On Yoga

From March to June this year, I had the privilege of participating in a yoga teacher training course with some of the most inspiring and heart felt men and women I’ve met in a long time. Yoga came into my life over ten years ago. My first memory of it was a group class at college, where I felt suspicious and curious in the way one does when you come upon something true and holy and new that you are perhaps not entirely ready for.  My next memory is of a hot class in the middle of winter in Northampton, Massachusetts. I emerged sweat-drenched into the snow-covered parking lot and was again awestruck at the unspeakable power of bodies moving in unison. Of being stuck on my mat in a hot room with nowhere to go but inside. Nothing to do but move and breathe.

My next encounter with yoga was in a treatment centre in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It had been years since that freezing evening in Northampton and my life had come apart at the seams. I finally failed to keep it together - failed to keep up the pretence of a life that worked amidst the truth that I was exhausted and dying inside without any real idea why or what was going on. Thankfully, I was willing to get quiet for long enough to consider boarding a plane to the desert to spend eight weeks surrounded by other men and women who had filled their lives with sex and booze and drugs and had found a way out. Men and women who had found God and love and freedom and beauty where there used to be only darkness. Men and women who would share their path with me, be lighthouses, show me the way.

One of them was a woman named Pasha who came twice a week to teach yoga in the small trailer with brown carpet and tiny windows that stood overlooking the pink hills of the New Mexico desert. Three or four of us would gather with her as she led us from one pose to the next, moving our bodies, breathing, feeling limbs move in ways I had only ever moved for other people. For sex or love or affirmation. Never before had I moved my body this way. For quiet. For myself. Yoga introduced me to the holy power of my own body. The divine beauty. The sanctity. It was a coming home to my relationship with my body as a temple. A physical manifestation of the Divine. A cherished home. A safe place. A homecoming of the greatest magnitude.

After those seven weeks in Santa Fe I returned home to New York. It took months for me to remember anything I had learned there, for me to realize the absolute necessity of integrating the tools I had been presented with into my daily life. After a few months, desperate and alone, I wandered into a church basement and introduced myself to a room of strangers honestly and earnestly and before the night was through another woman offered her hand in help. Another lighthouse. A rescue boat. The path to a new life.

It was on this path that I found my way to yoga again. A crowded studio on St Marks Place where I paid a dollar for every class. A quiet room overlooking Court Street, mats laid out on creaky wooden floors and winter light pouring through the high windows. When we moved to Cape Town, I found you again. Free classes in De Waterkant. A backroom at the gym. I arrived at yoga tentatively for a while longer, but after too many years of doing battle with the voices in my head that told me this was something perhaps more beautiful and lovely than I deserved, I started to come around to the truth that in fact this is my medicine. My soul food. Like oxygen or water; like love.   

And so it is true. Yoga is the medicine that brings me home to myself and God as I have continue to walk through this hard and beautiful life. As I attempt to ride her waves with grace and dignity, squeezing all I can from each moment and growing closer to God all the time. Through the ups and downs of the most earnest attempt at marriage I could muster, bearing the loneliness of being unseen in the company of your husband, thousands of miles away from home, and then the loss of that marriage, becoming a mother and a divorcee all at the same time. The loss of friends who filled the loneliness, the dream of raising daughters together, of sisterhood and laughter and Thanksgiving dinners with our found family. And then the majesty of falling in love again. The pain of betrayal. The horror of abandonment. Of being faced with my demons again and again and again. How could I continue to face my pain? To walk through the darkness? To trust that somewhere there must be more light?

Some days all I can do is put my body in the room. Feet on the mat. Breathing in and out as I follow the teacher’s voice deep into my bones. A lighthouse guiding me within. Guiding me home to myself again and again. Showing me the way. Telling me the truth: You have been here the whole time. You have all the answers you need. You are already whole. You are already forgiven. You are already loved. You can stop looking. Stop moving. Stop. Be here now. Be still. Get quiet. Come home. I’m here.

The mat has been beneath my feet the entire way. My strong body surrendering to itself. Held by the practice. Held by my own breath.  

Eternal gratitude for this practice. For the depth of its truth. For the teachers along the way who have taught me to love myself when I didn’t know how. Who have held space for my tears, for my expansion, for my heart when it was breaking and when it was being pieced back together again, bigger and more filled with love than before. For the women who have inspired me to come back to myself again and again, to dig deeper, trusting I would find more light there. More gems to mine. More soil to till. More nourishment here than anywhere else. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Getting drunk & sober in a dry religion.

Originally published on The Temper.

**

For years, alcohol was my God.

I relied on booze, drugs, and sex to fill a void inside me that felt all but impossible to fill. No matter how much I consumed, the darkness only ever got bigger, darker, and more terrifying. The desperate loneliness I felt was all consuming. The shame was heavy as lead.

I was raised in a religion where drinking is strictly forbidden. So beneath whatever shame had accumulated as a result of my booze-fuelled escapades was the shame that, no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not stay away from this stuff. Initially, I did not want to try that hard. I reveled in the rebellion. I reveled in the invincibility I felt with alcohol rushing through my veins. But underneath it, down in my core, was a deeper knowing. A sense of homelessness; of not belonging anywhere — not to my religion, to my family, to myself, or to God.

The Baha’i Faith has plenty of other spiritual laws it calls upon its believers to adhere to. Baha’is are not supposed to speak poorly about anyone behind their back, be physically intimate outside of the confines of marriage, or harbor hatred or prejudice towards anyone; we are supposed to pray and meditate daily, fast for 19 days once a year, and work towards the unity of mankind above all else. The truth is that these laws are all held in equal regard. God does not care about some more than others, nor does the Baha’i Faith speak of a vengeful God who expects absolute perfection from its believers. But, as a teenager raised in a Baha’i household, I was certainly expected not to drink booze, not to come home stoned, and not sleep over at my boyfriend’s house or sneak men into the basement in the middle of the night.

Although I have come to know myself and identify as an alcoholic, believing wholeheartedly that nothing worthwhile will come of my life unless I put down the booze (and realizing that I never managed to do this on my own), my tug of war with God’s rules started years before my first drink… with my first kiss. The rush of adrenaline, affirmation, approval, and endorphins that came from that secret kiss in a synagogue hallway far exceeded any Divine Love I had felt up to that point. Some part of me suspected I might be disappointing God (or my parents, though the difference was not clear at that stage), but I enjoyed the whole thing far too much to stop. In fact, as you might have guessed, I only wanted more.

