Goodbye 2017: Reflections on an OMazing year

Maybe reflections are a way of contextualizing intentions for the year to come.

I’m try not to spend too much time dwelling on the past. It’s a practice, ergo sometimes I can let go with ease, other times the process is painfully challenging. Regardless, there can be merit in looking back on the past, reexamining how we’ve spent our energy and perhaps seeing patterns in our reflections.

Now that 2017 has come to a close, it feels relevant and important to take stock of the the positive, powerful chapters that made up, what in the end, feels like a very personally potent year.

I’ve made a list, mostly for myself (please don’t feel like you need to read it) of the most important POSITIVE things that magically came together during each and every month of the last 12. These are the ways I engaged with joy, created happiness and celebrated connection. These reflections are my list of good karma received or created.

If your game for personal growth exercises like this, I highly recommend you do the same. It’s pretty eye-opening.

Even the worst moments in our lives, some of them lasting entire years at a time, have silver linings, teaching moments, and/or lessons worth learning. And when you’re feeling down + blue, reflecting on all the experiences you’ve had to feel grateful for can lift you up.

The following are MY highlights of 2017, but I’d love for you to reflect on your own.

December 2016/January 2017: Ringing in the New Year in Nosara, Costa Rica with Shiva Rea and our Prana Vinyasa Tribe. Assisting my teacher for the first time during this 3 week, 200-hr Prana Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training and helping to unpack the riches PV has to offer.

February: Spending time in the kitchen, cooking with J. Delving deeper into the sacred feminine. Figuring out what the hell was going on in my second chakra.

March: Taking Griffin to LA for an entire week to visit his Daddy Burr and Disneyland, hiking in the mountains north of Malibu, swimming in the chilly Pacific Ocean and riding my heart out at FlyWheel in Playa Vista.

April: Asking out a boy for the very first time. Assisting Shiva at the “Sacred Feminine” Weekend at Kripalu. Hanging out with yoga colleague + friend, Kelly Kamm during her visit to Nantucket. An early spring stand-up paddle with friend, Rob.

May: Falling in love with someone new. Teaching a sold out Mother-Daughter yoga class, which ended up being my very last at The Yoga Room, wrapping up a 9-year career of dedicated teaching at my studio of origin.

June: Celebrating Griffin wrapping up a difficult first year of Elementary school, and coming out of it feeling pretty good about himself. The opening of Paddle Nantucket’s 4th year of business! Riding in my second Bike Nantucket charity ride for Fairwinds, Nantucket’s Family & Children’s Counseling Center, and paddling almost daily in the harbor.


July
: Going to N Magazine’s Crystal Ball with a devastatingly beautiful new man on my arm. Teaching donation yoga, gorilla style, in an Enchanted Forrest, without any studio affiliation every Sunday all summer long, Collaborating with Lorna Dollery for our Tough Love: Boxing and Yoga course for girls. Encouraging Caroline into her very first pinchamayurasana (forearm stand).

SUP Yoga, Paddle Coach, Caitlin Marcoux

August: Swimming in my 4th Swim Across America with the man who held my hand through my own journey with cancer, despite the end of our relationship. Helping 7 year old Griffin learn the value in service work while becoming the SAA Kid’s Splash highest fundraiser. Dancing my butt off at the Nickodemus show atop the Whaling Museum. Wrapping up Paddle Nantucket’s most successful year yet!

September: Guest teaching a sold out class at The Yoga Loft in Marblehead, MA while on a paddle trip to Cape Anne + Gloucester with my new love. Paddling in Manchester-by-the-Sea, around the Ipswich Bay, and the Westport River.

October: 5 days at Kripalu studying with my teacher, Shiva and stand-up paddling with her at sunset with her on the Stockbridge Bowl. Sailing from Hyannis to Nantucket under a full rainbow, the biggest one I’ve ever seen, which stretched from one side of the horizon to the other.

Taking Griffin to the Heritage Adventure Park in Sandwich for a canopy ropes course and zip-line. Kicking Effexor and becoming 100% drug-free for the first time in nearly 5 years. Volunteering weekly in Griffin’s second grade classroom, by teaching 45 minutes of yoga on Wednesday mornings.

November: Reconnecting with the yoga community in Marblehead, while teaching another sold out Prana Vinyasa class at The Yoga Loft and spending the evening with my dear friend and colleague Larisa Foreman. Co-hosting an epic 17 person Friendsgiving with some really cool peeps; both new and old friends, and feeling nostalgic for the old Marcoux Thanksgivings of my childhood.

