My teacher, Christina, wrote a blog on New Year's eve which brought me to my knees. Truly. Her own spiritual teacher, Lee Lozowick once said, "we can know how our sadhana is going by observing where we turn when we are in crisis.” This gets right to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it?
Where do I go?
I go inside. Deep deep inside. I’ve been talking about this a lot as of late here and I’ve been talking about how it is not only my pattern, not only my default, but it’s a pattern I know I need to change.
Step by step, one might suggest.
Yes, yes, I know.
I practiced yoga for the first time a few days ago and I am certain that is why I haven’t written yet. Because I went right IN.
I haven’t wanted to speak about it. But I know I must.
In order for me to break the pattern of the ways in which I go way inside, I MUST!
Practicing the asana wasn’t actually that difficult for me. I wasn’t doing my teacher’s TOUGH AS NAILS, SOFT AS GHEE advanced intensive, so let’s put it in a context. But I am also recovering from two back to back hip surgeries, (three all together), and after the last hip surgery, I was unable to walk for a full month, and this was my first attempt at practicing asana.
My perspective while I was dealing with pain in my body prior to each surgery when I began to feel into my injuries, was that the poses will always be there. My construct and deeply-rooted ideology is that although they are beautiful and terribly fun to do, they truly are simply poses and they do not define all that yoga is for me. Alas, the title of this blog.
I do not profess to be a masterful yogin by any means. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I enjoyed practicing asana when I did, how fully alive and buoyant and irrepressible the spirit I embodied came to life on my mat. All true. I was thinking about this today. How movement in the body for some spirits is just darn good for those spirits. It is just the RIGHT alignment. And yes, it has been challenging to not be able to use my body, no question about it. But my body has been asking for something else during this period of convalescence and my main task has been to listen carefully and compassionately to its needs.
So back to practicing asana.
I had a sense about two weeks ago that I might be feeling ready to practice. That my body might be calling for it and it might be time to begin helping myself along in my healing process by trying to move my femur bones back into the acetabulum. So far, it’s been a challenge to straighten my legs fully and suddenly, I felt the urge to try my first adho mukha svanasana in nearly six months.
There is much to say about all of this, but where I can begin is that in knowing where I truly stood with myself, (no wavering, no self-doubt on this point), that the poses would always be there, indeed, they were.
There are many poses which I am not going to explore for a long time, just as I am not going to launch myself into many extreme sports or even walk into a store that is blasting their loudest and most popular stereo equipment. None of these things would be good for my particular constitution.
What I discovered was that not only were most of the poses still there (and yes, I need to work on some strength and stability and balance), for me, practicing went beyond the poses. Much further. And what I discovered was that I have tremendous healing to do inside my heart.
My body still has a long way to go. That process will take the time it is going to take and I am okay with that. The fact that I can walk is a blessing and I am learning how to do so more and more without pain, which is an even greater blessing.
Christina spoke in her blog about the concept of threshold as part of the transformational process. I love the word “threshold.” And I found myself continually using it as I sent my blessings for the new year upon ushering in 2012. But what I find extremely potent is that in reading Christina’s blog, I realize why I have been silent. I have named where I have been in my psyche by saying that my heart is hurting and has much mending to do. But as great teachers do, my teacher helped me see it clearer.
I am a yogin. And I haven’t been able to use my body. The teachings of yoga ask for us to learn non-attachment from the body. And yet, in truth, as we grow to love the asana practice, it can become our identity. I have been practicing this practice of non-attachment with perseverance, and with heartfelt diligence. Where it left me, however, was slightly lost in terms of my understanding of who I have known myself to be and where I could or would step in next. So much for being in the present moment. But let me just say “Svaha” to that for now.
Christina spoke about the transformational process and used the butterfly metaphor. The “threshold” time being the in-between stage (it’s no longer a caterpiller but it’s not a butterfly yet). This is where I am. This is why I feel sadness. I’m not afraid of what my asana practice will look like as I have written here. I am rooted deeply in knowing well, that the poses will always be there to be explored whether my body is equipped to explore them or not. And after three surgeries and the landscapes I have traversed, I hold a deep truth for myself and that is that I just want to be out of pain in my body and in my heart.
Still, it’s so much more than this.
My body has been through tremendous challenges. I’m deeply grateful to be walking now. I am. Deeply. Opening doors for myself. All of it. And now the work must really begin deep inside the caverns of my heart. I have much to tend to there. It is a heart that has a tremendous amount of catching up to do. That my default pattern is to go IN and IN while in crisis, while going through deep change, while sitting in this threshold, I am now convinced, is what is anchoring me in grief.
For healing to truly occur in my body and in my heart, I know I must allow the light to pour in. My cocoon has to break open.
Part of what I know I need to do is stop my pattern of working this “pose” alone. It’s great I can open doors for myself now. But it’s time to consider allowing others to cross the threshold of my own “front door.”
I can say they are just poses, but one of the pieces I haven’t acknowledged is that I haven’t been part of a community, whether they are people who are known to me or not, whether they are people who love me or not, for nearly six months. And just to be in a room filled with other yogins holds a power of shared intention, of bearing witness, which has not been in my landscape, but has been known, in an incorruptible way, inside my heart and spirit for a long time.
I haven’t taught a class for six months and have not had the opportunity to share experience with colleagues. Another part of my landscape which simply had to be left behind.
So this threshold is a potent one. And within it, for this yogin to transform, it is time to ask for help from my teachers. Slowly. To be held in this place of what is rising up as it is now. Because, as my beloved Desiree pointed out, I have to get to know the brand new configuration I’ve been given around my first and second chakras.
It makes a lot of sense to me that I am having deep feelings. That I have withdrawn and been apart from the world. These are issues of survival, trust, safety (first chakra) and pleasure and pain, emotional identity and boundaries (second chakra).
Another way to frame it is that I am burning through some karma. I am sitting in this threshold. Burning.
So I will sit here for as long as I need to. But I will ask for some help. As I began this blog, I said that I was going to dedicate my healing to “tikkun olam” (the healing of the world or another translation, of others). This is my practice. A metta practice, a practice of lovingkindness. And as I sit in this threshold, I will continue. Because I know what I believe in. I know who my teachers are. I know the love I feel in my heart. These are powerful things to know, to anchor myself in, if nothing else. These are the places from where I find strength, no matter how much healing my heart needs. And these are the things that matter to me. For me, it’s not about whether or not I can still balance or be strong or tender in a pose, but whether or not I can get to a place of balance, strength and tenderness in my heart.
It’s what I wish for everyone.