Learning to Listen from Within
A dear friend of mine recently made this post on her Facebook page, “I’m not Superwoman. I don’t have to have it all or do it all.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last couple of weeks because her statement rang true for me as well; it spoke to the long journey it’s taken me to realize the truth of those words. Now, some people beg to differ that you can have it all and do it all. However, that’s not the point my friend was making, especially not in her current situation. She’s a vibrant, creative 30-year-old who is battling rheumatoid arthritis, and her realization that she didn’t need to do or be it all leads to her empowerment within that illness and in her life. Brilliant.
You can say the same for me in my role as a mother. It’s been two fantastic years since the totally empowering experience of bringing life into this world. Yet there has been a part of me feeling disempowered. It’s simply the role of being a mother that has felt this way, not being a mother in itself. This new role in my life has brought out more new challenges and feelings in my lifelong struggle to find what it means to be a woman.
Never have I felt such a deep and crazy love connection before becoming a mom. My son is the reason for exploring and coming to terms with ways I feel disempowered in my life. Just when I thought I’d gotten past these feelings…bam! This new transition into motherhood brought back some old patterns and internal dialogue of struggle. And so did the whole first year I dealt with it. New mom groups, friends, family, and most importantly, yoga helped me to compassionately deal with the transition in my lifestyle, body and career.
The second year began and I felt more at ease with everything, but my body and my mind were exhausted. I kept plugging along thinking every new mama was tired and at least a little out of sorts.
Now, two months since naturally weaning my son, after two years of nursing him, the realization of my own healing process set in. My body was done. No more milk. I’d been feeling constantly achy and sore, feeling more anxious than I’d felt in a long time, and in need of some major self-care. I was self-diagnosed as chronically fatigued.
I mean, I’m a happy woman—in love with my family, my job, and life! I guess my astrologer friend was right when she told me last summer that this year would bring some new self-study and strange moods as I got my groove back. Ha! It’s not like I totally lost my groove. I’ve continued to do what I love and get out on the town and have a regular babysitter each week. But, maybe you get my drift?
This feeling I’m talking about, a feeling of being a bit burnt out, doesn’t have to be about motherhood. It exists for anyone dealing with a change in their identity. Maybe it’s a new relationship, career, a chronic illness, or even moving to a new home/city. We give ourselves stories based on all that we already know. We try hard to work through those stories and patterns and thoughts in all sorts of ways.
Practicing yoga is one truly effective way to look into all of that and move through and forward in all of our own stuff.
If you try hard at practicing mindfulness in your everyday life, then you’re continuously moving forward in your goals and life whether you realize it or not. However, there is most likely often that five percent of stuff that’s still subconsciously hanging around while you plug onward in your own self-realization. I was working hard at realigning my empowerment within this new role of womanhood.
And so, I took time for reflection at all of the signs my body was giving me to take control of my own healing. Just after my son turned two, I spoke with a deeply intuitive friend for guidance, and saw a magical bodyworker. I scheduled a physical with my doctor. I consulted my herbalist best friend for healing herbs to nourish my newly hormonal body again, and to ease my anxiety and tension. I did a gentle cleanse, and learned to take more physical rest when it called for me. I continued to slow down my yoga practice and add in more restorative, yin and meditation, while consulting such books as Art of Attention by Elena Brower and Erica Jago, and Mind over Medicine by Lissa Rankin.
Now I’m happy to say we’re in the middle of a lovely spring season and I’m feeling pretty revived again! It works, I tell you. Listening to your body really works.
In a world where numerous friends and family struggle with depression and anxiety, where a number of friends have chronic illnesses, and at least two people I know have cancer…it’s just not acceptable to continue pushing ourselves to that brink of burnout in any sense of the word. We have the power to be even more mindful. To really and truly take care of ourselves in order for our world to continue welcoming more love and healing as a whole.
Loving ourselves enough to slow down and heal whatever physical, mental or emotional needs we have is the answer to feeling empowered. It is the answer to moving our world forward. Or at least that’s part of the message I’d like to continue taking part in as my role of yoga teacher.
I knew more than any of the help I was seeking that only I held the keys to unlocking my spirit and empowering myself again. All of the teachers, friends, as well as my dear husband and son guided me in the right direction, but it was me who had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t and don’t need to do it all. I can do as much as I am able while feeling healthy and happy. The all part is up to each of us individually. We get to choose. And in that choosing and designing our own lives we create the space to radiate and awaken whatever love might be surrounding us!
Maybe I’ve been overcoming and releasing the negativities of how the world boxes in and treats women in general. Maybe I’m still working through old experiences, old family patterns, and now new experiences, new thought processes in becoming who I want to be. It’s in being vulnerable to my own healing that I am empowered. I take the responsibility for my internal struggles and I keep facing them down. I stay aware to it all and use it to fuel my passion for helping bring awareness to issues involving women and girls. If I do the work in healing myself, then hopefully the women (and men) I work with will relate and feel empowered too. Doing this will help me become the teacher, mother, partner that I’m meant to be.
We each have a different journey to embrace that will ultimately light us up and help us become stronger. Practicing yoga and meditation lets us tune into our bodies and the messages that our bodies send to help us heal. Sometimes I tighten. I stop breathing deeply. These are warning signs that I need more time to myself and need to let go of the “shoulds” and “should-nots.”
We can practice asana all we want, but the truth will show itself in how we feel. May we all become more vulnerable to our own healing and what allows us to feel empowered. We must reimagine this idea in our culture of being Superwoman or Super-anything. To my son, I am superwoman and that’s awesome. My dear friend battling RA is a superwoman to me and to all of our friends. Same goes for my grandma battling cancer, my yogini friend battling cancer, my friends going in/out of depression or addiction, and all the mamas out there maintaining a sense of themselves while giving their all to their families. We all do what we can within our own limits of energy in remaining present to ourselves and feeling empowered within our own needs. This might be what it truly means to know one self.
Thirteen years of yoga practice and seven years of teaching have helped Jenn move through major transitions such as finding her calling and voice, partnering (marriage) and childbearing (her son was born in 2011). Jenn is passionate about fostering confidence, curiosity, and openness to yoga practitioners, especially women, of all ages and to learning how to support one another as we enter new life stages in this complicated world. Her practice has evolved from hot power yoga after years as a collegiate athlete, to needing slow flow, hatha, and yin as she entered a new phase. She now teaches a fusion that embraces all of those forms of yoga based on what the class needs, and a little to do with the moon cycles. You can learn more on her website: www.yoginijennfalk.com.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel