The cold winter months are a good time to delve within to decide where you want to invest our energy, what you want to hold onto, and what you want to let go. This is always a very exciting time for me because although every day is a chance for a new beginning, I love the energy around this time of year. Everyone is open to the possibility of change and the boundless opportunity found there. To keep the momentum going, it is important to stay connected to your goals, your inspiration, and your belief in yourself.
I have known for some time that negative or challenging energy is not part of me. At any given moment, I can choose to accept or reject something into my life, and I have often told my students that they do not have to accept old energy and thought patterns into their lives.
Yoga saved my life.
Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.
A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.
There is an old Hindu spiritual teaching called “The Snake and the Rope.” As the tale goes, a man walks into a dark room and sees something coiled on the floor. In a gut reaction he mistakes a coiled rope to be a coiled snake. When he collects his frantic energy enough to turn on the lights and the darkness vanishes, what is illuminated is the true nature of the object. This analogy for mistaken identities and meanings is as applicable on your yoga mat as it is in your life.
When is the last time you told a lie? Nothing major, just a little white lie? If you’re anything like me, you lied yesterday about why you were late, or you stretched the truth about the extent to which you read a book, or perhaps you weren’t honest about what you did or didn’t eat. You are not alone. We all do this EVERY DAY.
I’ve spent the past five years in a deep self-inquiry and this is one of the most interesting discoveries I’ve made. It sounds simple but at the most subtle level I’ve started to notice the vibrational quality of these lies when they enter my mind and leave my mouth. It feels much different than when I am moving from a place of love. There is a complete lack of integrity and I find myself out of alignment with my sankalpa, my deepest intention, which is to speak my truth.
This photo of Colleen Saidman was about two years ago, when she was 48.
The time has come. I never thought I would ever be a half century old. I thought I would feel different when I got to this phase in my life. I am not sure what I thought it would feel like to be one of the old folks (as I used to call my parents and their friends), but here I am.
Looks have been a big part of most of my adult life, as I have been a fashion model for 30 years. Lately, I have been going in for ad campaigns for creams that claim you can look 20 again. I got into it with a casting director recently, saying I would not want to be 20 again, why would I want to look it? Why is looking young the goal? Is it because wisdom and experience are not revered in this society? We all know that smooth skin is not the goal in our life, but we are behaving like it is.
I became a model at 19 and was told at that time by my agency to say that I was 16, and that my birthday was July 1962, instead of 1959. I lied for 20 years and was always afraid that I was going to be found out. I would hide my passport when traveling with clients or even other models. I was living a lie — a seemingly small lie, yet one that kept me in fear.
When I turned 40, I had a coming out party, and told the world my true age. How liberating. Mark Twain says that it is so much easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to worry about remembering what you said.
Learning how to be honest in close relationships is an art that takes a great deal of focused attention. We’ve often thought how strange it is that so few of us get any training in communication during our school years. Compared to the amount of time we spend learning addition, multiplication, grammar and such, most of us get no training in the crucial aspects of relationship communication. Even though Kathlyn and I have spent thirty years learning and teaching how to speak honestly in close relationships, we still learn something new every week. Here’s a recent learning from Kathlyn: