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Category Archives: spirituality

Waking Up Again | Overcoming Trauma

“Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into your life wake you up rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will.” ~ Pema Chodron


In Texas, from June to September, there is about one hour of the day just after dawn during which being outside is tolerable. This morning, the family and I spent this time outside on the deck. I was drinking a cup of coffee, and it was actually still warm.

My rather limited experience with motherhood thus far is that it’s about setting the same hot cup of coffee down over and over, only to reheat it and let it go cold again. I texted my mother this week and asked her how she survived four children…and my father. She said “lol” and I didn’t find it funny. I’m home for a six week sabbatical from teaching so I can hold better space for the humans in my household, and being at home 100% of the time has humbled me. This morning though the froth was still as thick as the coffee was hot, and I was thinking how grateful I was for the way my teething boy offered me uninterrupted sleep last night as if he knew I was needing it for my training this weekend.

This weekend, I’m breaking out of the house, with the help of the village who are helping me raise this small human, to embark on the second or three years studying Somatic Experiencing, a body-based therapy for integrating trauma. This is the therapy I wanted to do when I got a degree in counseling several years ago…I just didn’t know it existed. I found it in my quest to heal from a string of car accidents which have left me with some chronic pain.

What some who haven’t followed me here long, may not know, is that I spent the majority of my life feeling either hijacked by or completely shut down from my emotions. Although I have made great strides, feeling overwhelmed by emotion or feeling nothing at all are still my defaults.

If motherhood has made but one thing clear, it’s that addiction and mental illness – untreated – are not generational patterns I seek to perpetuate. There’s an idea from Yogi Bhajan that the work I do on myself heals 7 generations before me and 7 generations after me…I don’t know if that’s true…but I sense that I incarnated with a greater purpose than to survive. By the grace of God, I no longer aspire to remain wedded to victimhood or imprisoned by addiction. I don’t wake in the morning with regret or resentment. I know we’re all doing the best we can with what we know. I continue to know better and hope to do better, too. And, now, with this beautiful boy that God dropped into my lap, the path has become more narrow. So much of what I’ve been willing to tolerate, so much of what I was afraid to say or do, is no longer True. Because it’s not just about me, it’s about him too.


There’s a piece of me who’s sad that I haven’t thought highly enough of myself to do the next right thing for me. I was his size 35 years ago, a child of God, too. 

When I look at him, I know a vulnerability I’ve rarely allowed myself to feel. My eyes continue to be opened to how different his experiences will be as a boy with brown skin in a world where blackness is feared and marginalized and brutalized, and I feel powerless to help him – unqualified in many ways to raise him to feel safe in a world where if I was him, I simply wouldn’t.

When I write or talk about this to white folks, they shut me down because it’s too uncomfortable (for them) to examine.

And I can relate. Because until 8.5 months ago, it wasn’t so relevant to me. I could – and to some extent, have – live my whole life turning a blind eye to racism. I can do my morning meditation with my mala and teach homogenous people who look much like me in the yoga studio. Nevermind that I don’t really know much about Hinduism and I’ve never been to India and, for all intents and purposes, I’ve adapted a practice from marginalized people for my own personal gain. And, at night I can take my photographs of mostly white people during golden hour and delude myself into believing that this is all there is.

God, I love my beautiful life, which is justifiable and delusional – all at the same time. 

So I’m compassionate – mostly – toward these people who are much like I was because I try to make it a practice not to judge people who are on the path upon which I used to travel. I mean, we all wake up in different ways. And, if I live in anger, I eventually shut down because my tolerance threshold for Angry Amber is pretty low.

I was thinking of none of this, this morning, however, as I drank my coffee. I’d briefly forgotten about children – my own and the ones the government “lost” which is a euphemism for “sold.” I wasn’t even bothered by our barking dog. 

Our dog – Cash Diehl – who has some cognitive deficiencies (we attract what we are, and he chose us), was jumping on an overgrown bush that I was fighting the urge not to trim back. As he attempted to stand on his two back legs, I alluded to Animal Farm and wondered if Dana had read that book. She nodded as if she had but I’m not convinced. George Orwell – ick – and yet he’s predicted the future which is now the present in which we live.

