Monday, September 24, 2012

asking for forgiveness

Over the past week I have talked to my classes about Yom Kippur, the day of atonement in Judaism, which is coming up this week. In the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we are supposed to ask our fellow man for forgiveness, but on this holiest day of the year we ask for forgiveness from G-d. I have talked to my classes about being their own Higher Power, asking themselves for forgiveness and then granting that forgiveness.

I have asked them all to practice with more, ahimsa, compassion for themselves, less judgement. And then I have asked them to take that feeling of self-compassion out of the studio, off the mat, and into their lives. Its a tall order I know, but as I speak about ahimsa, I can see what I'm saying is hitting home with so many of my students as they nod their heads along while I speak to them.

Increasingly I find myself awake in the early hours of the morning contemplating decisions I have made.  Don't worry my friends, I'm no longer lying on my mat in a crumpled little pile.  I've made it off the mat and back into the world, still knowing my mat is a little haven for me, and returning there with frequency.  As you can imagine accompanying all this contemplation of my decisions comes a range of emotions: regret, anger, self-satisfaction, pain, joy. And yet a lack of ahimsa.

I know I am my own worst critic.  I often think of it as being critical in a loving way, the way a parent pushes their child to do more, better, faster, stronger, I push myself.  It seems I may have found the tipping point of pushing myself to be better. I often ask my students to quiet the negative chatter in their minds when they practice, but I have been unable to do the same. I have found myself tearing apart every choice I have made over the past two years. And regretting a good portion of my choices.  I wasn't as loving as I could have been. I was selfish. I went to the library when I could have stayed and studied at home with my partner. I chose activities around campus rather than building my relationship.

I recognize the harshness with which I am treating myself. I haven't made all bad choices, but in this moment I'm having a hard time taking my own advice and treating my practice, my life, my choices, with ahimsa.

I would like to say that what I will do is spend more of my thoughts being compassionate to myself, but I can't promise that. I can promise myself that I will try for more compassion. I can promise I will keep trying to be my own Higher Power and to forgive myself.

Here is one thing that I know for sure, I'm good at asking for forgiveness. It can take me some time, but I can recognize when I have been wrong. When I get there I admit it and I ask to be forgiven.  So you can bet on Yom Kippur I will be asking my Higher Power for forgiveness, I will keep asking myself for forgiveness, and I will always ask the person I have harmed for forgiveness.

For right now that's the best I can do as far as ahimsa for myself.  I always tell my students that as long as they are truly trying the effort is what brings the benefit, I'm going to work on taking my own advice today.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

why laying in a broken pile on your mat is enough

Some days yoga is easy, your body asks you for it, begs you for it. Your mat seems to unroll itself and you float on to it.  You think about the ease of your practice and how yoga is so right for you and your life.

Some days it takes every ounce of strength you have just to put your mat on the floor. That day you lie in a broken pile on your mat, and that is your yoga.  You think, "I'm not sure if I can even keep breathing, but if I can that's my yoga today." And so you do, and its excruciating.  Every breath feels like a marathon.  The idea of leaving your thoughts off the mat that day is an impossibility. Your thoughts swirl around you and taunt you, refusing to quiet.  You laugh to yourself as you think "I just need to breathe louder than my thoughts."  Because your thoughts are screaming at you.

Today I am lying in a broken pile.  I don't even know how I made it on to my mat. But I know at 3am I woke up crawled out of bed and curled up here and I can't really tell you why I chose that this morning.

Yoga serves different purposes on different days. There are days its a workout, I just want to sweat so I practice.  There are days I need some introspection and so I meditate though my practice.  Today I don't know if I can do anything more with my life than just lie here, so that's exactly what I'm doing.

I've spent the past days barraging myself with positive ideas. When something good leaves you have space for something even better. Standing in the rubble of what once was is an opportunity to build again.  Fear of being alone is just that, fear, so acknowledge it and get stronger.  Thinking all those positive thoughts felt like the right thing to be doing right now.

But right now those positive thoughts aren't serving me.  You've heard me and a million other yoga teachers tell you, "Whatever isn't serving you today, just let it go." Well, today all that positivity isn't serving me.  Today I am served by feeling my excruciatingly deep pain.

Don't get me wrong, especially on a day like today I feel gratitude.  It's September 11th, and to not mention the tragedy that this country faced 11 years ago would be a mistake.  And so today, even as I feel like the pain I am feeling is deeper, and darker, and impossible to climb out of, I know deep down it isn't.  And that is when I feel a glimmer of gratitude and those positive thoughts start to trickle back in.

I know that in order to feel pain this deep and profound, to have my heart broken so completely means that my heart was totally exposed and I loved deeply.  The person I loved taught me how to love myself when I hated myself. I know that I loved someone more than I had ever imagined possible and that person loved me more than I even loved myself. When I think about it that way how can I feel anything but gratitude, what more can I ask for than to have had someone in my life who truely saw me and loved me?

Today it feels like I'm never going to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart. And so today I'm not going to.