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what makes me different | fort worth photographer

Everyone’s a photographer. 

Perhaps you’re holding your camera in your hand right now as you read this.

It’s the digital age, I know. 

These past few months, I fielded at least a few inquiries each day from prospective people wanting holiday photographs.

“How much do you charge for digitals?” is a common question.

I don’t typically deal in digitals – except with commercial businesses.

I give you the digitals to every print you order, free of charge. 

Digitals get lost in internet oblivion. 

Custom artwork does not. 

I was explaining to my hair stylist that she likely feels about as competent ordering a canvass for her home as I would cutting my own hair.

She cuts hair every day.

I’ve cut my own hair a couple times in my life. It turned out ok…eventually.

I design artwork every day.

Practice makes progress.

After five years, what I’ve found is this:

Most of my clients prefer me to handle this work for them. 

And, I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work. 

My work feels like my life, although I have a life outside of “work,” of course.

I was talking with a woman this morning – talking. 

On the phone. 

Not texting. She was kinda surprised. 

I know talking on the phone is antiquated.

In so many ways, I’m old school.

And some people are afraid to talk on the phone.

If I can’t put you at ease on the phone, I won’t be able to put you at ease in front of my lens.

And, I didn’t get into business for myself to email all day. 

Been there…done that…don’t want to go back again.

I got into business for myself for the freedom and friendships, and because I have a mission. 

It’s not really *my* mission though. I give it up to God every morning and night. 

I prefer a handwritten note to most anything.

If I’m to be honest, my favorite way to talk with you is face-to-face. 

I like to go into your home and see your style.

I like to design each shoot with the end in mind.

And, I like to deliver art to you like a life-sized holiday elf. 

I like to see joy personified in your eyes. And I like to receive late night texts about how much you love your album – how it brings tears to your eyes every time. I love this as much as I love the sound of the shutter.

amarillo adventure

This family. They really love each other. It was so obvious to me in the way they treated each other. I hope that love shines through in these images.

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Pantsuit Nation

I am as excited as I was, when I was 7 and my father pulled me out of school to see Ann Richards be inaugurated as governor. Pantsuit Nation has taken over Facebook in the last few days. Often, people add me to groups without my permission, and I feel angry. I don’t know who added me to Pantsuit Nation, but to whoever did add me: thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I’ve been on Facebook hiatus because of the vitriol. However, reading the pantsuit nation stories have helped me to see that I am not alone. And in Texas it can feel as if I am. These women today – they were so excited to wear their pantsuits. For some who are lawyers and consultants, these suits are part of their daily attire. Others made last minute pant suit purchases at local thrift stores. Some of us knew each other. Fort Worth is so big and small. And, the ones who hadn’t met are now connected. The excitement hung in the air like the low laying clouds. I will always remember this day.

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See the rest of the #pantsuitnation photos from across the USA and beyond here: https://dennykwan.smugmug.com/PantsuitNation

 

a date, with a camera.

She’s been making my hair look good since it was about 15 inches longer. She warned me over and over about how they hated having their photos taken. I was kinda like “yeah yeah” because people say this all the time. And then in an interesting parallel, Lululemon wanted to take some photos of me, and I was grateful because I haven’t really had any photos taken since my hair was 15 inches longer and I was 3 inches smaller. Long story not so short, I cancelled. My allergies were a mess, I didn’t sleep well, and there was talk of wearing shorts and suddenly I got overwhelmed probably because it’s October which is about as busy for a portrait photographer as April is for accountants. and the Universe smiled because I got to experience what so many clients experience. So I confessed this story to her as I just did to you and told them to pretend they were on a date with a camera. And I stood around a ton and acted like I didn’t know what I was doing which is really my lost in confusion way of making people forget that I’m there. They actually had fun which is always my goal because fun makes for fine photos. And, by the way, I do hope to do a photo shoot…perhaps in shorts…soon…when I finish editing all the photos and ordering all the albums and designing all the cards. I don’t want shorts or being photographed to wield so much power over me.
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let’s be real.

