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It turns out that living in one of the most expensive areas of the country is hard. I’m not going to lie, I had several thoughts of, “I am somehow special and will persevere through the impossible.” I was naive to think that I could relocate to San Francisco and make it as a yoga and fitness instructor if I just work tirelessly with a driven attitude and an open heart. The truth is, I could teach 50 classes a week and I wouldn’t be able to afford to live here. I fought that reality for while and hoped that through some sort of magic, everything would work out.

It is with a very sad and heavy heart that I am announcing that I need to leave California. Even though my career is taking off in a way that I never could have imagined, I’m not able to survive in an area that caters mostly to people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I am leaving my 500-hour training, I am leaving my Lululemon ambassadorship and most importantly, I am leaving my students and the many classes that I worked hard to secure and build. I am leaving a life that I couldn’t have even dreamed of living in, a life that I was beyond grateful to participate in every day.

I can’t explain what the shock and denial of losing my life here felt like. I went through days of feeling like I didn’t understand reality, like I had taken too many drugs and was having a bad trip. I have experienced unimaginable emotional torture at the disbelief/realization that I am leaving everything that I am so proud of creating here. My body has responded, it has became weak and achy, I feel like I have the flu. I feel like I am losing myself, but most saddening to me is that I am losing my students.

Alright so, the initial shock has worn off. I’m sure there will be many more fits of panic in the mean time, but right now my head is in a clear place and I want to take this time to connect. My first thoughts were to completely shut down my website and social media and shut everyone out since I have no idea what is going on with my life. I am leaving California at the end of July and will be moving back to Colorado. I’ve gone back and forth about whether I want to teach again. This will be the third time I’ve had to start my yoga career from the ground up. Is it worth it? Is it worth spending another year trying to build classes and a student base AGAIN? This time without a car?

Of course it is. I will teach again. I will continue to do the one thing that rings true in my heart. I am coming back to Colorado with a heart full of love and gratitude for the experience I’ve had over the past year and a half. I am coming back to friends that I know love me from the bottom of their hearts and will be waiting for me with open arms. I am coming back to parents that are equally excited to see me and will provide me with temporary relief from the paranoia of not knowing if the rent will be paid or if there will be food on the table. I am coming back to students who witnessed me start teaching over five years ago and stuck with me until I left. I am coming back with the ability to offer support to anyone who is going through a hard time. I come back knowing how to handle crisis. I come back with experience that will allow me to show up as a teacher in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if my life weren’t falling apart. I come back more gentle, more kind and more compassionate.

I’ve realized that the majority of my suffering is due to my loss of identity. I am starting to understand a little bit about “egolessness”, which is discussed a lot in Buddhism. It’s true, we put so much effort into maintaining our identities and we feel threatened by and resist anything that challenges and jeopardizes it. I am feeling extremely threatened and I am working hard to keep my heart and my mind open to this loss. While I’m losing my identity, I am still love at my core. I am still dedicated to being kind to myself and others, even if I’m no long Erin Wimert, San Franciscio yoga instructor, Lululemon ambassador, blah, blah, blah. I am still love and that will never change.

This is where I am and I am making a promise to my students, my friends, my family and anyone who finds comfort in reading my words, that I will not shut down, I will not shut anyone out my experience and I will be open and honest about my life moving forward. I am here as a source of strength or an open ear to anyone who is experiencing financial crisis or any kind of crisis for that matter. I am forever a teacher, forever a student and I hope you stick with me as move into this new chapter of my life. Namaste.

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Opening to Fear

It’s not until recently that I started to contemplate the meaning of fearlessness. What does that mean? I contemplate the meaning of this as I find myself in one the scariest times of my life. I suppose this is taboo topic matter, but I attribute my devotion to meditation for my lack of shame and embarrassment about where I find myself now. My household is experiencing a financial crises and things are coming to a tipping point. Things are about to either change for the better with a slow accent out of a hole that’s been dug or…or I can’t even fathom the alternative. I can’t even wrap my head around what will happen if things don’t take a turn for the better. I don’t know what’s coming up for me in my life and I’m scared. I’m scared of the unknown and my heart is pounding.

So what do we normally do when we get scared? In Buddhism, they talk about fear being the birth place of the six root kleshas or poisons: desire, anger, pride, ignorance, doubt and opinion. The more we engage in these conflicting emotions, the tighter the grip fear has on us. Fear comes from our lack of understanding in our basic goodness. In a world that praises people’s ability to obtain money and material possessions, I have battled with seeing my goodness over the past couple months. I have retreated from my friends, my family and my relationship. I have retreated from the world.

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My retreat from the world has spawned the beginning of my home practice. Feeling incapable of facing real live people at a studio in the midst of experiencing paralyzing fear, I made just enough room for myself in my small apartment to roll out my mat. The first few times I did this, I sat down riddled with anxiety and got up immediately. I wasn’t yet ready to heighten and connect to my experience through my practice. I often went back to reading in bed as a means to ease myself.

The book that shifted my perspective enough to eventually dive into my experience was Smile at Fear by Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. As he called out and discussed each obvious and underlying neurotic thought and behavior linked with fear, I began to see myself clearly in a downward spiral that I would only be able to escape if I chose to make friends with fear and use it as an opportunity to connect to my humanness. Fear has cracked open my mind and woken me up, I can confidently say that I am a more awake and receptive human because of it. I have lost attachment to hoping that life will unfold a certain way or that I am somehow special and deserving of special treatment. I surrender to the universe, I surrender my fixed thoughts and notions, I surrender any grip I may have had on life. I have nothing to offer, but kindness and compassion. I have discovered my true nature through this ordeal, I am love and awareness.

I rolled out my mat and practiced for the first time with fear pulsing through my body. I backbended and felt the fear nestled in the middle of my chest, expand and drain into my arms, hands and fingers. I applied patience and discipline to my breath, which arrived shaky and short, and found space within my body to move into and feel more at home in. I began to see that I can show up as an awake individual, while feeling scared and confused. Home practice gives us the space to see that as everything is on our own terms. The point of being fearless is not to not feel fear. The point is to recognize it rather than avoid it, which keeps us chained. The point is to be really conscious of how we respond with our thoughts and actions.

While I’d like to say that since I’ve had all these insights I’ve become a total warrior, the truth is that I’m still struggling. I still find myself pacing around the apartment with my hands on my head while huffing and puffing about what’s going to happen. I am constantly reminded of my current reality when luxuries I used to take for granted such as buying groceries or putting gas in the car are barely option. I am beyond relieved when I get to go teach and can take a break from thinking about myself to help others. Connecting with my students is what gives me the confidence to come home and feel the fear, either through meditation or home practice.

I invite you to experience fear with me. Fear is happening all the time, it’s our neurotic behavior. It happens every time we avoid eye contact. It happens when we pull out our phones incessantly because we can’t just be with ourselves and feel. It happens when we edit or embellish ourselves to get into someone’s good graces. In a time where technology rules, corporations are getting what they want, a society of checked out people who are exhibiting obsessive-compulsive behaviors because of addiction to distraction. I invite you to put down the cell phone, the television remote, the bottle and feel something real. I invite you to experience fear with me and develop a relationship with it. What does it feel like? What language does it speak via your thoughts and actions? How do we evolve when we practice patience and let it run its course? Fear is an emotional hook, it’s fluid, it moves around and changes shapes, meaning it’s workable. Fear will wake you up to reality, fear will allow you feel MORE. Only when we allow ourselves to experience fear will we connect to being human. Only we open to fear, can we become fearless.

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