My father taught me how to shoot a gun at 10-years-old.
He brought me into the woods and we shot at old soup cans. Later, he showed me how to shoot birds so small that the large ammunition we used caused the tiny birds to explode on impact.
He taught me how to change my own oil.
He taught me to always hold the door for women.
He taught me that emotions are a sign of weakness.
He taught me that only sissies cry.
I remember seeing a dog with a limp when I was a teenager and he taught me that in order to protect the species, wild dogs attack and kill any wounded dog they encounter.
“They can’t help themselves, it’s how they survive and it’s built into their genes,” he said.
My father must have known his only child was gay because he did everything he could to eradicate this flaw from my genes.
To this day, this and many other flaws not only still exist, but they are a part of my being.
I have been through a 12 Step Program for Sex Addicts and been to several Overeaters Anonymous meetings because I swapped one addiction for another.
I found a home for my emotions inside pizza boxes and Ben and Jerry’s pints.
At 6’ 3” and nearly 300 pounds, I was anything other than the man my father raised me to be. My B.M.I. made my body incredibly soft and I no longer had the hard body of a man. I had a degree in Fine Arts, I talked about my feelings routinely with a therapist and I explored my weaknesses by writing about them.
This process of self-inquiry led me to my first real yoga experience.
A friend recommended a Baptiste studio she belonged to and as a gift for my 36th birthday, I treated myself to their unlimited monthly introductory offer.
A woman owns the studio, many of the students there were women and my impression of yoga was that it was mostly for women. Kate, the studio owner greeted me before my first class and said, “This is going to be the best day of your life.”
Yes, she was right but I didn’t know I could find joy in so much pain. Let me clarify, the yoga itself never hurt and any yoga teacher worth knowing will tell you that yoga should never hurt, but I was peeling away layers. This was and continues to be a very painful process.
The hardest part has been reconciling the masculine and feminine energy that exist within me. For so long my father tried to stamp out any traces of the feminine in me, so as an adult, I unwittingly continued his mission.
I stopped being friends with some gay men who I saw as too effeminate and I stopped being friends with some women because they were too emotional. I masked all my weaknesses by drinking too much, sexually conquering too much and eating too much.
These layers I’m carrying around are not only layers of pizza and ice cream. They are also layers of my neglected feminine energy that have been cut off from a revitalizing supply of nutrients and self-love.
With all the peeling away I’m doing, I’m tossing my judgment into the compost pile with the layers I no longer need. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj which means “to yoke” or “to join.”
That is what I focus on in my yoga practice and in my life.
I am trying to join my masculine and feminine energies to finally find some balance and union within myself.
When I enter the studio, I don’t hide my weaknesses because by being genuine about who I am and where I have been, I am building stronger relationships with people.
Lucky for me, the only wild dogs I encounter in yoga are downward and upward and, of course their friend, three-legged.
Thankfully, they all peacefully coexist and welcome anyone into their pack.
Author: Jason Simpson
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Hester Eugene