This conversation started on June 6th, 2018. Love fiercely and regularly.
Debby, how young are you?
I’m 7.14285714 in dog years. My soul is much older.
How old is your soul?
I’m not sure I could put an exact timeline on it, but I feel as though my entire life I’ve been able to step back and view the bigger picture of things. Like “don’t sweat the petty things; pet the sweaty things” is a good motto.
I have been able to ignore labels, and not allow peers nor society to define me.
Not saying my path has been without any major mishaps and some floundering years, but there is wisdom in accepting who I am without need for approval or acceptance that feels like ancient wisdom to me.
You live your life without approval or acceptance. How do you accomplish that?
Well, being over 50 helps. But I’m pretty sure I’ve spent much of my life choosing things, acting or dressing the way I want, not based on what society says. I see this spirit in my children too and it’s either that we all have the same condition, or that I’ve demonstrated this.
Either way, I know that we all begin life a clean slate. No one yet has criticized our choices nor offered us society’s expectations. We gather these along the way. First from well-meaning family members, then the input group grows to include peers, media and society.
All the while we add these labels to our definition of our Self. Many of the labels are not accurate. If you choose to allow words from people and messages from media to dictate who you are, you risk becoming nothing at all, or at least not very happy. You won’t be YOU. You’ll be this conglomeration of labels others made up. Because I figured out how much better I feel when I’m doing me, and not what “society” says I should be doing at any age, I have been able to live a more carefree life. This in turn frees up my mind and my time for creativity and living.
Where do you live? and why?
My home is in St. Louis, MO, where I’m raising two teens. St. Louis is a city rich with the means and social structures to raise a family. Generations of families live here. That holds people more accountable and provides a nice network for support in raising humans. My small immediate family is scattered all over the southwest, and I visit them as often as I’m able, but St. Louis has become my home. When my youngest (14) flies the coop, I plan to set out on a year-long adventure with a home on wheels to discover more nooks of our nation. But today, I am satisfied to dwell here and explore the world on work trips and planned excursions.
Can you share a verbal sketch of where this year-long adventure will take you?
No. Ha. Ok, I’ll try. Mind you this plan begins in four years, and I tend to live in the now, because I forget the past pretty quick and have to rely on my iBrain to remind me of what I’m doing in the future, so…I know I want to explore more states where there are rocks to sport climb. I began climbing rocks 3 years ago and have now sport climbed in 11 states. So that will be my priority. Next up will be those places where friends reside. I’ve got former roommates and close friends all over the U.S. and Colorado has always been on my radar, and I’ve spent much time there over the years. So maybe I’ll bum around there for a couple seasons, skiing and climbing and yoga-ing my way all around that state. Key West holds sweet energy I connect to as well. San Diego has some sand that has been missing my toes too. We’ll see.
Why did you start rock climbing?
My very first time was at a gym where my 8-year-old son wanted to climb the rock wall. I got certified to belay him right away so that we could go whenever we wanted. There was a gap in our climbing as my 15 year marriage ended, but I have since began to explore climbing again and my son joined me for many adventures in it. We even celebrated his 13th birthday at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas for a climbing weekend. My favorite aspect of climbing, outside especially, is the way you forge new neural pathways in your mind that are all about conquering fear and reminding yourself of just how much of a badass (borrowing from you) you really are. Each time I lead climb to the top of a cliff, and especially cleaning a route,
I get this giddy joy of knowing that I am capable of breathing through fear and believing in me. It is such a rewarding feeling. It’s like a drug.
When someones asks you, Debby what do you do? What is your answer?
I always go with the “for a living” answer. When in my 20s (many dog years ago) I used to decide not to date a guy who would open with this question. It used to get under my skin that we are judged and sized up based on a job title. I also felt like it was such a cliché conversation starter that me and this non-creative type would not get along. Now, much wiser (notice I didn’t say older), I understand that this is one of our labels we attach to ourselves due to the large amount of time we dedicate in our lives to career. When I was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, I would answer, “Wipe… I wipe butts, tables, high chairs, faces, hands etc. It’s all I do is wipe.” But today, I have a couple of answers. I provide digital marketing in the health and wellness industry and I teach yoga around the globe. I also still wipe.