The shame of wanting to break the rules more than I wanted to uphold them started to seep in right then. Before long, I was convinced that God was completely unimpressed with, disappointed in, and uninterested in me if I could not get these right. When I started drinking, this was the perfect excuse to get very, very drunk pretty much every time I drank. If I was going to piss God off, I might as well make it worthwhile.

As the years progressed and the darkness settled in, the shame deepened. It evolved from shame at not wanting to stop to shame at not being able to stop or change no matter how hard I tried. I remember, near the end of my drinking, wanting so badly to go home to my husband and love him well, only to find myself on the other side of town, in another man’s bed, drunk.

What had happened? How had I strayed so far from the woman I had hoped to be? Become so lost? During that time, I attended a Baha’i conference in Stamford, Connecticut, where I heard a talk by one of the most gentle and honest men I have ever met. His words were loving and kind but they cut to the core. He spoke of men and women who know right from wrong but, despite their best efforts, continue to choose wrong. He was speaking about me, and for the first time in years, I felt some hope. He spoke with love. For an instant, it felt like it could be possible that God still loved me — despite the darkness, despite the pain I had caused myself and others. Perhaps the realm of the spirit was not lost on me after all.  

It was not long after that I found myself in a treatment center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. High in those pink and purple desert mountains, I started my journey back to God. It was clear in the brilliant colors of the sunset and the bright light of the full moon that God was all around me. It was there that I began to consider the possibility that God was inside me, too. That God was perhaps bigger and different to anything I had ever imagined. That the punishing, judgmental, disappointed God of my drinking was perhaps not God at all but my parents, my community, and even my own disappointment in myself. That perhaps God had never abandoned me or judged me but had been waiting patiently for me to return.

Despite these profound experiences and the life-changing effect they had on me (sobriety, honesty, and fidelity, for a start), I spent years terrified of “coming out” to the Baha’i community about my identity as a recovering alcoholic and addict. To some degree, I continued to live a double life. I was terrified of the judgment I assumed would be heaped on my head for not being able to abide by the laws, for struggling to uphold something that surely any good, decent Baha’i would be able to do with ease.

There is a passage in the book “Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions,” by Bill Wilson, that speaks about the “profound confusion” felt by the “wanderer from faith.” The person who once had faith but found it wanting; who abandoned the faith of their childhood, believing that a life based on decent morals and material success would suffice. While I had never abandoned my faith entirely, to a large degree I felt that I had no choice but to relate to it from afar thanks to my many missteps. I couldn’t see how I could ever come into a full, honest relationship with a faith that I still imagined would judge me harshly for my past — a past that I was realizing I had no choice but to embrace fully if I was really going to recover. I had to believe in a loving God, a God that loved me wholeheartedly, not even in spite of my imperfections but perhaps loved me because of them. A God that loved me not because of my goodness, but because of His. The question was whether I could reconcile this understanding of a God big enough and loving enough to save my life with what I understood of the God I grew up with.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure. But eventually, I decided that speaking the truth about my past so that some other drunk Baha’i might read it and find hope was far more important than avoiding any possible judgment about how good I was or was not. I suppose I decided that the God I had come to believe in would want that more than He would want me to appear perfect (which I actually do not believe God cares about in the least). I suppose I decided to risk it: To risk being imperfect in order to be true. To risk judgment in order to bring hope. To risk looking bad in order to free my soul.

The miracle is this: I have come to learn that the God of my faith is vast. That the God spoken of in the Baha’i scriptures is mystical, loving, forgiving, and beautiful. Over and over again He is referred to as “All-Forgiving,” “Compassionate,” “Bountiful,” and “Merciful.” The ideas I had about God were about me, they weren’t about God.

The first time I wrote publicly about being in recovery from alcoholism and addiction, I was about eight years sober. It was a post on social media; I remember hitting “Share” and being at once exhilarated and terrified. I was finally brave enough to share my story with the world; to be honest about who I am and how I got here. I thought the best I could hope for would be comments and likes from my recovery friends. What I found was that, along with messages and comments from women and men I have known my whole life. Baha’is who I always assumed had never struggled with, or come face to face with, addiction, alcoholism, or any other struggles that may have challenged their faith in or reliance upon God.

They thanked me for my honesty. They applauded my courage. They offered their own stories. They showed me that God lives in us all. That the stories of judgment and isolation were my own. That I could return to my faith, be held by it, and be given the chance to bloom.

Walking each other home.

In Cape Town, the seasons are changing again. For most of my life, March and April brought the first stirrings of spring after a long, cold winter. But in Cape Town the days are getting shorter. Mornings are darker. The light filtering through the branches outside my bedroom window is soft. The air is cool. The skies are painted with brilliant oranges and purples as the sun rises and sets in our changing sky.
 
As seasons change, so life changes. This month I am quitting my full time job. I am getting married. I am in the midst of a yoga teacher training course I have been wanting to do for years. And I am doing lots of spiritual self-inquiry work that sometimes leaves me breathless. Who is at the center of it all? How do I stay grounded in times of upheaval and change? How can I stay rooted in myself, in gratitude and stillness?
 
More than anything, I want to be present. I want to be awake for my life; for every beautiful, earth-shattering change. I want to remember this time with a smile. With a sense of wonder at the miracles God makes possible when we surrender ourselves to Spirit. I want to move through change as a river flows. I want change to unfold like a sunrise across my landscape.
 
How do we get there? For me, the answer is always: more God, less self. Times of change present so many opportunities to cling to the thorns of my ego. To become completely entangled in them. Paralysed. Convinced of them entirely. This is never the answer. It never works. Never leads to freedom or peace. The answer is always: Go to God. God can remove the thorns.

How do I find the path to God? It is right here. In every friendship, every phone call, every Circle. Every like-hearted being who crosses my path. You show me the way. Thank the heavens for you all. Thank the heavens for your hands in mine. Your hearts holding my heart. Your spirits surrounding me. Your palms on my back. Your love. "Take my hand," she says, "I will show you the way."

