LIBERATED PRAYER | What I Learned at IGNITE 2017

January 14th, 2017.

8:27 AM | I arrive at the Civic Center, with my dear student and friend Alyssa beside me. She’s driven all the way up from Washington to attend — I feel supremely lucky to be living in PG. The place is packed. 200 people. I stare, mesmerized, at all the smiling faces filtering in and out, bright chatter sparkling around the room. I had no idea if Prince George would show up for a such a conscious personal growth-esque event… but we did, we did it. I feel SO excited.

8:48 AM | Christina asks me to lead the crowd in movement – I say yes, of course! She introduces me, and tells the crowd it’s totally optional. But EVERYONE stands up anyways! The whole room is ready, we are ready for change. We shimmy and shake and tap it out, and I know instantly that it’s going to be a good day.

9:02 AM | The magic begins. I sit in the corner, quietly reflecting on 2016. I just found out about the end of year reflection sheets (oops!) and I am scrambling to fill them in.

End of Year Reflection

What was my intention for 2016? Hmm. I am drawing a blank. I flip back through my memory book… whoa. All the feelings hit me at once. Oh, right. This time last year. An sharp twinge of sadness pierces my heart. This time last year, I was teaching in Vancouver. I use teaching loosely here, because it was really more of a minute-by-minute struggle to get-out-of-bed-put-pants-on-please-sufey-please-just-try kind of existence. I was recovering from a whole whammy of unfortunate circumstances that left me in a state of intense depression. Paired with the dark gray days of January In Raincouver, the self-imposed cruelty of unexamined exhaustion, and a freshly shattered heart, my body had had enough. Waking up was a daily struggle. Everything. hurt. like. hell. I felt abandoned by everyone I loved… abandoned by myself. I felt like an alien in my own body.

Intention? I laugh, shaking my head. I was barely surviving at the time… my only intention, if even, was to make it through to the next hour.

I look around the room, coming back to a whole new reality. I smile at Alyssa sitting beside me, and I tell her where I was in 2016. She knows my story, but still she’s surprised. Was that only last year?! she asks. Yes… yes, it was.

2017 though. 2017 is going to be different. I feel it in my heart, I feel it in my bones.

Christina leads us through a vision setting exercise. We brainstorm our top ten goals, and we write them out on sticky notes. This first part is easy for me. I have a million ideas, a million goals, a million directions I want to head in at the same time.

Then she asks us to start cutting them down, eliminating one note at a time. Oh God, I think, looking down at my list. But I want them all! 

Sticky Notes

One at a time, with much heartbreak and emotion, they go into the discard pile. Rest gets canned, so does being a good teacher. Scratch that book idea. And AH, who needs money anyways…

I am left with my top three goals.
They totally surprise me.

I mean, I kind of knew that I wanted these things, but… they are the three things on my list that I’ve always prioritized least, let alone made any time for. They certainly don’t fit into my life plan or my schedule in any way, they don’t make me money, they don’t make the cut. My mind instantly seeks to reject the goals, and I think maybe I should redo the exercise. I mean, I never would have picked them as my top three, if I were just looking at a list of goals…

My mind falters. just look at them, sufey. a gentle voice nudges.

I take a deep breath in.

I look down at the sticky notes last standing.
Three brave little souls, asking to be seen.

They read:

WILD ART
MAKING LOVE
PRAYERFORMANCE

Whoa. 

I guess it’s time to make some big changes, huh.

11:11 AM | We are creating a “Chapter Title” for the year. I’m still not sure if my goals even count as goals, but I go with them anyways. I’ve been rejecting myself as an artist for years now… and the time has come to let that story go.

I question my own fears. What is it that’s so scary about being an artist?

Well… for one thing, you have to be good enough to be an artist. To call yourself an artist implies that you have to have some sort of skill, some sort of talent, right?

I don’t know if I’m really good enough to be an artist. 

Okay, good. I say to myself. That’s a good place to start.

