One Year More

February 17, 1990

A day I’ve often tried to forget, then remember, then forget…over and over and over through the years.  That was one of the most life- altering, mind-altering, heart-breaking, soul-crushing days I’ve experienced in my 36 years on earth.  The trajectory of my and my families life changed as a result. I formed massive issues surrounding abandonment and shame and shock and confusion.  I learned what it was like to have part of you die but still be alive walking the earth wishing the pain would stop…I learned about stigmas and experienced bullying and shaming…My world was shaken from the foundation and everything around me crumbled, collapsed and disappeared….

 

That was the morning my father took a shotgun to his head, on the floor of my parents’ bed room, and pulled the trigger.  He was in so much pain he ended his life to escape the hell he felt inside himself.  A fucking brilliant Civil Engineer who had, at a mere 38 years of life, achieved things in his field that no one had done before.  A man who took care of his wife and three young daughters. A man who was loved and cherished and even worshipped by me.

 

Looking back, I remember moments when Daddy was sad.  But he was my hero, he was so strong, he was my everything.  I thought he was invincible!!  Daddy always made sure I felt safe and secure and protected.  Ironically enough, these are the very things I yearn for even as an adult, above anything else.  Daddy was my rock.  And while I was only eight when he passed, I still sometimes find amazement in my ignorance of his pain.  Either he hid it well from me, I was too young to know what was in front of me, or I just didn’t have the emotional maturity or mental capacity to see it then.

 

Time really does help heal things…time really does provide perspective…time really does lesson the pain.  When daddy first died I was so shocked, sad, heartbroken, lost, confused….then I remember going through a really long phase of anger, anger at him for being so goddamn selfish!  For leaving me and my mom and my sisters; for abandoning us and forcing us to suffer so much through the years; for the ridicule and bullying at school and church, the pain of his death and loss of his life and presence in our lives, the financial ruin and bankruptcies, and move after move after move after move after move from place to place. 

 

I sort of settled into a place of true mourning and anger inside myself for not being able to save him, not seeing what was in front of me, not fixing things before they got so bad he needed to leave us.  I acknowledge I was only eight at the time, but that matters little to my heart.  That was the day I went from an eight-year-old little girl to a 40 year old woman in my head and my heart and my soul.  I missed my childhood, I missed teenage years.  I had to.  For my family.  For my destiny.  I became my mother’s friend and partner, I became an aid to my family financially, I became something I didn’t recognize and I spent years trying to process it all.

 

Each of us, my two sisters and my mom, we all handled everything so differently. We all grieved in different ways, acted out in different ways, processed and healed and messed up and blew up and fell down and got lost and grew and mourned and silently wept for years and years and years.  

 

Today, as I sit at my office chair looking out into my garden, my heart is really heavy.  It always is this time of year.  The 36 year old version of myself can see that day and each day that has followed so clearly now. I can see so many patterns I subconsciously created as a result of my father’s death.  I can see so many defense mechanisms and triggers and fears that were born that day and still walk next to me each and everyday.  I’ve done so much work on myself and yet those scars have not completely faded.  Will they ever?  

 

It still frustrates me to observe myself do the same things when faced with a situation that triggers me, or scares me.  Can’t I evolve from this holding pattern?  Can’t I step back long enough to realize it’s ok that I can’t fix everything and everyone?  I laugh at that because I do tend to run to the hurt animal or the crying child or the broken soul… I even prefer the broken cashews or pretzels in the bag over the whole ones, haha.

 

I am grateful I can see things more clearly, grateful to have perspective, grateful for all the experiences I’ve lived to this point.  On yesterday’s new moon I wished for the tools to continue to grow and heal and that was pretty big for me because it feels ridiculous to think I still have healing to do from an event that occurred twenty-eight years ago.  It has been a lot for me to give so much power to that day and events that followed in terms of how it really shaped my mental landscape as it pertains to relationships and the lens through which I see the world.

 

I’ve tried, through the years, to pretend to be stronger than I am, to wear masks, to withstand. I’ve also broken into thousands of pieces, smothered people I was scared were going to leave me, run from my fears, buried myself in work in order to avoid dealing with pain or relationship issues.  

 

Scars to your beautiful. 