Lets try this. Why do you think you are here? What are you here to add to the world?
I feel like we are all here as humans for this tiny blip to learn and grow and weave love into our surroundings for every inhabitant. My ability to connect people and connect to people gifts me with the purpose of helping others find their “families.” Through organizing conscious living retreats, festivals, events, workshops and classes, I regularly lead folks to the healing of mindfulness and yoga. Many people arrive to my events with a friend, and when that friend announces he/she is a novice to yoga, I become the gateway. And I mean, who doesn’t want to add Gateway to Consciousness to their resume? When I breathe my final breath some day (50+ years from now) I will know that I helped bring people together; helped them face fears; helped them dig deep within and find more love; and helped them connect. And that is why I believe I’m here. Plus, making people giggle-snort. That’s a gift I offer free.
Making people giggle snort is quite a gift. What gifts do you most enjoy from other humans?
I find those humans who offer that thing we have all heard or read in a meme,
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
The people I come across who authentically openly accept and feel. They don’t waste time discussing others, because they are secure in who they are. They listen. Pause, and offer this hug of their energy field. You feel it. I also enjoy people who smile back. I find I’m drawn to intelligence, those who discuss ideas, instead of things or people. I feel especially giddy when people show up with whatever they are going through and offer honesty.
When you say you are helping others find their “families, can you elaborate on what family you are referring to?
I mean we all choose our families. We have blood, but those relationships can get messy and are not totally ones we might choose. The people we surround ourselves with become our family. So, by offering events that include all the ways in which my soul is set on fire, I am building mine I guess. But at the same time I offer ways to connect for many people. I create many events that have at their core, ways to connect. Like Acro Yoga for example. That has a family of people who practice it. It is this form of yoga that requires 3 people, a base, flyer and spotter. It involves all the earmarks of a healthy relationship: trust, communication, touch and play. So it’s no wonder it creates these little communities or families of friends.
Do you believe you’re going to live to 100 years of age?
Well, no one knows how long he/she has, but when I wrote it without that caveat it sounded morbid.
The gateway to consciousness is a beautiful thing to have on your resume, is it right next to wiping butts?
Somewhere between that and Director of Breath.
How do you help people face their fears?
I always ask in class if anyone is trying this for a first time and I know how trying something new can be scary, so there’s one way.
When guiding an inversions workshop, I find a lot of fears being crushed. There’s two.
Then I guess teaching friends about climbing at a crag would likely be on this list.
I ask this seriously, do you really crush fear? Or do you just learn how to manage it and not let it control you?
I would say both. I believe in me. I tell my kids, that the first step to accomplishing anything is believing you can. Otherwise you wouldn’t even try. So by believing in me, it doesn’t leave room for fear.
What is your relationship with fear?
Clipping on an arête, while climbing above the bolt say 300 feet from where the car is parked.
All things that can scare me. But I continue to try them. I continue to breathe and believe.
Scuba diving is on my fear list and for some reason I don’t think that is one I’ll face. It’s a lot of steps and all to get to try it, but I may have some residual Jaws issues that weird me out under water. On top of water I’m good. Just that feeling of being exposed in every direction is a tad unnerving.
What was the scariest part of JAWS for you?
The music. And let’s just say, I’ll only skinny dip in fresh water.
Why is something as beautiful as love scary to you?
Intimacy comes with a cost. The cost of love, is grief and heartbreak. It’s the pain of losing love that is frightening. Not the love itself. Loving intimately is natural for me. I feel loving kindness toward all life and choose it. I would not be honest if I didn’t say I find it scary too.
What is your favorite scary movie and why?
