July 16, 2014

How Yoga Teaches Me to Stop Feeding my Hungry Wolf. ~ Chelsey Engel

Photo: Karen Nadeau Lester / Pixoto

Bridging the gap between our contradicting selves is something with which we all struggle.

I stumbled across a beautiful video interview (see below) with Elena Brower a while back.

In it she speaks about how she came to yoga and how it helps her connect the two, dueling sides of her soul.

She explains:

“In a certain context, we will be amazing. And then in other contexts, we will succumb to a level of fear and blame that makes life ugly.”

She continues to talk about these two parts of herself, the type of dichotomy we all experience and embody, that she has learned to unionize into one heart and one human via yoga.

Of course, this is what it’s all about, with the root word of yoga being “unity.” Bridging the gap between our contradicting selves is something with which we all struggle, and this is exactly what brought me to the practice.

Now, this amazing part of our being Elena hints on…well, that is something I just could not comprehend.

The ugly part, however, was always alive and well, and I’ve clung to it for dear life.

I’m seeing now, though, through my practice and self-examination that the ugly part has only lived on because that is the one I’ve been fueling.

There is a well-known Native American tale about a man teaching his grandson about life. He tells him that there is a fight happening inside of him between two wolves. One is evil and full of greed, sorrow, regret, self-pity and ego, while the other is good and full of peace, love, acceptance, compassion and faith.

The boy asks his grandfather, “Which one will win?”

The grandfather responds,“The one I feed.”

When I first heard this story, I related to it immediately.

I realized that my entire life was spent devotedly feeding the angry, ravenous, self-scrutinizing wolf.

I was throwing every scrap I had at it while starving the other one for reasons I was not quite sure of at the time. My recent yoga and meditation regimen has changed that. Through this commitment of just being with myself, I am becoming acutely aware of my habits, my insecurities, my hypocrisies, and, most revealingly, my fears.

Fear is more than likely the number one driving force behind all of our behaviors as well as our inability to act on our dreams. For me, it’s almost as if I’ve gripped to my identity as the victim, as the broken one, as the self-conscious one and as the unlovable one with clenched fists because I fear that if I lose that part of myself, then I will be exposed completely to the world exactly as I am.

And who the hell is that person?

She is someone who is scared to be hurt and to potentially hurt someone else.

She is someone who is so stubborn in her beliefs that not even a tornado could uproot her stance.

She is someone so closed off that very few people can unambiguously see inside of her.

She is someone addicted to coffee and self-help books and someone who goes to bed at 10 p.m. on weekends.

However, my practice is allowing me to view things differently. A devastating first heartbreak led me to the mat, and at the time, I was so caught up inside the storm of blame and remorse that I was unable to see through the shroud that I had created.

Yoga’s eye-opening and revering qualities are transforming that.

It was my heart being broken open completely that has given it more room to share with the world. The pain showed me how much I can truly love someone, how much I can long for profound meaning in a relationship, how much I can give of myself regardless of possibly not receiving anything in return.

These parts of myself are ones that I was unable to perceive before, and they are the parts that I am now proud to possess.

Without the collapse, I would not have seen these things. But I would not have seen these things without yoga and without honesty. And that honesty came directly from my practice, and I honor that every damn time I come to class.

It is helping me find a way to reside within that space between the crazy, obsessive, and frightened girl and the loyal, strong, and hopeful woman I know lurks around the corner, peaking her head out when the time is right.

The two will always exist, but there can be a manner in which to allow them to work together in order for me to become fully who I am, or who I strive to be.

I hope that person is the one I continue to feed.

Elena’s Journey from Elena Brower on Vimeo.


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Photo: Karen Nadeau Lester / Pixoto

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Chelsey Engel