A few weeks ago I was pretty sure I had hurt my hamstrings. As I get older I find that I’m not as flexible as I use to be, yet I let my ego get the best of me and go deep when perhaps I shouldn’t. It’s tough because it’s not like I have serious pain or there’s an ‘oh shit’ moment that I can blame.
You know the OS moment. You’re in class feelin’ groovy, loosey goosey and juicy. Instead of recognizing these moments as a time to hold back because you are too open, I take it as a sign to go HAM. Bad idea. This is my modus operandi. The next day I’m a lil’ sore but never left feeling ‘injured. But a few weeks ago something happened.
I should back up.
The past three months have been intense and exciting. I’ve been in massage school full-time and planning how to combine massage and yoga. School and teaching at night has been a bear. On the love front I’ve made some choices about the things I really want and deserve. All of this has required processing old hurts that I have both caused and received. Unrelated (or so I thought) I began to notice a tightening in my hamstrings after class. Not gonna lie- on many days my ischial tuberosities (you may know them as butt knuckles) hurt like a mf, but never the hammies.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Before a 4pm class I let my teacher know that my I may have injured my hamstrings. But even as the words came out of my mouth I wasn’t so sure that was accurate. I was at Jivamukti taking Julie Kirkpatrick’s class (I think she’s a compassionate and brilliant teacher). The focus of the month is karma and reincarnation. Whether you believe or not isn’t as important as understanding that unless we heal the old wounds we can’t move forward and receive all that life has in store.
So here I am saying I may have a hamstring injury, but honestly, I’m not in pain per se. No shooting pain, no tearing, no searing, no ripping. Just a sense that things are tight and uncomfortable. Julie gave me a couple of really thoughtful suggestions and I decided to dive into class with an open heart. The more I moved, the more I started to think about my past. Fleeting memories and a flurry of feelings seemed to creep up the backside of my body. But my range of motion was unaffected. I had the same depth that I normally do.
Thant’s when it occurred to me. I’m not physically injured. I’m working through some psychic shit. Old wounds that need to be healed. Feelings of insecurity that I thought had been long processed (thanks therapy!!) were trying to get out. From a body wisdom perspective it’s said that we process old hurts through the back of the body. In class the more I moved and was present with what I was feeling I didn’t feel tight. It was amazing a little unnerving. While there are times when an injury is an injury a sense of self-awareness and ability to listen to the body is critical.
Yoga has taught me not to run. Yoga has taught me to trust myself even when I’m not sure what is real. What things am I grasping? What could happen if I let go? If I take a moment to pause and look deeper, I have the answers. And if I don’t have the answer I know what questions to ask.
The sentenced women’s dorm is quiet due to lots of women heading home.
Class Friday morning was small and I was touched that students were asking about my hip. I had injured it and had to miss class. One student was chatting about how she had been feeling and was met with a little surprise by another student who seemed shocked at the level of confession. We all started talking about yoga and how it opens you up. I shared how yoga had opened me up.
‘Kathryn’ (not her real name) said that it sounded like my old life was my prison. I’d felt like that but it wasn’t anything I ever felt comfortable saying to my students- after all, creating you’re own ‘prison’ and real jail are two different things.
Or so I thought….
I confessed that I have always felt comfortable teaching classes at Rosie’s, that in fact I feel at home in jail. I didn’t get looks of shock- but knowing nods. I confront the self I used to be when I walk inside those doors. It was a defining moment. One that I haven’t been able to shake.
We create prisons for ourselves. These prisons can be built on a soulful level, draining and leaving us feeling unfulfilled, bitter and judgmental. We can spend our time pointing fingers at people’s lives and choices when we really should be putting up a mirror (with unflattering fluorescent light to really bring that shit home) to our own bs. These same prisons can keep us from stepping into our true calling because we are encased in fear and anxiety. We block our ability to give and receive unconditional love. But it doesn’t stop there.
When we create prisons- we add stress to our bodies.
It puts unnecessary pressure on our endocrine system. It makes our heart work harder. It deprives us of sleep. Sleep is needed to repair and restore our body. It increases our blood pressure. Creating prisons can set us up to reaact to triggers and abuse drugs, alcohol, sex, food and money to fill a void. Scary stuff. But there are ways out.
