I sat with Danielle on her bed, asking her questions as she folded her clothes. I was struck by how mindfully she folded each item of clothing. She took great care with each piece, and I could tell that this typically mundane activity was serving as a meditative practice for her. I was inspired by her recent commitment to minimalism, although I had (somewhat hypocritically) collected some of the items she had recently given away. This practice left her with only those that remained of most value to her.
I asked her about how teaching yoga to adults coincides with her current job teaching first and second grade at a small, rural school in southern Vermont. She spoke to her experience balancing school, yoga, self-care, and personal life. As our conversation unfolded, we found that her Creature emerges in flow states of teaching.
Yoga has given me physical stamina that I use in my professional life. I can take my kids outside and run around with them at recess. I do yoga with them, I am picking them up when they’re crying, or there will be four of them sitting in my lap. So the physical stamina of teaching yoga is helpful.
On the mind space side, it helps me remember compassion for the children that I’m teaching, because often-times I’m wanting to tear my hair out… but now I can sort of step back, or ask my students to take on the role of observer. Whereas five years ago, even though I was doing yoga then as well, I was more quick to react.
Setting boundaries is important to assure that I’m not being pulled beyond my limit, or feeling like I need to go beyond that limit to prove something. So aside from making proper decisions around that, it stills goes back to self reflection, to thinking about what I could need in any given moment. My family is a big part of how I care for myself, because when my relationships with them are healthy and thriving, I feel like I’m healthy and thriving.
The yoga that I practice is based in the Ashtanga system, which includes more than physical practice. It translates into “the eight-limbed path of yoga” and so the physical practice, the asana, is one of eight limbs of a whole.
One of these limbs is called Svādhyāya, which translates into self-study. I always want to look back inside, always go back to that practice of constantly practicing Svādhyāya…not necessarily as a way to correct myself, but just to get a better picture.
My yoga practice has helped me self reflect all the time in my teaching practice, so that I don’t get stale or complacent.
The lesson I really take to heart is Satya, whichtranslates into truth. For me, this means not only speaking my truth, but also trying to live my truth, which is my current and longtime struggle as a teacher. I know I am a teacher of many things, and yet at the same time it is so very difficult to be a teacher of yoga and of children. I’m still figuring out what my truth is, how to practice Satya in teaching. Due to this, when people ask me “do you love your job?” it’s very complicated for me to answer.
When I teach children, there is a lot of calming that I have to do for them, and for myself. I have to remember to breathe, and I have to dig very deep to keep going all the time. I think children are natural yogis when you give them the space, but you can’t rush through teaching children because, A, it doesn’t work, and B, they just won’t let you. They force your attention to be present all the time. Just like a yoga practice does, or should. The mental place that I have to put myself in to teach can also be the mental place that I have to put myself in to do yoga.
I know my best yoga classes are when I feel that back and forth, that reciprocity with the people who are practicing. It’s not just an affirmation like “that was a great class, Danielle” but a moment whereI can step back and see that they are having a great class because I can see it in their bodies…that is extremely rewarding. That, to me, is when I am in my Creature space, in my flow state.
When I find moments during my yoga classes where I recognize that everyone is listening to me, and listening to their bodies…I can see that we are all in a state of flow.
There are moments of flow like this at school, although they are much more rare than when I teach yoga. It’s not just when I’m teaching children, it’s when I’m supporting my colleagues as the literacy coach, in building and knowing what resources to give them, holding a really productive meeting…that’s where I feel more in a state of flow as a elementary school teacher, at this point.
My Creature is adaptable. I’ve always felt adaptable. It’s not hard for me to slip into a new skin at all. Whether that’s socially, in different social circles, or at different jobs…
As a student of Danielle’s, I can attest to this dynamic – one of comfortable progress that transpires from a shared flow state. As an admiring friend, I will say she is indeed an adaptable Creature. She is wise, compassionate wisdom. She embodies her truth, and expresses no shame in doing so. By practicing self-discipline along with self-care, she continues to honor herself. She continues to hold space for her Creature.
Danielle currently teaches at Frog Lotus Yoga, where these photographs were taken.
We are so pleased to release our very first Creature Video, featuring hooper Nikki Steez!