We are all just walking each other home. We are the path to God. 

This post was originally my April 2019 newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

Every stuck place is an invitation.

Last month I wrote and shared about learning to meet my soft heart with tenderness and care, and February presented me with many opportunities to embrace my tenderness. To hold space for softness, for tears, for breath, for light. To hold space for that flickering light inside to grow brighter.

Opportunities to expand are also opportunities to come face to face with lots of old monsters. The stories I cling to for dear life despite the fact that they are killing me. Suffocating the flame. Drowning my breath. Rocks in my throat. A boulder on my chest. 

The Universe invites me to heal the places I am stuck. Every stuck place is an invitation. A messenger. More truth. More love. More old ideas and worn out stories shattered. More awake.

I focus my attention on the breath; breathe into that tender space between my ribs. Opening my heart. Digging out the rocks, making space to expand. 

"Hello, soft heart. I love you." 

What is possible when you are loved? When you are nurtured and cared for? Given permission to shine? You are the wellspring of joy, of art, of creativity and play, of tender love towards myself and others. You are where I want to parent from, to partner from, to create from. My only job is to return to you over and over again. To open my arms to you. To walk tenderly, joyfully, and intentionally, with the playful joy of a child and the loving care of her mother, towards you over and over again.

This month we will continue to invite ourselves back home to our own soft hearts, and explore what happens when we heed her call. 

This post was originally my March 2019 newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

The Ocean.

The ocean was calm this morning as I wound my way down the side of the mountain, through the trees, and towards the shore. The wide open blue stretched herself in front of me under a glistening sun. What does she make of me, I wonder. What does she make of us, come to her shores to bury our feet in her sand, ponder our insignificance, take comfort in our small place in this oh so wonderfully grand world. I must know something, I think, and nothing all at once. The mind is a tricky tool, too clever for its own good. We would be better off, I think, staring into the nothingness. Being carried away by the stars. Throwing ourselves like heavy rocks into the waves, allowing ourselves to be smoothed by the centuries. Grains of sand, channels of light, smooth as stone, or pearls.


Hello, soft heart. I love you.

January's days were full up with friendship, family, work, laughter, love, and also tears, resentment, fear, self pity, and plenty of self doubt. I don't think I am the only one who has felt catapulted into 2019 with full force.  I called a lot into being in 2018. There is a lot on the horizon, taking shape, beginning to bear fruit. So far, it has felt like a shake-up. There are big things in store this year and I can feel it. It requires courage, action, and the willingness to step into myself. It requires surrender and faith. But surrender can feel like falling. The space between today and tomorrow, between each step--that space of uncertainty-- can feel like an eternity. It is beautiful and terrifying all at once, of course, and sometimes my scared mind and tender heart take a while to catch up to the creative force and powerful voice I am working hard to set free. 

I am trying to meet myself with compassion. With love. With a soft voice and a gentle touch. It is okay to be scared. It is okay to feel tender. It is okay to be tired. Go towards love. Walk towards God. You know the way. You hold the light. 

So perhaps this is also a year of compassion. Of tender-heartedness. Of softness towards ourselves and others. A year of turning with love and care towards that scared, small voice inside that is yearning to be heard. A year of learning to embrace and protect her, give her the love the she needs, tend the garden of our hearts so that she can bloom.

This post was originally my February 2019 newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

Healing Love

Coming home to the truth of who you really are.
Standing firm in the beauty of your big, bright, beautiful heart.
Coming to believe that the Divine Love living inside you could be the love you have been looking for your whole life. 
Treating yourself as though that were true.
As though your story matters. (It does.)
As though people needed to hear it. (They do.)
As though your voice could move mountains. (It can.)
As though everything you have ever been looking for - all the love you crave - could be found right inside you. (IT CAN.)


Time to take the lid off.

It is Saturday and we are five days into this new year. In Cape Town, it is summer and the city is buzzing. Beginnings and endings everywhere. The wide open energy of sunshine, of beach days and blue sky - the shedding of winter skin as we dance excitedly and anxiously through the season and into the new year. 

Like many, I am not really one for resolutions. But I have to admit to some belief in and appreciation for the power that comes from honest self reflection and from the opportunity to commit to letting go of the past and using our creative imaginations to look ahead towards the future. I believe in intention, in commitment, in action, and in faith. 

2018 was a lot of things, but perhaps above all else it was a year of discovery. Many times it felt as though I was walking in darkness with only enough light to make it another step. The amazing thing is that I kept walking. The amazing thing is that there was always enough light. The amazing thing is that I learned the power and wisdom of my own inner guide. I learned to listen close. I learned to trust what I heard. I learned to trust where the light would lead me.

On the eve of the new year one of my teachers asked me, “What would happen if you took the lid off? What would happen if you refused to stay small? What would it be like if you gave yourself everything you need  to be the biggest, brightest, truest version of yourself?” 

The answer: my heart would sing. I would not be weighed down by the deep knowing that there is some divine dream I am too scared to realise. I would no longer be saddled with that heavy load. I would be free. 

So here is to a 2019 filled with the loudness of who we really are. Filled to the brim with the beauty of our powerful, purposeful voices. Overflowing with the love we have to share, our invaluable gifts, and our stories that matter. Here is to a year devoted to the magic that happens when we grab hold of who we truly are, the women we have always been.

This post was originally my January 2019 newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

An invitation to come home.

Yesterday my baby sister, Alexandra, turned 31. Alexandra is a gift. Her loving, affectionate, and warm nature smooth my rough edges. She is soft where I am hard, brave where I am scared, and filled with love where I struggle to be. Alexandra is an artist. Her work elegantly captures the intricate beauty of this world in a way that inspires me and fills me with pride. I can say without a doubt that one of the greatest gifts I have received from being Alexandra's sister is to experience the creative power that is unleashed when two women love each other towards the best, fullest versions of themselves.

We live in a world defined by competition. We are almost programmed to jump instantly into some form of comparison and envy when we see others (especially women) achieving great things, reaching their dreams, or simply creating beautiful lives for themselves. But I am convinced that this is not the way. There is no space for real love when I am stuck in comparison and competition. And every day I become more convinced that love is the source ofall of my creative energy.

