I am so grateful that you are all “out there”! My world has changed so much over these past 10 days and know yours has, too. I kept waiting to feel confident again, to feel like I had some reassuring words to share with you all, and it just wasn’t happening! I have been meditating and practicing yoga every day and I still keep finding myself full of anxiety, insecurity and confusion. Today I realized that these exact conditions of my life, right now, are still my doorway to awakening.
I have been waiting for things to get better, to feel sturdier, in order to go on with my life’s work, and isn’t this just the way we’ve always done things? “Once I lose that weight then I can work on that “loving myself” thing”, or “Once I have saved enough money then I can relax about my finances”.
A beautiful teaching from the yoga sutras is about the 5 kleśa or 5 kinds of pain. I’ve mentioned these in previous emails, and the one I want to focus on now is Asmita. It is the false sense that we are alone, isolated, just me and my ego. This is the ego that believes in “I”. It believes that having pain is unique to me and no one else can really understand. This is partly true, we each feel our own forms of pain and we cannot really compare mine to yours. For one person a hangnail is a drama while others would not feel pain until they climb Everest without oxygen. What is common is that we all have pain. We all suffer. We suffer for many different reasons and while we put the focus on our differences we feel more separate, more alone. If we can stretch our minds to focus on our similarities, we might remember that we do actually belong. We belong because of our imperfections, our fears, and our worries about the future.
My typical response to difficulty is to flee. Fight or flight? I’ll take flight, thank you. I have been going on walks every day since losing all my jobs, and I do find solace in the beauty of spring. However, I’ve also been running away from the discomfort of being here, as life is right now. If I don’t run away with my legs, I do so with my thoughts. My mind has been everywhere but here. When I do tap into the present, see 60,000 emails, texts and facebook messages and my mind fragments into 60,000 or more pieces. I am shaken. It is so uncomfortable. Rather than get myself grounded, I spin out, hopping from one virtual task to another, and I just stir up that tornado at a higher interval. Does this happen to anyone else?
Then I feel shame. I’m supposed to be able to do this, I’ve been practicing yoga for over 30 years, teaching for 24, meditating forever, and I have been losing it! How can I show up for my students, clients, family, recipients of my practice letters? Well, I found the gold today – by being authentic. This is me: messy, imperfect and finally able to be present.
Pema Chodron (Buddhist nun and teacher) says that whatever is happening in our lives IS our doorway to enlightenment. I have been thinking that this corona virus situation is all a big mistake, an accident, something that should be going away soon. Now I recognize it as the new teacher. Thank you, new teacher, for showing up just when I was beginning to believe that life was getting easier! Ha ha, the gods are laughing at my folly, repeated through the millennia.
So, dear friends, I encourage you all to do your best to be yourselves. Really. The good news is, for now, no one is looking! I have been practicing yoga with online teachers and they don’t notice when I collapse out of my plank pose or go get a drink of water! No one sees me crying or turning on Netflix.
To support this “being yourself” practice, I recommend a Body Scan practice (I have one for you on the Practice Recordings page). This practice is about simply noticing the parts of your body, without trying to change anything or do anything. I find body scans very helpful when I am spinning out or exhausted, to get grounded again and mostly to relax. It is amazing what can happen by simply paying attention.
I’m sure my flight pattern has not finished. I will do my best to continue sharing with you and I’d love to hear from you as well. I finally have time to read the good emails that come in!
If you need individual support, I am now doing Zoom sessions for both āsana and yoga therapy. Please call on me if you or a loved one is in need.
Please be gentle, patient and kind to yourself.