 

Today is the anniversary of my daddy’s suicide.  Wednesday was Valentines day and it’s a day I want to love, hahaha.  But through the years that day has been one of angst and heartbreak for various reasons, yet I know somehow stems back to my daddy and feelings of abandonment and loss.  I now question if it’s a pattern I have to break.  Introspection and reflection are so powerful, but I feel many of us avoid it at all costs.  Our society is so supportive of distractions and instant gratification and pleasure and more more more and teaches our culture to drown out that which is uncomfortable with drugs or alcohol or sex or food or well anything you want to use as a method of avoidance.  People tend to run from discomfort.  

 

That’s ONE thing I feel my life experiences have given me: the ability to lean into the discomfort.  Yoga was a life saver for me in so many ways. It’s not something I ever went looking for, but luckily I had a guardian angel watching over me making sure synchronicity played a part in me finding Yoga and Yoga finding me.  I’d be a very different person if I did not have this practice in my life to help me grow, heal, evolve, feel, be present, forgive, love, learn, try and fail and not give up, never stop trying, express, see.  Yoga has helped me really face my fears in life head on, helped me lean into pain and discomfort and learn I’ll be better for it, I won’t die because of it, and in fact will be freed for doing so.  

 

Yoga has shown me that EVERYTHING is a choice; even the things we feel aren’t.  We cannot control everything in life but we can control how we grow from each experience, or not.  I choose to grow, I choose to live, I choose to be present.  Each day is a gift, we cannot control tomorrow and we cannot change yesterday.  The good, the bad, and everything in between…it is all yours, all mine.  I embrace my strengths, my weaknesses, my insecurities, my fears, my doubts, my passion, my intensity, my abandonment issues, my zest for life and love for adventure, my disgust for mediocrity, my high energy, my love of learning and love of others.  

 

“An ocean of love is behind all of your fear and pain.”  - Michael Singer

Today, and everyday, I ask that you love yourself, choose to be present with each moment you are gifted, forgive those that hurt you, forgive yourself for hurting others, embrace your struggles and your fears and your desires and your insecurities.  Trust and be ok when people break that trust.  Cry, let it out.  Live.  Tomorrow may never come and today is precious.  YOU MATTER.  You are loved.  If, when you need help, ask for it.  I wish you peace and happiness and joy today and always.

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Scars To Your Beautiful

I decided to write this piece today for a lot of reasons….but the catalyst was singular…

 

I teach Yoga to K-5th grade several days per week, in addition to my adults in many various settings.  It is challenging and immensely gratifying to work with humans at any age, but kids are something altogether special.  They test you and push you and love you and touch your heart in ways that always astound me.  On Thursday, I was with my 5th graders discussing goal setting and wishes, as it was the New Moon day.  I do not remember the context of the initiation of the conversation that followed but will never forget the beautiful moment I shared with this group of awesome humans. We were talking about tools to help us in life, and Yoga being one of them.  Someone asked if Yoga helps people who are sad.  I said yes.  A boy asked if Yoga could help stop someone who wanted to kill themselves from taking their life.  My heart started pounding and my eyes watered.  I said, yes, yes it can.  I was fighting back tears when I explained that Yoga is a great tool for life and can help us cope and heal and face things and breathe and move through tension in the body and so much more.  They were looking at me seriously as a few tears dripped down like rain drops onto my cheek.  

 

I took a deep breath and decided in that moment to make comment on suicide.  These are formidable years for these kids, years when I was bullied by class mates because my dad took his life.  The stigma is still there for those that commit suicide and those that stand in bereavement.  It will only change when people help make it change. 

 

So, I said that suicide is something that is very near and dear to my heart, and yes Yoga can help people who are suffering greatly and contemplating exiting this earth.  As children do, they were inquisitive.  One child asked why it is near to my heart.  I looked into my hands and said that my daddy killed himself when I was a little girl.  When I looked up again, every child in that room had stopped breathing, went silent and even the boys’ eyes were welled up in tears. 

 

I was so touched and sad at the same time.  One of the students asked me when it happened.  I took another deep breath and told them I was eight when it happened.  Many of the children then looked down at their own yoga mats and a few tears dropped from their cheeks.  One of my boys asked me if I teach Yoga now because of my father’s death.  As I wiped another tear from my cheek I smiled and said, you know yea I think so!  I’d never really thought of that but it seems my life experiences prepared me to help people, to want and to need to help people, to serve, to love, to guide, to hold space for other peoples pain, to hold space for discomfort of all kinds, to hold safe space for people to be vulnerable and scared and yet be comfortable enough to stay and dig in and do the work that helps them heal.  

