I had my first full yoga practice a few nights ago. I flew all the way to the heartland for it. When my teacher asked me if I enjoyed myself, I said, “Ahhh, hello? Didn’t you hear me laughing continually all night?” I thanked her for being the other one laughing in the room. Because this Yiddish Yogi from New York stood out enough as it was. And so my boisterous laugh was pleased to have some great company!
My beloved asked me how it felt for me to be back on my mat after 6 months. I sat a moment and I then I answered.
“I felt unattached.”
But that is not all that I felt. It is true. I was unattached in a very big way. This once-described “yoga jock” was not at all attached to how her poses looked. But what I also noticed was that I was WIDE AWAKE. I was engaged and I was interested. Compelled. Asking questions. The spark of inspiration which led me to this practice was alive and engaging again.
I also laughed at myself a good deal.
For instance, when we did our first Adho Mukha Svanasana, I found myself laughing at myself. It wasn’t a question of “am I doing this right?” It was more a feeling of “who am I?”
I thought back to when Meryl Streep was in Ireland playing the role of the eldest sister in the film “Dancing at Lughnasa.” Meryl, esteemed for a plethora of reasons, one of them being her ability to perfect dialects, was working with a dialect coach on this film. Her coach was correcting her over and over again. Historically, Meryl had the ability to read a script once and not need to look at it again. She would recall the lines from that one read and that was that. On this particular occasion, all of her preparation for her character work went flying out the window due to her work with the dialect coach’s corrections. She claimed that she could not only NOT remember her lines, but she didn’t know who she was (her character), nor what her intention was, what her character wanted, and the list went on (all of the necessary preparatory character work which makes what we see on screen feel authentic). All of the things which had become innate to her as an actor (and which she is so masterful at) flew out the window due to the nuanced coaching of that particular dialect and the specific way in which that dialect coach was working with her. She claimed it as a mini “character” identity crisis at the time.
Unlike Meryl, I did not feel at all critiqued, or triggered in the way she was, but as I was in Adho Mukha Svanasana, I began to feel completely stripped of my own identity and found myself feeling many of the same feelings. Who am I? What do I want? What is my intention? What do I need? What is my body doing? What is it saying? Whose legs are these? It wasn’t actually existential. It was just new. New hips, new sensations, new legs, and yes (!!!) periodic “full on” iliotibial band muscle spasms from doing too much from all of this “newness.” It was quite funny to me, actually.
But the “new” was much deeper for me than the asana. Three days of asana. And I took really good care of myself. I resided in a deep listening to my body for which I am exceedingly grateful. But something else happened for me during these days.
When I went to say goodbye and thank the guest teacher for her skillful attention towards me and for all of her help, she said, “You know Jill, you should know I didn’t give you any more attention than anyone else.”
I have to say this was challenging for me to hear.
A great teacher will point out something which needs to be known. And this is what she did. I am grateful for this. Truly grateful.
And... and... and...
What stirs inside of me is something deeper.
When you come from a place of deprivation and then something is given to you, the very thing you have been deprived of, the newness of it, the holding of it, the stepping into it is big. It feels big. Perhaps bigger than what is actually being offered. Which would explain the incongruity between the offering and my response to the offering.
And something bigger happened for me, inside of me in response to my teacher. For her it may have been quite simple. And for me, it was big. One of the reasons I feel I can be in healthy relation to her is because her boundaries are exquisitely clean and clear. And for this reason, I feel a deep level of trust within myself and with her.
The kindnesses shown, the generosities offered to me were beautiful and heading in, I honestly wondered if I would be able to handle them. What I mean by “handle” is I wondered if I would find these things (the kindness and generosity, lovely things we should all have the opportunity to experience in life in healthy ways) overwhelming to receive. I even wondered if I would fall apart a little. Perhaps that sounds dramatic, (I am, after all, working on my character trait of being a “Paralyzed Sensitive!”) but on the heels of two back to back surgeries, not having community around me by way of support, and knowing that I was invited to come on this sojourn (because this was going to be deeply supportive to me, the very thing I was lacking), I did wonder if this “newness” would knock me off my center.
Everything offered to me was offered effortlessly. Yet, offered knowingly and with incisive precision and clarity. I am grateful to have been under the custodianship of and partnership with these exquisite and fine qualities which I respect deeply.
What I recognize is that I felt loved. Held in love. Even without words. This is what I felt. And as I sat, feeling that, the truth is, it was an embrace which was deeply powerful to me. Healing to my nervous system. Something that I have, in all honesty, only looked at from the point of view of being on the outside of, for so long, that being in it felt so new that I need to give myself a moment to catch up.
Breathe. Catch up. Give thanks. Offer compassion to the places in me which haven’t known where to sit but want only to sit. Which haven’t know how to heal but want only to heal. Which have now begun to re-pattern in a new way of siting still in hope and gratitude “simply” (and folks, this wasn’t simple for me at all) because I have been held quietly in love.
It bears repeating.
for this new.
For this waking up.
In this quiet.