Half the gate by fog, half the gate by light

Through the fog, there was light on the other side. Half of the bridge, dark and full gloom yesterday summer afternoon. The other half of this infamous gate, golden rays pierced the eyes from the west, beaming with warmth and grace.
We are the keepers of both the dark and light, one cannot exist without the other. Some will take ahold of such gloom and create forest fires from pain. Build relationships up only to tear them down; this is the fog, murky visions and desperate hands attempting to control via pain. That is the thing about darkness, behaviors established in attempts to control others and the external. When the ways are not granted, or when tasked to step up in esteem, it is choice up for ripening. You can stay the same or expand yourself into light.
That’s the thing with light, on one hand inviting yet terrifying. Darkness breeds comfort and staying small. The light beckons one to get uncomfortable, make shifts that are incredibly challenging. Move out of relationships of neediness and lack binding you to stand tall with your heart forward and up. The mind will work tirelessly attempting you to cave back into comfort, to stay in small relationships that don’t challenge or expand you. It is the mind that twists words and boasts action.
That’s the thing about action, it requires movement, it requires one to act. Words are taken to paper or channeled by chords, they look pretty or charged, at times a melodic driver, they’ll need a composer, you. It is following through with doing the very things you said you would do. It’s a practice. An intention. A pretty pose, font, voice, signage is but one gear to the grind.
Darkness is temporary unless you’re living to prove its cause. The light will carry you into new strengths, it will be sought by living outside of your comfort zone and choosing to rise up in love. You start with loving the shit out of yourself first and saying fuck yes even when it scares the shit out of you. I’m scaring the shit out of myself everyday to stay soft, even when faced with hardened shells of another. This is the light. This is the love.

stephanie birch

life is messy and magical

Life is messy and magical. 
People are messy and magical. 
Let it all be messy and magical. 

Sometimes we can get so caught up in presenting ourselves in this life. A friend will ask how we are doing and our response is an immediate, "fine, thank you." How often do we get real with others and say when things are not so fine. For me, I'm guilty of this knee-jerk response and still working on opening up when things are not so fine and fantastic. Sometimes, I prefer not to give details as if to not burden or take up space of another. I am used to quietly handling my own shit, if you will. I am the oldest of five children, example-maker, do-gooder, and leader. There was not a whole lot of time dedicated to feeling real growing up. Often times, I lashed out in my hormonal-teenage-angst ways. I was a fiery, lean girl with sharp tongue. Part of growing up was not understanding this fire within; what it was, where it came from, and why.

Life is confusing and misleading. You have societal pressures and cultural norms to "do this" or "that." Do well in school, go to college, and get a job. I come from a family with split biological parents, a rocky on/off relationships with one, and siblings that always assured me I was only "half-related" to our family. I don't think anyone wants be made out to be half of anything. While I don't finger-point these old tattled words, I do remember how I felt many years ago: alone. I spent many summers visiting my grandparents and helping them around their house because it was the only place I felt a sense of belonging. Plus, I really enjoyed doing chores, learning German, painting, picking wild berries, making homemade sun tea, serving coffee and bussing tables at a local restaurant where my grandma was a full-time cook. I spent much of that time alone in the small town they lived. I felt free and a sense of duty that went beyond caring for my siblings, I felt like I was contributing to life. I cherished walks alone, caring for however-many-dogs my grandparents had at the time, and I became quite independent during these visits. 

Through my twenties, I fumbled a lot. I think it's expected and I used to believe that doing so during those years was the "right time" for that sort of thing. How naive to believe that we must only go through shit in a particular decade and take charge on "real life" beyond such a timeline. From parties to drugs to boys to binges and what-have-you, I came down from that high and got stuck.

Stuck in a life and job that I wasn't really living.

I found out I was pregnant a week before I was partially laid off. I begged for the company to reconsider and reinstate my health benefits to no avail, working my last shift at 39 weeks, and high-tailed my waddle-ass out of there. I vowed to never return to a lifeless job or ever get stuck again.

I don't want to gloss over my time as a new mom, it was hard and beautiful. Yet I was silent. I became stuck again. In a strange limbo of battling an identity that was difficult to familiarize. I was in a cloud of darkness that would not lift. It was a happy time and also not. I was gripping onto a life raft full people with their "ooohhhs" "and "ahhhhhs" and joyous baby coos with endless preaches of to-dos of parenting. "Isn't being a mom the best thing ever?" I'd be asked. Forcing a yes when all you want to say is, "yes and no." But the horror of such a response. So I hid. I pretended. I went on thinking I could trick my brain into grace and nods. Trickery, like a balloon, eventually pops. The air went out the same time we lost security on many things; roof, wheels, and unsure of how we could survive on Steve's business. Life became scarce for us.

