The ocean, the electric, the ashes, and the lilypad.

  Scan of a Kodachrome slide of a photograph taken by my grandmother, Anzie Glover, in Colorado, probably in the 50s.

Scan of a Kodachrome slide of a photograph taken by my grandmother, Anzie Glover, in Colorado, probably in the 50s.

I have learned, through observation, that I cycle through energetic spaces.

Susan Greene helped me realize this when she worked with me as a life coach.*

These spaces are: the ocean, the electric, the ashes, and the lilypad.

I dive deep into my cool, calm center. I am gently suspended, lovingly held, by the quiet of the wide open ocean. All is clear, and I can see for miles. I float in my knowing, in my clarity. I am not pulled by the wild weather at the surface. The unsettled winds cannot reach me. I am anchored here in peaceful understanding. Currents come and softly alert me to the movement of my life, to the sensation in my limbs. I am fluid, flowing. I am the same as the ocean, pulled rhythmically by the moon. The starlight dances on me from above. I hear the bubbles of all creatures around me. I feel the coastline of every patch of land on the planet. I feel the abundance of life. I am that. I freely access intuition and inspiration.

Inspiration creates a spark that ignites my fire-self. I am static electric, lighting up from the friction of the muses fiercely alive within me. I rocket skyward from the depths with a snarling grin, and I cackle into the wind with arms wide as lightning shoots from my fingertips. I am fully alight and burning brightly. For miles you can see me illuminating the heavens. For miles you can hear my howl, my roar. Wind and rain and snow swirl around me; the elements are under my control and the landscape is at my mercy. I cut canyons with the flick of a wrist and build mountains with the stomp of a foot. I swirl across the sky burning words into your mind. My screams are a melody that startles you awake. You cannot help but burn brighter, too, as my fire enters your heart. My creative power knows no bounds. I am blinding color and flame. I am unstoppable.

I fall. My fire has burned through every last molecule of fuel in my soul and quite suddenly I am plummeting from the sky. My muses have gone hoarse from yelling against my storm, and they have fallen silent. My electric self has covered too much of the sky, and my energy is not infinite. I see the rocks below, and I brace myself for impact. I hit hard, unceremoniously, and find myself shrouded in a cloud of ash - the charred remains of my fire. I am coughing and weak and blinded. I cannot find my breath or my heartbeat. Fear threatens to overtake me in my self-imposed isolation. I am, ungrounded, thin, and crumbling. I have no form. I turn blindly, buffeted by the winds of circumstance. To spite having smashed into the rocks before (and survived), I am confused and surprised to be here again and unsure if I will ever find a way out. I shake violently and cower.

The dust begins to settle. My violent shaking calms to a weak tremble. I find my way to the water’s edge as the ash sinks to mix with the mud at the bottom. I stumble on a slick rock and fall, thinking perhaps this time I will finally drown, only to find myself landing softly on a wide lilypad. I curl up tightly at the center. Quiet misty rains wash away the remains of the thick gray stuck to my body, and my skin is tender and raw under the open sky. I give myself time to rest, a closed blossom. I find my breath. I find my heartbeat. I remember who and where I am. I tune into the pulse of the leaf on which I rest, and through it, the pulse of the earth below. Slowly, I begin to unfurl, one sweet petal at a time. When I am once again open to the sun, I smile gratefully and slip soundlessly off the edge of the lilypad, back into the deep ocean.

And so it goes.

The basic nature of life is change: arising and passing away. There is no such thing as steady-state. This is an illusion. Tune into the cycles of your own life so that you may more skillfully engage at every stage. When you are in your calm center, take advantage of the peace found there and relish in the wholeness. When you are on fire in the sky, create with reckless abandon. When you are crumbling ashes on the rocks, know that it will not last forever. When you are slowly beginning to heal, be gentle with yourself.

These metaphors for the cycles of my own experience may not mirror yours, may not resonate with you, and may not even make sense to you. This is okay. Mine aren’t always exactly like this, anyway. I share them with you to offer, as always, an unapologetically authentic slice of my own reality - but also to invite you to reflect on what your relationship may be to the cycles of change in your own life. Do you embrace the flow? Do you resist it? How might you begin to tend to your relationship with change?

It is the only thing on which you can always rely - the in and out, the up and down.
If you are interested in diving into the practice of skillfully experiencing change, start with loving observation of the constant in and out alive within your own body: your breath.

As always, if you are curious and want to dig deeper, contact me and join the conversation.

