Creating Space

The room was very, very hot today. With almost 40 bodies and 45% humidity, we were cooking as we made our way through the 90-minute Bikram Yoga practice. I’ve been slacking with my attendance, so every class has felt like a marathon recently. As often happens, during Pranayama Breathing (which is the very first “posture”) I was asking myself why I came. Why do I do this? I would have loved to have just stayed in bed this morning. What compelled me to come here?

But with each deep breath, slowly but surely, my thoughts began to drop off. Some other will and excited power began to generate within my muscles, and I just did the practice along with the rest of the class.

One of the things my thinking brain loves about yoga IS the decluttering of the mind. The “I don’t wannas” fade away. The self-conscious thoughts cease to matter. Even the striving to do the posture perfectly stops being helpful. There’s just one thing to do and the great Teachers and Masters have always said it: be . here . now .

In this quieter space, I notice things. I notice how very Sagittarian the Standing Bow Pulling pose is. We become the archer pulling the bow, holding that expectant moment for as long as we possibly can. “If you fall, fall forward” says the instructor. Don’t fall out from being afraid, dive in, take yourself to the edge, and HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD.

I AM the bow and arrow in this posture; my left fingers reach forward and my arm becomes the arrow, while my right toes are shooting up behind me and my legs become the bow. The subtle power of this pose lies in creating the exact suspension that the body needs to be the human bow, and in that suspension we pull our limbs apart like taffy. I am taffy, I am muscle, and I am thinking of the qualities of Sagittarius: fun, bold, adventurous. Shooting for the Moon and stars, full of faith and light. Full of humor. Sometimes when I fall out, I laugh.

There simply is just not such a thing as failure, not when we are reaching for the very light within us. There is only practice. “If you fall out, get right back in. You still have time. You can even end in the set-up for the posture. Stay in the posture.”

As a recovering perfectionist/self-defeatist, I really need yoga. It has taken me years to slowly gain perspective about who that rigid voice demanding perfection really is. The voice that is dangerous when taken seriously. That voice has gotten quieter over time, less demanding. When the voice does cry out to me, I can usually hold space for it and give it some love, like a “you’re ok, kid”. Or a “what do you need, beloved self?”

When the voice is quiet, or asleep, or absent — my mind thinks in a different way, and I see possibilities where before there were none. When I fall out of the posture, I might chuckle softly as I get right back in. There is a curiosity about mistakes: “Oh, that was a little too far forward, let’s see if I can lean back into my heel more this time….”. With a relaxed face, I go for it again. There is nothing to lose! There is no need for pride; pride is totally boring now. What’s interesting is THIS! What is happening RIGHT NOW.

There is a secret that’s not a secret, but we keep calling it a secret because it’s so obvious, we have to create a veil to even see it.

The secret is that we are the ones dreaming the dream of our existence. There is no separation between us and the Source of that dream. So go for it. You are perfectly held, even when fall out, fall down, or appear to be screwing up. Try again. Follow your strength. Do the thing that makes you say YESinside.

These are the thoughts that appear when the “noise thoughts” are abandoned. They are still thoughts, it is still thinking….but there is a different quality, a different flavor….it doesn’t take me to the same place of unnecessary suffering.

I keep following the instructor’s voice.

Eventually, even the inspired thoughts drop off. By the time we finish the Spine Strengthening series on the floor, my thoughts are like wooden blocks sitting a few feet away from me. I have retired them completely. Less is more in these moments of heavy breathing as we recover for 20 seconds in Savasana between postures.

I begin to think of class being almost over when we catch our breath in Fixed Firm pose, but we still have Camel to do. And Camel is the ultimate re-calibrator. In between the two sets of the deepest back-bend of the class, we are just existing, maybe floating, maybe feeling nauseous. Emotions can swell — anger, sadness, gratitude, love. I have shed tears during the Savasana more than once, and I have known that I am releasing old wounds, stagnant energy and fear. There is a presence all around me during those times, a presence that is rejoicing in my release and celebrating my freedom.

A spaciousness occurs.