And, as I pause from waxing philosophical because it was just 6:30 am and take a sip of my coffee, Dana screams a sound that I only know her to make when there’s an animal – other than Cash Diehl – in the house.

“What is it?” I ask a little too calmly. I find when one person in relationship is losing it, it’s helpful if the other person feigns calmness. But, usually, Dana is the calm one.

“Don’t you see the possum?!” she is still shrieking an octave higher than her naturally deepish voice.

And there’s Cash. Baby possum in his mouth. Pleased with himself.

I know there’s only one way to prevent him from ripping that possum to shreds: distraction. The dog is the only dog I know who doesn’t care about food. And though I’d decided I didn’t want to exercise today I say the coveted four-letter ‘W’ word, “Cash, let’s go for a walk.”

He looks at me and then the possum and then at me and then the possum. And, he chooses me. I am so relieved. I leash him up and tell Dana I’m going inside to get my shoes.

And when I return, the possum, well, you know, it’s so cliche – he was playing possum.

Or as it’s called in Somatic Experiencing – he’d gone into tonic immobility.

“He lifted his head and looked around for Cash and left,” Dana said.

I was so sad I missed it. And so happy I’d not have to bury the possum.

My own work in this life has been and continues to be to use whatever is happening in this moment as the opportunity to wake up, to keep peeling back the layers of incomplete responses to unresolved trauma. And, this inner work is the foundation for the work I do in the world with others. I can only teach what I know, and I can’t teach people to be embodied if I continue to dissociate from what I feel. And, I certainly can’t fault people for staying asleep if I’m not willing to keep waking up.

I got home tonight and Dana said, “You look pretty…something’s different.”

“I feel good,” I said. I’m beginning to integrate some recent experiences that have left me feeling helpless, hopeless and unable to cope – which is the definition of trauma. Like the possum who goes into freeze but eventually shakes to release the energy of the threat, I know that the only way I can garner the courage to keep on, keeping on, is to hang close to the hopeful experienced people who keep reminding me that they’re here to help me and that I don’t have wake up, all at once, and most certainly, not alone. 

a word on Truth speaking | fort worth yoga teacher


I watched Oprah speak at the Golden Globes about how speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all own. And, I agree. I was mad at Oprah when I watched that speech. Her Weight Watchers commercials have irritated me. Here are some things I’d like to hear Oprah speak about, other than becoming smaller in body:

  • How she overcame abuse and trauma to become the most successful woman of my lifetime
  • How white women can be better allies to women of color in the movement toward equality
  • What motivated her to start a school in Africa
  • How she’s maintained healthy long term relationships with people like Gayle and Stedman in spite of her busy, public career

Those are just a few that come to mind. When I saw her eating tacos, I thought, “Come on, Sister, really?” I realize so many probably thought nothing of this commercial. My eyes have only recently been opened to the way our society’s food and water is poisoned by the corporations who seek to keep women small in body and, ultimately, smaller in power.

Nobody’s perfect.

I forgive you, Oprah.

Indeed, watching her speech, I set aside my resentment and raised a fist in solidarity time and again. My blood began to quicken, as I know happens when Truth speaks.

Part of the reason I don’t write much here (about myself) any more is I don’t always know which truths are mine to own and share.

One of the wisest things the owner of Karmany Yoga (may he rest in peace) ever told me was that once the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t put it back in. He was referring specifically to writing and speaking truth. That line still comes to me sometimes before I hit send or publish.

So many of us whose truths have been swallowed or stifled or shut down – when we begin to speak again, what we say and how we say it is in need of some refining (to say the least); otherwise, it projectile vomits like victimized hate speech. I’ve written things I regret in the name of speaking truth. And, I’ve read things others have written about me that hurt and weren’t true. A Course in Miracles tells me that “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.” I have this written on an altar in my home. It reminds me that haters gonna hate, and I need not always shout louder than the haters.