When love is blocked by competition and comparison with others, so too is the creative energy that is so vital to my own ability to step into my power, to create from a place of flow, and to live in alignment with my own higher purpose. But when I love someone without demand, when her successes fill me with joy and inspiration, something entirely different happens. The channel opens. Love flows and expands, making space for co-creation, for collaboration, and for exponential inspiration. I go from living in a world of scarcity to a world of abundance. I go from being driven by fear, where there is only room in the world for one of us to be successful, to being driven by love, where there is room for us all. Not only that, but a world in which God actually needs each and every one of us to fulfil our specific part in this grand puzzle that will eventually bring about a transformed world. 

I experience freedom and joy when I view my sisters as partners, collaborators, and co-creators rather than competition. In fact, it has become one of my life's greatest joys to partner with women on our journeys home to ourselves, to bear witness to each others' unfolding, each others' blossoming. It is one of the most magical experiences to behold.      

This post was originally my December newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

I heal to serve.

This seems to be the season of change. They keep rolling in, one after another, like the wind and waves on the rocky sea. I am reminded again and again – by the clouds moving across the sky, by the moon waxing and waning, by the teachings of my spiritual guides – that we are in a season of great upheaval, that we are moving fiercely towards a new way, but that the journey is not an easy one. Destruction is required for reconstruction, death for rebirth, the pain before the rising. As a dear friend recently said: the birth canal is not a comfortable place to be, but staying in the womb forever was never an option – and there is no going back once labor begins! 
 
What an amazing analogy. We have no idea what is in store for us on the other side of all of this. I have to remind myself of that constantly – I do not have the capacity to conceive of the tapestry God can weave for me, for my family, for my community, for this world. I have my ideas. I know how I think it should look. But those ideas keep me stuck more than they help me grow. What works is staying in the present. What works is gratitude. What works is faith in (and prayer to) an abundant, loving God. What works is connection and commitment to my vision – a Divine intuitive knowing – and aligning my actions to that to the best of my ability. What works is keeping the channel clear at all costs. What works is action and faith.

This is true also for our world. It is so easy to be consumed by fear, anger, and hate. To become despondent, full of despair and fury. I am reminded over and over again of love. I am reminded of my purpose. To serve. To do good NOW, to act with love NOW, to be a channel for peace and kindness NOW. Today. With you, with my neighbour, with the shop clerk, the cop, the beggar, my partner, and my kid. And also at the ballot box, on the streets, in town halls and city council meetings, in my community and in courageous conversation with friends, colleagues, and neighbours that is open-minded, loving, and concerned first and foremost with connection, with unity, and with justice.
 
I heal to create a healed world. I cannot do one without the other. I am a channel, and Spirit must work in and through me or I will implode. There is no greater expression of love than service. This is where I have found the freedom, peace, and purpose I have always sought. This is where Grace lives. My spiritual practice falls flat if it does not extend outward to the world. I heal to serve. What does that look like? God reveals it to me daily, if I am quiet enough to listen and brave enough to hear.

This post was originally my November newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

I believe her.

I do not know how I avoided sexual assault. I was promiscuous for years. Put myself in countless dangerous situations with men I barely knew. I was told that I was not being smart, that I could get hurt. I didn’t take it seriously. Thought those things didn’t really happen, that I knew these boys, these men, well enough to know they were good enough not to cover my mouth or lock me in a room or pin me down while they took advantage of me. Years later, knowing much more than I did then, I am surprised. It could have happened so easily. It has happened to far less promiscuous girls than me – girls who never put themselves in danger the way I did – girls who did not sneak out of their homes, meeting boys in dark parking lots, going home drunk with strangers, drinking their drinks, smoking their drugs, sleeping in their beds. 

I cannot imagine what today has been like for women – so many women I love – who were not as lucky as me.

I never tried to say no to those men. But the scarring that resulted from years of laying myself bare to men in an attempt to make myself whole has taken years of hard work to even begin to heal. It has jeopardized my mental, emotional, and spiritual safety. It threatened my marriage, my relationship with my parents, my God, my community, and today my country. But I have fought long and hard for my healing and my faith in a loving God has been restored. A God that loves us unconditionally – that believes wholeheartedly that we are whole and good already, a God who is only waiting for us to realize it ourselves. I believe this God knows this of us all – of our America, our leaders, our justice system, our women and our men. 

I believe Christine Blasey Ford. I do not believe this means that Brett Kavanaugh is all bad. Nothing in life is so simple. I do not believe, either, that this means he is deserving of a seat on the Supreme Court. I believe women have for centuries been silenced by powerful men who keep us silent and small. The pain of coming forward has almost always felt too great – not worth it in a society that will not hear your cries anyhow. And I do believe this needs to change. Women’s voices must be heard. I believe in America’s sacred role in this change. I believe in our duty to uphold the words in our Bill of Rights, the words etched into the Statue of Liberty, the values upon which our country was founded – no matter how imperfect our founding fathers were – the values men and women of all colors have fought and died for for centuries. I believe in America, and it is because of this that my heart is broken again today. 

No matter what you believe about this man and this woman, there are some simple truths that have been disrespected today because we live in a world that values power over truth, where the voices of the vulnerable are systematically silenced in order to maintain the status quo. This is not sustainable. The scales are tipping, and the quicker we realize that we will all be better off in a just world, the better these next years will be for us all. Let’s not get distracted by the details, let’s not allow our anger or our differences to separate and destroy us, but rather let us keep our eyes trained on the greater truths upon which we can all hang our flags: truth, justice, love. These are things that can unite us. These will be our salvation if we do the hard work to make them our aim. 

If you’d like to debate or disagree with anything I have written, that is wonderful – but not here. I will happily arrange an opportunity for meaningful in-person dialogue where we can talk about some of the tough issues we are all grappling with. Just let me know.

