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3 Steps to Flying Free: How to Stay Centered in the Full Catastrophe of Life.

woman meditating on a city rooftop with lights in distance

The other day I had a conversation with a dear friend that illumined a huge awareness for me. During the call, I felt so free. It was intense like I was flying inside of myself. My friend said that she could feel that in me and wanted some of it because she was having a hard time.

She’s an amazingly gifted teacher entrepreneur going through growth pains in her business. In addition, she was having several stresses in her family dealing with her ex, who was being obnoxious, and each of her three teenage kids having their own difficulties and dramas.

My heart felt for her because I too was going through my own struggles. I‘ve had a huge stye in my eye that’s really bogging me down. There’s not much you can do for a stye, or at least I haven’t found the remedy that works. But I did learn that you have to apply heat compresses multiple times every day and I found some tea tree oil swipes which seem to help.

Plus, as many of you know, Stephanie, my administrative assistant for the last seven years, gave notice back in December. We devised a comprehensive plan for her to train her replacement which was going smoothly, or so we thought.

The new hire had been training with Stephanie for the last six weeks when suddenly she quit. Gulp! Are you kidding? All that training, time, money, and resources both to the new hire and Stephanie to train her was wasted and now we have to start over. Meanwhile, Stephanie had carefully planned out the timeline for her exit strategy to be able to travel the world with her beloved while leaving Ashaya in good hands. The timeline for training her replacement has now become much tighter.

Given all of this, I had no reason to feel so flying free. But I did.

hawk flying over blurred green background

The feeling of joy, inspiration, vitality, exhilaration, hope, and positivity was pounding inside my chest. This feeling was undeniable, yet I couldn’t figure out how I could be feeling this great with all the crap that’s happening in my life. By all accounts I was in the middle of a catastrophe.

I felt compelled to reflect more deeply on what might have led to the feeling of flying free because I wanted to share this with my friend to support her to find her joy again. Upon reflection, I identified three basic things that I believe created the experience of freedom inside.

Step One: Find Your Passion and Do It. Live for It.

I realized that the underpinning of the cause and source of my feeling of flying free is that I am completely passionate about what I’m doing, about yoga, about my practices, about teaching yoga to others, about my relationships, and about Ashaya Yoga. I have no desire to do anything else. There’s no other competing thoughts in my head. There’s no self-doubt trying to steal my joy away.

Todd Norian assisting older woman in a handstand

There’s not some other profession I think I should be doing. I’m not thinking about my retirement. There’s no regret about any of my choices I’ve made in my life. None! I have no anxiety about the unsure future or what will become of me, Ashaya, my life. And I’m not trying to cling to this feeling or figure out how to bottle it so I don’t lose it.

I’m simply here, in the present moment, unattached, and grateful to be having this experience. In the Tantra, this is the state of embodied consciousness. It’s called Jivan Mukti, which means embodied freedom or liberation in the body. It’s the experience of being in the flow of grace. In the Tantra, it’s described as the place in between heaven and earth, between transcendence and embodiment, between universal consciousness and individual consciousness. It’s the place in the middle, or Middle-Earth, which is what I like to call it. Because in Middle-Earth, magic happens. Anything is possible and you feel free.

Reflection: What are you passionate about in your life? What lights you up? Once you identify what that is, you must pursue it. Even if your passion is not your livelihood, maybe it’s a hobby. Whatever it is, you need to nurture it and prioritize it in your life. Living your passion is the most important step to finding your flying free.

Step Two: Prioritize Your Physical Health.

Just prior to the conversation I was having with my friend, I had one of the best weight workouts and swim practices ever! I felt so strong, clear, fluid, energized, pain-free, unstoppable, and vital. Adding some form of workout or exercise program to your day, in addition to your yoga practice, is so necessary to fly free.

overhead view of man swimming in pool

Physiologically, every time I work out, my body is flooded with the feel-good chemicals and hormones –Serotonin, Dopamine, Endorphins, and Oxytocin. My daily work requires a lot of computer time, writing, desk time, and I can get pretty sedentary during the day.

I want you to know that I prioritize my workouts every day.

I don’t just sit there and get the work done. I leave my work, sometimes even when there are important projects that have to get done. I let it go and prioritize me, my life, my health, my fun.