I don’t write because I want to be admired.

I write because I want to be real.

I remember a minister once telling a story about a lion pack. When the lions go out to hunt, they put the older lions on one side to scare the prey. While these lions can roar loudly, they are slow and old and have no teeth. Meanwhile, the young, quick lions lurked on the other side. So when the gazelle hears the roar, he runs away. And straight into the young strong lions…straight to his death. The idea is we must run toward the roar. Run toward what’s scary. Run toward what’s painful. It’s actually the running away that will kill you.

When I write, I can’t run away from the parts of myself I’d rather hide. And, I share what I write because I have a beautiful life. Oh. My. G-d. What a beautiful life! And people see my well composed photos and believe that I have no struggles. Social media is, for many, a highlight reel.

But, if you were to ask me how I’ve been – let’s pretend, for a moment, if we don’t officially know each other in the flesh, that we’re friends – I’d tell you this story. This story, which I’ve written on folded napkins and in iphone notes and within the pages of beautiful journals and snotty rants, is real.

The words of a former boss come to mind, “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to put it back in.” This was his counsel regarding my writing. I appreciated it at the time. It’s wise. But, honestly, I’ve never regretted sharing anything I’ve written, unless it was unkind or hurtful. Not all truths need to be told is the point. But, for whatever reason, I can’t hold this one inside any more.


I can remember the moment that Depression first visited me. I was eight years old. I spent a week in the hospital at Christmas. I had some obscure stomach ailment that I now know to be the wreckage that’s left behind in the wake of debilitating anxiety. And, I can recall around the age of 10 wanting to kill myself for no particular reason. I would try a couple times over the next 20 years. Subtly and overtly, slowly and quickly, subconsciously and deliberately. I don’t seek to hurt my family in the way that I have. But, what’s more, I don’t seek to hurt my soul who’s vowed to live.

A couple times a year ever since then, I’ve pulled myself out of the cave of Depression. With the help of God, exercise and meditation, yoga, acupuncture and massage, reiki and sound therapy, somatic therapy, talk therapy, shadow work, recovery groups, essential oils, salt baths, sage seances, visualization, creativity, foxhole prayers and more. This is exhausting just to type…imagine trying all this when you’re depressed. It’s worked, sorta, because – obviously – I’m still here. But I’ve been encouraged my close friends to consider there might be an easier way.

In the cave, it’s cool below and the walls feel safe to the touch, but when I look up or out, I’m filled with undeniable fear and dread. The people closest to me hang back, one at a time – so as not to scare me – and hold my hand and remind me that there’s this big beautiful world out there, a sky so vast it could move me to sing and dance. You are the sky; this is the weather. And in Texas just wait an hour and it’ll change. “I’m ok,” I tell them, “Don’t mind me…I’m gonna lay here on my cool concrete floor curled up in a ball until I have to go to work again.” And then sometimes it’s so bad, I can’t work.

How do you create art when you’re only half alive, when all the energy you can muster goes to getting out of bed? When depressed I can only rarely call forth the energy to move my body on my mat. This last time, I wanted to be relieved of teaching group classes because I’d find myself sobbing five minutes before the students came in. Somehow I’d pull myself together – “That was my favorite class…ever…I think” one student said.

I’m not sure how I remain so high functioning when I feel half dead. Pride, I guess.

Teaching yoga continues to heal me. There’s something about setting my own baggage aside for 75 minutes and dropping into breath and other people’s energy.

But, it got to where I couldn’t eat.

I couldn’t sleep except for every third night or so. 

Panic followed me on the vacation I didn’t even want to take. Depression still had me shackled, the death grip so tight I didn’t even want to visit my happy place, where my heart lives. The sight of the California horizon did nothing to quell the compulsion. The sound of the waves did not soften the mania within. The fresh food, I didn’t care to taste. Depression and Anorexia danced hand in hand. Alcoholism could no longer cut in. Except I knew that if I went on like that much longer, I’d drink again. To drink, for me, is to die a quick soul death.