 

The kids looked at me with pure love and I smiled so big.  God it was a beautiful moment. 

 

I offer this very vulnerable writing to all those out there suffering from loss of a loved one, suffering from depression, suffering in any capacity.  You are not alone.  REMEMBER that.  We are all human.  We all feel sad, depressed, have insecurities.  I hope you read this and find some comfort or inspiration to get help if you need it.  Your life matters to so many people, PLEASE know that.  This world is a better place because you are in it.  

 

We all suffer, we all have work to do, we all need help sometimes, we all have scars.  And, I think your scars are beautiful. 

 

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I AM Meditation

One of the best tools for my life is meditation.  I sit everyday anywhere from 10-60 minutes.  It centers me, helps me focus and helps me be present and connect with myself and the world around me.  

One of my favorite meditation techniques is I AM meditation.  Super easy try this:

Time: Start with 5 minutes and work up to 20 over time.  Ideal if you can do first thing in the morning to start your day in an extremely positive way.  But, can be done absolutely anytime and several times throughout the day (I often do :)

I AM: Repeat in your mind over and over, "I am..." (healthy, happy, prosperous, positive, grateful, mindful - whatever it is you connect to today, whatever you might want to work on or let go of or manifest).  At the same time work to manifest the FEELING of feeling healthy or happy or prosperous.  Create the feeling and the belief that what you seek is already here, you ARE healthy, happy, prosperous.  Not that you want to be this, but instead that, you indeed ALREADY are. Do this until all thought and feeling falls away.  When thoughts come allow them to pass by and return to the I AM... until your alarm rings.  Then, take THAT positive energy and focused connection and deepening belief and steadfast conviction into your day with you.

Tip: Set an alarm on your phone so you can sit quietly with your eyes closed concentrating on mediation, without the urge to peek at the clock to see how long you've been sitting.

Suggestion: Hold an object in each hand that has some sentimental value to you.  Your hands will subconsciously trace the objects in your hands creating a deeper physical and mental connection to the object.  When they are meaningful to you it assists in relaxing the body and mind and taking you deeper into your seated practice.

Meditation is a huge part of my daily practice and I am grateful to have a seated practice.  I'd love to help you too!  If you have any questions about mediation feel free to message me and I'll offer anything I can to assist you in your meditation.  

My City Beautiful

I was in Juno beach last weekend teaching a workshop at Native Yoga.  Saturday evening I must have passed out around 10pm after watching a movie with my best friend Sasha.  When I woke up on Sunday morning to prepare for asana and meditation practice I had an alert on my phone asking if I was safe from the terrorist attack in Orlando.  I honestly had to take a triple take.  I had no earthly idea what that was referring to.  I did a quick google search to see the headlines that 50 people were shot down at Pulse nightclub in downtown Orlando.  I stopped breathing.  I shuddered.  I just stared at my phone in shock.  I spent my entire yoga and meditation practice sending love and light and healing to the families who had just lost someone they loved.  I dedicated my practice to my city, the city beautiful.  I felt so helpless being several hours away from my town...when I got to Native Yoga in the late morning to begin my day of workshops, I felt heavy, I felt sad, and I felt a need to rush home.  But I didn't.  Instead, I stood at the front of the room and lead the opening Ashtanga chant for the room full of people, and I did my duty as their teacher for that moment in time.  I held the space of the room, I adjusted peoples bodies, I offered input and information to people about their practice.  But I did it from a place of dedication.  Every word I uttered, every touch I gave to a person, I did it as a peace offering to the world and to those that were brutally murdered just hours before.  After Mysore ended we had a brief 30 minute break and during that time I responded to an influx of texts from people around the world reaching out to ask if I and my loved ones were ok.  I welled up with tears, tears for all the people in Central Florida who were not ok, for all the families whose loved ones were not ok.  When we came back from break to begin the second session, I asked the students before me to join me in a meditation to send love and healing to the tragic events in my city.  Everyone certainly agreed and we sat in silence for 15 minutes to hold space.  Tears ran down my face as I offered my meditation to those who were suffering, those who were scared, those who had been killed.  When the sit ended I felt a bit lighter, a bit more connected to myself, my city and the world at large.

