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soft is the new strong.

I had a window in my schedule today and decided to go to Title Boxing for their 30 minute class. The practice of learning to live in my body through the years has softened me some. Recently, pretty significantly softened me – to the point where I wonder sometimes if I’ve lost my edge. I barely even curse any more. Who is this person with this bright bleeding heart?

But, when I arrived to a yoga mat 13 years ago, I was pretty feisty. Scrappy was the term you’d use to describe me in a bar fight. I snubbed out my cigarette as I pulled my mat from the trunk. And I lit up another as soon as class ended. A cigarette is an apt beginning and ending for so many things. It wasn’t unusual for me to drink all night and take multiple classes all day. I practiced that way for years because I didn’t quit smoking until 6 years ago and drinking until September 30, 2013. With both habits, nothing crazy happened…I mean tons of crazy shit (oops) happened leading up to it but nothing uncanny on the day I awakened and said “I’m through.”

This month, however, I’ve been practicing the life changing magical art of tidying, and after some deliberation I eliminated a coffee mug that I believe my mother gave me which read,

“Gardening, bubble baths, yoga, and I still wanna smack someone.”

I honored the gift and the way the mug had served me through the years – holding my hot toddies and coffee alike – and then wished the mug well and sent it on its way to Catholic Charities.

stephanie dowrick quote

I like to remind myself from time to time where I came from. Especially at the beginning of the year when I inevitably have many beginners in my yoga classes. If I had walked into my own class – the one I taught today – 10 years ago, I would’ve run the other way. I couldn’t be in my body for one breath much less 75 minutes. And, that’s ok. I needed to flow and move and fast and hard and I was irritated when teachers interrupted the regularly scheduled vinyasa to teach something – and God forbid they pause to share something spiritual. And I didn’t care to see a demonstration I wanted to do it my way. I wasn’t teachable.

Don’t you know I meet 22 year old Amber on the mat these days?! The Universe is funny like that. I try to make her back off a little if for no other reason than I worry about her joints. But she’s mean and doesn’t want you to see her much less talk to her or touch her. So mostly I leave her alone. And if I’m feeling brave, I share the many ways in which yoga has helped me to learn to inhabit my body – this vessel for my unique soul.

And still, the only reason I’ve remembered this history, this week, is because today is my 7th day without sugar. Granted,

I had some ketchup with my french fries and and the occasional piece of fruit. But not once have I been to Starbucks, Stir Crazy, Melt, or the pantry for chocolate, honey, maple syrup, raw sugar, refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup or any of sugar’s other secret allies. And it’s been rough y’all. Let me take this moment to apologize to the beings who live under this roof with me. Shout out to my homies @diehldana and #cashdiehl.

And the process has made me rethink giving that coffee mug away. Like maybe I still need it. I kinda have wanted to smack myself around. And I have, at least on the inside. On the inside I still struggle to be kind, mostly to myself. Louise Hay says if we wait until we are perfect to love ourselves, we waste our lives away. Time’s awasting. And this week, I’ve drawn a line in the sand.

And so, as I was saying, I went to Title Boxing today. For some reason the sign in sheet needed our birthday and an emergency contact in case we were to combust. I scanned the list of birthdays to find that my fellow classmates were born in the ’90s. As in 1990’s. As late as ’94. And I started to gear myself up like I do before my morning meditation like, “Ok, you can do this…you can do hard things.” But then I just paused at the hilarity and reminded myself that I was not born in the 90’s and I have to work – in a very physical way – for a living and my self worth is not contingent upon the volume of my left hook. I stayed on my mat mostly without concern for what everyone else was doing. And I felt amazing – at least when the class was over.

And tonight, I can feel my Self, softer. Softer with my maniac dog, softer with my wife, softer with myself. This is the gift of spiritual practice. It doesn’t matter if it’s boxing or asana…anything done with breath and presence is a spiritual practice. For me, softer leads the way to stronger.

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