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr, and Mahatma Gandhi. I looked for its original source but was unable to locate it. If you can confirm, let me know! 

P.S. I'm teaching a workshop series in a few weeks on how to use yogic practices to manage anxiety. I'd love to have you there. Click here for more info and to sign up. 

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Bracing For Impact: Softness As An Antidote To Burnout

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

In an offhand comment before class the other night, a student shared this insight. (Thanks, Marina!) Roughly paraphrased, she said:

There is a particular anxiety gripping most of us right now that has to do with anticipating the inauguration this weekend, and the uncertainty of what will follow. After it’s over, we might actually feel less stressed, not because things are going to get better, but because we will be in the difficulty, as opposed to just waiting for the difficulty to begin.

My therapist says that anxiety is an anticipatory condition. Its potency lies in the vast unknown of the future. When we don’t know what the future holds, but we expect it to be good, that’s called excitement. When we expect that it will be bad, that’s anxiety. Lately anxiety has been the constant thrum underneath each thought, each conversation, and each breath of many of us.

Right now, we are bracing for impact.

I keep thinking of the metaphor of a car crash with a drunk driver, in which the sober victims are badly injured because they braced for impact, tense with awareness, while the inebriated driver walks away unscathed because they were loose with ignorance.

All signs point to the fact that a Trump presidency, coupled with a conservative-dominant House and Senate, is going to be a trainwreck for many of us. For poor people, Black people, queer and trans people, Muslims, immigrants, women, we are all at risk of harassment, financial loss, bodily harm, or even death. This is a terrifying prospect, and I don’t mean to imply that we should minimize it.

I’m not advocating for a lack of awareness. If anything, we must maintain and even increase our resistance. Vigilance is required. My question for us now is: can we find a way to be aware but still loose? Can we anticipate without anxiety?

If we are to survive in the long term, I believe that our strategy must also involve softness. Chronic bracing for impact is a surefire way to drain your energy, tax your nervous system, and deplete your strength. Softness, spaciousness, looseness must all be part of our practice, otherwise we run the risk of burnout.

In this system, in the words of Audre Lorde, “we were never meant to survive.” Let us not harm ourselves from the inside out. We have a long road of resistance ahead of us. I plan to be on it for the next four years, eight years, seventy years, but I know I can’t do that if I’m constantly stressed. We can’t afford to lose any of us, so how are we going to take care?

Hold yourselves and each other with softness. Find spaces where you feel safe and spend time there. Care for each other. Care for yourself. Spend time with trees and grass and sky. Breathe slowly. Cook dinner with friends. Without rejecting your experience of anxiety, create opportunities to discharge the stress. Do so with softness.

Much love, 


P.S. I'm teaching a workshop series in a few weeks on how to use yogic practices to manage anxiety. I'd love to have you there. Click here for more info and to sign up. 

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Suffering Is Optional

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

We will all, at some point, experience pain. Sometimes the pain is physical: a sprained ankle, a toothache, a pulled muscle in the low back. Sometimes the pain is emotional: grief, anxiety, a broken heart. There is no denying this reality, and yet, so often we make our pain worse by fighting against it, by rejecting our experience of it. In this way, we cause ourselves more suffering.

As the saying goes, pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

For instance, last spring my back injury flared up and I was in constant pain. I was in pain when I woke up in the morning, and it worsened throughout the day. It lasted for weeks. At first I was in denial about the pain. It’s not so bad, I told myself. It will go away soon. But as the weeks stretched into months, I spent a long stretch being mad at the pain. I felt resentful of this injury because I see myself as “healthy”, as someone who “cares for my body” and who didn’t deserve this pain (a decidedly ableist point of view, I can see now.)

Finally after several months of low-grade but constant pain, I started coming to terms with it. This was my reality, and though I could make small improvements, nothing within my control was making the pain go away. I simply had to live with it.

If we can meet our experiences of pain with willingness and acceptance, our suffering is relieved. The heart or the tooth may still ache, but the stress associated with it is reduced. We are no longer arguing with reality. I wish I could say that when I stopped fighting with God about my back pain that the pain improved, but it didn’t. But I felt better anyway! Regardless of the pain in my back, the pain in my mind was relieved tremendously, and this made a huge difference in my day-to-day life.

This is not to say that we should welcome discomfort needlessly. When my back was flared up, I was investigating from all angles--what was causing this pain? What could I do to prevent it? Once it started, what could I do to lessen it? I spent all my energy throwing solutions at the pain. I went to acupuncture. I saw a chiropractor. I did yoga. I stopped doing yoga. I took herbs. I ate anti-inflammatory foods. All gave some relief, or at the very least, some sense of agency. I was actively trying to change the circumstances that caused the pain, but doing so without rejecting my experience of the pain itself.

The same stands true for social justice movements--while you’re actively working to dismantle oppressions in our society, can you also practice being present with and accepting of whatever emotional experience you’re having in relation to them? For example, if you, like many of us, feel anxious about our incoming president, I encourage you to sit with your anxiety in the moment. Allow yourself to experience it fully. Meet yourself with compassion if at all possible. Then, of course, fight like hell when the anxiety passes! But remember:

Fight the circumstances. Don’t fight your experience.

We can practice getting comfortable with discomfort in yoga poses. When you do Warrior Two until your thighs burn, or when you practice those awful toe stretches, or the first time you lay over the tall blocks in a backbend, you have the opportunity to practice allowing yourself to experience discomfort on purpose in a controlled environment. First you set up the pose in the best alignment you can manage. Then after a breath or two, see if there’s any adjustment you can make to be more comfortable. Then simply be in the pose, allowing whatever sensations arise to just be.

Contemplate this in your life. From the smallest irritations (someone cuts you off in traffic; you have a hangnail, etc) to the largest of life’s losses (a loved one falls ill or dies), the practice of acceptance is radically powerful. While we’re actively working to change the circumstances, we’re also accepting the experiences that we’re having now in each moment. In this way, the world gets  a little brighter and our collective and individual suffering is reduced.

Much love, 



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