Interview With Tanya Markul & Amber Shumake
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]elcome to our first interview in our "Enlightenment Is Sexy Interview Series," in which I'll be taking a brief, beautiful hike through the mountains and valleys of consciousness with imaginative, empowered people, leading-edge visionaries, and culture-boosting folks in a wide variety of fields. Now, I can't think of a better way to kick off this party than talking to two wizard-level, wide-awake women like Tanya and Amber. Tanya Markul is the co-founder & Editor-In-Chief of one of the most kick ass blogs on the planet, Rebelle Society, and Amber Shumake, yoga instructor extraordinaire, who tops my list of empowered women I know, having the force of an ocean and the determination of a tiger.
Welcome to EIS, ladies. Now tell me everything.
1.What prompted each of you to start meditating? How have you seen your life change since you started meditating?
Amber: I first learned to meditate around the age of eight. You see, I needed it that soon. The thought of school and social events terrified me. My father brought home guided meditation tapes from a metaphysical minister. In today's society, I'd be labeled a highly sensitive person (hsp) because I suffered with strange ailments - everything from insomnia to stomach flus - because I could feel others' feelings and energy.
Back then, I was weird, anxious, socially awkward, and riddled with fear. Over the past 25 years, my meditation practice has waxed and waned. I've had spells where I can sit for 45 minutes and it feels like the blink of an eye. And sometimes, 3 minutes of quiet stillness prompts me to try to climb out of my skin. I believe the only bad meditation is the one you don't do; however, my ability to sit in meditation speaks volumes about my spiritual condition. I desperately need to seek conscious contact with the Divine.
It's through meditation that I begin to sift through my ego's lies and hear the Truth. Since I've committed to a regular meditation practice, I sleep with more ease. I can delineate between where I end and others begin. In other words, I am willing to touch the pain and suffering of others and invite in the light without becoming overcome with grief. I experience the full stream of life as it arrives with more emotional sobriety. I like to think I am a better listener, less judgmental and more compassionate.
Tanya: I can’t remember the exact first time I meditated and I definitely didn’t know I was ‘meditating’, but I started over two decades ago when I lost my grandfather, then my grandmother — both of which were my registered guardians aka my parents. The desire to meditate for me was triggered by strong emotions — intense sadness, crazy stress and desperate loneliness. I didn’t know or have any other tools to deal with my inner pain and sitting quietly with my eyes closed felt natural and one of the only things I could do aside from write in my journal. I didn’t fantasize or force myself to think ‘happy’ thoughts. I’d just sit there and eventually I’d start to feel my brain ‘relax’. And that’s all I did for a very long time. It was when I got into a physical practice of yoga, that I learned different meditation techniques. How has it changed my life? Well I say it has slowed everything down and has helped to create more space to observe and feel all of my inner stuff.
2. So, why add yoga? How has yoga enhanced your life?
Amber: For me, yoga - at least as we think of it in the West as asana, or physical postures - is the preparation for meditation. It is difficult for me to sit still if I'm experiencing stiffness in my back or tightness in my hips. I like to think of my physical, emotional, and energetic bodies as a water hose. And ideally, life - like water - should move through the hose. But, inevitably, some experiences cause kinks in the line, and we feel blocked. Yoga gets the energy moving again so we can live mindfully and in feeling.
Tanya: Yoga was something I was drawn to and had no idea why, but I kept showing up again and again. Over time I realized the reflection the practice offers — of course you get a lot of other physical things, but the self-observation was and is INCREDIBLE. Learning to listen to your inner dialogue is scary, potent and one of the most brave things I think we could ever do, especially now in this time. It is a tremendous act of compassion and self-love. In my opinion. And, the point of yoga posture practice, as one of my teachers used to say, is to wear us out so we can sit in meditation. How has it enhanced my life? It has taught me to feel the sensations of my body. It has helped to bring me to life.
3. You both seem to love connecting with other humans on a creative level. What made you each start the enterprises you’re now involved in?
Tanya, what inspired you to start Rebelle Society (with Andrea Balt)? Amber, what moved you to start teaching yoga?
Amber: Yoga has been a regular part of my life for over 11 years, though I didn't begin teaching until 4 years ago. I was reluctant to make a practice that felt so sacred to me, a career. When I elected to go to yoga teacher training, people asked me where I planned to teach upon my completion, and I remember saying, "I don't know." I didn't know if I would teach yoga. I was a photographer and an English teacher. In addition, I was pursuing a graduate degree in counseling. I signed up for the training because I knew something in my life needed to change. The fear of remaining the same outweighed the fear of change. At the time, I drank 5-7 vodkas until I passed out each night.
I spent a month with Ana Forrest whose training requires trainees to be free of all drugs - even caffeine. In hindsight, I don't recommend detoxing in that manner. I didn't understand the danger. I didn't know I was an addict. I thought an addict was someone who begged for money underneath a bridge. Little did I know. That month was the first time I'd been sober since the age of 13 or so. Teaching yoga allowed me to utilize the energetic gifts that had long plagued me. I could sense how to approach my students, where they were hurting, how to use my words and hands to help them in their healing. I look forward to every opportunity I receive to share the sacred practice that continues to help heal me.
