ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 8, 2015
One of the most challenging parts of my adult life thus far has been learning to be okay with being uncomfortable. I don’t know about you, but my psyche does basically anything it can to avoid being emotionally uncomfortable. I can safely say that I spent years avoiding everything - avoiding my feelings (good or bad), avoiding confrontation, avoiding people I felt I had somehow offended (even if it was just in my imagination) - just generally avoiding. Turns out that avoidance is one hell of a lonely place to be. It alienates us from experiences, from other people but most importantly, from ourselves.
I was driving home from work one day when it dawned on me that I had been on an emotional flatline for years. In that instant, I couldn't name a moment in the last 10 years when I had I felt overwhelming joy. I couldn’t remember the last time I had allowed myself to feel grief. I couldn’t recall a recent time where I was so excited about something that I had butterflies in my stomach for days. Emotions make life meaningful. Who and what do we become when we numb ourselves from feeling anything?
The back story is that I lost my mom just before my 13th birthday. Her death was sudden and it left a gaping hole in my soul. Shortly thereafter, I decided in my unconscious mind that grief was far too painful, and I couldn’t possibly allow myself to feel that - not then and not ever again. Up went wall #1. Then I learned that love eventually led to grief, if it ended when I wasn't ready. Up went wall #2: vulnerability.
On and on it went until one fine day over a decade later, I wasn’t feeling much of anything any more, but I was also aware enough to know how much of a tragedy it was. I was a passerby in my own life! The more I practiced yoga, the more I was forced to get to know myself - you can't avoid yourself on the mat! And I began to realize that the issue was how I was choosing to participate (or not) in my life. I started to peel back the walls I had put up over the years and uncovered all the grief I had never dealt with.
A few months ago, I went through a very challenging few weeks - I flipped my life upside down in several ways and for the first time in a long time, allowed myself to feel. It wasn’t pretty. I spent nights sobbing for all of the love I had missed out on and for all the hurt I caused others over the years as I lived my life out of fear and avoidance. It took weeks but eventually, I stopped feeling the need to cry every 12 seconds and I came out much less afraid of feeling.
I sat with the grief and I made it through. What had I been so scared of?
What are you scared of?
Do you have a part of your story that you bury away somewhere because it hurts too much to face it head on? So many of us do, and we are definitely not alone.
What I’m learning (the hard way of course, cuz that's how I roll) is that there is infinite growth in being uncomfortable. THAT is what makes us who we are. The grace with which we move through the fire shows us what we’re made of and allows us to wrap out arms around ourselves, tell ourselves we are going to be okay and become our own best supporter.
Another reason I believe in yoga as way in to personal transformation is that it helps build the strength to be with the deepest corners of yourself little by little. It puts you in physically uncomfortable positions that are a metaphor for the challenges of life off the mat. How we behave on the mat is how we behave off the mat. So what are you going to do when your muscles are screaming and burning in a pose? Are you going to come right out of it and give yourself an out as soon as possible? ("I'm tired, my leg hurts, I'll hold the pose next time, I don't like this teacher, why do we have to hold it so long? ugh I SO don't have to do what he says, yadda yadda")
Are you going to spend the entire 5-breath hold fidgeting around “looking” for the pose to avoid actually staying in it? Are you going to mentally check out and travel elsewhere so you can avoid being present with the discomfort? Or are you going to stay in the fire and breathe through it?
The grief and the crap, just like the pose, is transient. This too shall pass. Yoga taught me to breathe into the fire and see that it's a lot easier to feel the burn than it is to continue to fight it. There is freedom in surrender.
For the first time in forever I feel like I can look at myself in the mirror and say “hey, whatever happens, I’VE GOT YOU, OKAY?”
You’ve got you too. When life happens, don’t run. Face it head on with open arms and an open heart. When it hurts, sit on the floor and cry it out. I’ll sit on the floor with you. Let it wash over you and then wrap your arms around yourself and tell yourself you’ve got you. Always.