Where did this all come from? I ask myself.

All the reasons come, reasons I know. Childhood wounds, being told to stop singing, being ignored in art class, blah-blah-blah. But understanding intellectually doesn’t move us through the baggage until we experience it fully and choose to let it go.

I am NOT WILLING to make excuses for myself anymore, I say.
I don’t want to spend my entire life making up reasons for why I can’t do what I want to do.
I just. don’t. want. to.

The stubborn three-year-old comes out in me, and I cheer her on.
You go, girl. I smile. This is your time to shine.

I vow to myself to drop another layer today.

11:32 AM | I have my base intention done. This is the straight-forward, unsexy intention that we’re supposed to build our Chapter Title on. I don’t really know how to do unsexy, so it’s all sparkles and shine anyways:

TO BE MADLY IN LOVE WITH MYSELF: TO CREATE AND SHARE FROM A PLACE OF LIBERATED PRAYER.  

My heart races a little. Ooo, this is a new feeling. This is when I start to take this intention setting biz seriously. I know that if I want to see change in my life, I have to commit to it myself. No workshop is going to fix me. Nobody can do anything for me. But there are powerful tools here, potent tools. And if I want growth in my life, if I want to become the best person I can possibly be, I am going to have to step up and commit to this experience.

Yes, I’m in. I say to myself.
I’ve officially arrived.

11:55 AM | If you want to share your Chapter Titles, come up to the stage, Christina says. I want to share mine. But I’m a keynote speaker, so I’m not really sure if I should participate or not. Maybe I should let everyone else go first. But then I see Jason, another presenter, walking up to the stage, and I book it. We lock eyes at the top of the stage and walk up together. He gives me a hug. I melt in.

LIBERATED PRAYER, I say into the mic. It gives me goosebumps. I soak it in for a millisecond and hop off the stage… and whoa. Almost the whole room has risen, they are walking to the front, they all want to share their intention. FUCK YEAH! I want to shout out loud. But I save my hooting and hollering for the ones on stage, feeling my heart beaming proudly at everyone’s courage. We really are at a turning point, I think to myself. WE ARE FINALLY STARTING TO EVOLVE.

Sarah comes to the stage. She is teary-eyed, it’s hard for her to speak. Liz stands beside her, two beautiful women standing tall. She chokes up, then whispers into the mic: #BADASS. Fuck. Yes. This woman. My heart almost explodes in love, knowing what it took her to get up there and share herself that way.

I am grinning so much it hurts. This event is turning out to be way better than I had imagined…

12:42 PM | My belly is full of roasted carrots and veg, and I sneak off upstairs for a mini-nap. I take my legs up the wall, and sink into the ground. Ahhhh. A wave of fatigue hits me. Alyssa just arrived the night before, and we had stayed up so late catching up. She was a dear graduate from my teacher training in Maui, and a few years had passed since our last in-person heart-to-heart. This little girl. Fuck. I loved her a lot, I was so happy she wanted to come. I doze off until…

1:29 PM | Ahh! It’s time for the breakout sessions to start. I sneak into Christina’s workshop, titled NAKED: Exposing Ourselves to Deeper Love and Intimacy.

The woman beside me looks and me and says, hey. I messaged you on Instagram a few weeks ago! I wanted to sign my son up for your yoga classes. when do they start?

monday, I smile at her. they’ve started already, but come on monday.

For some reason, I think about all the people who want to do something but never do. This isn’t the right time. When does the next one start. Will you offer this again. I think of all the people lost in the busy-ness of the world, lost in the maybe-next-year mentality of unprioritized living.

Wake up, I want to shake everyone. If you want to have a conscious, rockin’ community, you have to support conscious entrepreneurs. You have to get up, go out, and make it easy for the people who are trying to do this work.

I think about the insane amount of work that The Best Life Network put into making IGNITE 2017 happen — the months and months of planning, preparation and execution — and how profound of a gift it was for me to sit and experience. To soak in the energy. To be part of the audience, for once, instead of running around trying to make everything happen for everyone else.

