“Sometimes when you fall, you fly.”
~ Neil Gaiman
On my much anticipated flight home to the United States, fresh off El Camino, I felt like I was moon walking. There was absolutely nothing that could bring my feet back down to earth. My 33-day trek across Northern Spain was like taking an extended yoga class. I had learnt the three L’s: living, loving and levitating. Somebody rain on my parade, I dare you. I’ll just fly up past the clouds and wait for the storm to pass.
Something happened in my second week home that clipped my wings and knocked me to my knees. I was struck by my present reality: no money, no job, no plans, student loans payments and a long-distance relationship. I had lost my independence. A shit storm of struggles quickly grounded my feet to the earth, and then, laughing, pulled the rug out from under me.
I was on my knees, hands pressed together in prayer.
So many thoughts whirled in my head. How did this happen? How can I get back to that place? How can I be that me again – that amazing, carefree, life-living, bad ass who walked across an entire country? Where are the attitudes of love and timelessness I had cultivated? How did I let the fear, insecurity and uncertainty back in?
If this is reality, I prefer the opposite.
And there it was, that important word, the clue to the next piece of my puzzle: opposite. The opposing forces that hold me together, the yin and yang that allow me to fly, can ultimately break me down if I can’t find a way to unite and balance them.
Here are 4 practices I embrace to unite yin and yang and to cultivate life balance:
1. Soften into Discomfort.
I have taken countless yoga classes where the teacher kicked my ass with a series of asanas, saying audacious things like, “Breathe into the discomfort” and “Are you clenching your jaw, gripping through your toes? Soften into the pose.” In those moments, I wanted to round house kick the teacher in the head, as sweat dripped from my furrowed brow and my arms and knees trembled. Holding chair pose for what felt like an eternity and a half sucked!
Softening into discomfort is a practice that allows us to locate our limits and stretch them. Sometimes this stretch is a second or two longer than our mind tells us is currently possible. But over time, we can endure the discomfort for longer periods and build up strength. If this practice can sculpt our buns and tone our arms, just think of the benefits it can provide to the most important muscle in our whole body, our kick drum heart!
I could physically feel my chest and heart contracting. All of the stress I was experiencing resulted in feelings of tightness and tension. I had to learn to cultivate awareness. Now when I start to notice this tension building, I take a deep, tension releasing breath, that results in an immediate (usually fleeting) sense of relief. As I gradually hone this practice, I will ultimately strengthen that kick drum heart of mine.
2. Embrace your Shadow.
I had glimpsed a sliver of the perfect me, and I was reluctant to accept its opposite, my shadow self. I dug my nails into perfection and held on for dear life. In retrospect, I should have known that this was not going to end well…but hey, lesson learned, I’m only human and change is fucking scary.
So I began a quest to liberate myself, from myself. I started by accepting the opposites and all that lie in between. I started with the things that I don’t like about myself, and then I looked within to find the opposite, the things I love. I began to see the contradictions. Oh yes, so many contradictions!
For example: I am capable of being selfish and self-preserving, but I would give the world for someone I love. In between these extremes, there are 50 shades of grey (wink). I can fall anywhere on the spectrum… and it’s all me. It’s all gravy baby! (Tension relieving sigh)
3. Ground into Lightness.
This technique is awesome. It’s the alchemy of energy, the transmutation of heaviness into lightness. Ultimately, we are capable of moving our heavy energy to places that need to be grounded, thus freeing space for lightness. By drawing the feelings of heaviness down to our feet we build a stable base and connect to the earth, allowing us to be light in our hearts. I’ve begun transforming my base metals into noble metals, boo yah!
4. Explore the Reflection in the Mirror.
We are all mirrors of one another. Our souls are reflected in the eyes of other beings. Every time you judge another person negatively, the same negative energy exists within you. Release the grips of judgment by committing to take responsibility for yourself. Whenever a negative emotion arises, ask where it’s coming from within. Then peal back the layers and neutralize the negativity by uniting the two reflections. Justin Timberlake nailed it:
You were right here all along It’s like you’re my mirror My mirror staring back at me I couldn’t get any bigger With anyone else beside of me And now it’s clear as this promise That we’re making two reflections into one
We can find kindness and love in each other. Start with yourself! Be kind to yourself; be kind to others. Love yourself; love others. This will ultimately result in people being kind and loving to you.
These four practices have helped me cope with the fall, but we don’t have to fear the fall. Sometimes in moments of utter confusion, chaos and shit… We experience insight, enlightenment and love.
Hang on to the wind and trust.
You are eagle.
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Photo: Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, TX. Rothstein, Arthur (1915-1985), photographer. Flickr Commons/ uploaded by Library of Congress (2008).