The Yoga Sutra explains that often our truth is colored by the veil of our ignorance, or false understanding (avidya). Within the mind of each of us are habits of thinking (samskaras and vasana) so embedded in the mind that they shape our inner world and mold our personality, which, in turn, creates the lens through which we view reality.

It’s why I try not to write too in depth about what I’m experiencing currently. Through the lens of time and spiritual practice and reflection, truth unfolds infinitely. More will always be revealed.

I think that’s what my mentor meant with his toothpaste analogy. When it comes to speaking truth, I operate by a few questions: Who will it help? Who could it hurt? And, what can I live with?

Sometimes, with the truth it’s as Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Sometimes, with the truth it’s as Anne Lamott said, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

And sometimes, I still believe the details are better left unsaid. I might as well quote another woman I admire – Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”

I strive to go high.

And, you know, that means operating by what my momma taught me as a young girl, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I mean, some would say that’s not a way to raise our females up, but on the other hand, I don’t want to add to the aggression in our world. And, knowing my mom, I think it was Texas speak for “In my defenselessness, my safety lies.”

Over the past few years, I’ve sought to refine what’s capital-T True. There’s an exercise I do where I write down all of my attack thoughts, and then I rewrite them using the prompt: “Another way I could choose to see this is…”

For example,

Donald Trump is the worst thing to happen to the United States.

When I say this, I feel judgmental, disconnected and hopeless – disempowered.

[If you voted for Trump, I’m surprised to find you here but not too shocked because you were in good company. Feel free to substitute “Obama” or whichever political figure felt like doomsday to you.]

Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is the end of the world as we know it.

Much the same effect. I never said this exercise was easy. Examining our beliefs never is. It’s like the adage: the truth will set you free, but first it’ll piss you off. It’s hard at first, which is why I always keep going until I can find something that feels true and hopeful…

Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is exposing our country’s deeply rooted shadow of racism and greed.

Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump will be the impetus for widespread political, global, and economic change.

Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is inspiring Americans to become involved in the political processes we’ve long taken for granted.

Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump will give rise to the strongest, most powerful group of women and the Divine Feminine found in all of us.

Another way I could choose to see this is that Donald Trump is one man with tremendous power, and I am one woman with a daily opportunity and moral obligation to step into mine.

Now, I’m starting to feel inspired – or at the very least, Vital.

Before I taught yoga, I taught public school. Before that, I waited tables in nightclubs. Before that, I worked in a cubicle in insurance.

And you know where I’ve found the most pain: in spiritual communities. Herein, I’ve found some of the most judgmental, unethical, bullying, narcissistic folks I’ve ever met. Herein, I’ve also found some of the most generous, compassionate, empathetic, people I’ve ever met.
I mean, the yoga community is just a microcosm of our world, you know? That was news to me. I thought at first everyone was happy.

There’s a reason we were all led to this practice. Life wasn’t perfect…just sayin’ 😉

Saying this out loud, on the page, feels kinda icky. So much so, that I almost left. More than once. Because, as Pema Chodron says, “Nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” I had to learn from a few people, painfully a few times. Years of growth.

So, once upon a time, the truth was:

She took advantage of my kindness. She stole from me. She chose business over friendship. She grew envious and vengeful when I became the top producing teacher. She verbally abused me. She spoke lies about me.

These were a number of she’s. I may have had a slight problem with laying down and letting people walk all over me.

And, with boundaries and (sometimes) walls, therapy and reframing journaling exercises, and the gift of time, another way I can see this is:

These experiences have propelled me to remain even closer to my own spiritual practices (yoga, dhyana), motivating me to examine the ways in which I am allowing ego to obscure Truth. I thank these people who’ve masqueraded as the light for reflecting back to me who I am when all facades fall away. I thank you for encouraging me to do my part to include everyone and exclude nobody. Because of your influence, I understand that friendship, for me, is about wanting the best for a person and expecting nothing out of the person in return. I thank you for teaching me to love the people close to me without condition, giving generously without harming myself in any way. I thank you for pointing me away from greed and in the direction of faith (shraddha). I thank you for showing me what not to do so that I may operate my businesses in a way that aligns with my ethical principles (yamas). I thank you for showing me how to set healthy boundaries which protect my heart and my life’s work (niyamas). I do not seek to share this physical space with you – in asana or otherwise. And, in the same breath, I wish the best for you – the same happiness and success I wish for myself and my closest friends and family (mudita).

