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.