December: Celebrating my 41st birthday by riding 41 miles on my road bike with my dear friend Seana, in the freezing cold. Paddling solo with dolphins in the Nantucket Harbor. Watching Griffin in his first appearance on-stage in Nantucket Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker Ballet. Co-creating Griffin’s 8th Birthday Jedi Training Academy themed party. Grounding our first Christmas on Nantucket with Tobias as part of our family, and our culture-filled 2
day trip to Boston where we went bowling, rock climbing, iceskating to the theatre AND to the to the Boston Ballet’s rendition of the Nutcracker! And finally, ringing in the New Year, not in the jungle like the year before, but peacefully snuggling in bed, with my one true love, my incredible little boy. 

Of course, those are all the OMazing things that happened. There was plenty of devastative disappointment, crippling heart ache, self-doubt, sacrifices and emotional pain, especially earlier on in the year. But given the choice that we all have, why focus on the negative?

Why give it power when there is so much to be grateful for.

Tell me, as you reflect on 2017, how did you spend your positive potency? What did you do with your OMazing year?

I would LOVE for you to comment below and share the positive vibes.

###

Goodbye Scarcity, Hello Gratitude

Sorry, l had to learn this one the hard way, and you probably will too. No one will ever give you enough validation. At the end of the day, it’s up to you.

Caitlin Marcoux, writer

Because we live in a society that pressures us to have unlimited wants, while most of us have limited resources, many of us have a difficult time believing in our own intrinsic value.

The anxiety of scarcity permeates all aspects of our lives. We worry about our body image, our fiscal net, our standing within our community, our self-esteem as parents, our confidence as lovers, whether or not we are fashionable, driving the right car, enrolling our children in enough extracurricular activities, or taking the same exotic vacations our friends post about on social media.

Caitlin Marcoux, wirterCommercialism and comparison have caused a catastrophic level of insecurity within our culture, feeding a never ending cycling of fitness trends and fad diets, to say nothing of jealousy, self-judgment and resentment.

This prevailing sense of insufficiency causes us to question whether or not we are, in general, enough, and many of us end up feeling that we are, at least much of the time, not. However, if we choose to turn our attention away from what we are lacking to what we have, the suffering of scarcity lessens.

Society at large has seduced us into thinking life needs to be grandiose, lived out on a large scale, Twitter and Instagram. Even my 7 year old will tell me, with apparent admiration, that his favorite YouTuber, has 1,856,518 subscribers. (Parents go ahead and Google him, his name is Denis Daily).

Cultivating abundance starts with gratitude

ScarcityThe truth is there is so much beauty and joy in our small, ordinary lives. So many things to be grateful for. So many tiny victories, every day, to celebrate. On days like today, when I wake up feeling a little blue, lonely and anxious about the things I don’t have, I try to practice feeling grateful for the things I DO have.

Instead of dwelling on the fact that I don’t have a life partner, own my own home, or have a retirement fund, I got myself to the gym. I threw on the plates and started lifting. I wasn’t sure about my form, so I kept the weights light. I decided to be gentle and meet myself where I was.

As I worked my way through a number of different exercises, my negative thoughts abated.

It’s actually a bit crazy to think that just 2 years ago, I was still recovering from major abdominal surgery, {fully hysterectomy and oophorectomy} and three years ago I could barely lift my own arms (bilateral mastectomy}, so lifting anything at al, is actually something I am quite grateful to be able to do.

My ego, which often kicks up a ruckus of self-doubt, and pushes me to do things I’m not quite ready for, stayed remarkably quit! Turns out, Brene Brown, an author and research professor, whom I have been reading a lot of over the past year or so, is onto something: by focusing on gratitude the tides of scarcity culture can be abated.

I lovingly pushed my body through my workout saying this mantra over and over:

“It is enough”

 “I am enough.”

In the end, it was an awesome workout. I left the gym feeling satisfied and effulgent, light and happy.

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re like me; someone who {fill in the blank reason} has turned to external validation to bank-up personal validity, you may have to use this mantra over and over again.

Caitlin Marcoux, Yoga teacher, writer

A few of you might remember a piece I wrote for elephant journal on this topic some time ago, circa 2012. The photo above is probably the last picture of my chest before my tryst with breast cancer. I recently re-read it,  Unworthy, that is. Hard to believe I wrote it five years ago. Long before I stumbled onto Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, or read Rising Strong, one of my favorite books  E V E R. You would think I’d have embodied the central message by now – what with the permanent marker I used to write all over my own chest.