Lovingly yours,
Spencer


*Note: if you have never worked with a life coach and you’re curious, please contact me! I cannot speak highly enough of Susan and the other Souluna life coaches in my circle.



Emerging from the fire.

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I completely lost touch with the practice of writing. Arriving at this realization in mid-July completely devastated me. My last written blog post was from February. Between February and July, my pen had hit paper in my journal only three times. I haven't written a song since March.

I used to write every single day. How did I let this happen?

Writing has, for as long as I can remember, been an extremely valuable processing tool and creative practice for me. Why did I let it go? It crushed me to discover that I had entirely let go of the creative medium that calls me the most: writing.

I felt overwhelming shame and guilt. I wallowed in that for about an hour.

Then, I began again.

At dusk on July 21st, I opened a google doc, sat down at a wooden table looking out at the ocean, and I started to write. Even in my journaling, I have often spoken in euphemisms, preferring to refer only vaguely to my inner world, rather than suffer the pain of speaking it outright (even though no one would read it besides me). If I had to guess (and I do), I might say that the reason that I stopped writing is that I was ashamed of what was alive in my mind/heart, and I didn't want to write it down - but I also didn't want to lie in my writing. I was firmly resisting the work, so I just didn't write.

When I opened that document with the intention to recommit to the practice of writing daily, I committed to a new rule:

Hold nothing back.

The beginning was horrible. Mangled, warped, contorted excuses for sentences came pouring through my fingertips into that document. Things I should've written down a long time ago came screaming to the surface. I hated what I was writing, but it was a good pain. It hurt to get it out, but I felt better once I had. It reminded me of throwing up from food poisoning. I had let myself get full of nasty things and refused myself the outlet.

That was 22 days and 45 pages ago. I'm still writing every day. The burn has subsided. It even sometimes feels good again.

This summer has been a whirlwind of the searing fires of transformation. I am digging as deep as I ever have to better understand the how, what, and why of the ways that I am so that I can skillfully move forward with being more deliberately. I'm reducing myself to ashes for the sake of intentional regrowth. Honestly? It sucks. It hurts. I've been having a terrible go of it. I'm meeting demons that I thought I had vanquished. Dusting off boxes I thought I'd thrown away a long time ago. It's probably Type II fun. As much as I'm not enjoying the process, it is so undeniably worthwhile. I can already see this. I am learning so much. I can see and feel the evolution in progress.

This process of being is an endless cycle of beginnings. I like that.

As always, I am grateful to you for joining me on this path. May we both be better for it.

In particular, I am grateful for those closest to me who are supporting me through this process. I know that it has not been pleasant to witness. I am bleeding all over everyone around me from wounds that they did not inflict. I feel that my behavior is like that of a wounded animal, snapping at anyone who comes too close, my instinct for self-preservation on overdrive.

I am also grateful for the patience of those people with whom I have not been in contact for months. My focus has been exclusively inward and on those people and things in my immediate vicinity. I have been spending so much energy on this process, that I have had little to nothing left in the tank for anything else. I know this is unbecoming, and I hope you know that I love you - even from a silent distance.

As I dust off the soot, stay tuned for the written manifestations of this work that I've been doing. I've got some pretty good stuff in the pile for you.

Know that I am now able to share this with you because I feel that I am emerging from it - the worst is over, and I am stepping back into the light with tender fresh skin and new bright eyes.

With love,
Spencer

Love/war

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It’s quiet in my corner of Salt Lake City today. A soft blanket of snow from the first real storm of the winter paints my whole neighborhood in the perfect picture of the season. I’ve missed it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of fresh snow up in the mountains, but to have it weighing down the prayer flags and tree branches in my backyard is a special kind of gift. My bedroom is cool and bright, and I’m watching incense smoke curl gently around the feathers of the dreamcatcher hanging on my window.

Today, I feel the love.

Last night, we filled my house with people that we like and blanketed them in pink and blue light and groovy sounds from our friend’s first live set as a DJ. As the night wound down, and the stragglers lay lazy, sleepy, laughing, and eating homemade cookies, I leaned on a strong leg and felt warmth like I haven’t felt in a long time.

I feel the love. Soft, quiet, gentle, and bright.

There is a lesson in this.

Since moving to Utah, I’ve reflected many times over what enough looks like for me. Over the last few weeks especially, I’ve felt myself raising my sword and screaming battle cries at the open sky - but the slow breeze just raises its eyebrows at me, because there’s no war to wage. Living isn’t a fight. Loving isn’t a fight.