Oh, this is a tough one. These movies are situational. I recall seeing Strangers just after buying a somewhat secluded vacation home. I literally shook the whole row of seats in that theater and closed my eyes more often than I had them open during the film. The Ring was a creepy scary. I found Hostel terrifying in that the concept almost seemed like it could happen. I especially dig a good thriller. I had nightmares about No Country for Old Men and I had read the book before seeing the film. Or maybe that was me dreaming about Javier. The best scary movies to me are unpredictable while actually possible.
Breathe and believe what has that philosophy helped you get through?
I believe in six impossible things before breakfast. (quoting here)
Believing is the first step really. If you don’t believe, you will not try something new. And trying new things is how we grow and discover our interests and path. But if you do not believe enough to try, well then…
I believe I am infinitely capable, and that the Universe will continue to deliver what I need. I believe in the power of love.
And as for breathing, it is mandatory. However, deep focused breathing is where it’s at. That’s where the magic happens. Focusing on lengthening out the breath and expanding deeply into the full lungs delivers a soothing effect to the central nervous system and allows one to become more present. It has softened my spikes, and helped me situate the emphasis I place on external events, helping me reflect versus react.
So see, breathe and believe are pretty good mottos.
What have you recently tried that is NEW?
I just got a yoga swing. That is up next. I’m going to begin teaching Marketing 101 in September. That will be new. I am writing a class for a yoga retreat at Kripalu on journaling and Yoga (two symbiotic passions) and that is new. This year I began teaching mindfulness to kids through puppetry with my boyfriend and that is new to me. I have been playing with marionettes and loving the place it takes me.
Can you share with us your path to becoming a Yoga Evangelist?
I began yoga in my mid 40s after trying it at a Women’s Weekend I used to coordinate. I stepped into a yoga class inside a yurt at the retreat center and found out I still had the flexibility of Little Debby (not the snack cake, but close). Little Debby was a gymnast, so I have some residual flexibility. People told me I was “good at yoga,” and I felt I could perform the asanas, so my ego was all on board for this yoga journey. Well, as this practice tends to do, the focusing on my breath and choosing mindfulness snuck in and began shifting me. At 48, I decided to delve deeper and sought out a yoga teacher training program. Originally thinking it would expand my understandings and provide me more credibility as a web content provider in the wellness industry, I soon became determined to teach it. I have been for two years now. It has changed my life.
I love the idea of putting the word yoga next to evangelist, what was your idea and purpose behind that combination?
I feel like it depicts me. I like to spread the good word about the practice of yoga and especially outside the studio to the “non-believers” on the streets. So I often joked I was like a yoga evangelist. Plus, the domain name was available. And Vegan-Evangelist.com which is my next new thing. So there’s that 21st century reasoning.
How has Yoga changed your life and your body and mind?
I am much more even keel and present since regularly practicing yoga. It has centered me and made me stronger physically and mentally. It also sponsors my gratitude attitude. I learned from Naada Guerra at a Wanderlust Yoga Festival to ask the Universe daily,
“How does it get any better than this?” and this teaching alone has altered my trajectory toward a more fully actualized life.
So there you go. It has changed everything. And with yoga’s seemingly endless teachings (including many from my students), I do believe I’ll be learning from it and continuing to have my life altered by it for all my remaining decades.
How does it get any better than this? How has that question altered the trajectory of your life?
We all ask the universe for things.
It’s not always a conscious process, but through our hopes and dreams, every one of us puts in requests in one form or another. Whether it’s to God, the universe, source, a higher power, cosmic energy; it doesn’t really matter. Asking for something can work. So why not compound that with a daily request for improving that which acknowledges your gratitude for the current state you’re in? I have forwarded Naada’s wisdom onto others and each time invite my friend to keep note of the date and in six months get back to me with their progress. So far, all have had multiple ways in which their lives have been enhanced by this simple task. Try it Scott. Today can be your start date. (Maybe in six months when we’re still writing this thing, you can tell me how it worked.)
