Two weeks before my last surgery, I decided to move far outside of my comfort zone and work with a Master Iyengar Teacher who was traveling through and see if I could receive some help with my “challenged” body.
I did the responsible thing and introduced myself before the workshop began and told him of the severity of my injuries, told him that I would be heading in for surgery and said I was going to modify poses as needed. He asked me some questions about my personal history which I answered and I noted to myself that he was seeking a causality around the reason for the severity of my injuries.
The conversation was respectful but quickly turned psychological, and as soon as he held my right adductor and said “These adductors are living with an absent owner,” I knew I was headed for a “bumpy ride.” (Credit Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
Here’s what happened.
The first thing he said to me was “You need to develop patience and listening. YOU MUST BE PATIENT.”
I walked back to my mat to begin the day and after we completed our pranayama practice, as we stood in Tadasana, he approached me and said, “Do less. You are
working too hard.”
Still in Tadasana. He came back over and whispered in my ear, “Be peaceful.”
Next pose, Uttanasana, he came over to me again and said, “You are your own worst enemy and I will hold that theory until you prove me otherwise.”
Next pose was Trikonasana.
First side, he came over to me and said, “Don’t turn every pose into a fight.”
Second side, he came back over and said, “You. Corpse pose.”
The floor was slate. My mat was on top of it. I had no time to get any props to place on my mat to get comfortable, not to mention that Savasana is my WORST pose. I laid in Savasana and physically, I was in loads of pain.
I immediately knew this was it. This was the window into what my world would be. Everyone else practicing while I was in Savasana. I knew that the moment he instructed me to lay down.
As I lay in Savasana with tears streaming down my cheeks, he came over to me and still did not let up. He kneeled down next to me and whispered, “You are not very good at being kind to yourself.”
I laid there in emotional turmoil. The workshop was 2 hours from my home, I was in Savasana while everyone was practicing, and I didn’t know how long this Savasana was going to last. It was the clearest metaphor.
He kept me there for about 35-40 minutes.
When he “released” me, he whispered, “you have to learn how to stop beating yourself up, okay?”
I knew the entire experience was a karma I had chosen. So I couldn’t be angry.
There was deep learning to be had in all of this. But the learning was ferocious and painful and the timing of it was grueling. What I needed most, was to be strong for myself before my surgery and this reflection was so ugly and lacking in tenderness. And subsequently, I saw that I was allowing the experience, to break me down.
What I realized was how unsupported I felt and how often I create the experience of being and feeling unsupported.
How could I possibly be held in love when I am constantly plowing through pain? How could I possibly surrender to anything when I am at war with myself?
His words dismantled me, indeed. But in reality, I knew they were all brutal truths.
What I know to be true about myself is that I crave and love the truth. Soley. But what I also know is that if conversations are to be had about myself, the boundary that I need is that I wish to be asked permission for such conversations to take place before they begin. It’s not a control issue. It’s a boundary issue. It is an issue which helps me to continue to heal issues from my past.
No question this man is a Master Teacher. But I share this all to say that this would not be my style with a student. And I know how to push like the best of them. Those who know me well know that I describe myself as a PUSHY JEW FROM NEW YORK. It’s not all of who I am, but it is an inherent part of my nature (If your daughter is having a blood sugar attack and we need to be seated at a busy restaurant, I’m the one who will get us seated swiftly, and without making a scene!). But as a teacher, as friend, as a lover, as an acquaintance, even, my instinct is to ask permission to pursue the road of giving this, albeit any, kind of feedback.
Had he done so, I would have said, “YES, OF COURSE!” And I would have been able to hear it and take it in, and process it and chew on it and blast on forward powerfully towards surgery. But instead, I was dismantled. Because the trauma of boundaries being blown was triggered and I was swimming in the pain of that before I could find my way clear of anything else.
Still, I must own something else.
Even as I stood quietly in Tadasana, not one part of me was quiet. I was working every muscle in my body. So the teacher was absolutely right. I could absolutely benefit from learning what it meant to “do less.” Absolutely. No question about it.
Every national teacher who has ever met me has noticed this about me and I notice it now, as well, when I crawl to the bathroom. I see and feel my hands on the floor and I feel how outrageously intentional these hands are. These hands mean business. They have many stories to tell. Even my hands have a lot to learn about what it means to “do less.”
I didn’t go to that workshop to hide out. Or be invisible. I chose this karma. I was asking for help, but I didn’t make a clear agreement with myself about what form I needed that help to arrive in. Worth noting. What I share here about asking my permission, I know to be true in my spirit, but I wasn’t able to reverse the process as it was happening in a public space I was not commanding and where the feedback was coming at me like rapid fire. It was too fast for me create any sort of change.
Karma asked me to just receive it.
Spirit asked me to go back and forgive myself for the packaging I chose.
Luckily, I was able to do both.
Worth noting the strategy. Like the tennis players in a play which “bombed” by Terrence McNally called “Deuce.” To use “brutal finesse v. steadfast desire.”
Which one would you choose?
Personally, I would choose love. With a gentle little nudge, of course!