Loving isn’t a fight.

I’ve claimed for some years now to be a warrior of love. I have known myself to be a revolutionary, but of what? For what am I fighting?

Today, in the calm of the blizzard and the watercolor stains on my hands, my higher self smiles patiently at me as I pause wide-eyed in understanding.

Loving isn’t a fight.

Love is not a battlefield. Love is not like a war. I am not a soldier.

I don’t have to paint my face and arm myself for love. I don’t have to give or receive orders for love. I’ve imagined myself becoming a general, leading an army of warriors of love like myself, pictured myself standing before them with a fist in the air and howling at the sky as they join me in my fight - but the metaphor doesn’t actually make any sense.

Loving isn’t a fight.

Relax back into the arms of the present moment, and find that love is there. Gently step deeper into the darkest corners of your Self, and use love as the candle to illuminate all of your truths. Rub your eyes and blink at the light of love that is blindingly brilliant and radiating from every atom of your being. Imagine what could be possible if you allow for the possibility that love is who you are at your core?

I offer this to you because in this moment, I am realizing that I’ve had it all wrong. I have a fire spirit, and so I imagined that there must be ferocity in all that I do and in all that I am. I think now that this has been a belief that’s been holding me back. I am always geared up and ready for a fight. I always have a flash in my eyes, and my tongue is sharp, and I’ve prided myself on that. But I’ve been playing tug of war with the universe. The universe doesn’t care, of course. It just keeps dragging me along as I dig my heels in deeper and snarl, thinking I’m so powerful for resisting the pull. The universe says to me, “come this way, there’s love here,” and I cackle and stubbornly resist, thinking that I know better. I’m a fighter, after all, and I won’t be dragged anywhere against my will.

But loving isn’t a fight.

Dear one, you are worthy of love - of every kind. It is already everywhere in your life. You need not fight it, nor fight for it. Relax into it. Open your eyes and your heart to it. Fear not.

I’m rooting for you.

Lovingly yours,
Spencer

P.S. If you're wondering what kind of love I'm talking about, it's the limitless kind. Don't box it. Let it be broad, all-encompassing. You'll thank me later.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Athletes on the Brighton Ski Team. Photo by Chris Monte (Instagram, website)

I talk a lot, especially on my Instagram, about how much I like to coach ski racing.

When I was teaching in a high school setting, and when I was teaching more yoga, I often noticed that I would offer one piece of advice, one lesson, that seemed relevant to everyone for days (or weeks) at a time before realizing that the person who really needed that advice was me all along.

Tonight I remembered that sneaky little habit, and I wondered what I’ve been saying lately to my athletes that might actually be about me. It didn't take me long to translate my coaching into subtext that's really actually directed at myself as I navigate my own path.

1) Keep your upper body facing down the hill, like you had a headlight shining out of your chest lighting the way down the fall line. Let your skis move underneath you, but keep a level head and shoulders.

Translation: the Path is winding, but the point on the horizon remains steady. Don’t lose track of the goal as your rock-hop your way towards it. Hold your heart steady and trust your footfalls, even when they aren’t pointing exactly straight.

2) Hands up, arms extended, driving forward but not stiff. Don’t drop your hands and lose your drive, keep ‘em up.

Translation: Reach for it. The thing that you want is there. It feels far away when you’re in the start, but it’s there. Don’t relax into the backseat. Don’t get complacent. Keep reaching.

3) Get your weight forward. Throw your body down the fall line and trust that your outside ski will hold. Strong legs, fully commit.

Translation: If you want it, lean towards it. Put your foot on the gas and believe that you are capable of handling the speed - because you are. You've been training for this.

4) Stop overthinking. Get out of your head and into your body. Don’t think - ski.

Translation: Release the need to think yourself into immobility. Paralysis by over-analysis will bring your dreaming and scheming to a screeching halt of, “shit, now what?” You don’t always need to know intellectually what you’re doing and how to do it. Trust your intuition, trust your practice, and keep moving. You can do this. You know how to do this.

5) Arc ‘em or park ‘em.

Translation: You’re not out here to float along aimlessly, listlessly, along for the ride. If you aren’t going to dive in and fully engage with your life, you might as well quit. You’re not a quitter. So don’t.

6) If you ain’t fallin’, you ain’t haulin’.