This Truth has set me free.

reflections on 2017 | what mattered most

Much of my adult life has been about learning to feel again because I spent much of my teens and twenties learning how to feel absolutely nothing. Numbness, as it turns out, hurts more. So, I put this on the page to remind me, when times are happy…when times are hard, I get to feel it all. A blessing. A curse. 2017 felt like a little or a lot of both. The good news and the bad news: temporary.

I’m fond of ending my yoga classes by saying, “Who you are and what you do – it matters…you make a difference in this world…simply by showing up.” Sometimes I’ll ask my colleague, Lauren Wessinger, in jest: “Do people really need to hear how great they are every class?” And we always nod. Yes. Yes, they do. This world is beautiful. This world is broken. You’re unique, but so is everyone else, so you’re really not special. As we bid this year adieu, let’s be confident; let’s be humble, too.

A few years ago, professor and marriage and family therapist, Frank Thomas, inspired me to reflect at the end of each year on what I did that mattered. Something I’ve only recently learned through my studies of both Buddhism and Christianity is that I can give in the spirit of generosity without any expectation about how my offerings are received. Therefore, certainly, I don’t always know if what I do that I think matters, actually does matter. But, here’s what I did this year that mattered, to me. I’ve always believed that what I give, comes back to me – tenfold. And, this year has been no exception.

In chronological order:
In Washington D.C. I marched with 500,000 people who were as heartbroken as I was.

With my wife, I bought a house – a quiet place drenched in natural light where we can live.

I watched some phenomenal sunsets with inspiring people. I taught a yoga retreat and planned 2 more retreats for this coming year. (https://thetravelyogi.com/teachers/amber-shumake/)

2017-12-30_0004.jpgI coordinated public yoga events to fundraise for my philanthropy. I volunteered more than I ever would have dreamed possible, sharing my talents in clinical settings to people who might not otherwise find yoga and meditation. Ebony Smith, founder of YOGA ‘N DA HOOD has been a great source of inspiration for me regarding how to bring yoga to people of color, in particular. As she says, “Wellness knows no race.”

I spent a tremendous amount of time with inspiring human and fellow yoga teacher, Lauren Wessinger, preparing for our 200-hour yoga teacher training, through which we certified several people of varying ages and backgrounds to offer yoga and meditation in their communities. I ended a relationship that therapist(s), mentors, and friends have encouraged me, for decades, to end. It hurts. There’s enough pain to go around. And still, it hurts less than continuing to subject myself to abuse and the insanity that comes with doing the same thing, over and over again expecting different results.
2017-12-30_0012.jpgI showed up for my family, even when I was hungry, angry, lonely, tired or it seemed inconvenient. The people closest to us seem to get the very best and worst of us. (It helped that I wasn’t hungry as often because this year, with few exceptions, I ate food, regularly…as in every few hours, every *single* day. And, I said “no thank you” and walked away when people asked me if I wanted to do a cleanse. I hope in the time and energy that I used to expend obsessing about what to eat and when to eat, I’ve been able to do things that matter more.

I showed up for myself, every morning, mostly before dawn, to my meditation cushion to sit. I struggled with chronic pain this year, which limited the freedom in my movement. And, as much as I hate that, the limitations always bring me closer to my meditation practice, which brings me closer to God and the ways in which God can work through me and you, too. I had a dream on the night of a full moon in May where Dana was holding a young boy. The timing wasn’t perfect; it never is for major life upheavals, but we filled out the paper work and took all the classes and became licensed to foster / adopt kid(s). We didn’t get the boy in my dream, and our hearts didn’t understand. We got another boy instead, and it wasn’t a fit; I grieved twice for boys I barely knew – boys I felt as if my soul knew well.


