October 29, 2011

Pledge to Live.

From squatting deeply, I stood up and opened my eyes to see my friend on the sticky mat next me, frantically whispering, are you OK? Are YOU ok?

Our mats lined us up like sardines from one end of the room to the other all to practice with one of San Francisco’s most popular, up and coming rock star yoga instructors. The forced, rapid exhales filled the damp and dimly lit space where a colorful Ganesh surrounded in a pink lotus blossom illuminated one wall. As my head began to throb, I realized that I must have blacked out and fallen hard. I mumbled, “how did I get to the floor?” Hauling myself off it to join the rest of the class in what was beginning to feel like a sweat lodge, my ego begged to keep going. Balancing on one foot felt impossible. On two feet: a struggle. The teacher’s assistant asked if I’d like something. “Water, please.” Instead she returned with an energy bar. Confused, I finally wobbled out of the room, only to shiver in the cool lobby for the next hour or so while thumbing through a self-help (or Self Enlightenment, as they’re called these days) book I found.

Resolved to treat this experience as yet another tutorial in humility, I was overdue. It had only been a day or so since the last one. These lessons come so rapidly that it feels like I should grab my son’s body armor and shield used for Nurf wars. The darts feel like they are flying aimlessly but if I duck just slightly to the right or under, I just might miss them. Until suddenly, I realize that I am throwing darts of doubt, fear, judgment, expectations, comparison…at myself, and then I just simply stand. Allow them to come until I can no longer feel them, numb and passive.

I attended a yoga immersion the day after my fall. My head still feeling the sting of the collapse and the warning stamped firmly into my heart, I spent the next 5 days learning from some of the most gifted, and affecting teachers I’ve ever had. With over a half a dozen veteran teachers, I felt inexperienced and humbled. Day 4, I put down my internal shield and imaginary sword and dealt face to face with insecurities with a healing cry. By day 5, exhausted and overflowing with a new kind of energy, I began to resemble the confident me I was in during my journeys to Thailand this summer.

Fainting is defined as a transient loss of consciousness. I return again to taking off the layers of armor that I hide behind and allow these teachings to come, regaining the consciousness that I’ve deliberately shoved aside. Reflecting on the book I flipped through in the lobby after fainting, one passage read  “… lean into the sharp points.” What I think she meant was allow the difficulties and stress of life to not affect who you are.

The sharp points or darts: comparing myself to someone else’s body or apparent glamorous life; hurtful actions and gossip among “friends”; missing my son’s soccer games; not completing a project or meeting many self-imposed deadlines; watching my father struggle with his wife’s Alzheimer’s with feelings of helplessness; and failure in marriage pierce my soul.

When I resist the sharp points, they hurt. When I ignore them, I am numb. When I surrender, I am alive. I begin to live again. A friend reminded me of my life’s intention. How could I forget? The word “LIVE” in Chinese characters are tattooed on my foot, so that when I fold forward or fall down, my only view is that of life. By moving into myself, I am aware that I have always been in possession of my own completeness. I am reminded to live.

Photo credits: Melissa Smith

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