Translation: Don’t be afraid to go so fast that you fall on your face. Your failure is an indicator that you’re trying your damnedest to get out there, get fast, and get good at whatever it is that you’re doing. Take risks. Your face-plants are signs that you’re giving it your absolute best - and that’s fucking awesome. Get up and go again.

7) Pressure your boots, not yourself.

Translation: Push yourself in your efforts, but don’t beat yourself up so bad that you’re grinding yourself into the dirt (or ice). Stay vigilant in your pursuit of whatever it is you’re pursuing, but be mindful of how you talk to yourself throughout the process. Work hard, play hard, but show yourself compassion. You won’t get anywhere if you beat yourself into a rag doll of “not good enough.”

I'm coaching grit. Perseverance. Ways to keep going in the face of resistance. Self-confidence. Trust in the process.

I hear all the time, “as in ______, so in life.” For me, the blank is filled with coaching and teaching. I’ve heard it said about skiing, about dance, about surfing, about hiking, about the creative process… it’s a long list. The way you go about your passion is directly translatable to the way you live your life.

How you do anything is how you do everything, right?

So, how are you doing it?

Cheers,
Spencer

New Year, New What?

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Just over a year ago, I wrote Don't wait until January to set your resolutions. That's bullshit.

This may or may not come as a shock, but my opinion of that hasn’t really changed.

I’m not someone that gets super stoked on the holidays. I often feel that holiday celebrations are forced. They can feel superficial - sometimes more like marketing campaigns than honest appreciation for something. For many (myself included), they come with guilt for not doing enough or not spending enough.

New Years in particular can have a shadow side. There is so much comparison this time of year. I see so many transformation stories that, while beautiful and exciting for those who have made progress in a way that serves them, can bring feelings of inadequacy for those who haven’t made transformations that are so obviously dramatic. The end of the year brings with it the common question - what did you do this year? What did you create? How did you grow? And if the answers aren’t immediately obvious, the self-doubt can be debilitating. Did I do enough? Am I better than I was?

Upon reflecting on that, we set resolutions for the coming year to improve in myriad ways. This idea is well-intentioned, but that shift in focus towards the ways in which we need to be better can take away from the recognition of all of the good things that we already are and have done. I also find the idea of New Year’s resolutions to be extremely limiting. Every single moment brings with it the opportunity to begin again, and when we confine our idea of starting anew to the beginning of the calendar year, we lose 11 months’ worth of chances.

I write to you now to call you forth to do two things: expand your perspective of what it means to begin again (and when that’s possible - hint: always) and celebrate what you have achieved.

You are already brilliant. You really are. I’m not necessarily someone that gushes about us all being sparkly perfect unicorns bursting with love and rainbows, but I do believe that at our core, there is nothing wrong with us. So long as you are deliberate in your thoughts, words, and actions, so long as you are staying true to who you are and who you aim to become, so long as you are letting kindness and compassion inform the way you move through life, then you are enough. If you must reflect on the last calendar year, then do so in celebration of who you are, not in criticism of who are in comparison to what you wish you were. Honor yourself in your countless merits. Even if you are struggling, even if you spent every moment of 2017 struggling, you have done something well - and if you can’t think of anything, please please reach out to me and I will help you find that something. I promise you, it’s there.

If setting resolutions is something that appeals to you, wonderful, go for it. But for each one that you set, ask yourself why that’s something that you want to do - and once you have your answer, ask yourself what is truer than that? Let’s pick a common example. Resolution: exercise regularly. Why? Because you want to be fit. Fine, not bad in and of itself, but what is truer than that desire for fitness? Do you want to look better? What’s that about? Do you want to feel healthier? What’s that about? Dig a little deeper. The better than you can understand your own desires to change, the more likely you are to be able to stick to whatever that resolution is, and the more likely you are to go about it in a life-affirming way, rather than a harmful way. If you stop at “I want to look better,” you risk a year of “I don’t look good enough yet.” That discouragement can throw you off-track to the point where you give up entirely - which brings me to my next recommendation on approaching resolutions: begin again.

Every time you set out to do something meaningful, there is an extreme likelihood that, at some point, you will lose track. You will fall off the wagon. You will doubt what you’re doing. If you don’t, then maybe you aren't reaching far enough. But when you do almost give up, when you do fall off the wagon - pause. Take a breath. Begin again.