We went back to the drawing board. My prayer has been, “God, if we’re to be parents, you’ve gotta make it really obvious, because I’m really busy, you know?”

And then, we got this boy when he was one day old.


God, I love this boy. I love him, meaning I want the best for him and expect nothing in return. That’s the way I love for people to love me. I hope it’s God’s will that I get to love him up close for the rest of my life. I won’t answer questions about this part because the only honest answer is: I don’t know.

With just a day or so left in this calendar year, I’m tired. And, I’m more woke than ever. I ache. And, I’m ok. I feel the fear…and try to do the next right thing anyway.

This year I learned patience. I learned how to live one day at a time, all over again, which means that this year I learned to lean closer to my faith. Because if the highs and lows of this life have taught me anything…other than resilience…it’s that I’m never alone. Through trepid turns and smooth seas, thank you for continuing to navigate the full stream of life with me.

May 2018 be a year which brings peace and prosperity to all beings.

our journey to adoption

Back in May, I had a dream on the night of a full moon where my partner was holding a young boy. I see children in terms of how I would photograph them. He was 9 months or so – sitting up but not yet walking. I woke to the memory and thought, “That’s sweet. I wonder if that’ll ever happen for me.” I went to meditate as I do most mornings before sunrise.

When she came home from work the same day talking of a child who needed a home, the hairs on my neck stood end over end. I hadn’t – until then – told her of my dream, and I started to cry because I really don’t always believe in these energetic gifts that I have. Some have called me clairvoyant; I don’t really think I am. I grew up in a home where in order to keep the peace, it was necessary for me to attune to others’ emotions. I’m connected. I have guides who accompany me through this life; we all do. I spent the majority of my teens and twenties trying to tune out, and through yoga and sobriety, I’ve come to feel again. And, honestly, it’s a blessing and a curse to feel so deeply. Part of the reason I could be in relationship with people I allowed to manipulate and abuse me was because I was numb. And, now, I just can’t.

I’ve learned about boundaries this year. And sometimes, when people don’t respect boundaries, I’ve learned about walls. And, this doesn’t sound very yogic, I know. But, my heart is worth protecting. I learned at a young age that people who loved you would hurt you, and I don’t know that’s the sort of love I want to keep attracting. Perhaps, as I enter this journey of motherhood, I’m wanting to create a new generational pattern.

Love used to mean I’ll buy you things and take you places (to make up for being absent / abusive, etc. and so you’ll do what I want you to do so that I can be ok). And now, I think love means I want the best for you and I expect nothing in return. I’m not really responsible for making anyone else in this world ok.

I’m ok.

I’m ok regardless of what’s happening around me. I’m ok even if people don’t approve of me.

I’m ok.

This is progress. Painful progress.

So when I had the dream, the timing was not perfect; it never is. I was in the middle of yoga teacher training and planning upcoming yoga retreats; we’d just bought a house and were rebuilding our savings. You know, first world pains? We filled out the paperwork anyway. We took all the classes and read all the information and completed all of the interviews. We locked up our medications and put plastic child proof things on our electrical outlets and posted a list of family rules on our wall and we waited. And, we kept asking about him – this boy in my dream who matched the boy who needed a home.

This year, I learned patience. I learned to live one day at a time all over again. And, in my powerlessness, I learned to walk by faith. God doesn’t work on our time.

We didn’t get him; we got another boy. He didn’t meet the description, and I knew it would be hard and not end well, but something inside me when I read about him said, yes…we have to give him a chance. If we don’t, who will? And because of my background in trauma and the energetic gifts I like to deny I have, I thought if anyone could help him, maybe we could.


There are so many children, y’all. So many children waiting for someone to love them. When you’re privy to read the case studies, you just die a little bit inside each time.

I went to Target and bought all the things and fell in love with him instantly.

And, then, as quickly as he came, he was gone. The vision I had of what helping him would look like didn’t match the reality of what happened. Not at all.


The end. Or was it the beginning? The middle – who knows? The Hindus believe we’re always in one of these three phases.