Nikki is the founder of The Firefly Caravan, a troupe of incredibly talented performance artists including fire dancers, stuntmen, and artists. They specialize in the bizarre and beautiful world of sideshow theater.
This captivating collective travels around New England and performs at weddings, birthday parties, music festivals, concerts, street fairs, fundraisers, corporate events, and more!
Nikki is also the owner of Buddha Belly Hoops, where she sells handmade hula hoops and flow props.
Check out her etsy page to see some of her work and enter the code BYC16 at checkout to receive a special discount for being a Be Your Creature reader 😉
Exactly 4 weeks ago, I found myself at a retreat center in the Taconic Mountains of upstate New York, filled with many emotions: curiosity, tentative confidence, some noticeable shyness, and most of all, excitement. I had been looking forward to this gathering of women since the second I heard about it the previous year. I knew I needed this time, space, and community to support me in growing closer to myself, my inner wild woman, as well as with these “outer” wild women. I was immediately given permission, for 5 days, to do whatever I wanted, needed, or desired. I had finally arrived at Wild Woman Fest.
Now, 4 weeks later, I am finally ready to reflect on my experience, as well share that of Blue, another majestic Creature who attended the festival with me. This post is the first one I’ve written from my own personal perspective, because it dawned on me that I needed to introduce my own Creature to the BYC project. The freedom to be my Creature among other inspiring women led me to committing as a presence here in this beloved BYC community we are building around the shared theme of self-love and unapologetic creative expression.
So here are my musings on Wild Woman Fest, straight from my Creature’s wild heart to yours ❤
Although I often encourage others to practice self-care, it easily remains my own top priority and simultaneously biggest challenge. I mean, I take better care of my lenses and hard drives more than I do my own body and emotional well-being. I often push myself until I burn out, force myself to relax, and then repeat the cycle. Frustrated, pent-up energy internally ricochets and keeps me teetering on a ledge of unfulfilled goals. My brain, turned up to full volume, drowns out the wise little voice telling me to go walk in the forest barefoot, naked, and alone. I need to give myself this grounding time as much as I need to eat, sleep, breathe, and work.
As I predicted, Wild Woman Fest served as a place to give myself what I needed, to move at my own pace, and connect with what I felt called to.
It was such an amazing experience, a beautiful opportunity to grow and shed emotional restraints in a perfectly safe space. I was constantly surrounded by compassion and love, the two necessary elements for deep, soulful healing.
Wild Woman Fest taught me how to flow with what there is, not what I imagine it should be like. Seeing other women bravely embrace their vulnerability encouraged me to do the same. It taught me how to let go of the urgency I associate with my own personal growth. I now understand that I may not process what others do until much later, and that we all process emotional growth differently.
This festival was another space where I was given full permission to be my Creature – to proudly present her, adorned and outwardly owning her full fledged beauty. Participating was the opportunity I was craving to connect with other Creatures and observe their emotional journey through self-expression.
I would now like to share some words by my sweet friend Blue, as transcribed from our conversation the day we returned.
Part 2: Blue’s Reflection
I was completely blown away by how pure the intention was of every single woman there. I mean, there are always masks, always egos….but here, I didn’t feel like anyone was hiding. And if they were self conscious, they were like, ‘look at me, I’m self conscious. This is what I’m working through.’ There wasn’t any holding back. That is remarkable. I haven’t experienced anything like that.
“There’s a point at which you plant the seed, and it just grows. And all you need to do is go around it, tend it, give it love, and support it… but it really kind of grows on its own.”
I have no idea what it’s like to work inside of it, but from the outside it just looked natural. Chris Maddox, the founder of theWild Woman Project and facilitator of Wild Woman Fest didn’t even seem stressed, just a little tired. I can’t even imagine how much joy she feels. It’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me in my life, and she knew that that could happen for people. To be sitting there next to 150 women all experiencing this thing, this massive healing that she knew could happen… and to have created it… I can’t even put myself in her shoes. I imagine it’s deeply, deeply powerful and moving for her.
I also loved how all the presenters were equally participating. All of us would be moving around, and then one woman would pull out of the group and guide everyone and then rejoin, like an amoeba. Everything just flowed, and I think that’s part of the feminine. We all have different modes of transformation… And Chris did a really beautiful job of showing that diversity in different ways. So I think that every woman walked away with something very powerful, which would not have happened if all the presenters were more similar or not as integrated.