I carry some of this open space with me when I leave class. Buffering the noise and stress of the outside world feels a tiny bit easier because I am aware of the strength that I just tapped into, the energy I played with, and the gratitude for a practice that can fill me with life. There is a lightness and slight euphoria after getting all that sweat out.

I return home to my teenage children and my messy apartment. I don’t have more money in my bank account. Nothing has been solved as far as my “problems” go. But my mind and my body are connected again. My worries aren’t running me. There is a little more space.

*

Neural Pathways

I’m following my thoughts, or they are following me.  Paved neural pathways carry me down trails of self-doubt, I don’t even notice.  Thoughts are chasing me into corners, but it’s my own voice speaking, so I am not alarmed.  It happens every day, this predictable demise of self-love.

Sometimes it is the small thoughts that wake me up.  Small, repetitive, tedious thoughts.  Nagging, list-making, flaw-finding thoughts.  Insidious thoughts – they take over and I don’t stop them.  They sound like the voice of reason, driving down these neural pathways that are more like neural ruts.  I am beginning to catch them before hours go by, before my whole day has been shadowed by doubt and dissatisfaction.

More and more, these life-sucking thoughts are being caught by the light of my own inner awareness.  They are becoming more noticeable, like red flags.  More and more, I bring myself to back away from the abyss of self-loathing….for that is exactly where the neural ruts lead me.  They all tell me I am garbage, in so many words.  Even (and sometimes especially) the “self-improvement” thoughts also lead me to that trashy feeling.  These thoughts are tricky, like I said!

They often present as subtle, grating, fear-based reasons for pervasive, fear-based questions.

Like:

“What is wrong with me?”

“Why am I fucked up?”

“Why do I do everything wrong?”

“Why do I suck at ______________?” (parenting, relationships, adulting, etc.)

“Why am I a horrible_______________?” (insert noun)

depression

When I look behind these thoughts – that are actually narrow, self-absorbed and self-loathing fantasies – I see where they are coming from.

I see the scared me.

The exhausted me.

The hurting me.

I see the me that has almost given up, but not quite, and if I could just have a hug and some love and some grounding energy, then maybe I’d be okay.

But I am alone.

It is up to me.

“It’s okay, baby” I say.

I stroke my own arm.

“You’re all good, kid” I whisper, hugging myself.

“This life shit is hard sometimes.  You are human.  You are on a spiritual quest with all the trappings of the body: Pleasure, Pain, Duality.  Joy, Loss, Grief.  Anger, Hate, Jealousy, Despair.  Fear and Desire.  Empathy.  Love.”

And with this quiet reminder, my tears are flowing and my heart is bursting with forgiveness – for this struggle, for the precarious nature of life, for myself, my friends, and for those who would be my enemies.

My neural pathways are being weeded and plowed.  The farmer of my mind is not my thoughts.

The Farmer tills the soil of my very heart.

My mind gives up resistance, in glimpses, here and there.  New neural pathways are explored.

This is more pleasure than I thought possible!  Are you sure this is allowed?

“Yes,” says the Farmer, “It’s your life.”

*

 

 

 

This Is Now

 

Now that both my boys are in therapy

Now that the right medication has been prescribed to the one with mood swings and depression

Now that the one who was recently diagnosed with ADHD is finally qualified to receive extra support from the school district, and he might actually be college-bound after all…

Now that the weight of “fixing it” has been somewhat lifted

Now that I’ve ended the year-long romance that was always only temporary anyway

Now that I’ve successfully scared off all new potential suitors

Now that, day by day, I care less and less about outside opinion

There is a certain beauty in unpopularity, you know.

Now that I am actively forgiving my father

And the father of my childhood best friend

And the rapist

And the stalker

And the one I loved and almost married, who wrestled with demons, who

lost control that one night and gave me the end I was seeking

in spades.

Now that I have grieved and healed and forged on and barely made rent at times

Now my thought is this:

Fuck, I’m tired.

*

And I know the show’s not over, and there is more brilliance than my weary mind can imagine waiting on the other side of this valley.