Tanya: Andréa and I co-founded Rebelle Society to 1) have a limitless conversation with unique creators around the world about how creativity is and can be an evolutionary and revolutionary force; 2) to inspire our collective consciousness to become liberated from its current boundaries, and to move toward a mindset where we all compassionately recognize our common ground yet encourage and welcome each human being’s unique expression; and 3) to Celebrate the Art of Being Alive.
4. How important is balance to you in achieving your bigger goals? When you feel off-balance, what else besides yoga or meditation brings you back to center?
Amber: I've stopped seeking balance. It's too elusive. And it sets me up for failure because it seems I'm always lacking somewhere. Life ebbs and flows. One of my mentors says, "Sometimes we trudge and sometimes we get to sail." There is beauty in both. I do find, however, that if I forego meditation, the many other aspects of self care that contribute to feeling centered are quick to follow. Sleep, high frequency food, writing, nature, collaboration and community - these are other aspects that help me feel more grounded in my higher self.
Tanya: I’m sure balance is important and something I could benefit from, but I teach and write for a living. I’m a new mom and have an extraordinary husband and supportive friends, so the idea of living balanced life gets sort of pushed to the bottom of the list. There are days when I drink too much caffeine, don’t get enough sleep, stay up way too late, practice too hard or too little. So what I try to focus on everyday is what makes me feel the most healthy and the most alive. And I try to give my attention and heart to the people who support who I am and what I’m doing and I do just that for in for them in return. I guess you could call that balance. And when I really need to get grounded, or find balance, if I’m not doing yoga or meditating, I’ll watch and play with my 1 year-old son or I’ll head out to consult the trees.
5. Both of you are passionate, insightful bloggers. What drives or inspires each of you to write and share your words?
Amber: I feel that so much of what I write comes through from a wiser part of me. I am essentially a channel. Sometimes I wish I'd not published certain things. But, through sharing what I write, I remember I'm not alone. And, as I give voice to my fears and dreams, I feel a sense of accountability. The path I've taken to this moment has been rugged to say the least. When I share pieces of my story, I hope to spare others from pain and shame. I like to imagine placing my past in a storage unit and leaving the door cracked just a bit. As I let the light in, I can remember how far I've come, and that progress motivates me to keep making the impossible, possible.
Tanya: Sharing is something that scares the shit out of me but something I feel I was put here to do. I spent the first part of my life hiding who I was, all the trauma and all of my pain. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized that there were so many other people trying to find a way to deal with their own stuff. I’m still figuring this all out. I just want to find good people to walk beside and for them to know they can walk beside me and I’ll offer everything I can in the most sincere way I know how.
6. Would you please share with our readers one valuable insight you’ve learned about writing? About yoga?
Amber: One valuable insight about writing and yoga...hmmmm...with both writing and yoga, I've never stepped away from the page nor the mat and felt as if the time was wasted. Both practices continue to change me in the best of ways.
Tanya: They are both tools that have helped me in subtle and profound ways. They’re tools I work with every single day and something I could never imagine not having in my life. Both reflect and tell a story of our inner worlds and it's that inner world we’re all living in right now. Both are tools to help you feel, see, love, heal, do and create — and they hand the reigns back over to you.
7. The upcoming online yoga & writing workshop you’re both leading looks awesome! What’s your biggest wish for your students?
Amber: I've heard it said that you should create what you'd like to happen. For me, this is it. When you combine yoga, writing, and meditation, magic happens. I hope to help people rise in the morning in the recognition that who they are and what they do matters to this world. Never will there be another soul exactly like you. At once, we are similar in our fears and dreams, and completely unique. Together, I believe, we can collectively awaken and do our part to raise the vibration of the planet.
Tanya: It’s my sincerest wish that everyone who walks with us on this course arrives closer to whatever it is they searching for in this life.
A published author, contributor to Mind Body Green andRebelle Society, trained counselor, photographer, and yoga teacher, Amber (www.ambershumake.com) writes and teaches from her soul. Yoga continues to save her daily, so she shares the practice far and wide, inviting her students to heal one breath (and handstand) at a time. Having trained with Ana Forrest, Seane Corn, Dharma Mittra, and Judith Lasater, Amber’s style is as eclectic and complex as she is. Integrating meticulous sequencing with thoughtful alignment, she weaves inspiring flow with authentic spiritual teachings. Through laughter, frequent sweat and grateful tears, you can expect to heal your heart, ignite your soul, and return to truth.
Tanya Lee Markul is a quirky creative and yogini who writes. She is a devoted student to the sacred art of Self-Discovery, Authentic Creative Expression and Wellness Alchemy. She is the creator of Thug Unicorn and Yoga Write Now. She is the Editor-In-Chief & Co-Founder of Rebelle Society and co-creator of Rebelle Wellness
[bctt tweet="I've never stepped away from the page nor the mat and felt as if the time was wasted."]