Because I’d not shared this part of my life with hardly anyone, I grieved mostly alone. And, it sounds silly to grieve a soul you barely know. I still pray for him and think of him and hope he’s happy. The human spirit is resilient. Sometimes we don’t get as much time as we’d like with people. But, I know that nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. And, more is always revealed…on God’s time, not mine.


Life Vessel Fort Worth at the Center for Healing Arts

I’ve been going to this magnificent place for around ten years – since I was trying to quit smoking if that gives you any indication. I’ve long loved acupuncture and all the healing modalities that Kim Perrone offers at the Center for Healing Arts. One year it was my new years resolution to receive acupuncture every 6 weeks. Sometimes the date would come and I would think, “I don’t need it,” but I’d go anyway and always feel better.

2017-07-28_0001.jpgFort Worth is now privileged to have the Life Vessel relaxation therapy here. I tried it – four times as is suggested – and fell in love. As a teenager, I loved tanning beds, and the life vessel kind of reminds me of a tanning bed in size (a bit larger) without the heat. You recline in comfortable clothing on a memoryfoamish mattress. Infrared lights shine above you. Sound waves vibrate beneath you. I had some interesting experiences in the vessel. I can’t really put words to many of them. You know how you feel after a good massage or gong bath or savasana? Well, it was much like all of those combined.


I like intensity, you know? And, when I find something good, I want everyone to know. On my fourth day, I asked if I could come back the next day, and the sweet lady in charge explained that this isn’t one of those “more is better” things. I was sad to give up my one hour of relaxation in the vessel. I’ll be first in line to return in three weeks for some maintenance.

Here are some of the benefits I’ve received:

  • central nervous system reset (i.e., I can rest well. I can digest my food efficiently.)
  • improved circulation (i.e., the tension in my forearms, wrists, and hands has disappeared)
  • less tension (i.e., I am not grinding my jaw at night).
  • better sleep (i.e., I wake just before dawn often without an alarm).
  • less obsession with sugar (i.e., I don’t know that this is related to the life vessel, but I know that when I sit down to eat, I no longer feel I’m in a competitive contest 😉

Read more about the life vessel here: lifevesselfw.com

I think when I do it in a few weeks, I’ll hire a driver.

Gaia Collective Moon Box | DFW Product Photographer

A few months ago, I wrote an intention in a notebook for some steady monthly photography work. I didn’t really know what this would look like. I just know that if I want to continue teaching yoga sustainably for the rest of my hopefully long life, I cannot teach as frequently as I do and have over the past six years. And, I have this new house…that I love. Every morning, I say to myself or any human or animal in earshot, “I love this house. This is the best house.” Yet, because I work at the pace of a greyhound on espresso, I spend only minimal time in my home.

Not long after I wrote that intention, my friend, Paula, came to take a yoga class at SoulSpace Yoga Community. I met her several years ago when I was young in my teaching journey and she was still in college. She moved away. And then, a few years ago, we reconnected at a training called Yoga and Psychology at Esalen. Three months prior, a colleague said, “If you ever have the chance to go to Esalen, you should go.” I had not heard of Esalen; when I read about it, I saw the training. That was in January. I went in April. Greyhounds on espresso don’t do waiting, sitting, staying too well – you know? By the way, if YOU ever get the chance to go to Esalen, you should go. It’s amazing.

At that time, around four years ago, Paula was starting a business called Gaia Creative which would send out a monthly moon box for the full moon. I thought the idea was brilliant. I remember at that time, I was managing Karmany Yoga and really sensing I wanted something new.

Paula gave me a piece of citrine and told me to keep it in my left pocket until I knew. Citrine is the stone of abundance. And not long after that, SoulSpace Yoga Community was born.

Today, @gaiacollective has around 33k instagram followers now and sends thousands of moonboxes each month across the globe.


When Paula took my class one Monday, she asked me if I’d be interested in doing the photography for Gaia Collective.

I knew it was exactly what I’d been seeking.

I get to play with rocks and crystals, loose leaf tea, essential oils, and handmade jewelry.

There’s so much soul in these pieces.