I kept with my yoga practice. On days, I refused showers and plastered to the couch, Steve was there encouraging me to go to class. I just kept on even in the fog of it, I kept on. Falling on my mat at times in anger and sadness. Sometimes grieving for a pain I did not know. Always returning to the teachings and showing up for myself. I truly believe that when you commit to yourself, as you are in the moment, you are your highest self. People reach for a goodness factor or a lightness regarding highest self. I don't always think that is true. What was true for me was showing up for anger. Showing up for my sadness. Showing up for my life. Allowing myself to feel myself, all of it. Being real. That's what changed for me. Not pretending, no longer in hiding, or shying away from my emotions. Getting in touch and downright close with them. It wasn't about trying to fix or mold myself into another figure or sweep anything under the rug, it was simply being me.

Part of our job is emotional honesty. 

Sometimes we need a loving ear. 

Sometimes we need the support of our mat. 

Sometimes we need to show up and let that be enough.

Let yourself be messy and beautiful. Let people be messy and beautiful.
Let life be messy and beautiful.
Together, it's one, big, beautiful mess. It's not perfect, it's real. And it is absolutely loving.
 

stephynow
Source: https://oneoeight.tv/life-is-messy-and-mag...

a long story, short.

I wish I could write each and every person a note of love, answer every question, and high-five or hug everyone that has participated in this journey. I realized something the other day that struck a chord within me. I was being asked a question I prefer to avoid. I am often asked why so many people follow me on Instagram. It's a question that would make me clam up a bit. The words "following/followers" still sounds like we are playing the kinder-game of leadership. Sometimes people prose the question with wrinkled noses and raised eyebrows while others are genuinely curious. I like to say my usual quip, "I think people really like babies, yoga, photography, and wordiness." Or I like to think so, anyway. While questioned a couple weeks ago, I came to a new answer, and a relief. I didn't clam up or get uncomfortable or dart my eyes this time, I answered with peace and complete clarity, "People have literally watched someone grow up on social media. Motherhood, yoga, and life." I don't think Instagram is necessarily the real question, but more-so, how did you get here?

And this here is a long story, short.


I realized -- many of you have literally watched me/our family go through and grow through real life stuff on social media, square by square. Three and a half years ago, I posted my first "yoga" photo of me in a headstand, a moment I was quite proud. Head and forearms planted in the soft grass of our old backyard, a time when our family was in a quiet crisis. The midst of battling silently with depression, an unforeseen move, uncomfortably slow business, while juggling a one year old, we were crashing. Looking back, in one headstand, feeling like an upside-down superwoman, I began to realize how much the practice of yoga was serving me and I started to think, "if this practice can ignite something within me to courage forward, it can do so for others." Slowly, I shared my yoga practice, thoughts, photography, questions, how-to-dos, and family life on social media. There was a clear connection with others when I shared real stuff too; the good, bad, struggles, and triumphs. There was a deep part of me that wanted to help others through this practice, the more it served as a conduit to healing in my own life. 

A year after sharing that first triumphant headstand, I entered my first teacher training at my local studio, at the Shala. During this time, I continued to share knowledge, excitement, nervousness, and often felt like I was vomiting yoga - in person and on social media. Probably sounding off like a crazy-loon, paying little mind, because I felt free and wanted to give it away to whomever held out to listen or read. Many of you have been a part of the writings and photos as I navigated motherhood, family life, learnings from my yoga practice, multiple teacher trainings, and have even shared the nerves in my shakiness as a new teacher getting my first "real" weekly gig summer 2014. So much has happened in these few short years, it really does feel like I've grown up in many ways, it just happens to be a little public.

