Every year brings reflection and growth, but every once in a while, we are faced with a standout year. It’s one informed by a longer list of profound events that you’ve had to deal with emotionally. It’s a year that you certainly didn’t plan to have, and if you would have known in advance what was coming, well, you’d likely have hidden under the covers for 365 days until it was over! It is only early December, so I know I should tread lightly with what I write here, but, after some careful thought, I’ve decided that now is a good time to share a few things that you may want to know before you enter 2013.

I am not 50 yet, but close; snuggling up to half a century! Yet, going through a year like I’ve had, I feel less of an adult and more of a child with regard to the lack of maturity in my beautiful human experience. I am not putting myself down but merely honoring a newborn side of me that I could have only seen with a year like this. Experiencing the loss of life, saying goodbye to relationships that carry history and love, creating and celebrating the birth and growth of a yoga community, hosting a first-time-in-ten-years family reunion, re-establishing friendships, helping friends in trouble, and watching friends move on with bigger life experiences are just SOME of the gifts that 2012 bequeathed me. My yoga has been the support beam I’ve clung to as I walked through each one of these “loaded with information for you to learn from, Michele” situations. And, I decided to reach out to a recommended therapist many times when I felt unclear and overwhelmed. Therapists have a great way of repeating back to you what you just said, but in a way that allows you to see it as if for the first time. The tree illuminates through the forest.

Here’s my one opinion on therapy for whatever it is worth: everyone who has been doing yoga for a number of years now would greatly benefit from a few good sessions. Members, every time you sit in Half Moon Pose for one minute, you are controlling your emotions. For all of us, the pose is hard and long; the heat and the humidity can be too much which makes it challenging simply to breathe, but yet we manage to stay with it and not give up or succumb to the emotion in our heads that tell us to run, scream or quit. There are countless examples in that ninety minute, hard-as-heck class, of how we control our emotions in times of duress. Frustration when we can’t kick out, when we fall out, when the guy in front of us falls out, etc…but our yoga maturity tells us better. These are such mundane and boring ways to rattle our peace. After years of doing yoga, you see the small minded nature of letting these things bother you. But, the gift on the other side of this same coin is your ability to step away from an uncomfortable circumstance in your life and assess it before you react to it. Your ability to detach gives you the grace to refrain from saying something you don’t really mean; from doing something you really don’t want to do. Your habitual training from class everyday has given you the ability to see from a “higher perspective.” And this has amazing advantages in life and in therapy. You are not caught up in judgment, despair, anger, or any other emotion, and instead have the open mind and the open heart that you need to truly understand. And in therapy what truly gets to be understood is you!

I am a committed yogi. I aspire to attain higher levels of self-realization and all that goes with it: self-love, self-acceptance, self-worth etc. And I’m committed to doing so in whatever ways work: yoga, therapy, books….you name it! I am old fashioned in that I love a crisp “turn the real piece of paper” page type of reader. The ones that I am absorbing now are the Tao of Personal Leadership, Asking the Big Questions, Money is Love, Tao of Womanhood, and Angel Courage. Whether you read from a real book or a digital version, books are the best for when you have that “aha” moment in something you’ve read. The words are right there for you to comprehend again and again if necessary.

Awakening to oneself is such a beautiful process. It’s so freeing as the liberation expands your consciousness and connection to all other living beings. Without the emotional baggage, the present is more available. You wholeheartedly participate in life. You “feel” the specialness of an emotion when one does arise, the beauty of nature becomes more than something you see, and the kindness exchanged between friends in a loving conversation is a heightened experience. As I have learned from my therapist, this is to live authentically, which “means to have courage, compassion and connection: to be brave enough to meet up with inner yearnings; to have love for yourself as you make these self-discoveries; and then take a step with this new information towards some situation in your life.” And, of course, as my therapist makes sure to add: “…it’s the application part” above all else.

One of the more famous quotes from established author and mythologist Joseph Campbell says, “The privilege of a lifetime is to be exactly who you are.” He also eloquently states, “If I simply lived my own truths, my own core truths, I would touch the lives of those that I was destined to touch.” Living authentically is too live happily and that is our birthright. But as I’ve learned this year, living authentically is not easy. It requires a responsibility to live not just from our hearts but our heads, too.

Each year, I pick an angel card which carries one word on it and this becomes my “thought” each day of the year. Many of you who have been with me over the years have picked an angel card too, using this as an awakening tool as you look at this word each day in the context of the life situations you are in. The word that I chose for 2012 was “Understanding.” Each morning of this year I have spent several moments reflecting on this word, asking to be more open to what the meaning of “understanding” had in store for me THAT day.

And here is what I have come to understand with great certainty: the guardian of a big, sensitive heart is the mind; a good clean, clear mind that is acquired through our own journey of humbling experiences that we must each traverse on our own. A healing mind uses discernment, and we begin to see and accept the world as it is and not as we wish it would be.

And, what I know for sure is that our Bikram yoga practice cultivates more than just physical health but emotional health too, as we exercise patience, concentration, determination, tolerance and faith. The yoga then becomes both physical and mental therapy, as we make progress on our path toward enlightenment. To “enlighten” means “to bring to light that which is in the dark.” And to enlighten IS to live authentically.

Achieving greater harmony with the mind and the body through our practice means that we become ready to battle for our authentic nature as spiritual warriors. My fourteen years of yoga have gratefully led me here – led me home, authentically. And my daily challenge – as it will be each new day of my life – is to stay faithful to it. And so will it be for us all…