There are no words to describe this tragedy.  It is mind boggling that it occurred in Orlando.  I am very lucky that no one close to me suffered in the mass shooting 15 minutes from my home and The Yoga Shala.  I am very lucky I have my yoga and meditation and pranayama practice to turn to each and everyday to help me maneuver through the day to day, and especially horrific events like this.  At this moment I wish I could share the tiny amount of knowledge I have with everyone suffering, wish I could give them some little nugget of peace to calm their aching souls.  If anyone is struggling from the events our city just endured, please reach out to me.  I would like to open my shala and my arms to you.  I would be honored to share some meditation and pranayama techniques with you; I would love to share some yoga asana with you.  My personal email is Krista@theyogashala.org.  Please reach out to me.  I am here.  I love Orlando, I love my fellow citizens, I want to do something for the people in my town.  

I have been riddled with grief over not being in my city to do something to help. I'd like to take a moment and share some information about the OneOrlando Fund. If you feel a desire to help, please share this information with everyone you know, please make a donation, please pray for #thecitybeautiful. Orlando is my home, I love her deeply and right now she is suffering. Thank you for taking the time to read this post today. #loveorlando

The purpose of the Fund is to provide a way to help respond to the needs of our community, now and in the time to come, after the effects of the Pulse nightclub tragedy.

The distribution of the funds will be administered by the Central Florida Foundation. The Foundation serves as the region’s community foundation and is home to more than 400 charitable funds.

The Fund will support:

  • Nonprofits that are supporting the victims and families

  • The LGBTQ, Hispanic, faith and other affected communities

  • Underlying causes of this tragic event

  • Other needs we cannot anticipate until we face them

The OneOrlando Fund is a project of Strengthen Orlando, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created for the purpose of supporting and starting projects to strengthen the Orlando community.

The outpouring of support from our City partners has already begun:

  • Walt Disney Company $1,000,000

    • In addition, eligible donations from Disney employees will be matched dollar for dollar by Disney Employee Matching Gifts: A Program of The Walt Disney Company Foundation

  • Darden Restaurants $500,000

  • The Orlando Magic $100,000

  • JetBlue $100,000

  • Mears $50,000

 

To contribute to the OneOrlando Fund, please visit OneOrlando.org.

Checks may be made payable to OneOrlando Fund and sent to:

OneOrlando

PO Box 4990

Orlando, FL 32802-4990

For information regarding the OneOrlando Fund or to make a wire transfer, please contact info@oneorlando.org.

Appreciating The Storm

My father passed away when I was eight. My son turned six last week, and it dawned on me that he is only two years younger than I was when my father left this earth.

That made me shudder.

I’ve had this thought before, when Kaiden was two and again I remember when he turned four thinking to myself, “He’s half the age I was when my Daddy died,”. Its not something I think about often, but when I do it reminds me how precious each moment I have with my son really and truly is and how I should never take one second for granted. 

As I started contemplating, it dawned on me how interesting it is that something sad and life altering like losing my father has really helped me grow up with an attitude of gratitude! Losing my Daddy and experiencing many hardships as a young girl made me tough, made me strong, made me conscious of the impermanence of things…somehow, without even knowing, these lessons have helped me evolve into a being that is almost always thankful and appreciative for what I have. I know for sure I would not be the woman I am today If I had not had such a traumatic loss at such a young age. It helped shape and define my character, my nature and what matters most to me. For that I am grateful. 

I work with vision boards and meditation and various other tools to constantly keep focused on the things for which I’m grateful - with work, friends, family, relationships, you name it. Everything I do on a daily basis I do in an attempt to be the best version of me I can be so that I can give as much of the best parts of me to my son and my students and clients and friends and family. I believe it is really important to carve out time each day to think about and thank about the things that give meaning to our lives.

Do you do that?

If you don’t or don’t every single day, I encourage you to set aside three minutes each morning when you first wake up to give thanks for ALL the things in your life you are grateful for. All the people that matter, that love you and that you love….All the moments you’ve enjoyed in your past, recent or distant…All the moments you have to look forward to in the future…All the accomplishments you’ve made, the failures you’ve endured and grown from…The dreams you carry in your soul…the weather, your health, your body, your mind, your hobbies, your house and your car and your job and you passions…write them all down, and keep that paper with you at all times. Bring it out when you need a reminder, read it out loud or quietly, and remind yourself how lucky you are, how much you have, how great life really is.

What I do know for sure…My happiness is up to me. My state of mind is my responsibility. My attitude and my gratitude make all the difference.


In Gratitude,

Krista Shirley