On some level, I knew I was sick and that I needed to eat more. I tried for a couple weeks, and I couldn’t. I can’t explain exactly how I couldn’t eat…I just physically could not bring myself to eat. This TED talk makes a bunch of sense to me. And, while some of the people closest to me were looking at me – to borrow Glennon Melton’s words – like, “You’re jacked up again, Amber,” I also receive a great deal of validation, because I am thin.

There was no reasoning with Anorexia.

There was no reasoning with Depression.

They each held guns to my head. If one laid her weapon down, the other picked it up. I cracked. Wide open. Again. Shattered in pieces. It was the hardest, most humbling experience I’ve had in a while. Maybe ever? And I’ve been through my fair share of life…I guess – so people tell me – when they call as I’m going to bed: “I’m calling you because I know how strong you are.” I want to laugh because I don’t think I’m so strong, just strong willed is all. Sure, I am no stranger to hard spiritual work and deep muddy waters.

I’m not on the other side of this yet.

I’m not sure there is another side to this.

Each time I’ve cracked wide open, God’s pieced me back together again.

But, I couldn’t bear the thought of breaking out of the cave again. All of the action and self care it takes for me to want to live – to live a life I’ve worked so hard to create through grit and Grace with wonderful people I’ve opened myself up to loving and trusting – I didn’t have it in me. I’ve had dark times when I’ve known the panic stemmed from needing my circumstances to change. But this time, there was no “reason.”

“You need life to pause for a while,” my therapist said and I could not meet her eyes which were filled with concern. I could not imagine putting life on pause. I could not stop crying.

I had to get help. And I did.


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I will forever remember the moment I first discovered stretch marks and cellulite on my body at a prepubescent age. I will forever remember the moment a boy first made comments about my body. I will forever remember the moment I decided life would be better if I got smaller. And, I will forever remember the moment I went to buy jeans at my favorite local store and asked if they had any smaller than 24″. I will forever remember, at once, feeling utterly ashamed and as if I had finally arrived.

The woman in the dressing room kept going on about how I was so cute and not fat like her. I didn’t have any rolls so I didn’t have any problems. But she and I, we still bonded over our body misery. It’s a female thing.

And, I will forever remember the moment I called a dietician and in the longest run-on sentence of my life said, “I got your number from (insert friend’s name) and I struggled with bulimia in high school and I thought I was over that and I’m not throwing up any more but I’m not really eating and I want to eat butIcan’tandIdon’tknowhowandIneedhelpIthinkormaybenotbutcanyouhelpme.” How hard it was to get those words out.

And she said, “Take a breath.” And I knew we were a good match.

For years I’ve subsisted on 1200 calories each day because I must’ve internalized that number from a “health” magazine or something. The number was so much a part of me I was previously unaware that there might be another way to eat. “That might be enough if you were laid out on the floor comatose,” she told me.

Since that day, I’ve committed to myself that I will not skip meals.I am not counting calories, but I’m eating mechanically every 3 hours, 5-6 times per day. Even when I’m not hungry – which is never… because I’ve overridden my body’s signals for hungry for as long as I can remember. My body says, “Why should I tell her I’m hungry if she’s not gonna listen?” It’s a waste of my body’s energy. And if food is indicative of energy, my body has been at a deficit for years. The day that I feel hungry again will be a huge victory. I will likely get down on my knees and cry tears of joy and relief.

And, my body is changing. “You look healthy,” people are starting to say. The very same people who were saying, “You need to eat a cheeseburger,” and “Are you sure you’re ok?” I know this is a healthier way of living. I’m in far less pain. At one of the weddings I shot this summer, my toes kept curling up at the reception – from gross dehydration and malnourishment, I assume. The dull aches in my joints have ceased and desisted.


Suddenly, there was a day several weeks ago when I felt on top of the world. Do you have those days when all the lights on your path are green, the sun is shining, and the radio’s playing your favorite songs…you’ve got a little money in your pocket? and, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you know you’re living in alignment with your soul’s purpose. I taught yoga all day and enjoyed my students’ company. They were sweet and funny and I remembered, “This is why I am here.”