There is a place to fill my cup, replenish and dance with vibrancy and fearlessness again.

And there will be more valleys, surely, the further into time I walk in this body.

When I reach them, it is possible that I will carry new and powerful tools with which to navigate that terrain.  My dormant talents will have further awakened.  I will be that much more practiced in the art of love alchemy.

This is now.

Not what was, or what will become.

And now, thanks to this stupid sinus infection, I’m forced to rest and miss work.

My task is to care for this body, in its sickness and health.

My to-do list is this:

Rest

Love

Forgive

Repeat

 

 

 

 

Holy

There will be some days when you feel more holy than others,

And that is good.

As you bask in the sweetness of your connection to the One who sustains you,

Remember, dear one, you are just like the other.

Reach, reach, reach

For the end of yourself.

Anytime you think you “know” –

Press further.

Press past any idea of being right.

Press into the Mystery.

Trust your gut –

When instinct says:

Get out!

Leave!

I don’t deserve this!

This is not what I want!

Listen.

Protect your precious, precious self.

*

But when Grace hits you like a ton of bricks,

And you can’t stop thinking about

Him

Or Her

Or It —

Please, reach only for that place

Where you dissolve.

Claim nothing.

Take nothing.

Judge nothing.

The Mind is the Ocean,

Cool and vast.

The Heart is on fire,

Erupting with love and yearning for the Thing that binds us.

Fan those flames only, my friend.

Fan those flames only.

*

*

*

The Beheading

I don’t want the rose-colored glasses.

I want the gritty, changing landscape of your personality and face.

I want to touch your feral mind.

I don’t want the pretense of wrapping this up in a tidy package.

I don’t want shiny paper.

I don’t want the sophomoric ideals that get filed away so that it can all read like some manifesto of a life that was fantasized, but not lived.

*

I don’t want to try to make this look pretty.

*

I want my savage heart to be recognized by one who has found the end of himself, and stayed, made a home there.  One who needs nothing from me – or anyone – to know that he is ok.  One who loves himself enough to tell me – or anyone – that he needs a hug, or a friend.

I want to know someone who turns from the dazzling lights of outer “reality” to move ever-deeper through the darkest tunnels of the inner experience.

*

So please, look at me with the eyes of your knowing.

See that I am so very imperfect, in every possible way.

See that nothing can stop me from traveling in these tunnels, leaving behind the world of identity.  As unpopular as it may be, and even as the ground crumbles beneath my feet, all I can do is press on toward my own beheading.

*

We are searching because we know there is a light in these tunnels.  Even when we can’t see it, we can feel it.  Sometimes the light appears and it is so very small.  Like a tiny memory of something sweet, something that keeps you coming back for more.

Gradually, and randomly, the light becomes larger and brighter.  It fills up the entire cave of your being.  The light pours through you and out into the world, into the eyes of everyone you meet, filling your words and your deeds.  You are the light.

And as the light, you are moving and living and breathing in this body that feels so dense and so real.  You are filled with emotions governed by the body through the endocrine system.  You are full of thoughts, worries, beliefs, convictions.  Hopes, dreams, aspirations.

Something in you is telling you to continue walking.  Walk even further into the dark forest of your consciousness, into your own void of owning/controlling/knowing/being anything.

Walk.

*

My form is disintegrating as I walk.

Who is “I”?

My limbs fall off.

Who is “I”?

My head is cut off and rolling away from me.

Who is “I”?

The head tries to stay in control, staring at the scattered body parts that it once called its own.

Who is “I”?

A presence remains.  Unattached to the head, the trunk, the limbs.

It is now existing as raw energy.

It is living now as it has lived throughout the ages.

We don’t recognize it, lifetime after lifetime.

We forget:

we are it.

*

I don’t want the rose-colored glasses.

I want the beheading.

I want all-pervading consciousness to live in me, through me, as me.

Because any idea of “me” just doesn’t add up anymore.

