Real + Raw: My Tattoo & Why Change Is Necessary

photo by Natalie Westerbeek

photo by Natalie Westerbeek

I rarely get asked about what is written on my forearm. I have a Sanskrit word, Anitya, in black ink on the inside of my left forearm near the eye of the elbow. A token, a rememebrance of a very important buddhist teaching that I took away from my Vipassana training 3 years ago. Mostly (it seems) that this little tattoo goes unnoticed but sometimes - perfectly intrigued strangers work up the courage to ask me what it is. I love it because it always sparks up an interesting conversation, or- daunted by the largeness of what it emcompasses it can also quickly shut down the conversation. Anitya means non-attachment or impermanence. 

After sitting for a 100 hours of meditation, Anitya rang through my ears defeaning me in its HUGENESS but also in its simplicity. Everything we experience here (in this world, lifetime, or this present moment) is totally impermanent. It will all change. The people in our lives will eventually cease to exist. The cities we live in change, the economy, social structures, new places are built and torn down. Energy shifts and fluxes, money comes in and money comes out, relationships chip away with time and our bodies age, deteriate, or even get stronger and healthier. It's the same old adage, "the only constant in life is change."  Holding on to the notion that we can keep things from changing is nieve and also the greatest root of our suffering. So, Anitya has been my greatest teacher and one mantra I always come back to. 

This past week, Anitya has been on my mind more so than ever. I have embraced so much change. It has been emotional, over-whelming and daunting because I stepped away from teaching my weekly yoga classes. I have been teaching for 3 and a half years at multiple yoga studios across Calgary and even Okotoks. It's strange to think I won't be grabbing my harmonium, my yoga mat, and jumping in to my car to drive to the studio to see all those familiar sweaty-blissful faces that I have grown accustomed to seeing through these years. 

Yoga cracks you open like a bad egg, all your junk (your fears, your limited beliefs, your anxieties, hopes, dreams, your hang ups, etc) comes flushing out and your left with two choices; to clean up the mess or to pretend like it doesnt exist which means you keep stewing in it, and it stinks. You end up drawing out the long enivitable process of moving forward or creating legitimate change. It's powerful stuff and most of us come to it (yoga asana) without any realization of what great change and power lies within us. I sure didn't anticipate how it would change mine. It totally saved my life. 

So why did I step away? I stepped away for a multitude of reasons; photography kept me really busy, I wanted to dedicate more time to my personal practice, I wanted more time with my family, I was exhausted... 

With this I knew that eventually I would need to step away. I would need to take some time off to really fill myself up and to see what that meant. To see what free-time felt like and to get comfortable and excited about it. (Being busy can be such a crutch) I love my students so greatly, they have shaped me more than they can imagine. I am forever grateful to the studios who took me on, who inspired me and pushed me and suported me. I am forever grateful for every familiar face who came every week and to those not so familiar faces to inspire me to keep trying something new. (This isn't good-bye, it's only a see you later.) I am inspired by all the ways I can still go on teaching. Whether I start mentoring and teaching other photographers, other yoga teachers, or maybe its hosting trainings and workshops. The teacher in me will never leave me. I love teaching, I love sharing, and I love getting to the deep knitty-gritty stuff that makes life and connection so beautiful and interesting. This is a beginning, this is a new chapter, an evolution... its something to be excited about. Anitya doesn't need to be feared, it can be the key to our greatest joys because it is only in the birth of change where things can be different, exciting, new and life-altering a beautiful way if you allow it! Change is necessary. It's part of evolution and if we resist change than we resist all of our potential and the miraculous flow of life. 

*A note to my students, or just students of life in general: 

Your practice is not shaped by a teacher, a studio, the right music, the right clothing or yoga mat... your practice is shaped by the intention and energy you bring to it every day. Only you can control that, no one else. Notice dependancy when it creeps up, if you feel dependant on a certain teacher or studio and understand that they too are impermanent. Studios close, teachers leave or they outgrow themselves. Go fearlessly in to the unknown and be curious about your experiences and remember each day is an opportunity to spark a little change, to create new patterns, new beliefs, and to be the person you want to be. It isn't easy, sometimes you have to do something hard (more often than not it will be hard) and sometimes you have to break your own heart in the process. But don't worry, you can piece it together slowly with patience, love, and a great dose of kindness. Be brave and keep seeking that light, the great well of endless love you posess and the great stillness that you were born with. It's in that space where everything is possible. 


To the love and light within you,


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