It’s not to say that my life since taking Naada’s advice has just catapulted to new daily heights. I’m a self-employed single mom of two teens, one of whom was diagnosed with a lifelong serious disease the day after I attended Naada’s presentation at Wanderlust Oahu. So I have my roller coaster seat. But there is so much power in our thoughts that this philosophy makes perfect sense. A part of me thinks that when we ask for things, it is our unconscious that provides the answers, but I also kinda wonder if our unconscious minds are linked to something greater.
For example, have you ever heard of the Ho’oponopono mantra that a Hawaiian doctor used to cure an entire hospital of criminally insane patients without ever meeting any of them? Look it up. It’s powerful stuff.
How do you practice daily gratitude?
I write each morning as part of my meditation, one sentence on gratitude in my Happiness Journal by Gretchen Rubin. Ok, well, I miss about half. But I think it if I don’t have the journal with me. In the vegan diner on wheels my partner and I recently brought to some area festivals, I created a Happiness Jar. I ask each person who dines with us to write on a slip of paper something that they’re grateful for or something that makes them happy and place it in the jar. Then when I’m pummeling down that coaster track of emotional responses, I open it and see how sometimes it’s as simple as a puppy or a warm place to sit, someone showing us kindness or the clear blue skies. Gratitude shows up for me then in a big way.
When is it hardest for you to be grateful and how do you work through that to stay grounded in humility and gratitude?
Hardest… hmm…. I think those moments happen when all the things pile on. When that wooden roller coaster bench is moving fast, and my seatbelt feels not quite tight enough, and my teeth are clenched. Did I mention I have two teenagers? I mean some days I can get a little pissed at the Universe. Ask any mom who has a kid diagnosed with a chronic illness, I’m guessing she’ll have some moments of thanklessness. Adulting is hard. Parenting harder. My yoga practice is seriously how I find my way.
It is clever how this practice snuck me in under the guise of being about strengthening and building flexibility and now it is my sanity and balancing space for my head and soul.
Adulting is hard. Parenting is hard. Is life supposed to be hard?
If life offered no challenges we’d be robots, void of intentions and feelings. While adulting and parenting present challenges (did I mention I have two teenagers?), the fifty years of experience as a human do proffer some value when tackling them. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do maintain that the power of our mindset is most important when faced with any opportunity or obstacle. My “How-does-it-get-any-better-than-this? neural pathways are well grooved. I’m not stifled by limiting beliefs. Those ruts in my brain have been filled in with the stuff dug out to form the grooves connecting positive thoughts with positive outcomes.
What does JOY Look, sound, smell, or feel like to you?
What an incredible question.
JOY sounds like a child’s giggle, or any giggle… especially those breathy, slightly insane sounding ones. The ones when you hear them they’re contagious and cause you to join in.
JOY smells like my daughter’s hair, my dog, my glitter covered yoga mat (long story. I’m the one in class who rolls it out and glitter flies off.).
I feel JOY most often when sharing it. When anonymously helping someone who needs it. When the little old lady in chair yoga farts and our laughter ripples through everyone in the room.
I see JOY in my dog’s intense tail wag. I know JOY when my entire being exudes hope and I just feel like oscillating glee.
JOY is contagious. Find me and I’ll show you.
If Debby with a “Y” was exiting this existence and could be broadcast around the world on her deathbed. What would you say to everyone on this planet?
WOW, another self reflecting sentence. Ok. I would say:
Remember that on a very basic scientific level, we are each just DNA trying to survive. When you reflect on this, you will spend less time caught up in others’ drama and will allow them to be in their moment while you are living in each of your moments. Tell people you love them by your actions and then your words. Your funeral suit won’t have pockets.
Love fiercely and regularly. And spread glitter with your yoga mat.
Debby Siegel, Yoga Evangelist, Director of Breath, Gateway to Consciousness, and Expert Wiper
Follow Debby @ http://yoga-evangelist.com