In love, 

Ariana

Blossoming into our truest selves.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about transitions and about the anxious energy that often accompanies these times of change. The seasons are changing. Here in Cape Town, it is early spring. Wildflowers are in bloom on the mountainside, fields bursting with carpets of purple and yellow along the highways. I am so grateful for the seasons: nature’s reminder that change comes like clockwork and that it will change yet again before long; that the winters of our lives will always be followed by wild, joyful spring – full of colour and hope. But transition and change are always scary. The winds pick up, ushering in new spring air at a rapid pace. The day can change from sun to pouring rain in a heartbeat – not unlike my own internal world in times of upheaval and change.  Unlike the flowers, we humans attach so much meaning to each of these phases of our lives. We get stuck in the winters, afraid to feel the cold or embrace the dark, and yet reluctant to shed the skin of it when the possibility of a new spring peeks her head around the corner of our lives.
 
My life if full up with change at the moment, as it seems the world is, too. All of us being called upon to shed that which no longer serves us – jobs, homes, relationships, cultural norms, the status quo, the old world order – for that which surely will serve us all better in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. I am constantly reminded how much fear precedes the exact things I pray for. I pray for change but when the Universe unfolds just so, presenting me with an opening, a crack of life just bright enough to be true - I descend into self-doubt and fear, quick to reach for the familiarity of a suffocating winter instead of being willing to brave the winds and wildflowers of spring.   
 
So this month we are talking about getting real. We are talking about blossoming into our truest selves. We are talking looking ourselves squarely in the face with love and compassion so that we can shed the weight of all the patterns and behaviors that have kept us stuck. We are talking about blossoming into mothers, lovers, women, artists, healers, storytellers, and more. We are talking about becoming the women we have always been – the women we already are.

This post was originally my October newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

This morning I woke up whole.

"This morning I woke up whole."

~ Ariana K. MacPherson
 

We are already a week into September. We arrived in Cape Town on Saturday after two weeks in the last days of North American summer, where we got to witness the magic of families and friends joining hearts and hands in honour of the union of two radiant souls -- my sister and her new husband -- and where myself and Ian received the blessing we have been waiting for from my parents, allowing us to begin our own journey towards marriage. 

My sister got married in the Catskills, on a 92-acre farm where golden light filters through the tall pines onto forests of ferns and fields of tall grass and wildflowers. There, in that sunlight, under that sky, surrounded by those people, and sheltered by those trees, there were only a few things that were true: Love is real. God is good. We are okay. I am already whole. Life is beautiful. Of course this was only magnified when, all of us still glowing from the magic of that place, we returned to my parents home to say prayers and listen to my father play his flute in the afternoon sun in celebration of my and Ian's engagement. 

Coming back from those magical times is never easy. I feel tender, filled with joy and love at the goodness of it all and filled with sadness at saying goodbye. But this time I keep being reminded of an image I saw a few days ago on the Maha Rose Instagram feed:

All is well.jpeg

For me, this is a reminder to practice gratitude. To dwell in faith. It is a reminder of the magic of the present moment. It is a reminder that there is so much love and beauty in the world - that we are surrounded by it all the time if only we pay attention. This does not mean there is no pain, that there is no sorrow, no work to be done or injustice to overcome. It simply means that more than one thing can exist at once, and that we need not despair for beauty, hope, and grace are abundant even in our darkest times.

A dear friend of mine used to say to me when I was filled with fear and anxiety that God can make gold out of anything, and it is true. Today, in the wake of last night's New Moon, I can feel beauty rising up around me so long as I stay connected to this moment, to these feelings, to this tenderness, to my God, to love, and to gratitude. 
 

God is good. All is well. I am already whole.
Everything I need is within me. 

This post was originally my September newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

From hustle to surrender.

And then God said, 
"No need to worry. 
Remember the magic I can make 
With simple things like 
Water, light, and air?"
 

~ Ariana K. MacPherson
 


This was a big month. Two eclipses and a potent full moon. Lots of grief, lots of old patterns coming to the surface, lots of fear and anger and self pity, lots of energy moving up and around and through pretty much every woman (and man) who crossed my path. Of course this is uncomfortable and for many of us the first impulse is to get out of it. To wriggle out of the pain, the uncertainty, the fear and grief with all our might. So we resort to those old patterns, those threadbare tools we cling desperately to in order to numb the pain: blame, self pity, fear, obsessive thinking, busy-ness, food, sex, booze. All to avoid feeling and listening closely to whatever is bubbling up from deep down within us. The thing is: It doesn't work. Trust me - I have tried it all.

This month I was faced with a lot of my own old patterns, my self-defeating fear that keeps me stuck on loop in my mind and in my life, unable to take a step forward despite the increasing pain of staying stuck. In a Breathwork session with Erin Telford this month she reminded us of a question her teacher asks often: "Are you waiting to live your life?" These kinds of questions usually hit me like a punch in the gut, and this time was no exception. Usually this would bring up lots of feelings of inadequacy, fear that it's too late, that I've lost my chance to live the big, beautiful life I dreamed of as a girl. But this time it was not that at all. Rather, it became very clear that there is no "someday," there is only today, this beautiful life right in front of me, at my fingertips. The small, precious, gorgeous moments of grace and light, grief and sorrow, beauty and magic that lie in my daughter's golden hair, my partner's warm embrace, the light of the sun, and the sound of my mother's voice. Of showing up to my job, my art, my body, my God, and myself fully present, fully human, and fully alive. 

So this month, as we move into and out of the last eclipse of the year (August 11th), we will gather together to delve into the things that keep us blocked and how to get out of our own way in order to create space within ourselves so that we can live and shine TODAY.  Join me for the August Women's Circle on the 18th and the second session of our Healing Love series on the 21st. We return to ourselves through each other, and community healing is a potent elixir. 

This post was originally my August newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

Forgiven

Last year, during a women's gathering at my home, I was reminded of a memory I’ve thought about countless times over the years – being in a university dormitory with Jim (my high school boyfriend and first true love) and his friend Noah and all their artsy, druggy friends. It was nighttime and we were most certainly high and the boys were causing some kind of trouble. The moment that haunts me is this: I was sitting in a chair in a corner. Above the haze, I could see myself clearly. How did you get here? This is not who you are. Almost before I could finish the thought I quieted that part of myself (the truest part). It was too painful. I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t know how to be anywhere or anyone else besides this girl, pretending to be carefree but in reality so alone. 