*

 

 

 

Over It

 

I’ve been feeling riled up and at the end of my rope.  I have my list of reasons why my life is challenging right now.  I have my bag of feelings telling me: this is too hard, I need to find a way out, I can’t do this, I’m failing.  I’m keeping struggle and conflict nearby, like they are part of my identity.

I’m tired.  I’m edgy.  I’m “this close” to biting your head off.

Like a wounded animal, I snarl and back into my cave.  Don’t fuck with me.

I can taste the blood in my mouth, the blood of this heart I’ve been carrying around, and I realize that it is MY heart.  The anger and frustration are in vain because they only lead back to self-sabotage.

Bruises are blooming upon the mind that keeps punching itself.  But once you’re in a downward spiral, none of this matters.  You are drunk on this conviction that THIS IS ALL WRONG.

The blood leaks from the corners of my mouth.

*

I don’t know how to put my heart back in my body.

I don’t know how to find stillness in this world that is so very cracked.

I don’t know how to meet the standards it takes to be a “good mother,” a “good woman,” a “good human being.”

The satisfaction is always a step away, an achievement away, a validation away.

“I’m almost there.”

“I’m going to make it.”

“Everything is going to be okay.”

“My kids are going to turn out fine.”

“Someday, I will find love.”

But this is now.

*

Something in me is crying, because it is right here, and it always has been, and I’m so sorry I’ve forgotten again.  I forgot it about you, and him, and her, and me and all of us.

Help me remember.

Help me find my way back when I’m lost like this.

Will you shine your light on the path that leads to the field that Rumi speaks of?

*

I had a dream last night, full of the usual busy-ness and nonsense.  I had a million obligations.  I felt judged.  I was comparing myself to those around me.  I harbored a list of the 5,642 reasons why I suck.

Suddenly, I was drawn to lie down on a hidden patch of grass, dappled in sunlight.

I lay down.

It was the sweetest thing.

That feeling of failure was so strong and I was so tired from it.

I let myself rest.

I was being given a gift, lying here in the sun.  The chaos of the world was three feet away, but I was offered a respite, a moment of inactivity.

I didn’t earn that moment.

That moment didn’t fix me.

I didn’t escape my whereabouts or my looming obligations.

In that moment, as gave up on trying,

I felt loved.

*

And I was that love.

*

Broken Little Pieces

 

We are all refugees

here

Trying to keep our precious hearts alive.

*

It happens

as it should

That you will find yourself unraveled

into pieces

like so many messy parts

The veil is shattered,

and your brokenness is hanging like an unhinged door

So obvious —

There’s no use trying to make this look pretty.

*

When you find yourself this way

Crooked and unhinged

Will you please say hello to your mind

with kindness?

Step into the dark places, and find the ones who look like monsters.

See your Rage, sharpening its blade of resentment like a knife, silently seething with a killer’s white fury.

Step towards it and drop to your knees.

Stroke its perfect face, distorted as it may be.

Thank it for working so hard to protect you all these years.  All this time.

Feel how tired it is and let it take a rest.

Gently remove the blade from its hand, placing it nearby.

Lay its head down on a bed of moss covered with white flowers.

Let it rest.

Nothing to do right now, sweet Rage.

You can sleep.

*

See Rejection standing nearby.

Rush towards it with open arms.

Cradle it, hold it to your smiling heart, for there is nothing more worthy of love than this one who has forgotten its own worth.

Let it feel the comfort that you bring as you accept it exactly as it is right now.

Wrap it in your favorite shawl and help it to lay down for a nap on the soft, green moss.

*

Do this, continuously, for everyone you find in the shadows of your mind.

Greed.  Fear.  Judgment.  Perversion.  Doubt.  Sadness.  Jealousy.  Shame.  Irritation.  Hopelessness.  Worry.  Depression.  Control.  Denial.

Find these broken pieces.

Love them in their brokenness.

There is nothing to fix.

With a quiet kind of grace, we are sweeping the mind

and the story is falling away.

The Refuge is here,

ever-accessible.

Find it in stillness, in silence, in the breathing in and out.

Find it in weeping, in falling apart, in the heart that is bursting

with unconditional love.

*