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We learn through contrast. And, maybe the feeling was so potent because joy had eluded me for so long – the better half of the year, I’d been lost in a cave of Depression.

On that glorious day when I felt on top of the world, I taught Jon, who was born at 27 weeks. A brain bleed and a spinal injury have rendered him unable to sit or stand. We do adaptive yoga, and I incorporate sound therapy and breathing. And mostly, I communicate with his soul. It’s rewarding work to see his progress – how relaxed his muscles can become, how improved his control of his extremities is. And when I see him, he leaves me better than I came. I feel so grateful for my able, resilient body. I am more in touch with what truly matters. His mom is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, and she gave me permission to share this pic because she believes his is a story that needs to be told – about defying what’s possible. He’s one of the strongest people I know.

So, after a long heartwarming day, I got home and I got undressed to shower for an evening appointment. And as I was walking to the tub, I got a glimpse of my body in the mirror.

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That day when I saw myself in the mirror, I felt horrified. I got in the shower and held onto my hips as if it was for dear life. It kinda sounds like I’m kidding…only I’m not. I wanted to hold them with the same amount of reverence that I hold Jon’s gnarled hands – his hands which are tangled from Cerebral Palsy and calloused because he loves to paint. I wanted to have as much gratitude for my body as I’d had just hours ago before I’d seen myself real naked. I wanted to believe my own words –  that what’s on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside, that who I am and what I do matters…matters more than how I look.

But, my identity has been wrapped around being the smallest woman in the dressing room for as long as I can remember.

It took me about 3 hours and a couple phone confessions with trusted friends, who are further along the path than I am, to come down from that experience. 

“I want to be less preoccupied by my body,” I explained. The size of my ass should not wield so much power over me that a look in the mirror can ruin an otherwise amazing day.

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I want to look across the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen without a second thought about how my thighs might look. I want to look in the mirror and see my soul before I see my body. How can I care for my body in such a way that it functions optimally as a viable home for my old soul? This is the question I want to google…not, 8 moves to eliminate cellulite. Don’t check my Pinterest boards. I’m so confused. I’m not really confused. I see it clearly. I’m awakening. As Pema Chodron would say, I’ve been thrown from the nest – yet again.

I’ve devoted a bunch of my life to ensuring that my abs show through and my cellulite doesn’t.

I’ve selected a career in yoga where, for better or worse, physical fitness is often at the forefront – or at least, it feels that way to me.

I’ve adopted blindly the personal food rules of others as universal truths.

I’ve looked at the people around me to validate my body preoccupation and obsession.

And, now I’m choosing to live a different way.

It’s that simple.

And that hard.

But, I can do hard things, with help.

How do we change?

With intention and mindfulness, with practice and the support of experienced people and strong things – this sounds like yoga to me.

I’m dedicating time daily to my own yoga practice. May my body and mind may work together optimally, providing me with enough fortitude to carry my soul through this life for what I hope is many years to come.

I’m fairly certain when I die, no one will make mention of my glutes or inner thighs. No announcement will be made with regard to my stretchy pant size.Please don’t do a cleanse in my honor unless it involves cleansing from self-deprecating thoughts, self-limiting beliefs, or abusive actions. I hope you will celebrate the many ways I’ve been of service to my family and friends, community and world. I hope you’ll greet each other with Peace Be With You or Sat Nam or Namaste. I hope you will share a meal together and eat non-gluten free bread (unless you have Celiac Disease like <1% of the population). I hope this day will be a long way away. 

May we run toward the roar together.

May we embrace what’s real.

pain is a request for strength.

