TYP is honoring National Criminal Justice Awareness Month in March. Join us as we #letstalkjustice in regards to the school-to-prison pipeline and the consequences it has on our communities. We'll also #letstalktransformation and how our programs are seeing change in our youth participants.
It all comes down to one question.... Do I want to be happy?
I recently turned 60 and have found myself frequently reflecting on my past life, my present life, and what I want to do over the next four decades. My Mom lived into her nineties... and she didn't even practice yoga! So, I could very well live to see my 100th year.
The past 60 years have been absolutely amazing. I often contemplate if it's the result of sheer luck, divine planning or because I have made the right choices along the way.
I think about the choices I made regarding my education, my career, my marriage, my family, my friends, and even the location of our home. I think about the choices I made after my retirement from 30 years in the corporate world. I ask myself, "Why did I choose to practice yoga? To meditate? To become a vegetarian and an avid gardener, growing most of what I eat? How did my past choices impact my current well-being? What has been the driving force behind all my decisions along the path of my life? What is my destiny? Is this normal midlife contemplation?"
I also ask myself, "What choices am I going to make today? Next month? Next year? How can I continue making good decisions?"
My AHA moment came when I was reading Chapter 15 of The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. I realized that I have been faced with only one basic decision throughout my life... "Do I want to be happy or do I not want to be happy"?
My yoga and meditation practice helps me tremendously on the path of unconditional happiness. Yoga teaches me to stay conscious, centered, and appreciative. Yoga teaches me to be open to accepting both the good and the bad. Yoga teaches me how to let go and be at peace, regardless of external forces. Most importantly, yoga has taught me how to breathe in contentment and keep my heart open, no matter what happens.
It really is that simple. I am certain the driving force behind every choice I've made was the desire to be happy and to enjoy life. I am not consumed by melodrama and negativity because I know I am not on earth to suffer and be miserable.
I realize that terrible things might happen in my future; someone close to me may die, my husband could divorce me, my children could move far away, I could injure myself or contract a terminal disease, my house could burn down or my garden could be infested by nasty pests that eat all my veggies.
Bad things happen everyday but, as I have painfully learned over the years, I can't control things and keep everything exactly how I want it to be. What I can control is my happiness and it can't be conditional. No ifs, ands or buts. I have the power to choose unconditional happiness for the rest of my life.
My intention is this: choose to be happy and at peace. When life gets hard, instead of complaining, just laugh, keep breathing, and figure out how to have fun as different situations unfold.
It takes dedication and practice, but amazing things happen when I choose happiness.
I have not personally struggled through an addiction, but at times my life was chaotic due to growing up with a parent who fell into the downward spiral of addiction. I feel compelled to share how losing my father and experiencing countless people struggle with substance abuse was a catalyst for my own personal growth and healing.
After my father lost his battle, I experienced some dark times; I felt overwhelmed with a sense of heaviness. There were days that I didn’t even want to leave my apartment – and I was living a mile from a beautiful beach and the Pacific Ocean at the time.
My idea of someone hitting rock bottom was extreme after watching my dad’s struggles; I needed healing for the emotional scrapes and bruises I picked up along the way. Somehow, I always made my way to a yoga mat, especially when there was a string of consistently hectic events in my life. Over the course of twelve years of practice, my yoga mat was the one place I could land to find clarity. I didn’t know the Sanskrit words, I barely knew alignment, but I knew when I woke up from my post yoga class nap lying on the floor, in a shape ironically known as corpse pose, I felt alive. I felt different. Lighter. Better equipped to deal with every day life and decisions – big and small.
One of my favorite things I have ever heard has to do with how we feel when living in the present: If you are depressed, you are stuck in the past; feeling anxious, you are focused on the future. When at peace, you are present. That was it for me. I choose peace and I choose to be present. The practice of yoga helps. The physical practice was certainly a gateway for me. It led me to my spiritual reconnection with non-denominational GOD consciousness; GOD (Great Omnipotent Divine), as taught to me by my dear teacher Susan.
A yoga class can offer tools to clear your mind, to heal your body, and to enliven your soul. That is something for everyone. In service, we can make the practice truly accessible for everyone. Please reach out to me at any time if you want to offer a donation based yoga class to your community and we can work together to spread the mission of Transformation Yoga Project. Imagine, maybe we can all feel a little lighter after rolling out a mat.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
TYP Community Partnerships Manager
Nicole believes in the power of yoga. Raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Nicole connected to the spiritual aspect of yoga in college. After graduating from La Salle University, Nicole had 12 years of experience working in the media and entertainment field. There was always a deep connection for her after a practice on the mat. Nicole made changes in her life by studying the deeper meanings of yoga to understand this connection; a personal journey discovering how to heal, to learn to live in the present and to live without pain. Nicole utilizes her communication and marketing background to enliven her dharma of helping others find their path. Nicole completed her first 200 hours of training with One-Yoga, a Yoga Alliance registered school in Wilmington, DE; she is currently working towards completing her 500 hour certification.
Several months back, while discussing our career paths, someone asked where I want to go. I replied quizzically, “Go…?”
"Yeah, where do you want to end up? What's your goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years…?”
Honestly, I had no idea. I’d been so absorbed with the journey, I hadn’t considered a destination.
Over time, however, the question silently repeated itself in my mind. I closely examined the microcosm contained within my wide-eyed overview of the macrocosm, then I let it marinate. This is what I formulated:
Three Career Factors to Consider
1) Time. 2) Contentment. 3) Money.
Three Questions to Answer
1) How much time will it cost?
2) Will it encourage contentment?
3) Do I need the money?
Conclusion: Decide what's more important; quality of life or quantity of money.
Base all of your educational aspirations and career choices on your conclusion.
After coming to my personal conclusion, I made the choice to cut back on teaching public yoga classes and private lessons.
I'm content, less stressed, and I'm present for my loved ones. I have more time to do creative work, to study philosophy and history. I have less money, but I have everything I need.
As far as my teaching career goes, I'm officially announcing my intention to transition toward my goal to work exclusively with incarcerated youth.
My personal mission aligns perfectly with Transformation Yoga Project's macro-vision for "all people in the greater Philadelphia area who have experienced, are experiencing or are at risk of losing their freedom" to have "free and easy access" to yoga.
TYP empowers me to do my part - however micro it might be - to bring awareness to dualistic injustices within the justice system. TYP empowers my efforts to subvert the school to prison pipeline, a state sanctioned system that is systematically stealing and silencing a generation. Someone has to take a stand. TYP - built upon a foundation of yoga and personal empowerment - is the platform where I am taking mine.
At every fork in the road I...
Interconnect with consciousness.
Adjust with awareness.
Repeat as needed.
These practices apply to every asana practice I've ever facilitated. These principles are what I teach. Outside of the classroom, this is how I live my yoga.
It hasn't come to me easily and it will never be perfect. It's a practice. But it's a practice I learned through practicing asana.
This is how a physical exercise evolves into mindfulness and transforms lives. This is how #YogaHeals people. I know this because this is how yoga healed me. And this is why I'm going all in.
Peace, Love, Yoga,
Transformation Yoga Project, Instructor, Digital Media Marketing Director