And, I get to photograph them all in the comfort of my own home. What a gift during the Texas summers!!! When we put our desires down on paper, we invite the Universe to collaborate with us. I’m grateful for this new partnership.

Each moonbox features products from other small business owners who are pouring their heart and soul into their work. What a beautiful offering. And there’s a box for every budget.

It’s so much fun to receive these gifts in the mail. Check out these rings from Alva Parla in NYC.2017-07-22_0004.jpg
And the tea from Fruits to the Roots.

Learn more here: https://gaia-collective.myshopify.com/pages/subscribe

If you’re interested in personal branding or product photography, find more info here:http://ambershumake.com/photos-for-digital-marketing/

this is what democracy looks like | women’s march on Washington

I went to Washington D.C. I had no idea what to expect. I arrived on the day of the inauguration. I’d never seen so much red, white, and blue. People so proud of the President. Proud to be “deplorable.” And standing in the street, so many others: angry. I receive comments from time to time from people who say, “Amber, how can you practice so much meditation and yoga and still be so angry?”

To which I say: How can you *not* be?


Anger is part of the stream of emotion. My meditation practice has taught me to *be* with all of it. My anger has morphed to compassion, mostly.


I feel deeply in the marrow of my bones that women from all economic demographics should have access to screenings for cervical and breast cancer, that a quality free public education is important, that abortion should be an option, that Muslims – and all immigrants – are welcome in this country, that my wife deserves all of the rights that a husband would have, that clean water is important, that science is real.


I have struggled to understand: how can you *not* believe in these fundamental rights for all beings?

And, I have realized that perhaps you feel just as righteously right in your beliefs as I do in mine: you’re as proud to be “deplorable” as I am to be “nasty.”

I think I’m starting to understand: you fear big government and/or high taxes and believe a businessman can turn our country around; you lost jobs to globalization or technology or both, and you’re angry because the American Dream you were promised has changed; you fear Islamic extremists and people who enter our country illegally; you are God fearing and do not believe babies should be aborted; somehow (though I still don’t quite understand how) you don’t believe in climate change; you can’t fathom why your health insurance premiums are so high and why you should subsidize healthcare for everyone else especially those who do not care for themselves; you served in the military where you were taught to serve and protect using semi-automatic weapons, and now the thought of some politician taking your right to arms away terrifies you; you believe marriage is between a man and a woman; you fear people who defy binary gender norms in bathrooms.


Please write to me if I’m speaking out of turn. I can almost empathize, I think. I think I know how you feel.

And, while I can understand, I don’t agree.

I know, I know…you want us to give Trump a chance.

I’ll speak for a couple million people who marched on Saturday: we can’t. We can’t be quiet when equality and human rights are at stake. And, what we’d really like is for you to understand why your insistence that we stop talking about politics is part of the problem.


Because, if you can afford to look the other way, your privilege is showing. And it’s hard for us to see our own privilege. (At least, I know it is for me.) When you choose to say nothing in the face of injustice, you feed it and condone it…you normalize hatred and inequality. And, it’s not normal. It’s not ok. So maybe instead of covering our ears and closing our eyes and defriending, unfollowing, and creating walls, we can build bridges with our dialogue.

It won’t be easy, I know. So much of what’s beautiful in my life today is the result of hard work, pain and suffering. This personal history as well as our nation’s history gives me hope. We are a resilient people. And progress is a slow march.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed was these women who formed a barricade around the women who were protesting abortion. Their voices were heard. Peacefully. Nonviolently. I hope I can hold this image in my heart for the next four years and eternally.


One of my dear friend’s mantra this year is: the whole world is my church. May we cease to dress fear and hatred up in religous clothing. May we remember that we belong to each other.

To purchase one of these images, click here. 25% of proceeds benefit a local refugee who was in a car accident and is trying to feed her children.

light + laughter | Prana del Mar sunset shoot

All my favorite people laugh well. If I was to travel the world teaching yoga, I’d take this gorgeous woman with me so she’d laugh at my jokes. Her presence in class is always a gift. So 7 days with her on a fabulous yoga retreat – wow. I think God gives us people who help us along our collective and individual paths. I know she’s done that for me. She wanted to do a shoot for a big upcoming birthday.