A while back a yoga teacher friend told me that I say, “if your yoga practice isn’t healing you, you have to ask yourself while you’re practicing the same ol’ way.” I didn’t remember saying this…it sounds kinda, well, mean. This must be why people say I’m “straightforward.” But, it was this epiphany which led me into the gym three years ago. After massage and acupuncture and reiki and yoga and yoga therapy and somatic therapy and cranial sacral work and chiropractic and physical therapy and every other expensive homeopathic woo woo option, I thought, “Maybe I need to do something other than yoga.” I’d not done anything other than yoga for about 9 years so it was scary. At the time I could balance in handstand but couldn’t stand on one leg; my psoas was on fire all the time from repetitious stretching a weak muscle; I had over developed quads and underdeveloped glutes…the same was true for my triceps and biceps, respectively.

With the help of a trainer and some significant strength work and changes to the way I practice asana, I’ve healed many of these imbalances. But, my jaw. My jaw has hung on for dear life. A physical therapist gave me some strange exercises to do which involved staring at my third eye and moving my tongue which sounded kinda like kundalini – which my dear friend Annie calls kindaloony – so I was never too disciplined with these exercises. I just kept wearing my expensive night guard to sleep and begging my dentist to readjust my bite every six months.

When I went to California for a yoga retreat last month, I realized – for the first time in years – I had no jaw pain. I thought, “5 hours of yoga each day and the ocean must’ve done the trick.” but upon arriving home, the pain soon returned. and it occurred to me randomly – which is often how insight for my students’ downloads too – that at that training we did tons of fish pose and exercises to strengthen the neck which kinda resembles what the P.T. had suggested minus the kundalini. (By the way, I love kundalini yoga and often integrate it in my classes…sat nam, my friends).

I’ve brought fish and some other poses back into my home practice and already I feel more ease in my face. I’ve long understood pain in the body to be a request for more strength. and here the lesson is again with the jaw and neck: work the muscles and they’ll release.

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when you pursue the Path, the Path pursues you.

Most of the time, when I tell people what I do, they find it intriguing. Sometimes these same people have succumbed to a job with a stable income while their dream career haunts them as they lay sleepless on expensive mattresses and high thread count sheets at night. And they say, “that inspires me,” or “I’m trying to figure out how I can do what I love.”

Often, it seems, I have these conversations in the studio bathroom. Typically as I’m changing clothes from a yoga class to a sunset shoot. Perhaps the bathroom is safe sacred space to ask the yoga teacher / artist how she manifested her dreams. Or, at the very least, as I wash my hands and inspect my teeth, I’m a captive audience for someone who’s inevitably changing from their work to yoga clothes.

Occasionally, when I tell people what I do, however, they look at me with pity. it’s not compassion – there’s a difference. the “oh you poor thing” look. I assume – though I don’t know – it’s: “oh you poor thing, you have to teach yoga / take photographs / write / sell essential oils just to make ends meet.”

And that’s ok. Maybe I’m emitting a frequency of poverty. The first year or so, it certainly was touch and go.

Indeed, I occasionally have to pull back the reigns when my boundaries get lax and remember that I am one person with the same 40 hour work week as everyone else. I used to pride myself on working 60-80 hours per week. But, why? Is busyness in business what I seek to teach?

No.

Busyness distracts me from my Path.

But, I will say this for my friends in the bathroom who are looking for a way to pursue their passions: multiple revenue streams are helpful, if not absolutely necessary, to loving what you do in times of both busy and slow, in sickness and in health, for as long as you shall seek to work happily.

When I have felt that I *must* pick up another class / take a job I don’t want / undersell myself / forego vacation in order to make ends meet, this work – as much as I love it – ceases to be my passion. So, my point is this: seek your Path – your dharma. Your dharma might be to teach yoga. Your dharma might be to create art. But, if you’re a single parent or the primary breadwinner or would like to retire in this lifetime, your dharma might be to have a well-paying job that requires minimal brain power so you can spend the remaining waking hours pursuing whatever lights you up inside.

With my upcoming yoga teacher training, prospective students want to know, “Will I see a return on my investment?”

I’m the same way. I own $50,000 in photography equipment and would wager to guess I have spent at least that in yoga trainings over the past 5 years. and, I invested in a graduate counseling degree that I’m going to pay for monthly, for at least 5 more years. And with each course and camera, website upgrade and training trip, I’ve wanted to know “will I see a return on my investment?”

