Had I known the depths that my yoga practice would take me I doubt I would have had the courage to step foot on the mat. Truth be told, I started taking yoga classes as a way of relieving stress. I was in search of love and light and cotton candy. I was bound and determined to be peaceful and happy even if it kills me. Some days, it seems that my practice is doing just that... killing me. In reality, it is killing "Me".
In yoga-land they use the analogy of peeling away the layers of an onion to describe the peeling away of the masks and stories that we have created around this idea of what or who "Me" is. When I peel an onion it makes me cry. The same is true with the peeling away of the layers of "Me". There are inevitably tears and pain involved when we start to peel away the masks. We feel raw and vulnerable. There's also fear. Fear of what's underneath the mask and stories of our lives? How will people react to me without the mask? Who am I under the stories and masks?
What keeps us peeling away, despite the pain and fear, is the promise of discovering who we really are at our core. What is the essence of who we are without the stories, without the masks? It's the promise of nirvana or bliss that keeps us returning to the painful practice of peeling away. Some days I want to give up. Some days it seems the onion has no many layers that I'll never reach the center.
Other days, I feel lighter for having discarded so many layers already and I feel inspired to keep going.
It seems to me that the beginning layers peel away rather easy. It actually feels liberating and freeing to let go of the story that I needed to live up to the standards set by Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart or Leave it to Beaver's mom. The beginning layers are more superficial. As you let go you feel invigorated and it propels you onward. Like peeling paint from the front porch. At first, the pieces that weren't so attached come away easy and I think to myself "How hard could it be?".
Once the superficial layers get cleared away you start to work on the layers that have been there a little longer. These stories and masks are ones that we have been carrying for a lot longer and we're more attached to. They get harder to shake loose. We start to question whether or not it's worth the effort to remove them or maybe, like the front porch, we want to just paint over those layers and pray for the best.
This journey of self-discovery is not for the faint of heart. The deeper our practice is the deeper it takes us into the dark corners of our minds. At some point, we reach those stories that we are sure are entwined into the very fibers of our being. How will I ever peel those away?
While peeling away the paint on the porch, we got to a point where some of the wood was coming away with the paint. That's what it feels like for me right now. It feels like some of the very fibers of my being are being peeled away along with the story. The pain feels more like grief. Grief is a natural response to loss. Even if the loss is just a story of who we thought we were. I didn't, however, expect grief to be a part of the practice that was suppose to bring me to love and light and cotton candy.
There is fear, and vulnerability in the rawness of letting go of these deep layers of the story of "Me". Who will I be when this layer is gone? This story is, by far, the most painful to let go of. Will I have the courage and strength to tackle the next one? How much more pain and grief must I endure before I reach this elusive state of bliss? Is it even worth the effort? Today, I surrender to the feet of the Divine Mother who soothes all pain and grief.
Monday, December 28, 2015
Friday, December 18, 2015
Why is there always a sense of urgency about things? Why does it seem like time is running out? Always hurrying from one thing to the next. Time spent on anything but busyness is wasteful. "I wish I had more time!" people are always saying. I read a quote somewhere that said something like "Einstein and Michaelangelo had the same 24 hours you do." Some nights I hit my pillow so completely exhausted yet having accomplished nothing in particular.
The sense of urgency and needing to keep up causes so much unnecessary suffering. Life is moving so fast... Is it? Is time moving faster than it used to? Doesn't 24 hours still last 24 hours like they did 100 years ago? Time isn't what's moving so fast, we are. The question is, why?
A yoga teacher once said that whatever neurosis you have off the mat you bring to the mat with you. The same sense of urgency and busyness and needing to accomplish and keep up with others is just as prevalent in yoga-land as it is in the rest of society. The question is still, why?
In society we strive to accumulate promotions, possessions, money, bigger house, better car. Our children are pushed to excel at everything. They must make honor roll, play 5 sports and master musical instruments. We strive to make them "well rounded" by filling their days with structured activity. In yoga-land, it's the race to "awaken". We strive to accumulate training certificates, have the biggest "following", master the most advanced postures, teach the most yoga classes, run retreats and workshops and on and on and on. We want to be well rounded so we fill our time with everything yoga. We must become master teachers even if it kills us!
When I first started teaching yoga I was teaching upwards of 10 classes a week. In addition I was enrolled in a 500 hr advanced yoga teacher training program. I was also in a dysfunctional marriage, working full time and trying to raise 3 children. Since that time I completed 2 advanced yoga teacher training programs and a 500 hr Ayurveda lifestyle consultant course. People would always say to me "I don't know how you do it." "I'm so impressed that you can manage to do so much". From the outside I had it all together.... On the inside I was falling apart. I was running all the time... No one ever asked me what it was that I was running away from. What was the hole that I was trying to fill?
The last 2 years have been completely different. I'm teaching much less, I'm not taking any training programs, my marriage ended and my children often times fend for themselves. From the outside it looks like things are falling apart.... On the inside, things are coming together.
At the end of my Ayurveda training I asked my teacher "What's next? There's still so much more to learn." His reply? "Time to stop asking what's next." I took his advice. I stopped running, stopped trying to fill the hole with more training and started living the teachings. I took time to digest and assimilate all the beautiful, profound wisdom that has been shared with me by my teachers. I move more slowly and deliberately through life. Choosing how I spend my time and energy more carefully has made all the difference.
I'm learning that life is not a race to the finish line. It's a journey of discovery. I never took the time to enjoy life when I was so busy trying to keep up with everyone else. There are still moments when I feel a pang of jealousy when I hear about the training programs other teachers are taking or when someone has the means to quit their job or take a trip to India or whatever. I'm not saying that it's not good to have goals and ambition in life. I'm saying that I'm now questioning my motivation for what I do and considering the benefit verse the sacrifice.
Years ago my oldest got in trouble. I grounded her and sent her to her room without her phone. Several hours later she came downstairs to show me the beautiful tote bag she had sewn. Seems to me that when we can practice being still and holding space we open ourselves up to inspiration and creativity.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
What does releasing self-doubt look like? How will I know if it's self-doubt or a sign that I'm moving in the wrong direction? What if it's not intuition or Divine guidance but really just delusion? It seems to me that both delusion and following Divine guidance might look like chaos and craziness.
Maybe a better question would be what does releasing self-doubt feel like? At this point it feels scary and confusing. It feels scary when I forget that nothing is written in stone and nothing is permanent. I can change my mind and change my direction at any moment.
The option to change direction allows me to open up to the possibility that releasing self-doubt may feel liberating and exciting. What if I'm right about something? There's just as much possibility of being right as there is of being wrong. What if I discover that my intuition was right? How would that feel? What would change? Would that make releasing self-doubt easier? What if I'm wrong? Would the sky fall? Would the world come to an end? If I'm wrong about something is it really wrong if I learn something from the experience? How many great inventions were discovered by mistake?
Why is it that some people seem to be able to make choices and decisions without hesitation while others, like me, struggle with self-doubt? Where does this self-doubt come from? What caused it?
Was I just born with this quality or was it learned? Does it even matter? Is self-doubt the same as being cautious? Being caution serves a purpose. Does self-doubt have a purpose? I suppose it could be a helpful tool in keeping my ego in check but it's also what holds me back.
At this point, self-doubt isn't going to go away magically simply because I've set the intention. Setting the intention is the starting point to the work that lays ahead. Behavior patterns and habits take time and patience to change. Setting the intention is making the commitment to do the work.
When life feels like a test, self-doubt is harder to release. No one wants to fail at the test. When life feels like an adventure then releasing self-doubt becomes a little easier. There's no failing on an adventure.