“When was the last time you had your portrait taken?” I asked her as we traipsed out to the beach.

“Olan Mills,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anyone else,” she said.

You are worth celebrating. Who you are…what you do – it matters. You matter. Never will there be another soul exactly like you. You, make a difference in this world.

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how I’ve realized my childhood career dreams

My father sits across from me, only a gear shift away. We are outside of my grandmother’s apartment. I want to live in an apartment. Like the last complex in the bad neighborhood where she lived before. The one with the courtyard and the peacock and Myrtle. Myrtle is 90. I am just 4 years old, as this is one of my earliest childhood memories. I wonder if I’ll live to be 90. And she is tall, unlike my grandmother who’s crippled. Grandma walks with a crutch under one arm, and her fingers are tangled like tree limbs.

But, we have a house which is supposedly better somehow. We live next door to a bad man. He poisoned our puppy.  This apartment has a basketball court, and I’d like to practice, but Grandma says it’s unsafe to play by myself. She worries all the time and always locks the top lock. In the summer, she watches me and we watch The Young and the Restless by day and WWF by night. Sometimes she calls Myrtle to see if the wrestler’s blood is real or fake. “Do you think that’s ketchup?” And Nicky and Victor are getting divorced. I wonder if my parents will get divorced.

My father rewinds the cassette tape once again, and we sing, “What a Wonderful World.” And it still is. And he asks me what I want to be when I grow up. And I don’t really know. Probably not a pool man like him. (He’s hardly ever home.) “A singer!” I exclaim.


Long ago, I cast that little girl out. At once, she is wise and innocent, confident and shy, sensitive and bold. She knows who she is and what she wants. She sees others’ fears as irrational and has not yet developed her own. She knows she’s here with a big voice and something special to share.

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.

Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.

On my recent retreat, we sang each day. Through the chakras we journeyed holding space for others’ joy and sorrow, and everything in between. And the sound moved all the emotion. Each time I’d lead the chanting, I felt so vulnerable. At one point, I admitted it – out loud. “I chant every day, but to lead chanting makes me feel vulnerable.”

Don’t.” One said.

She sings. Professionally. She’s given me voice lessons when I was losing my voice each week. Her single word of caution affirmed me.

Someone I trusted taught me to speak from somewhere deep inside of me. I’m grateful for the teaching. Yet, like so many other new things, I misunderstood. I thought deep inside me meant low and baritone. And speaking in that more “masculine” octave all of the time was causing me pain in my throat. I now understand that deep inside me is that young carefree girl who wanted to sing. And her voice was not deep nor low.

Through chanting, I’ve found a way to sing. And through chanting, I can sit afterward in the silence held by the Sacred. I am doing my best to bring the young girl inside of me home. I broke 2 malas this week. Some say this is good luck. Some say my intention has come to being. I know I cursed a phrase I’m not proud of when it happened – more vehemently the second time. Sometimes the Divine shows off.

What we say vibrates in the world. The sacred mantras vibrate at a frequency far higher than four-letter expletives.

I know how to connect to my lower consciousness. I can stare blindly at my phone and social media for a couple hours. That’s always a great start. Haha. Haha but it’s only funny because it’s true.

Chanting helps me access my higher consciousness. Thank you to the teachers – past and present, seen and unseen, the kind and even the unkind – who’ve helped me find this Way. And to the sweet, brave girl inside my heart, I bow. The way she sees the world – her curiosity and tenacity – continues to astound me. Sometimes life, should we choose to pay attention, is far more beautiful than we ever could have dreamed.


photo by Susan Ross on the beach at Prana del Mar

light up your life retreat 1.0

you plan and you pray and you pray and you plan and sometimes an experience defies your wildest dreams. these women. this place. beautiful. sacred. all of it makes me weep. they showed up in the most magnificent ways  for one another. my heart is full. my life is changed. how this is my path, I’m unsure. grace. gratitude. joy beyond belief.

Prana Del Mar


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