“You have a degree you don’t use,” my now wife who once helped me start my business, said to me when I was working my magic on our budget a while back. She’s kinda right and kinda wrong. If not for that decision to finish that degree, I’d not have pursued yoga teaching as a part time, temporary thing. I wouldn’t have met the friends I did – one soul brother who married us nearly a year ago. I don’t think I’d draw the private clients I do. I don’t think I’d know how to get the people I photograph to open up to me and my lens.

This I know: when you pursue your Path, your Path pursues you. So I’ve stopped asking, “Will I see a return on my investment” and I’ve started asking myself, “Will this propel me on my Path?” And then I get quiet and listen for the wisdom within. In August that wisdom led me to turn down job after job after job in favor of a foray in film where I took photos mostly of the ground and the sky and when I could catch them off guard – my Dana and Cash Diehl. And this time allowed me the space and dedication to get outside help for an eating disorder that’s plagued me off and on – mostly on – for years. I can’t pursue my Path if I’m starving myself. And, I can’t write much about this part of my journey just yet.

Seeking the Wisdom within has yet to steer me wrong. Yoga helps me tap into it. May you – all of you…those who meet me with curiosity and pity alike – have the courage to follow the Path which lights you up inside. With or without a financial return, your soul will be fuller for it. And all we take with us when we leave here is the light we garner in this life.
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ben | Trinity Valley School Fort Worth Senior Class of 2017

I just love his sly side smile. Like a J. Crew model, he knows how to turn on the charm. And though he didn’t want to do the cliche senior photos with props, he’s quite the golfer. And ambitious – applying to 5 universities. Majoring in Business, he’s got a good head on his shoulders. The rain postponed our shoot, and clouds loomed for this session, too, but he and his sweet mom were troopers, traipsing through the Colonial golf course and over to West 7th and downtown. When I do senior portraits, I love to mix natural light with strobes – youthful innocence with promising adulthood, natural environments with cityscapes. And I love it when a client gives me full reign to do what I do best. That feeling when someone loves your art as you love creating it – it’s why I continue to pursue this path. I’m going to create art no matter what – it’s who I am. But, to share it, as vulnerable as it feels, is why I know I’m here: to give away the gifts I’ve been given.

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he’s her lobster | fort worth wedding photography

I asked these two what there expectations were for their wedding photography, and they said, “Our engagement pictures speak for themselves.” Working with these two from start to finish was smooth and easy. These two have serious chemistry. And, wow on the night before at their rehearsal dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s, it was clear how much their friends love and adore them. Cheers to a lifetime of happiness, Julia & Tim.

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Remember that Friends reference: “He’s her lobster.” Well, Tim is Julia’s lobster.
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University Christian Church is serious about the sanctity of marriage. Many thanks to my team up in the balcony who were second and third shooting.
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Love all the house party girls and the cutest wedding party you ever did see.
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I always like to carve out a few minutes between the wedding and the reception for the couple. How grounding before you party with hundreds of your closest friends!
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Big thanks to Jennifer Elmore for these detail shots while I was with the bride and groom.

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Y’all, the matron of honor and the groom both sang! So heartwarming.
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The bride and groom are longtime friends and fans of the cover band, Poo Live Crew. And they brought the party!
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I had a few friends at the wedding, so we took a selfie. I have as much fun as the guests…

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wedding venue : University Christian Church

reception : Ridglea Country Club

florist : Mike Harrison  |  Party Designs & Productions

cake : Wonderful Cakes by Jose Munoz

band : Poo Live Crew

hair : Molly at Goldwaves

makeup : Courtney Moore

Whole Heart Yoga Fort Worth | WHY FW

 

Pema Chodron writes, “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” We awaken gradually. And thank Goodness we do not awaken to everything all at once because it would be too overwhelming. If you’d told me twelve years ago of all the changes yoga would accompany me through, I might have thought twice about stepping on a mat.

