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Meduim: Watercolor on stonedge natural paper Size: 18" x 13"

It’s been a while since I’ve connected with my favorite Hindu goddess, Akhilanda.

Okay, I admit that she’s my favorite Hindu goddess because she is the only Hindu goddess I know.

Akhilanda.  Her name means Never Not Broken, she rides a spinning crocodile on the river of fear, she is a cut crystal in the sun shedding new light on every reality, and she is powerful beyond measure.  Oh yeah, I could use some of that ju-ju.  It’s time she and I hang out again.

Akhilanda first spun into my field of view in the fall of 2011, when I read this piece by JC Peters in Elephant Journal. Then I wrote about Akhilanda in April 2012, when I was about to begin a four-month sabbatical from teaching Nia, and everything about my practice felt broken. Now, in what I am lovingly calling The Sucky Summer of 2014, I am writing about her again.

Akhilanda’s Never-Not-Broken power lies in the breaking of entrenched patterns and habits and making ourselves new.  Of course, this can be uncomfortable to put it mildly.  The Never-Not-Broken feeling can be one we go to great lengths to avoid.  When difficult circumstances arise, it’s easy to shake my fist at the heavens and curse those damn Hindu goddesses.  The spinning, multi-faceted jewel of Akhilanda, however, offers 10,000 perspectives on every situation.

Akhilanda rides through the body.

As Frank rebuilds his strength after six weeks of virtual immobility, he experiences one of the body’s paradoxes: in order to build strength in the muscles, the very fiber of the muscles must be broken. The process of breaking and healing makes the muscle stronger than it was.

Akhilanda rides through emotions.

To see my tall, strong husband buckled over, in a wheel chair, then slid into the MRI machine felt like more than I could bear.  The temptation to stay in the waiting room, to look away, to keep my emotions at a manageable mid-range was strong.  Akhilanda’s wisdom invites me to jump into the river of emotion and allow myself to feel the depths of sadness, grief, fear.  Like strengthening a muscle, as I stretch my capacity for feeling painful emotions, I also increase how much joy, happiness and love I can let in.

Akhilanda is rides through scary situations, those things we think we cannot do.

I feared Frank aging and being disabled for a thousand reasons not the least of which was that I believed that would be a cross, angry, useless, horrible caregiver.  My prediction was that when in the presence of my beloved in serious pain, I would be pathetic mess.  Not surprisingly, I have feared any circumstance that would reveal this ugly side of myself.

Then, I found myself spun right into the heart of just such a circumstance.  My partner injured and pain with just me to look after him.

Mother Theresa, I am not. Sometimes I am a cross, angry, useless horrible caregiver and a pathetic mess.  But surprisingly, this is the exception.  Mostly, I can stay present and connected and do what needs doing and offer whatever comfort and service I can with love.  In this scary and painful situation that I feared, I discovered something unexpected about me and about our relationship.

All of which begs the question, of course: is it actually a Sucky Summer or just a crocodile-riding one?


This week’s post is just a little bit of a cheat.  A teensy bit.

Last fall, I stumbled across an amazing blog post about a Hindu goddess named Akhilanda.  Her Sanskrit name translates to “Never Not Broken”.  Writer and yoga teacher, JC Peters, wrote this post last year and it was subtitled, “Why Being Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea.”

So here’s the cheat:  JC’s post is, in large part, my post this week.  Here’s her original article (even if you’ve read it before, I invite you to read it again now.  You may find, as I did, that I was touched by it in a very different way given current circumstances).

When I first read this last October, I found it inspiring and evocative.  I remembered lots of times that I lay in a lump, full of doubt and uncertainty and disappointment.  I’ve had plenty of patches of despair and fear, we all have.  Reading this post, I was intrigued by the notion that we have great power in those moments.  Huzzah!  Ride that crocodile!

But I wasn’t actually in a pile on my bedroom floor when I first read this.  Things seemed kind of fine and humming along the tracks as usual and this very cool post was moving and fascinating.  And I taught about it and thought about it and that, pretty much, was that.

On Wednesday, February 22, however, something happened in me.  I suddenly felt like the train of my professional life derailed.  I was doodling along and suddenly I was up to my wheel base in mud.  My teaching, that had been a source of Joy and inspiration for nearly a dozen years, felt flat and stuck.  I felt frightened and completely, utterly at a loss.  And I couldn’t make a decision about anything:  about what was happening, what was wrong, what I needed, or what I wanted to do.  Just like that:  broken, in a pile, in a lump, at my kitchen table.

Lots has happened since February 22.  Many conversations with beloved and trusted people (including, of course, with myself).  Having a thought (“I need to quit Nia forever!”) and then sitting with it, letting it seep in and see how it felt (“No, I don’t.”).  More conversations with myself and otherwise, kind people.  More sitting with ideas and plans (“I could just stay home and write!”) and allowing the sensation to give me information (“I can write, and I also need to move and dance and teach and be with people.”).  In this way, plans for a sabbatical began to take form.

Even though I now know that I am taking some time off, I am still in a massive place of not knowing, of uncertainty, often of fear.  From here, I thought of Akhilanda again.  I realized that what JC Peters wrote was not only interesting and inspiring, it was true, deeply true.  As the certainty of my future dissolved in front of me, there was enormous possibility.  I have the power, right now, to remake myself.  Right now, I can choose where I want to go and what I want to create.

And here’s the big realization:  this is happening ALL THE TIME.  All the time, we are breaking and reforming, letting something end so something else can begin.  We are constantly doing this and we always, always have the power to make the choice to remake ourselves.  But since this can be a disconcerting sensation, we often live in the illusion that everything is the same and will stay the same.

I still don’t know what’s really happening or what I’m going to do or how anything is going to feel.  It’s both exhilarating and terrifying to be standing on the edge of four months of sabbatical.  And it feels incredibly helpful to think of myself as a beautiful constantly breaking and reforming thing.  And while you may not be rethinking your whole career and life’s path at the moment, SOMEthing else in your life is breaking and reforming.  You are never ever not broken.  And that, my friends, is an exceptionally powerful thing.  Big breath.  Step into the brokenness.  And yes, get on your croc and ride.

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