Last January kicked off a streak of opportunities that have both challenged and birthed me anew. I was invited to be a blog contributor for lucy activewear, began assisting my teacher in her 200HR RYT trainings, and I met with one of my greatest teaching and lover of life inspirations, Rachel Brathen. It was one of those "oh-em-gee-what-is-this-life" kind of moments meeting her. I did my best to play cool while squealing on the inside having dinner with her. I jumped to "YES" when she asked me to be a part of the biggest-loving-yoga-healing online platforms, oneOeight.tv. By the first of June, I was off to Aruba on a "secret mission" to film yoga classes and got to spend time with the most kind, loving, supportive, incredibly knowledgable yoga teachers from the east coast to the west and beyond. I admit, I was in awe and often expressed my nerves and "little-ness" as a teacher, so new and fresh from the corrals of training, here was a chance for me to teach anything I wanted. And I did! I came back from Aruba with a day's break and landed in my assisting role for teacher training. When July rounded, a lightbulb went off for me as a teacher and as a student. There were many times throughout the last year I had been unsure of myself in teaching; the feedback I was given, the dos and don'ts of yoga, just plain old being new to it, and would often reach out to my teacher, Diana, with "holy shit" and sometimes "a-ha" moments. Coming off of the excitement of summer, the knowledge I gained from assisting and teaching, lessens from Aruba, supportive teachers, and a heck of a lot of practice - I taught myself out of being new. It's something we teach ourselves, as students and as teachers. I had learned that scaring myself means growing myself and teaching is learning. When that lightbulb went off, fear took a backseat. My awareness and intuition heightened. I started using my real voice, no longer playing small, and began acting my words and esteem. My teaching changed, my breathing changed, my presence changed, and my relationships changed. It's as though two spirals found the tip of each other and started to loom in and out as one. 

That is not to say I know everything about teaching or that I don't have bad days, stress, judge, or have less-than thoughts. There are days when I am feeling the depth of my "what-ifs" or "not enough-ness" only to clock out of it much faster with swift forgiveness. I've been given incredible opportunities in this life, not only because of a willingness to do things that scare me, but it's because of the very people, teachers, and supporters that have been there every step of the way. It's because someone saw something in me. With every extended hand came some of the greatest, challenging, igniting, and teaching moments in my life. 

If there's a few things I've learned in these short, growing years, it's this: 

Surround yourself with people that light fires and encourage you to light your own.
Do things that scare you, there's growth on the other side of fear.
Always be a student.
Say what's real, write what's real, whether it's popular or not, public or private.
Love all the way and forgive yourself every damn day.
See others in their greatness and lend your hand to the next. 
You were born for this life.


While I am still one of the new-kids-on-the-teaching-block, I am growing and learning and giving it away, and that's what it's all about. Giving it away.  

I look forward to continuing with you, near of far, liked or not, all the way. There's so much to learn and so many places to grow, day by day, life keeps on giving and growing. 
I wouldn't change a thing, especially in moments of crisis, after all, that's where it much of it began. I'll no longer shy away from the questions of "how" and "here" or "why" - - I'll stand tall and reveal myself as so.

Forever in gratitude.

IMG_9146.JPG


you be you, i'll be me. let's do this life in the frontline of love.

Sometimes we confuse our favor with having things always going our way. Some of the greatest gifts, or favors, have been the times I’ve faced opposition, a difference of opinion, cold judgments, feeling unseen, unheard, neglected, misunderstood, and disconnected. It’s these experiences that have required me to dig into myself. Maybe it was a teaching job I didn’t get. Or a harsh judgment from someone I respect or a joke at my expense. Maybe the finger-pointing and quiet whispers of those more interested in my experience saddled with unworthiness of this yoga business.
Many times, only seen or read from squared pictures and wordy snippets, a fraction of expression. A fraction of life, motherhood, teaching, creating, photographing, writing, a taste of truths paired against skinned revelations.
It is not the whole. I can only thank you for the love as well as the hate. Not only through my darkness did I learn to go inside, but also through having things not go my way or another’s beliefs about me. It’s made me accountable to myself in high-voltage love and action to keep on. And to bring the lovers into the front-love-line along the way. 
Without faced with such differences or always achieving a likability-factor, I would not have rung my insides and known the textures of my self-worth. You see, being likable does not appeal. I do not gravel or bask to make others feel tall by lessening myself along the way. Pedestals, stage-like platforms, curtain calls, and cutting others with mask-play is for the performers. I’m not here to puppet my way. My soul does not task me so.
We are not meant to be boxed or caged or leashed, set yourself free from anything that tethers you from being your biggest, most badass self in all the love, take no shit ways.
You are here to be you.
I’m here to be me.
Let’s do this life.
Not hierarchy, no know-it-all; together, side by side. Learning and growing and giving it all.
This is the frontline of the love-line.

let life be messy, let people be messy

Encourage messiness and uneasiness. I used to think I could collect imaginary tokens for pretending life was perfect and happy. Only until I realized that life became perfect when I stopped pretending. When I started letting life be messy, I began to understand that revealing parts of myself or by the truck loads is what exactly what is pure and raw and real.
Let life be messy. Let people be messy. Make a beautiful mess.

stephynow