Ten years ago I almost drowned.
A boyfriend had convinced me to jump into the river rapids to ride the current with my body—not the most intelligent decision in my life. Quickly, my head moved ahead and my feet behind me. In case you’ve never been in a river, I want to tell you, this is very bad news.
This is the moment your life flashes before your eyes. Because of the water rushing over my head and the lack of earth under my feet, it was almost impossible to lift my head, to escape. I wanted out. I knew what I had to do to get out and I knew I was in the worst possible place. I was simply stuck.
And then, suddenly, I made it. I found a lighter current. I lifted my head, took a big gasp of air and obviously, survived. And then I was floating, moving in the live current of the water’s flow. I was lifted by the water instead of being taken down by it.
That afternoon has been in my mind lately, mainly because many of the relationships in my life have mirrored it. Relationships with women.
For my entire life, relationships with women have been tricky.
They are often over my head, sucking downward with no apparent way out. I desperately want a breath of fresh air, but I’m unable to get it. Friendships turn sour and awful things are said in secret to later be revealed. Co-workers rally for the top spot at all costs, plans are made and broken, ideas are stolen and there is constant comparison and competition.
Thankfully, I’ve been recently struck, surprised and nearly incredulous at how supportive women are. Could it be? I’ve noticed it in my circle, but I’m also aware of a much bigger shift. I’m not just talking women I see everyday, but women I haven’t seen in years. Women I see once a week. Women I see twice a year. Women I haven’t met.
Authentic: a word that’s already overused in the yoga world, but I have truly seen an authentic shift. There is a showing up. There is getting real or even messy sometimes and owning it, as scary as that is.
There is admitting that you’re not perfect, that you actually sometimes fuck things up, have fights with your partner and have those occasional feelings of guilt, like after drinking too much alcohol. There is making wrong turns, having a past and being unrecognizable to people you once knew.
There is a shift toward supporting these women who are real.
It’s like an exhale. We say,
Hey, it’s me over here, and gulp, I’m not perfect. Will you love me anyway, will you like me and will you not abandon me?
And we get a resounding,
Yes! We’re here! We want you as you are! (Thank God.)
And then we let go and breathe out. We start to feel the lift instead of the drag down.
I’ve decided it’s time for another step. It’s not enough to simply not bring each other down. It’s not enough unless you’re lifting each other up. And I mean everyone, but especially other women. The women I know, myself included, we’re doing some heavy lifting. Instead of getting tired, we’re getting stronger, we’re growing endurance and energy is moving.
A current is moving.
Whether we’re having slumber parties in our 30’s, having soul talks over dinner, calling each other on self-sabotaging shit, helping each other to solidify business deals or cheering each others goals, it’s happening. There is lift.
Why care? Why should you start lifting up others?
Why should you get yourself into a circle of women who are interested in lifting you, too? Sutra 1.33 says,
With friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains undisturbed calmness.
If you want more than to just do yoga, this is on your to-do list. Today. In other words, do you want a calm mind? Do you want to feel good, undisturbed? (And who doesn’t?)
Get inclusive, spread light to other women in creative ways—you can think of one. Compassionately lift others, especially those who really need lifting or who have inspired you. And do it even when it will lift them higher than you’ve been lifted. High five your pals when they’re doing things you think are cool and encourage them to do more. Delight in the women you know who are doing good things.
Buoy other women.
Then, don’t forget to swim like hell to get out of the rapids when they’re starting to drown you. Most importantly, don’t be a wave of negativity yourself.
This is a chance to walk your talk, or swim your river, if you will. It’s a chance to feel what it’s like to finally feel flow of the current. Whether you realize it’s what you’re doing or not, this your way to be yoga instead of just doing yoga.
Carissa Ciuca lives with her husband and two little babes in Portland, Maine. You can find her teaching classes at her studio, Breathing Room Yoga. Or join in her 200-hour vinyasa teacher training and at events and classes dotted around the country, including a 2nd annual Yoga + Spa retreat to Tulum Mexico in April 2014. She believes in the powers of gratitude, faith, love and breath. She is fascinated by humans and knows that an expanded awareness changes the world. She witnesses it every day. Connect with her at her website.
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Assistant ed: Catherine Monkman