September is my birthday month and Lady Gaga just released a new single. So far..so good.
The cool thing to do these days is to not drink, be a vegan and do yoga everyday. Twenty somethings pride themselves for being boring on a Friday night and “adulting.” I love not being hungover and I think I am exceptionally awesome if I do a HIIT class at 6a AND make a smoothie. I also feel guilty. “Why aren't I having more fun? Am I having fun? Why don’t I go out as much any more? Are these really my problems? There are people dying in the world!” I am a college educated middle class American woman above “x” percent of the world (too lazy to look it up). Why do I feel guilty about that? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs - my basic needs are met. I can get brunch whenever I want, I get Ice Mountain water delivered to my apartment, I’m married, I have friends that will go to Austin, Texas with me and pretend I am a Filipino pop star! (pic above) I have my dream job. What the f*ck else is there?? Right now, I’m at the top of the pyramid and the only thing left is self-actualization or trying to understand the meaning of life, which sounds like a big, daunting task and a huge responsibility if you ask me. Feeling guilty about how lucky I am isn't helping me or anyone else in the world.
Marianne Williamson famously wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?” There’s a reason this quote is on every Gen Y girl’s Pinterest board. People feel guilty about all the wonderful things they have in life that it literally causes them to be sick, unemployed or depressed. Or, they feel so overwhelmed by how much possibility and choice they have that they pretend to be poor, do nothing, take on a mediocre job, or dress like a homeless person even though they’re rich as hell (cue Mary Kate + Ashley at the height of their boho phase). It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how “good” or “bad” you have it. Know how awesome you are and own it. I want this for myself, and I want this for everyone I meet, know and love.
When we believe in ourselves and what we’re capable of, we create meaningful changes in the world. “Helping others” isn't your purpose in life, giving your life meaning is your purpose in life. Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs and Oprah didn't just want to "help people" they served a higher purpose and had a bigger "why." We’ve all met someone who does nice things but is still kind of an a**hole. Daily affirmations or empty acts of kindness are not what makes you, you. Knowing yourself and loving yourself on a deep level and using your personal skills and talents in whatever way makes you happy can make a bigger impact in the world than simply trying to do something “good” because you feel "bad."
YES, you are lucky. Own it. Be grateful for what you have, figure out your life's purpose, and go live it. If you don't know what your purpose is, do whatever you can to help you figure it out. Take a class, read a book, meditate, ask a mentor. You owe it to yourself and the world. People will judge you and you’ll even judge yourself, so you might as well do what you want. As Freud noted, ‘Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.’ Instead of wasting your time feeling bad about how good you have it, or making fun of others who show off how good they have it, use your time on this planet to get to know yourself, define your life and live it out loud.
One night I was walking home from work, super hungry and very annoyed at my fiancé, Mike. He called me at 9pm and asked what I wanted for dinner. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME.” I said to myself, pissed off. Why was he calling me about dinner at 9pm? Shouldn't he have this figured out? He got home early, not me. He should be making dinner and calling to tell me it’s ready. I should come home to a nice meal and a quiet home. Instead, I find myself irritated imagining Mike drinking beer, watching some sports thing, and straight up lounging. This man, ugh! The thought infuriates me. I seriously consider how I could marry a man who likes sports. A man who wastes time sitting in front of the TV - doing what?? Absolutely nothing! Go out and DO SOMETHING. Change the world! Make dinner!! Anyway, I did end up picking up some Vietnamese food and felt a little bit better. I asked myself why I was so angry. What is going on with me? Do I really not want to marry Mike? Should we call it off? How can I do this for the rest of my life? I. Hate. Sports. This simple act of “asking yourself why” is a technique I learned in yoga and it’s one of the ways I practice yoga the most. Yes, believe it or not, as a Yoga Teacher, I’m not smiling in handstands all day sharing inspirational quotes. Although I LOVE that stuff, yoga is about so much more. It’s about understanding who you are in relationship to the world. There’s this amazing book by Byron Katie called Loving What Is, it helps you identify and question the thoughts you have and how they shape the world you live in. To me, reflecting like this is “real life yoga.” This is where change happens.