You can ask Stephanie. Her office is in the basement of my home which is where all of my exercise equipment and clothing is. She’ll tell you that she sees me come through that area every day and put on the running shoes, or biking shoes, or take my skis and load them into the car or grab my swim bag. The unfortunate thing for her may be that the basement area around the door to my garage is kind of like my locker room! Hopefully it doesn’t have the same odor!!!! I do try to keep my workout clothes well-laundried. LOL!

There are some subtleties I employ to optimize my workout benefits. For instance, it’s been proven that the body benefits from doing intervals and sprints where you work really hard then relax, in repetitive sequence. I try to do this in all of my workouts.

That’s one reason why I joined the US Masters Swim Team years ago. The coach pushes me much further than I would go alone. Also, if you can find friends to workout with, that makes it easier and fun.

group of people exercising on a country road

I love the communities I’ve created around my workouts because my friends inspire me to show up even during days that I’d rather not do the workout. Yes, I get those kinds of days when work becomes overwhelming and then exercise is the last thing I want to do. Although sometimes I choose to take a nap, I almost always go to the workout because I know I’ll feel energized afterwards.

You have to find what gives you the balance you need in your life. Everyone is different. The activity needs to get your heart rate up beyond the normal day to day rhythm.

Step Three: Speak Your Truth. Get It Off Your Chest.

This is one of the most important things you can do for your own peace of mind and sense of flying free! Speak your truth. Even when it might cause some waves in the people around you.

The reason why we typically do not speak our truth and hold back what we really feel, is that we are afraid of being rejected by the other person. The fear of rejection really hits us in our vulnerable place where we lack the strength of our own backbone of self-love. Our capacity to love ourselves in the face of rejection is so difficult that we’d sometimes rather lie to ourselves and hold back our feelings in order to take care of the other person.

woman with worried look sitting apart from a small group

Withholding your truth becomes a heavy weight to carry. It piles up inside you as regret, isolation, unworthiness, depression, and ultimately it wears down your motivation. There’s a beautiful teaching from Warner Earhart, founder of EST, back in the early 70’s, “You are only responsible for what you don’t say.”

Meaning that when you don’t speak what’s true for you, when you stay silent and implode, you are responsible for the negative consequences of that.

Ask yourself, “What’s the cost of withholding your truth?” Answer: Absolutely everything.

Not sharing your heart costs you your life! You are going to die in the same way that you’re living now. So, if you want to die without regrets, you have to start living without regrets! Speak your truth! Do it now!

I shared with my friend that with the unexpected and sudden quitting of my new hire, I felt anger in my heart. I felt that it wasn’t fair that someone would take all of this time, and outwardly tell us that she liked the job, then quit. What’s worse is that she wouldn’t talk to me on the phone or in person. Without any communication from her, I had no recourse.

I wanted to understand what was happening for her and how I might be able to shift the job description to lighten her load. Finally, I received an email from her where she explained how she just couldn’t talk about it. Writing helped her organize her thoughts. As she continued to share about her experience, I could feel her remorse. She apologized and understood the hardship she caused Ashaya. Then I responded in a calm way, but I shared my feelings honestly by saying how surprised I was and that this was an unfortunate cost to the company and to Stephanie’s timeline for leaving.

The next day the new hire emailed back with more apologies, and we exchanged kind words and well wishes with no hard feelings. This made my heart sing. I felt so free mainly because I expressed myself fully and we both got to a very good place.

Please choose to speak your truth. Even if you’re not perfect at it. Even if you have a little blame in your voice.

It’s better to get it off your chest than to hold it in.

If you can’t share with the other person without hurting them or inflicting more emotional pain, then maybe you need to cool off first. Or maybe you need to write a letter to that person but don’t send it. Or you need to talk it out with a friend. Whatever you feel you need to be able to speak your truth, do it, and I promise you’ll feel better.

artistic rendition of human body in meditation seat with mandalas behind and at the heart center

The Tantra teaches that we are already free. It’s just that this freedom is underneath a shitload of regret, doubt, despair, anger and blame, resignation, shame, unworthiness, perfectionism, and many other negative and repressed emotions. It’s so important to learn how to express these difficult emotions such that we don’t choose the default – hold it in.

May you reflect deeply on what sources your feeling of flying free. May you find what you’re passionate about and give yourself permission to follow your bliss. May you find the workout routines that feel good to you and then speak your truth to release the pressure and get it off your chest!

I’m rooting for you. I have your back. Life has your back. I love you. I adore you. And I believe in you. I believe in your ability to fly free and fulfill the destiny for which you have come! Thanks for your awesome presence in Ashaya and in my life!

I hope to see you on the mat soon.



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