Monday, August 6, 2012

The ghost of who you were can be a guide for who you are becoming

Yesterday, I was in an amazing Ashtanga workshop at Arjuna Yoga in Aspen. I was looking at myself in the mirror, and I was confronted suddenly with who I had been. 

Ashtanga. The first series of Hatha Yoga. One Hundred Breaths here.
When you dedicate your life to healing, and you feel like you are making progress, sometimes its shocking to see vestiges of who you once were, or to hear old stories about what is true playing out in real time. 

It took me by surprise and shook me hard.

I have been so happy to have the opportunity to examine what drives me, why I made the choices I made, to ferret out emotional responses that exist because of past triggers. In therapy and over the years in personal practice, I have been able to face those sometimes very frightening automatic responses and dissect them, exposing their origin and rewiring its power over me. 

In any journey, there are more difficult sections. Over this summer, I've been enjoying a bit of a respite from what sometimes feels like forced Becoming. Readers that have been with me for a long time might remember posts where I asked, annoyed, "Can I stop learning now? Can this not be a day where I have to be humble and learn another lesson? Can I just rest and be enough today?" And the answer has often been no. You can not rest if there is work that needs to be done. 

And sometimes it is yes. And often, a period of rest is preparing you for your next big evolution.

And since tryouts ended in April, and because of the gentle and loving support of some good friends, I had the opportunity to not be under scrutiny suddenly. I was not surrounded by mentors who kindly hold the mirror up every day and ask for more. I was at the beach. In the sun. It was amazing.

Since I got back, Ive slowly relaxed into enjoying my summer jobs, Downhill Mountain Biking is freeing and fun and its incredible to be a teacher in a sport like this. The barriers to entry seem huge. People look at the gear and the pads and the jumps and the bikes and they think, "I could never do that."

But they can. And showing people that there is so much more to themselves than they ever bargained for is why I am passionate about teaching. 

But in order to be a great teacher, I think you have to be an outstanding student. Especially of yourself. And while there is a LOT for me to learn about riding DH, there isn't the depth of instructors at Aspen yet. There isn't this level of technical accountability that drives me in skiing. (There is in the sport, just the school is young, and we are learning as we go.)

And so to fill my need to be a student with a guru, I continued my yoga practice, crossing my fingers that I'll get the Bikram scholarship so that I can go to LA for nine weeks and get my ass kicked as a student, and emerge with another level of Becoming unfolded, lick my wounds, be grateful for them, and put all that into my winter teaching skiing and massage. 

Its a strange cycle. And I wasn't really planning on having to do that work until I went to teacher training. But I accidentally started studying before I left for Bikram.

Your teacher shows up when you least expect it. Sharon Caplan continues to learn while she teaches, inspiring us all during every class.
A few months ago, I started an Ashtanga yoga practice with this very gentle teacher whom I admire greatly, Sharon Caplan. She has an incredibly giving heart, she is incredibly inspiring in her demonstration, showing depth of practice that is beyond a physical yoga body. I don't really know how to describe it. She expects you to give all you have to give. She expects you to be accountable for your health and injury situation. She doesn't demand. But you'd be a fool not to take all she offers. 

So I'm standing in class. And I’m looking in the mirror. In general, I like what I see. (Im not talking about the body, I'm talking about the person. The body seems to be a reflection of the person.) And I begin to see glimmers of these old beliefs about myself, some of which I had worked through. Some of which are being revealed as the practice strips away armor I didn’t know I still had. 

Old Belief : (This I know is not true, but the whispers surprised me and took my strength) I look strong, but I’m not, I’m heavy. People who think I am strong are fooled by how my body holds weight. 

Belief: All of my strength comes from my mind. When I believe I am strong, I behave as a strong person does. (Part of this belief is true, but I think it needs to be framed right.)

I’m believing that one because when I am not attached to other people’s concept of me, but happy to be who I am where I am, practicing and training for my health and equanimity, I am strong. I can do all the flows, all the chattarangas. That I can do that is not a measure of my physical capabilities over someone else’s. It is a measure of my belief in myself and my dedication to my practice, which lends me strength, and as a result, strengthens my body over time.

Here is the doozy that I realized was pointing at truth:

Belief: Although I have gotten stronger over time, my core is weak, has always been weak, will always be weak, and is a weakness that I must work around. 

I know that beliefs like this are crutches. This is a road block. My core will not get strong until I look in the emotional mirror and decide that I have lived under the power of suggestion that my core is weak, has been weak and will always be weak, therefore, I work around it, I compensate, I protect the weakness so that I have an excuse. 

I used to be ruled by a disappointment that I didn't, and couldn't look like this. Now I'm so happy just to look like me.  But acceptance is different than complacency.
In order to change this belief, I have to be willing to make my core strong. To look right at it, not to work around it or compensate for it. Just like a lousy drop shot in tennis. You want to have a whole game? Your lousy drop shot is now your favorite shot, eventually developed into your most deadly weapon. Want to be a whole person? Welcome to your fear that keeps you from exploring a weakness you covet. 

Seeing this belief in the mirror hit me hard. Because once a Victim Crutch like this is exposed, if you are really a student of Becoming, you have a responsiblity to unpack that shit and get to work. 
Tummy issues are difficult. Not just for women, for everyone. And we all have our story. 

Ive grown to love and except my little paunch, a beautiful result of making two people. I don’t really mind that the skin on my belly is stretched and it doesn’t look like it did when I was 20.

I do mind that the strength under the skin is something I’m not willing to look at or change. Or haven’t been until now. I’ve paid lip service to it, I’ve strengthened my body all around it. But I haven’t run right at the thing that scares me. 

Our bellies have been described as our seat of creativity, our intuition and our will. Its is for this reason that I often do belly massage in massage therapy sessions. Cultivating love and joy for the soft home of creation. But in my own practice, grateful as I am for the creative space, I have accepted weakness as part of who I am. 

If I want to grow and become, I need to examine that belief. Because physical manifestations are so often just reflections of how we view ourselves. What am I protecting by not going in there? 

I journied back in my mind through the healing of beliefs I’ve encountered before, and I realized that this area, this belief system, is really deep, and really protective. 

Initially, I always kept a layer of fat on my belly to keep the monster at bay. Readers who have visited with me for a while will know that as a young child, I was abused by a man who I trusted to be a parent to me. 

I don’t hold any resentment or anger at him, he behaved the way that he did because of factors in his life that drove his behavior. Ultimately, I received the gift of examination and healing because of this obstacle. Un-believing the things I learned about myself at his hands has been a good practice for me, it is like looking for treasure in a dark and treacherous cave. There’s really nothing scary inside there unless you let the shadows tell you stories. And if you are diligent, you will find gold. 

Its either opportunity or fear. You chose.
And so. 

I feel these whispers, and its a familiar sensation, and I am momentarily frustrated because I feel like I’ve healed this place already. Its annoying to have to go back and re lay foundation.

But when I take a closer look, I realize only the sensation is familiar. Old whispers are an indication that we are close to a protected place that no longer serves. This isn't a place I've healed. This is a place I've not even visited.

The hint of disappointment and self rebuke, which once was so loud, is now just an invitation to discovery. The familiar sensation is my internal teacher telling me there is work I can do here that will lead to freedom. I know there is nothing real or scary in the cave. 

I know to run at the thing that scares me.

I know that in the darkness, with patience and diligence and willingness, I will find a piece of treasure. And if I examine it carefully, I will be rewarded with Becoming. With new clarity, new space between me and my story.

Its time to learn again.

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