I expect that you will experience failure, but I also expect that you will try again. It does not matter how many times you fall down, so long as you get back up one more time. Sometimes this will mean reevaluating and being realistic about your goals, maybe with a shift in method or perspective, but always always begin again. You don’t have to wait until Dec. 31, 2018 to give it another shot.

Going into this new year, have courage. Be strong in your convictions and flexible in your approach. Be proud of who you are and of who you are becoming.

We are in this together.

Yours with love and wishes for an exhilarating 2018,
Spencer

Journal: 12/3/17

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Every night, before I go to sleep, I write. Journaling is my sadhana, my daily practice, and has been one of my most valuable embodiments of svadhyaya, self-study. It is this practice that gives me the most true words to articulate my experience and the space to notice how I feel. I reflect on the day, I state my gratitude, and I set an intention for the next day. Every single night. This is what I wrote last night. I share it with you to offer an intimate glimpse of the way I live yoga and to offer an example of one of the ways you can too.

Quietly dialed tonight. I didn't want to talk, I wanted to focus. I still don't want to talk, actually. I'm in my own mind tonight, scrolling through data as I think about what pieces from my past might meaningfully and intentionally inform my future. I'm comfortably tired from a full day of fresh air and I'm hopeful for snow. Thinking about meeting people and being alone, about what the necessities are and are not, about what I'm capable of and what I might contribute, what my gifts are. I want to say that this feels like the calm before the storm, but what's coming isn't loud bright colorful chaotic. The power that I feel rising as the moon begins to wane again is dark, graceful, smooth, rippling, lithe. Jet black with green eyes and white teeth. I'm stalking my own future success, patiently grinding away. The taste of what my life could look like fills my mouth more and more and I imagine that soon it will fill my whole being as does my breath. There is no fear tonight, only calm knowing like a predator patiently aware that the kill is imminent. I will seize my life. I am that.

I want to lock eyes with another human whose lust for life is an overwhelming driver in the way they move, whose passion for sampling savoring as much experience of their form and time on the planet as possible defines their sense of self and purpose as much as mine does.

I'm grateful for the wind, for my sore legs, for my anthem emerging.

Intention: begin again.

Capitol Reef

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Hopping from rock to rock above cliff face, I stumble. The wind blows me back from the edge of the earth. It isn’t time to die yet, he whispers to me through dead trees and dry scrub brush and crevasses. All around me are edges edges edges of the earth and even sitting on water-pocked stone behind dead juniper trees I feel like I could fall at any moment.

Couples with big cameras clutch at bucket hats that threaten to blow away and wobble nervously, feet unsure beneath them.

I wonder what it's like to feel so off balance. I remember that moments ago I nearly fell hundreds of feet straight down to a nearly-dry rocky riverbed. I grin at my own arrogance and step back into humility.

The sun is bright and warm but you wouldn’t know it for squinting against the dust flying and cold air coming up the canyon walls.

I’m exhausted. Emotionally hungover from the richness of experience. I drank too much desert sky. Too much firelight, sunset, sunrise. Too much vastness and my body slows with the weight of the majesty of the immediate memory.

I don’t believe that the planet means to drive me to my knees, but here I am leaning against a column of stone struggling to stand and struggling even more to write down what I have seen and felt.

Last night I put out the embers of my fire and crawled into my sleeping bag under the Milky Way smeared across a moonless sky.

I woke up this morning warm and happy in the back of my little red wilderwagon with the Abajo mountains (or the Blues, a little handful of the Rockies) in view to the north and the canyonlands to the south.

I made coffee in the peach honey desert sunrise and tried not to get blown over by the wind coming up the cliffs.

I drove west singing at the top of my lungs with a mischievous and grateful smile past mesas punching up through red dust and scrub brush.

Rock reefs groaned skyward and I'm pretty sure if titans ever walked this earth, this is where they lived.

Red clay faded to gray and the stone climbed higher still, threaded with bloodstains over yellow-leaved trees lining muddy riverbanks.

Petroglyphs telling wordless stories reminded me of the way we try to leave our mark through silver screens.

This land is a playground - grand and shifting under the great blue sky.

Staring at the rust red faces of yet another national park, I got curious about my convictions that I am as much a part of the Earth as She is a part of me, and the implications of that as my Truth.

I still feel the fear of falling tight-fingered hooked behind my solar plexus but I don't care - I was born to roam the Wild West.

I'm dusty and tired and nervous-excited and sure beyond shadow of a doubt that this is only the beginning.

La Que Sabe, La Loba, ella me lo dijo.