As I was writing about this, I began writing about Jim. About the love and the heartache and the heart-wrenching cycle that was our relationship. It dawned on me: This is the pain I have been feeling. All the pain that I thought was from Ian alone. It was old pain. Rooted in so many years of love and disappointment. All along the people I trust had been saying to me, “It doesn’t sound like you need to forgive or trust Ian again. It sounds like you need to forgive and trust yourself.” It didn’t make sense to me. Forgive myself for what? Where does this deep self-doubt come from? In that moment, it all made sense. It comes from so many years of betraying myself, of putting my heart in the wrong people’s hands and allowing it to be broken. Of choosing them over me. 

I was telling my amazing psychologist Peter (God bless him) about all of this a few days later and I suppose it made sense to him, too. He paused and asked me, “What do you think your 17-year old self has to say about all of this?” 

I started to cry hard. 

Through my tears I answered, “How could you do this to me again? How could you fail me again, after all this time?” 

“And how does it make your adult-self feel to hear that? 

“Shame. So much shame. I can’t believe I did that to her – to myself - again.” 

It was as though something had shifted in that instant. There was space. I could see what was going on. I could see these two parts of myself - that they had been at odds with one another and that this is where I needed forgiveness. This is where I needed love. I am the one who needs to love, forgive, and trust myself. It has so very little to do with Ian at all. 

It was not long after that that I had the experience in yoga that I’ve written about before. I’ll quote it again here, because I think it completes the story in a pretty beautiful way: 

The class ends and we are lying in savassana. It’s quiet and dark and I feel peaceful and steady. Almost out of nowhere, I hear a calm, tender voice within me say “I’m sorry,” with so much love and humility, so much grace, that it catches me off guard. But I know it is me – the deep, warrior, divine, adult me – speaking to my younger, scared, teenage self. I hear her reply with love and forgiveness, with a knowing that my apology is real and true, that her fear, hurt, anger, and disappointment have been acknowledged and heard. “It’s okay,” she says. And in that moment, I know that there is no easier softer way. There is nothing, no one, to exhale into except my own arms, that great inner resource inside me. I am what I have always been looking for. There is no one else to be my saviour, no one else to be my hero or my best friend, except me. And because God loves me just as I am, just as I have always been, I can forgive myself for loving myself so imperfectly. I can exhale completely into myself. I don’t have to wait for Ian or anyone else to make me feel loved or held or safe. I am in charge of that now, and it’s not lonely. It’s liberating. To trust that if I keep paying attention, keep listening, keep coming back I will always know exactly where to put my body, my heart, and my soul. 

Only love is real. Let's be channels of love.

I have no choice 
But to carry on 
Grieving the loss of you again and again 
And giving praise for you at the same time. 

Thank God for love. 
Thank God for grief. 
Thank God for this open heart 
Scattered across the sea.

          ~ Ariana K. MacPherson


I have to admit, June was a hard month. Here, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the darkest, coldest, and wettest time of the year. We are not complaining about the rain because this water is the elixir of the gods, rescuing us from disaster, but it is cold and wet nonetheless.  

On top of the cold, dark, and wet it has also been heavy and sad. We hadn't made it far into the month when reports of families being separated at the US / Mexico border started to emerge. When this kind of tragic news begins to make its way into my consciousness, it always seems to start with a trickle. A slow, steady drip of what I can almost immediately tell is another piece of soul wrenching news I do not want to be real. In all honestly, it takes me a few days to be willing to hear it completely. To sink into the reality of it. And this was no different. In fact, it was one of the worst yet. Simply the thought of children being torn from their mothers' and fathers' arms still brings a knot to my throat. And I will say it again: as far as I am concerned, this is not a political issue. It is not a Trump problem or an Obama problem, a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. This is a manifestation of our spiritual disease that goes back centuries. 

My heart breaks for the many millions who have been wrongfully and tragically imprisoned, enslaved, and murdered on American soil. It is so easy to feel helpless. It is so easy to be filled with despair in the face of such large-scale, systemic injustice. But there is hope. There must be hope, has to be hope, and at the end of the day, there is only hope. Hope in the many millions of Americans (and beyond) from both and all sides of the aisles who stood up to say "This is quite enough. This we simply cannot take." To raise posters in protest, to donate money, and to spread love. What a call for healing! For how can we ever heal this broken world unless we start off by healing ourselves?  I do not believe it is possible. In fact, I believe that the only way we can heal this world is by healing ourselves.

The only way we will put an end to wrongful imprisonment, racism and white supremacy, the patriarchy in all its various manifestations, the destruction of our planet, the opioid epidemic, school shootings (the list goes on) is by healing the spiritual wound within each of us so that we can replace whatever fear is filling our hearts with love. When this love becomes the dominant force in our world, the world will be as new. 


I pray for love. I pray for justice. I pray for unity. I pray for healing.
Let’s continue to heal ourselves so that we can be channels of love


In my experience, soul healing cannot happen alone. 

Join me for our July Women's Circle where we will explore the themes of love + fear as they relate to our own journeys to connect with each other, ourselves, and the Divine. I will share from my own experience, lead the group in some breathing and meditation, and provide opportunities for journaling and sharing, as well as a chance to touch base on any intentions set last month during the June Circle. 

I will also be introducing a new series on love + relationships. Drawing on a lifetime of experience trying to run away from my own pain by running into the arms of a lover, I will share what has worked for me on my own path of healing from divorce, betrayal, and years of losing myself to others, and provide safe space for you to share a with each other as you navigate this scary and intensely healing path. Critically, we will explore how to use these losses and betrayals as opportunities to move towards ourselves and towards God, rather than continuing to run.  

This post was originally my July newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

Find the place where God lives.

The day begins and ends in birdsong;  
Blue ibis rising in unison from the 
Glowing sea grass, 
Flamingos with their long legs and pink backs 
Dancing through shallow, glistening sea, and 
Tiny yellow-bellied birds flitting across the morning sky 
In search of water or food or each other. 

They could simply be playing, I suppose 
Dancing through the sky for each other 
Forgetting for a moment their survival.  

This place is full up with poetry: 
The way the morning light glows against the grasses, 
The sunshine yellow bird outside my window, 
The mountains rising from the mist above of the lagoon,  
And the marshy sea grass stretching out in front of me, changing shape and colour with the tides.  