So I took a step back, I looked at me. My ravenous belly. The thoughts revolving in my head. I pictured Mike on the couch watching TV. I asked myself, “Why does this make me so mad?” The answer I came up with surprised me, “Because any time spent not making the world a better place was a waste.” This is the belief and judgment I was putting on to Mike. It’s this thought alone that was causing me stress. What purpose does this belief give me? Well, it motivates me to wake up in the morning, it fuels my career! Right?? Right..? Suddenly, something about believing this didn’t feel right anymore, thinking this made me feel anxious and uncomfortable in my own body. What I started to realize is that this thought no longer served me and it wasn’t really true. I continued to ask myself why,
Why would I ever believe that ‘any time spent not making the world a better place was a waste?'
-Because I want to make the world a better place.
-Because I love helping others be great.
-Because I love it! I want to share my love with others.
I’m not just teaching yoga because anything else is a waste of time. I’m teaching yoga because I love it and I want to give and share my love. Love is my universal truth. Love is what wakes me up in the morning. Not this silly “time wasting” idea! My anger, my fear, my emotions peeled away and all I was left with was what was really there: Mike watching sports. That’s it! That’s literally all he was doing and here I am having a fit. Like, what?? The belief I had let go of me, and suddenly, I felt empowered. My distaste for Mike disappeared. The anger I experienced was about me, not him. I came home, kissed him swiftly, and told him to get out of my way so I could eat. This is what practicing yoga off the mat is like: It’s about your ability to objectively observe your own thoughts and beliefs without judgement. This is where change happens and truth is revealed. The marriage is still on, ladies and gentleman, and I still don’t really care about sports! If that’s not love, I don't know what is…
Do I want to be “Catherine Aldana Sager” or “Catherine Balina Sager” or “Catherine Balina Aldana Sager??” “Well, what sounds better?” I ask, then immediately judge myself for being so shallow. I have to choose what I want to change my name to once I get married. What’s in a name anyway? Why do I even care? I once learned that the universe is made of sound, up until recently, I never really related to this idea, but I’m starting to understand.
Dr. Hans Jenny, a Swiss medical doctor and natural scientist in the 1950s introduced the study of wave phenomena or Cymatics. He made it possible to physically see the subtle, powerful way through which sound structures matter. There’s a beautiful video Nigel Stanford made in 2014 that captures this phenomenon perfectly. In yoga today, it is not uncommon to see yoga classes accompanied by live music or DJs, or studios hosting special gong washes and sound healing therapies. And of course there’s the popular “Om” or “AUM,” a special sound often chanted in classes as well. People may attend sound healing events or practice chanting because they find it healing, or fun, or they love music. The study of yoga and sound is so vast. “AUM” is actually the sound of the universe (creepy video). AUM translates to all possibilities and all probabilities. Any word or sound you can make is encompassed in the sound “AUM.” The “A” is pronounced “Ah” like in “America.” The sound “Ah” comes from the very back of your throat. Feel it, say it. The “U” in AUM is pronounced “Oh” like in “home.” When you say this part of the word AUM, it takes place in the very center of your mouth. The “M” is pronounced “Mmm” as in “Mmm that tastes good!!” “Mmm” takes place at your lips, at the grossest level you can produce a sound (“gross” as in the most absolute/apparent, not gross as in disgusting or sick, ok come on). Linguistically, every sound you could possibly create is produced when you chant AUM - starting at the back of your throat, through the center of your mouth, ending at your lips. Clearly, there’s a scientific & powerful significance to the way my name sounds and the vibration it creates, aka I’m just as important as I thought I was.
In Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages, “Nada Brahma” roughly translates to “The world is sound.” I understand this as sound is everything and all I have. I’m inspired to reflect upon the deeper meaning of choosing my name. I believe that as humans we create our own universe, and if the universe is made of sound then whatever I call myself better be the most incredible and beautiful sound there ever was. I give meaning to what is real and important in my life, in this case, my name and the vibration it sends. How epic is “Beyonce” or “Madonna” or “Chanel” these sounds were meant to be heard!! And so is mine.