When I began practicing yoga, I was in an abusive marriage that was not working. Meanwhile, I was working as a cocktail waitress at a bar. I drank sauvignon blanc regularly for breakfast and vodka for dinner. I smoked a cigarette before class and another one immediately after. I was a senior in college, taking 21 hours to complete my degree in education. Panic attacks brought me to my knees most days.

These were the muddled circumstances under which yoga slowly and quickly transformed me and my life. That was 2004. I left that marriage in 2008. I went to yoga teacher training in 2011. I got sober – for what I hope is the final time – in 2013.

I had access to yoga through the campus recreation center and the two yoga studios on my side of town. I had health insurance (it was the psychiatrist who recommended yoga to me). I had enough cash in my pocket for the $20 drop-in.

But, what if I hadn’t had access?

I shudder to think.

What might have happened?

Where would I be?

Yoga threw me a life vest when I was content to sink. I was hooked instantly. I knew the first time I rolled up a borrowed mat that I couldn’t wait to do that again. I felt alive. Each class armed me with more strength and hope. I kept coming back until I wanted to live, even when I wasn’t on my mat.

As a teacher, I strive to pay forward the gifts that yoga’s given me. Through giving, we receive. And, in addition to the physical strength, emotional healing, and spiritual experiences that yoga has given me, yoga has also afforded me a career and life beyond my wildest dreams.

Last year I attended Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training, and an ethically charged debate arose about yoga pants. One woman who was there on scholarship began to cry and then vehemently explained, “I don’t care what pants you wear…they’re cute and all, but I’m just trying to put food on the table to feed my kids.”

I’ll never forget her face. Her solitary pain. Our collective shame.

I’ve been in conflict since that defining moment. I believe that a yogi is a person who uses everything that’s happened to him or her. No experience – no matter how challenging – is cast out. Yoga brings unity to it all.

But, over the past year, I’ve not been able to integrate these experiences:

I wave at the folks leaving the men’s shelter down the street and drive 3 miles to a beautiful studio and see people who look mostly like me.

I see a man digging through my dumpster ten minutes before someone at work asks me if I’m doing the latest diet or cleanse.

A battered woman in withdrawals from my same disease asks me for spare change to feed her kid breakfast, and I throw down $100 for a farm to table meal I wasn’t so hungry for to begin with.

My spouse tells me about a kid who came to school dirty again and I keep encouraging our cleaning lady to eliminate the toxic chemicals in our household.

I can’t come to yoga until I get the right clothes, she says. What brand of yoga pants are those? another asks me.

I see a person of color killed by a police officer. I see a police officer killed by a person who served our country in the military.

These polarized dichotomies left me feeling confused and powerless. I’ve felt compelled to do more. I believe in the power of love and light, I do. I believe prayer is healing. But, I also believe in action. I’ve been inspired to see the work that various individuals are doing throughout the community and thought that together we could do more. I reached out to 2-3 yoga teachers from each studio in Fort Worth and a couple surrounding cities. Through these texts, emails, and Facebook messages, I discovered there were others who felt as I did. We are never alone, you know? Through these conversations, Whole Heart Yoga Fort Worth, or WHY FW, was formed. It is best described as a collaboration among local yoga teachers and students, who’ve formed to promote peace to our greater Fort Worth community through education around mindfulness, yoga fundraising events, and widespread outreach.

Our kickoff event is a FREE pop up yoga and meditation practice for peace at Burnett Park on Friday, August 5th at 7:30 pm. And we have a partnership in the works with The Leg Up Program, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness by providing caring support, education, employment and innovative programs designed to empower individuals to achieve self-sufficiency. We’ll have a special class at their building on September 17th where the proceeds will benefit their clients in living independently.

To stay informed about all upcoming events, follow on social media.

www.facebook.com/whyfw

Instagram : @whyfw

I’ve practiced yoga long enough now that I no longer believe it could singlehandedly save the world. But, I am living proof of the impact yoga can have on a single life. Through organizing this effort, I no longer feel powerless. When I lay my head down at night, I want to know that I’m doing all that I can each day to help others. This, I believe, is why we are here. This is the yoga.

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