Whatever despair my heart may feel, whatever love 
I can lose or find it here; 
I can be quiet enough to find that still place where God lives 
And for a moment, call it home. 


I wrote this poem on a little slip of land that lies between the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the calm, dreamy waters of the Langebaan Lagoon. A place I can safely call heaven, right at the tip of the earth down here in Africa. My family and I have traveled to Churchhaven, an old fishing village on South Africa's West Coast,  for the past three years, and every year my spirit feels as though it has been created anew on those quiet shores. I am reminded of the power of God and love in the rich colours of the sea grass, the sun rising and setting before us, and the thunder and lighting crashing down in the distance. What a gift to slow down for a few days with the people you love. To be freed from distractions, from ego or fear, from the worldly clamours of our every day lives, of ourselves. When I am there, I am reminded of my place on earth, the big beautiful reality of it all, the things that really matter, and the things that don't.

I have been thinking about these things a lot recently. There are changes in my life I know need making, but it is so easy to become weighed down by fear and self-doubt and for these to manifest in anxiety, irritability, and the incessant drive to always find something more pressing - something (seemingly) more important to attend to - than my own spirit, my own creativity, my own life. As I've said previously, my desire to walk alongside others on their own journeys to uncover, discover, and recover themselves is firmly rooted in my own process of healing over the past decade of my life. For almost 10 years now, I have made the discovery and recovery of my true self - the self God created and has always loved - my highest priority, and the gifts have been remarkable. It has certainly not always been easy, but it sure as hell has been worth it.

And so it continues. As I walk this road - sometimes filled with fear, sometimes with faith - there is nothing more powerful than walking it alongside others. There is no greater gift than, emerging from one of life's great heartaches or challenges scarred but stronger, turning around to a sister or brother to say when they are in pain, "Me too. I was there, and I got through. This is how I did it. I am here for you. The pain is real and hard now, but the light on the other side is radiant." 

Hey, I'm here for you. It may be hard today, but don't hit the easy button on your pain by reaching out for a quick fix. Learn to regard your pain as a teacher and give yourself a chance to learn. I promise, sticking around for the lessons will change your life.

As always, I love you. 
Ariana

This post was originally my June newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)


This is a love letter.

"I know these past few years have been hard and painful.
I know you have felt at times like God abandoned you, and perhaps even like some of us – your friends and family – had abandoned you too, and – perhaps worst of all – as though you had abandoned yourself. The miracle is that we are never abandoned! When we commit ourselves to this work – to this God-guided path of and towards love – we learn how to walk steadily beside ourselves, in partnership with God and each other the whole time. And abandonment shifts. It loses its power. It doesn’t disappear, of course. I am still filled with fear regularly, catching myself in it and having to pull myself out with firm compassion. But somehow it no longer feels life threatening and there is so much more ability to trust myself and God, to trust that the end of all of this is a life filled with love... 

I want you to know that however it may look to you - however imperfectly and haltingly you may have walked at times - this is how you have faced these years. You have walked through it all with courage, dignity and grace. You have been beautifully imperfect, courageously flawed, and an exquisite example of what it looks like to be a human in this world who is doing her absolute best in the hardest of circumstances." 


Late last year, on the anniversary of the birth of one of my dearest friends, I wrote her a love letter. This woman has taught me innumerable very important things about myself, about God, and about life, but most of all she has taught me about love. She has taught me the power of God's love on the human heart, and the power of the human heart to be a channel for God's love. The gifts she has given me have changed my life, and being able to be there for her during her hardest times has been one of my greatest honours.

When I say that I heal to serve, what I mean is: I love you. 
There is no greater joy for me than to be able to use my own experience, my own pain, and my own healing to walk beside other women on their own healing journeys. What an honor! When they told me I could have a life beyond my wildest dreams, I never believed it could be so simple and yet so profound. Connection with other women has been the guiding light on my healing path. 

I believe that we are inextricably linked to one another and that while those links cannot be broken, they can be forgotten. I write to remind myself that I am connected to you and to the Divine, and I hope I will remind you of the same.  If you are looking for connection with yourself, with others, and with the deeper world around you - let's chat. I offer Women's Circles and one-on-one Wild Heart Sessions: two different ways to connect in order to come home to yourself. 

Read the full piece here. 

This post was originally my May newsletter. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter today. (I promise to respect your privacy.)

Love letter to a friend.

Dearest,

There is a mantra that we have been singing in yoga over the past few months: Lokha samasta sukhino bhavantu. The translation Maya offered is: “May all beings everywhere be happy, wild and free.”

Every time we sing it I think of you. As I chant along with Maya, my eyes fill with tears. I hold this wish for you so deeply in my heart – with so much love –  and I know without a doubt that it is God’s will for you. I am also filled with gratitude as my certainty for you fills me with faith that this can also be true for me. When I think of all the suffering you have endured throughout the course of your life, particularly over the past few years when I have had the true honor of walking by your side through the pain, the thing that shines through it all is the courage you continue to exhibit to pursuit love, freedom, joy and serenity above all else. Your enthusiasm for life and the ability you have to bring joy and beauty into just about everything is a magical quality that you must never – and I know will never – lose. 

I know these past few years have been hard and painful. I know you have felt at times like God abandoned you, and perhaps even like some of us – your friends and family – had abandoned you too, and – perhaps worst of all – as though you had abandoned yourself. The miracle is that we are never abandoned! When we commit ourselves to this work – to this God-guided path of and towards love – we learn how to walk steadily beside ourselves, in partnership with God and each other the whole time. And abandonment shifts. It loses its power. It doesn’t disappear, of course. I am still filled with fear regularly, catching myself in it and having to pull myself out with firm compassion. But somehow it no longer feels life threatening and there is so much more ability to trust myself and God, to trust that the end of all of this is a life filled with love. 

There are so many words you have spoken to me over the years that I will never forget. A couple of months ago you asked me to envision one of my worst fears realized and, in the face of that, Harper and I being enveloped in love. That is the ticket. That is the key to being happy, wild and free. The worst happens and instead of falling in on ourselves, losing it, self-destructing, gritting our teeth and bearing it, or betraying ourselves – instead of any of that, we realize that we are already enveloped in love; being given the opportunity to draw closer to ourselves and to God, to become even more free, and that if we keep our feet firmly on that path – the path of the love warrior – things will be even more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. Outwardly, yes – I really do believe that God wants our external lives to be a reflection of our internal lives – but most importantly, inwardly.