I’ve heard so many students at Rikers say that they needed to come to jail to find yoga. It happens more than I can say. The students who say this give me hope. They sound as if they have found their path. Yoga put me on a path to healing. I had spent most of my life putting up bars and locking myself away from life.
‘Kathryn’ thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts before class. You’ve made me think.
Are you in a prison of your own making? Liberate yourself.
May all beings be happy and free.
I received mail from myself. Really. Several months ago, I took a meditation course. One Friday afternoon, we wrote ourselves a letter. It was a reflection on what we have learned so far and to remind ourselves of the power of being present. Emily, our teacher said that she would mail them to us. I had completely forgotten about it.
When I opened the mailbox and saw the chicken scratch a huge smile came across my face. I sat in the lobby of my building and read the letter. I’d never felt so intimate with my thoughts. It’s one thing to have a journal. It’s another to get them via the US Mail.
The last line read-
You have been living more authentically than you have in your life. Don’t stop. I love you.
I placed the letter on my meditation altar. Sometimes we are our own best teachers.
I’ve just finished a quiz and I’m making myself crazy about the grade. It’s not about the grade- it’s about the learning. I know this intellectually but sometimes my Ego takes her own damn time catching up. Meanwhile she spreads her vicious gossip and toxic thinking. Such a bitch.
The funny part is- I was listening to Pema Chodron on my bike ride to school and she was answering a question about giving into cravings or desire. The issue isn’t the craving- it’s the value that we assign to the craving. Good. Bad. Smart. Stupid.
Judgement, judgement everywhere and not a kind thought to think.
The grade doesn’t matter. The fact is I learned a shit ton (Yes, that’s a scientific term) about the endocrine system. And I’m really happy.
I hope I got an A.
Hey- one step at a time.
Namaste y’all 😉
I used to snicker at the Self-Improvement section when I first worked in the book world. Snobby, I know. But over the years I would find myself sneaking over there, browsing shelves and buying things pretending they were for ‘a friend’. When I had to do a lot of driving between stores I could listen to audiobooks fearlessly. Wayne Dyer’s the Power of Intention had a profound impact. I hadn’t yet made the decision to make some radical life changes- but a seed was planted. I also loved watching his special on PBS when fundraising was in full effect.
It took a few years after the seed was planted but I changed the way that I looked at things. Things changed.
Thank you Wayne Dyer. Enjoy the adventure.
Today I got lost in my sit. This was the intention. I’m meant to stay present, but I wandered deeply into my thoughts. During meditation I have a teacher that says, ‘Notice the vastness of your inner world.’ That is exactly what happened. Inside me seemed never ending. Some areas felt strange, others felt beautiful but it was all mine and so rich. Why hadn’t I seen this before? Spending so many years distracted by outside things kept me from seeing that so much was inside me.
2015 is my year of living mindfully.
Last night I spent the evening at Radical Wellness, my neighborhood wellness store that is drenched with warmth. The Essential Oils Club meets monthly and yesterday was the Pride Edition since Jersey City celebrates Pride tomorrow. Rashena is a wealth of knowledge and paired oils with the chakras. She talked a lot about grounding and self-love. I was honored to lead off the discussion with a guided meditation that centered around self-love, acceptance and intuition. Whether you are coming out to the world as LGBT or coming out as yourself, there’s a need to step into that with a sense of strength rather than fear. Transitions are scary. Not everyone will agree with you. Some will abandon you.
That’s the big pill to swallow. But you have to trust that your people are out there and it starts with a tribe of one.
So go ahead. Astound yourself. And let’s high-five on the other side.
I had to walk my dog in a different direction due to construction. Even though I’ve been walking her for years, she gets a little panicked when we wander too far from home or take a different route. Dakota plants herself on the ground, stops walking or sometimes even tries to turn back. I’m not sure if it’s the past trauma she’s suffered or anxiety. Years ago, it was really bad and we couldn’t go very far- but now I have her sit and pause. Then we resume our walk with some encouragement from yours truly. After a few minutes, the anxiety dissipates and her dog smile appears. She transforms- no longer worried about where’s she’s going but enjoying dog stuff.
The next time I have that anxious feeling about starting again- I’m going to remember the furry creature that lives in my space.
We all start where we start.