These are the kinds of experiences that are birthed from a place of devotion, of selfless service. These are the experiences that genuinely help others. And as if a warm squishy honey-melon balloon was exploding slow-motion in my belly, this golden light of gratitude begins to illuminate my entire being. Oh, God. I will not take this for granted, I vowed to myself.

1:33 PM | Christina starts talking. She is phenomenal, as always. Her words percolate through my mind, new ways of looking at pieces of my own practice. I don’t listen to her as much as I should, I am too busy gazing doe-eyed at her in luminous gratitude. Mostly I am just feeling lucky. Lucky to be part of this community at the time of this shift, lucky to see the expansion of consciousness after years of standing alone. The healers need to come together, Rachel’s words ring in my mind. We can’t do this alone. 

2:30 PM | My workshop begins. It’s called WILD HUMAN | EXPRESS YOURSELF, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m a little bit foggy, but the moment I start teaching everything else clears. The moment I start teaching, my small self surrenders to my higher self, and I am alive purely in service to the space around me. All my own doubts and insecurities fade away, and I exist as a vessel of illuminated life. My small self dissolves out of the way as Spirit orchestrates her divine plan.

Please, Spirit. I pray. Guide me in delivering what is most helpful to these hearts. I look around the room. I see the whole range of human emotion: fear, anxiety, curiosity, friendliness, rejection, confusion, doubt, discomfort, excitement, happiness, stiffness, willingness. I see the many faces of myself, looking back at me. I pray for the message of liberation to be received in a gentle way. And I guide them into witnessing — witnessing themselves, witnessing each other.

It’s a beautiful gift to witness others coming into themselves. Perhaps that’s why I’ve committed to this path for so long — just to see the things I get to see as a teacher. Because with each person that leaves with a freshly planted seed, that same seed is sowed in my heart. You can’t scatter seeds without having them blown back in your own face. The winds are too clever for that. As I water others, Spirit rains on me too, and we all heal together. We all heal together.

3:35 PM | We are back in the big room. Christina asks me to lead another movement piece — I do so gladly. I see a sea of fresh chi floating through the space, hundreds of bright eyes alive with a newborn fire. Smiles are caught by strangers and set free again, softening the masks we cling to so tightly.

Inspiration without action is hallucination, they say from the stage. It’s time to create an action plan.

I look down at my goals. I’m still not really sure if my goals work as goals. Can you really plan ART? Fuck it, I say. I’m going with it anyways. Choose one goal to work with, they tell us from the stage. I choose.

I set up a three-month plan for PRAYERFORMANCE.
January is for finding my troupe, my tribe. Feeling out the vibes of potential co-creators.
February is for rehearsing, seeds of choreography, for planning. Setting performance dates and locking it down.
March is for creating, creating, creating. Deepening our connection and building the piece.

I look down at this plan. I feel tingles up my spine.
I know exactly who I need to talk to.

4:12 PM | How many of you wear seatbelts every day? Colette says to the room. We all raise our hands.
How hard is it for you to put your seatbelts on every day? We all think about it. Not hard at all.

This is the power of habit, she says — and a lightbulb lights up in my head.

OH, yes. All of this… all the things I want. I just need to make them a habit.

I look at the little habit tracker in my beautiful new planner. It seems a tad bit silly to track the things I want to track, then I realize it’s just my ego. I will try it out! I say to myself. I write down:

MAKE ART
MAKE MUSIC
SENSUAL SELF-CARE

This is my year, I think to myself.
This is my year to be divinely selfish.
This is my year to honour the feminine.
This is my year to reclaim myself as an artist.
This is my year to CREATE FROM THE HEART.

I’ve spent the past decade dedicated to the lives of others — making sure they are seen, they are heard, they are supported, they are loved. Giving to others all that I craved. This is my year, I decide, to share ME. Not just as a teacher supporting the works of others… but as my own wildly creative human being.