But.. apparently I’m still trying to take my own advice.

It’s okay. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I mean I could, that would go against the central idea of self-acceptance. And that old yogic adage of “it’s a practice”…. well it’s true. These things  don’t happen over night. A practice is called a practice for a reason.

Anyway, I’m beginning to realize that the measurement of a “successful” life is not the one afforded us by relationship, career, or financial status. The successful life is the gracious life. I have faith. Let’s support one another. Together I think we can do it. We can make ourselves be seen. We can accept what we are, accept ourselves for the miracle that we are, and we can evolve our sense of self into something so beautiful and so loving that gratitude is our default.

Don’t be suckered into wasting your time on what you don’t have.

Honor what you have and the abundance will follow.

###

Every heart has value

Practice and all is coming…

Speak from the Heart

That’s what Shri Pattabhi Jois said anyway… and I think much of the time, he’s right.

Public speaking for example. I used to be deathly afraid of it. I remember dreading giving presentations in grade school and speeches in middle school. In high school and college, it would often take me minutes to get up the courage to raise my hand to respond to a question – even thought I was positive I had the answer.

As someone who speaks in front of a class on a daily basis, it’s gotten a little easier over the years.  Lucky for me I get to practice a lot. I also try to pay close attention when listening to an inspiring orator, to the ways in which they light up a room. Usually, for me, it comes down to authenticity. If a speaker is talking about something they feel passionately about, their enthusiasm is contagious. You can feel it come through their bodies through their words. Their energy fills up the space around them and you find yourself leaning into the feeling of their voice. It doesn’t matter if they are speaking to a small group of students or an stadium packed with spectators, everyone feels held in captivation.

That is the kind of speaker I aspire to be. I don’t think I deliver on this level………. yet. But I’m learning. And I’m practicing. And I’m grateful to have students and followers, organizations and studios that give me the chance to practice this part of my craft.

I’ve learned that the most effective speaking comes straight from the heart, that no amount of organized note cards can substitute the integrity of direct, honest communication. To that end, I don’t force myself to speak about things I haven’t experienced first hand or explored on a personal level. I only tackle the philosophical tenants of traditional yoga if I have a personal anecdote which makes their application feel relevant to me – and so hopefully to my students.Speak from the Heart

It’s taken me living through an overflowing cup of human suffering to feel like I have any perspective of value to share with others. Some might think that for a young person I’ve had more than my fair share of trauma, but I choose to think that I’ve only given what I can handle. That perhaps it is part of my karma to live though this pain so as to better serve others. In any event, I’ve survived an abusive grandfather, the death of a husband, a divorce from another, the potentially terminal diagnosis of a parent, and my own plight with aggressive breast cancer. These are some of the things that have shaped me into the person I am today.

I’m certainly not saying that only people who have endured personal drama and trauma are the only ones who should be given a microphone. Nor am I saying that the sunny side of life: the love and laughter, successes and triumphs don’t have their own significant influence on the people we become, but I do believe there is a certain type of wisdom forged in the fires of pain. There is a deeper awareness the universal consciousness that binds us all. We begin to see that our hurt is not so different from our neighbor’s hurt. We start to feel our humanity as same, not singular. Through suffering, our compassion is amplified.

Be In Love with Your Life

While it’s true that some individuals are born into this life with clear purpose and passion, for many of us it takes a life-altering event to find the gratitude and mindfullness we need to lead an exemplary life. Once we surmount the insurmountable our hindsight is sharpened and we can look towards the future with clarity. We realize the value of being totally in love with our lives.

It was a privilege and an honer to speak at the Nantucket Historical Association yesterday. I enjoyed illustrating some basic yogic concepts with a few personal stories. I hope that my enthusiasm for my craft was evidenced both in my words and through the energy I tried to bring into the room.  I know my delivery was a little rushed. That I stumbled over myself a few times, and that there were several moments when I simply could not find the words I was searching for. But like one of the fathers of our modern day yoga moment says, “practice and all is coming”.

Food for Thought at the NHA

I promise to keep working on communicating, with authenticity, the things that feel personally and universally inspiring to me. In the mean time you may want to check out these more experienced and inspiring speakers on yoga, spirituality, creative expression, love and living an exemplary, miraculous life:

Seane Corn on an Enlightened Planet

MC Yogi on Yoga at TEDx

Michael Stone on a Deeper Materialism

Shiva Rea at Burning Man on the Origins of Movement