I felt very supported in becoming my Creature, especially during the nighttime ceremonies. Most of our Creatures aren’t supported in daily life. We have a certain idea of what people should be, and our Creatures usually are not that. So it’s a really beautiful, short-lived experience to get to be your Creature. And so to have all of these women – every night, completely coming into their power and becoming their Creature, howling together…or whimpering, or singing, or crying or whatever your Creature does – you feel like you’re really being held up by these women, these Creatures. It’s incredible to see all of these women, how they express their pain, how they hold each other during the most intense moments. And we could all sit there and hold space for others to be super raw.
We all have different paths to finding that part of ourselves, and remembering that we’re whole.
“You should never have to prove yourself, because your existence doesn’t need validation.”
Stepping onto the field, lush and fertile, Rebecca was in her element. A cottage sat, nestled in the wilderness ahead. A forest expanded beyond, not untouched, but sparsely inhabited by humans. She proceeded to show me the land, reflecting on the parts of it that she felt most called to, sharing her appreciation of these surroundings. The meadow, the woods… it all felt so sacred, especially after spending weeks in the active city of Seattle.
“There’s a renewal that happens when we seek out what we refer to as nature, or a more rural setting,” Rebecca mused. “There’s a clarity that comes to one’s mind, and that’s incredibly hard to explain. I know for me, it means a level of solitude, being alone in a setting like this is a reminder of what can be found.”
Rebecca and I hadn’t seen each other in quite a few years. We have known each other since we were children, as we were both raised Quaker and attended retreats together. A Quaker retreat is essentially a gathering of sweet, friendly adolescent children facilitated by a group of equally loving adults. I remember her as having boundless energy, bounding around, climbing on people’s backs. She was a little whirlwind of delightful excitement, back then. Now her demeanor is calm and patient, though her eyes sparkle with an intellectual curiosity that draws one in, commands respect. When I found out that she was in Washington state when I was going to be in Seattle, we immediately made plans to get together, and I took a ferry out to see her. She was cottage/dog sitting for a friend and mentor, and so we played a little two-friend, two-dog family for the week that I stayed with her. It was lovely and refreshing to step away from the incessant work I was doing on my projects, my business. Being with her allowed me to soak in the present moment, instead of continuously living in the future.
As we walked through the field and up the hill, she engaged with nature in such tender ways. Gently grazing her hand across the grass, lovingly stepping over plants and naturally navigating the terrain. She shared that “if you can hone in on specific things in life and find communion with them, then they will bring you to a healthier state with nature.”
“There are so many things that we perceive as demanding of our attention, but when you’re staring at trees, they ask for your attention. They beg you to sense when the breeze is going through them, and it’s never enough. They’re so infinite that you can look at them and find something new in their being every day, because you’re different every day and they’re different every day. That infinite relationship needs as much work as your college finances.”
Her appreciation for the subtleties of nature that many people overlook served as an invitation to deepen my own awareness. I observed her observing nature, practicing gratitude every second she was immersed in it. It was more than simply being in nature… than observing it… she was actively being part of it, mindfully entwined.
“I feel I spend a lot of my time looking outwards for what I need, or what I believe I need. Being in nature is kind of like a reminder to come into one’s self. To look inwards and find that sustenance.”
She showed me paths on the ground that were made by tiny mice, running back and forth, paving a trail through habitual traveling. How similar this pattern is to our own, as a species. In some historical cities and towns, we have commuted along the same roads so many times that they have been paved, marking their permanence.
She and I began this journey with trust. As the afternoon went on, and anxieties of being photographed rose in waves, we had an ongoing dialogue centered around trust and reinforcing trust. I could see and feel the moments she softened and became most comfortable just being and letting me capture that.
“Sometimes my body speaks louder than I want it to” She expressed in a moment of vulnerability.“It can be a tool in that way, a platform for your voice. Sometimes it’s difficult when that platform out-speaks your voice, and then you’re left thinking was that me or was it my platform?”
We started to venture into the woods, talking about our bodies, and how she’s experienced the transition into womanhood. “I say ashamed, but what I mean is: becoming aware, gaining an awareness of the body and what it looks like in reference to what you’ve seen of other bodies, and allowing that to be internalized, instead of allowing it to be other peoples’ problems. As I gradually became aware of my own body, I felt the need to self criticize or find defects in it.”