4:45 PM | Celebrate the little things, they say from the stage. Make time for celebration.

I smile, knowing how much it’s taken me to get to this point — a point of actually being able to celebrate myself. I visualize my inner cheerleader sparking with light, revitalized after years of being kicked to the ground. She is alive, I say to myself, tears welling in my eyes. I am alive. 

We crack glowsticks. We wave them in the air. We shimmy and shake and dance our way out and I’m shocked by how free I feel. I’m young and naïve with a long way to go yet… but today I’ll celebrate how far I’ve come.

FIVE DAYS LATER

I’ve been integrating and absorbing the lessons of IGNITE, and each day I’ve taken in a little bit more. A spark of magic here, a gentle reminder there. I’ve started painting like crazy, painting without abandon. It’s not all pretty but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m just in the process and happy to be here — I’ve peeled off a deep layer of fear.

I meet people. I tell them about my experience. All of a sudden, the perfect people arrive into my awareness. Co-creators. Collaborators. Everywhere I go, I am dancing, I am jamming. Slowly but surely, I am finding my tribe.

And I am exploring, alone. My sensuality. My femininity.
I visualize my pelvis and ask her to clear.
I visualize my pelvis, asking her to release.
I visualize my pelvis, re-claiming my power.

I find a place to live, a place to call home.
A stable foundation from which to grow.
My own roots, my own heart’s desire.

Everything is shifting.
And this is just the beginning.

I’m ready for a year of LIBERATED PRAYER. 

Call of the Wild Geese

Streaks of pink and gold weave into the darkness of the early-morning sky. I am alone, absorbed in prayer, squatting atop the kelp-strewn rocks of English Bay. The calls of wild geese pierce through the air. A family swims by, twenty-two in total, in one perfectly straight line. The tide sweeps into shore stronger and faster as they come closer and closer. In one fell swoop, they cry out and rise up, in perfect harmony, disappearing effortlessly into the sky. I am captivated by the simplicity and magnificence of it all…

English Bay Vancouver Sunset Beach

When we are in alignment with spirit, working together with our brothers and sisters, humbly focused on one conscious intention, life can be very simple and very beautiful. We are often inundated with stories of pain and suffering, drama and trauma, stress and distress, sin and guilt — so much so that we start to believe that this is the only way to be. In a society of constant stimulation, overwhelming amounts of options and a subconscious projection of “not enough”, it is easy to become addicted to excess. It is easy to buy into ego-driven thoughts of separation, competition, unworthiness and lack, which ultimately lead to a perpetuation of the suffering we see both internally and in the external world.

Yet in a time of deep confusion, mixed messages and avidya (ignorance or delusion), our work is to cultivate dialogue on what is possible and devote ourselves to living the teachings of Yoga. We are meant to live in a peaceful and joyous state. This may not be the commonly accepted state of being (yet), but it is completely accessible to us all, at all times. We do this through conscious intention, softening our judgments, cultivating a witness mind, seeing each other as ourselves, and reminding all around us of who we truly are: pure, unchanging, eternal Love.

As we awaken a deep peace within ourselves, the world around us will soften. As we free others from our mistaken way of seeing them as wrong, we free ourselves from the illusion of sin. As we choose to see each moment as a holy opportunity for healing, we slowly re-program the operating system of the world— may it be be fuelled by kindness rather than fear. What we acknowledge in others is what we acknowledge in ourselves. What we extend to others, we strengthen.

On Healing

You will know that you are on your path when people come to you and ask for healing. It is not that they have not asked before, nor that anything about you has fundamentally changed. It is simply that you have opened your eyes to seeing and opened your ears to listening. As you humbly listen to the suffering of another, you will realize that their suffering is the same as your own. As you offer your healing presence to another, you will realize that the only one you are healing is yourself. As you see only Love in the eyes of another, you acknowledge the one true reality within yourself. As you extend this knowing to another, you are simultaneously strengthened and freed.