As Bill Wilson says so beautifully: we are more than inwardly reorganized. Our roots grasp a new soil. Our inner selves become firmly rooted in a deep, unabiding love for ourselves and for God. An expansive love that only can grow to become bigger, fuller, and more all-encompassing the more we share it. I believe it is the kind of love we have yearned for always, sought in all the wrong places, and finally found deep down within ourselves. And when we find it there, it never dies, it never fails, and it only grows.

I want you to know that however it may look to you - however imperfectly and haltingly you may have walked at times - this is how you have faced these years. You have walked through it all with courage, dignity and grace. You have been beautifully imperfect, courageously flawed, and an exquisite example of what it looks like to be a human in this world who is doing her absolute best in the hardest of circumstances. 

On this anniversary of another year on earth, I want to wish you all the love, all the magic, and all the joy that God and the world can offer you. I want you to know that I love you and am so, so grateful for you in my life – that in your struggle and courage, in your enthusiasm for love and life, in your words and in your inner and outer movements, you teach me more than you will ever know. 

I love you and I am eternally grateful to be in your life, to be your soul sister, and to trudge this road of happy destiny by your side.

You fill my world with light.

I love you,

Ariana 

Me, too.

I have been trying to find a way to tell my story for years. Over the years it has come out in snippets. I have found words for it a bit at a time, but never had the right combination of courage and language to get it out properly – to string the pieces together, to really say what it is I want to say. Honestly, even as I sit down to write this I’m not 100% sure what the right words are, what that thread is that will bring it all together, or what it is exactly I want to say. What I do know is that over the past 24 hours, following last week’s breaking NY Times story of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault of countless Hollywood actresses, the internet has been flooded with women’s accounts of their own stories of sexual harassment and assault, ranging from what have come to be regarded as everyday experiences like cat-calling to the more violent and egregious acts like groping or rape. 

Today, my Facebook news feed was almost entirely filled with women posting “Me too” followed by their own stories of assault, harassment, and shame. Filled with what felt like a loud break in the silence of so many years and so much internalized shame. And while I knew on some level that this is daily reality for most of us (women), to read it again and again, one story after another, gave life and light to it in an entirely new, real, painful and powerful way. The truth is coming out of the shadows. Women are speaking up. We are no longer willing to remain convinced that our silence is necessary to confirm our worth – that our compliance is the best way to get by, or that we have to stay small and silent to be safe. We are realizing, it seems, that the power of truth telling is greater than any of us could have known. 

And so, I am going to try. I’m going to try to start putting the pieces together, to tell the story as best I can because I believe it will be my redemption. It will be painful at times, I'm sure, but nothing is more painful than silence, and I have come to believe that whatever pain and suffering we go through in this life is worth nothing if it cannot be used to help someone else. And one of the surest things I know is that I have not suffered alone, and that we are being called to use our collective voice to speak truth to power, to cast light into all the dark places of our own souls and the soul of our society so that each of us – man and woman – can step more fully into our truest selves, the selves that God made us to be, imperfect but full of love. 

As a woman, I have been objectified for years - led to believe that my most valuable asset(s) are my physical ones and that my self-worth comes from perfecting and displaying those at any cost. That was my greatest, most valuable currency to please others so I could get what I was after – love and connection -- and be seen. It was the only currency I knew, the only solution I had. 

This caused me to stay silent when I wanted to say, "No." It caused me to spend years chasing after love, acceptance, and belonging with so much desperation that I allowed myself to be led into dark, scary places physically, emotionally, and spiritually, abandoning and betraying myself again and again. It was like a whirlpool. I didn’t know its power until I stepped into it, but by that time it was too late. So, whenever I have heard talk of sexual harassment and assault I have shut down. I have carried so much shame – been convinced that I really did “ask for it,” as they say, that I was the central force behind my pain and powerlessness, not the men who paraded me around like a trophy, pushed my head down between their legs, rubbed their crotches up against me in the club, stalked me and exposed themselves to me at The Cloisters only to wave at me later like nothing happened, left bruises on my back and on the inside of my thighs, or were so much bigger than me that alone, a teenager in the back of a minivan in a remote field, saying “No” did not feel like the safest or smartest option. 

This is not to say that I had no part to play in the whole thing. Perhaps the most insidious thing about all of this is the way we women internalize it, buy into the whole system and sell ourselves out, diving head first into the whirlpool, convincing ourselves that we must stay small and pretty and silent to protect ourselves, only to come out years (or decades) later full of self-loathing and shame with no idea how to love anyone, especially ourselves. And it is not to say that the men have an easy time of it, either. Their story, their pain, is different, but I have known for almost as long as I can remember that the men and boys I have been surrounded by since high school are suffering in deep, dark, painful ways that they certainly do not have words for. As Glennon Doyle says so beautifully, we all find a way to tell our truth somewhere. We will always find a way to tell the world “I am not fine.” 

But I can say now that it was not all my fault. This world we live in teaches men to see women as their objects. Not to ask before they reach down our pants, push up against us, use our bodies as playgrounds, and speak about us – to our faces and behind our backs -- with unkind, unholy language, as though we are countries to be conquered and won, pillaged for their own personal gain. It teaches us women to take it on the chin. That “boys will be boys,” and that even in the most violent and traumatic of these events, we are likely to be told that we had it coming. I did not have it coming: not when I was 13 or 23, and I would not have had it coming if it happened today. Nobody has it coming. God created us noble, and no matter how imperfect we are, that nobility is a standard we can all be held to. No one is beneath it. Boys will not "be boys" unless we continue to hold them to standards far lower than those God intended for them. Boys will be noble children of God, and so will girls, if we raise the clarion call that love is the answer. Be brave. Open your hearts. Ask the hard questions of yourself, your friends, your parents, children, and loved ones. Have meaningful conversations about what it means to be a man or a woman in this world and about how we can help each other to do a better job of it. Speak your truth, so that in ten or fifteen or twenty years our children do not have to use the hashtags #metoo or #ihave.