“It’s easier to say, damn, I wish this system was different, that people were more honest about this reality surrounding the diversity of bodies. But it’s not.” Inhabiting our bodies as women, we pondered, through all the inevitable changes that come with time and age. They can sometimes feel like a burden, though simultaneously, a joy. We discussed how we are always striving to approach ourselves with compassion and joy.
“I can only change it by telling myself every day that the way I feel and exist as a body is beautiful and whole as long as I take care of it and am attentive to it. And if I do that, if I concentrate all my energy on that, and exist that way in the world…then my life will speak, and it will touch others.”
Standing exposed in the mud, eyes closed, wind blowing gracefully through her hair, a smile warming her face, full of so much joy and contentment, she found herself fully as her creature. I shared in her contentment, thankful for her presence. ♥
Post Written by Meghan Carmichael in collaboration with Augusta Rose
Marta is a radiant creature. She speaks with clarity indicative of deep attunement with her emotions and intuition. She speaks her truth eloquently and unabashedly. Her willingness to open herself and share her story has translated into recognition of her creature’s power. I welcome you to revel in her power through her words and these images.
Stay beautiful, creatures. ∞
“I’m in this place in my life where I feel this transition from hiding to wanting to be seen. And it’s not just about “see me,” it’s about “I have something valuable to contribute, but in order to get to the gem, I have to go through the vulnerability.” One of the most vulnerable things for me is to be seen in a camera. There’s something about that that feels solid, like there is an opportunity for more ideas or judgement to be formed about me.”
“I want to meet that vulnerability and share all of myself, I want to be seen for all of myself. I have less desire to hide my vulnerability; I feel it is a strength of mine to contribute that piece. Going into a place that feels edgy, and sharing myself anyway.That’s what I get excited about; when I see other women sharing their imperfections without shame, or even with shame, but doing it anyway. That’s so inspiring to me.”
[on being vulnerable]: “I’ve practiced a lot. It takes a lot of repetition. Even doing this photo project with you, I’m making a choice to do something that’s a little outside of my comfort zone. Making the choice to move into the place of discomfort, over and over and over and over again, and slowly it releases. I also have trust. I didn’t always trust that process but now that I’ve done it so many times, I see where I am as opposed to where I was. I now have so much trust for the process that I’m willing to take bigger risks.”
“I shared a song in a circle the other day and I was really scared…I could be kinda cute and be like“I’m scared!” [high pitched voice] but the other choice is to actually let myself feel awkward, share from that place of awkwardness. It’s not about creating a beautiful song, it’s about sharing what’s true for me…there’s some element of being seen, having some kind of reflection that can help me get out of my own way.”
“There are two different modes I can be at. One of them is a striving mode, the idea that an ideal body exists in that striving mode. But in the other mode, that doesn’t even feel relevant. It’s just “how can I love myself fully right now?” It’s hard to say it because sometimes I’m still striving. It’s not about idealism, it’s about curiosity and wonder.”
“I oscillate between thinking that a certain shape brings happiness, and then not believing that, just reveling in happiness.”
[on self-care routines]: “To me, self-care is pausing. Allowing myself to pause and take up space, to allow whatever would be the most caring action to emerge. Being silent with myself. Allowing myself to feel.I think of gentleness. From that place of gentleness, self-care emerges.”
“I have to allow myself to really feel the dissatisfaction before I will choose something different. I love this quote by Charles Eisenstein: “True discipline is really just self-remembering; no forcing or fighting is necessary.” When we’re in moments of clarity, we can really soak that up, so when we are unclear, the discipline is just remembering the clarity. That’s a gentle way to come to clarity: knowing I was clear about this, and even though I’m not clear right now I remember being clear about this. That’s the discipline; making the choice that we know deep within ourselves.”
“Once we have awareness, we can start making choices. Without having the awareness, we stop making choices.”
“My intention is to show up in curiosity, with all of myself, and to step into the edge of vulnerability, which for me often includes body image and how I’m seen by others.”
“To explore that edge, playing with identity, allowing myself to be seen as a woman.”
Marta Moon and photojournalist Augusta Rose, absorbing wild Oregon’s beautiful nature.