Sufey Yoga

Behold You

My child do you know
The Truth of who you are
In your eyes I see only Love
Behold you your beauty
Behold you your peace
Behold you the courage of your gentle release
Behold you your being
Behold you your truth
Behold you the infinite Divine that is you

On Relating

A relationship is based on our ability to relate. Relating can only happen in the present moment. To be in the present is to release all past perceptions and future projections. Listen closely. What is happening now?

allowah lani alan lowenschuss yoga university sufey love

She Is Perfect Exactly As She Is

Last night in my kids class, there was one little girl who opted to sit and draw pictures instead of practicing poses with us, calling to us every few minutes, “come see what I drew! come see!”

She was a sweet little free-spirit, joining us at times, hopping away at others. She did her own thing. Drawing pictures. Which was perfectly okay.

Her bubbly laughter and enthusiasm for life charmed me, and I smiled at her — letting her have her own space, her own practice, which for now was clearly nourishing her creativity. At the end of the class, we all gathered around to acknowledge her, ooo-ing and ahh-ing at her pictures.

At the end of her proud little presentation, she flipped to this picture and said — “and look! I drew you! you know, you’re the funnest teacher I ever had. all my other teachers just tell me ‘don’t do this! don’t do that!’ … but you don’t do that. you’re really nice and funny.”

And this struck a chord in my heart, because all of a sudden I realized this little girl was me. Just a sweet little soul wishing to be seen, supported and loved, exactly as she is.

And this stuck with me, because when I was going through school, I was always told not to do this and not to do that. It started with the little things (like drawing pictures and doodling and not sitting still and laughing during gym class) and gradually spiralled into bigger things. I was told that I was a bad kid and was always sent to the hallway, detention or principal’s office. I was shamed and suspended and sent home and separated from the other kids. When in reality, I was just overflowing energy and wild curiosity with a fierce and bold independence.

But instead of being honoured, I was segregated, punished, and told that I was always wrong, that I needed to sit down and shut up, to suppress myself and follow orders — or else. And instead of blossoming, I retracted — I became super rebellious, I trash-talked the teachers, I fought with the students, I reacted defensively, I made life hard for everyone around me, because I didn’t feel fairly treated. I was resentful and selfish and angry.

And it wasn’t until I found Yoga and the sense of acceptance and safety it gave me that I began to soften again. To hold gently my heart, to coax out my inner childlike joy from her long and fearful hiding.

And I am writing this because it is so important, as teachers and conscious beings, to recognize and remember this truth: every single action is either Love or a calling for Love.

And every single moment is an opportunity for complete acceptance, complete forgiveness, complete freedom, and complete peace.

And as we acknowledge and see the beauty, the brightness, the sweetness and perfection in our brothers and our sisters and our children, we set alive their holy spirit, their true and highest self. We inspire in them the freedom to be happy, holy and whole.

And as we release the bondages of judgement we chain others to, we release ourselves from the same. As we free those around us, we set ourselves free.

And when everyone is free, everyone is kind — and we begin to move into this space of deeply honouring each other, of wishing only peace for those around us. We are less interested in hurting each other and more interested in living compassionately and harmoniously and happily with all beings.

There is less pain. Less punishment. Less needless suffering.
More understanding. More sweetness. More laughter. More joy.

And so, in every moment, no matter how small, may we all remember to honour each and every holy being exactly as they are. It starts from the tiniest seeds of willingness, and as we shower them with our loving awareness, our baby sprouts of peace will grow and blossom and shine brightly out into the entire world.

Loving you. xx

Sufey Kids Yoga

To Be Fully Alive

“To be fully alive,
fully human, and
completely awake
is to be continually
thrown out of the nest.

To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land,
to experience each moment
as completely new and fresh.

To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

― Pema Chödrön

 

Sufey Chen

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free,
May the thoughts, words and actions of my own life
Contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all

connect with Sufey today