Dust to Dust

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Last weekend, I started a yoga teacher training program.

A friend had told me about this program just about a month and a half ago. When she emailed me about it, I instantly KNEW. I needed to do this. I had no idea why. I had no idea where I’d get the money from. But, I needed to do this training.

It’s a unique training, to be sure. It’s not just about asana, or physical, practice. So we’re not getting together and just doing yoga all day. It’s holistic yoga – yoga in life, as a whole. Yoga as a spiritual practice. As my teacher says, capital “Y” Yoga.

Class format is 1 intensive weekend a month, and one Sunday. Last weekend was our first intensive weekend. When I saw an Andrea Gibson poem among the handouts for the class, I felt even more intensely that this was just where I was meant to be.

The weekend proved this out. My class quickly became a family. We did asana together once a day, and the rest of the time talked about life. About being your true Self. About SHOWING UP. How to show up. How Yoga helps you show up for your life. How spirituality is not about getting out of your life, but about showing up to it.

From Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

I felt a sense of connection that I have deeply missed. I got my heart broken open in the best way. I deeply crave connection, and yet so often I feel like it’s out of my reach. I have a deep achey loneliness that lives in my center like an icy core. I get paralyzed by it. I get suffocated by it. If you’ve ever had the experience where you’ve contacted me, and I’ve not texted, emailed, or Facebooked you back, that’s what this is about. I crave your presence. But I feel overwhelmed when I think about letting it in. I literally get tired and it feels exhausting to return communication. (and you wonder why I haven’t been writing as much lately…)

For a moment last Sunday, I let tears wash my soul and clear out a space for people to come in. It felt like I could breathe again after being underwater for a long, long time.

I am realizing that my hardship in connecting with others is really my hardship in connecting with myself and with Life at large. I was asked to write about one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for class. Last night, one was almost hand-delivered to me; I stumbled on it through a blog post. Ishvara Pranidhana Dva – the surrender/offer of self to a higher Source as a path to samadhi, enlightenment. Or, basically, surrendering to the flow of life. Um. Yikes. That’s terrifying. What if life screws me over?

And this is where my history comes in.

Really, the more I walk this path, the more I feel I was meant to walk this path at this time, specifically. I read this sutra last night, which encourages offering yourself to Source. I went to bed shortly after. When I laid down to sleep, I laid on my stomach with my arms above my head, setting an intention to offer myself to Source.

I fell into the deepest sleep I’ve had in weeks and promptly had a nightmare about a shooting, perpetrated by someone who, in my dream, was in a close friend group (he was not someone I know or recognize from real life).

Funny enough I take it as a sign that it was exactly the Yoga sutra I needed to read and write about, because this is just where my Yoga lies right now. The lack of safety and trust I feel in Life, generally.

How strange then, that today I discover further information about trauma and yoga and the body. Krista Tippett’s latest podcast featured Bessel Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who is discovering how Yoga can heal trauma. The episode is here and I highly encourage that you listen.

During the program, Mr. Van der Kolk addressed how trauma victims disconnect themselves from their bodies. Trauma impairs the imagining of how your physical body feels, as well as impairing the self-observational parts of your brain that are aware of what is happening inside. Trauma activates the primitive brain (limbic system) and at times, so overactivates this system that the rational mind (prefrontal cortex) doesn’t kick in. In other words – full scale freakout, and rationality is nowhere to be found. Because of this, trauma victims can be “hijacked” by previous experiences at almost any time. When triggered, the limbic system is activated and then control is lost. Because of the constant state of “heartache and gutwrench” that trauma victims go through, they shut down their body so as not to feel it. At times this is through alcohol or drugs, at others it’s shutting down emotional awareness in the body.

*takes a deep breath* You got all that? I know it’s all science-y speak… but mostly it just says, trauma victims are disconnected from their bodies, or even try to disconnect from them because traumatic situations affect the physical body and cause pain.

From personal experience I can tell you that this is the truth. A few months ago, I wrote a spoken word piece about my sisters, in which I penned “my DNA still trembles from the paralyzing shock” and other similar phrases. Many times I do get the sense that I can literally feel it in my body.

And in yoga, sometimes it’s emotionally excruciating for me. Deeply cleansing, but wow. Coming back to your body is deeply painful after having disconnected from it. I think to begin with, I was using alcohol to disconnect from my body. After I stopped drinking, I shut off emotional awareness of my body. It’s funny, because I actually have quite high body awareness of what emotion is stored in what area. But I know it, so I can silence it. NOT so I can connect with it.

The connection actually feels so excruciating that I had a really rough meditation experience back in June, one that kept me from meditating for about 2 months. I was doing a meditation day, and we started with meditating through a full body scan. I thought to myself, “Oh, cool, this will be good.” Nope. It was at that point that I realized just HOW MUCH trauma was residing in my body. Wave upon wave of emotional pain washed over me. I had no resources with which to deal with it, and the situation it occurred in was very unsupportive for me. In many ways my body felt it had been re-traumatized.

Mr. Van der Kolk says that the feeling of being safe in the body is not there, for a trauma victim. He talks about how it is hard for a traumatized person to relax fully during savasana (corpse pose). When he spoke of this, tears jumped to my eyes. Savasana is hard for me. I cannot relax most of the time. When I do, it’s a beautiful, healing, cleansing experience and many times I cry. But it’s hard for me to fully wind down most of the time. There’s a sense of itchiness and discomfort, groundlessness, in the pit of my stomach.

Certain poses, too, trigger things in me. Twice last week, I did a pose (Supta Padangustasana, in case you were wondering) in which my outer hips were stretched. It’s probably the tightest part of my body, first off, and I can barely move into the stretch. Each time I do it, I have flashbacks that make me tear up. They’re not horrible flashbacks, but that stretch really touches into the lack of safety I feel in my body. (Yogi friends – root chakra, anyone?)

But… this is actually a good thing because I can feel like I’m in my body again. And another good thing about yoga is that it actually changes something called heart rate variability. This is where the heartbeat and the breath sync up and create a more mindful and calm experience. Yoga is a way to feel the life inside yourself, to connect again to the body. It’s not just effective on a verbal level, it deals with the whole body where things get stored physically.

Bessel Van der Kolk says at the end of his broadcast that the feeling of safety and at the same time interconnectivity to others and life is really the essence of trauma healing.

It seems that I have landed in a program that will promote both. My Yoga training is my satsang – spiritual community. And it’s through the practice of Yoga as a whole that I am reconnecting with my body. It follows then that I’ll be able to reconnect with others.

I feel it’s summed up in a beautiful song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks on Monday. It’s called Dust to Dust, which I have to say I find really profound; in the creation myth in Genesis, our bodies are made of dust and to dust we return. Again, the return to the body and the return to connection.

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Return

%22...pero vendras conmigo...%22-2

I have another post coming soon, and this post will likely be a bit raw. But I felt the need to share it tonight.

This evening, I’ve been thinking about the words “come with me” and “return.” I hear them not only in English but in Spanish… “Conmigo. Volvere.” These words have been bouncing around in my heart since last night. I have had a rough couple of weeks with long hours at work, family reunions, and an emergency trip to see my best friend. All things I wouldn’t trade for the world, but I’m tired.

I’ve been thrown off, away from myself. Fear has rocked me like a ship on the ocean. I’ve lost myself in the maelstrom. Anxiety has been a path I’ve worn well. So last night I went for a hike in the woods to one of my favorite spots. It was time to re-center or drown.

I heard that whisper. “Come with me. Conmigo.”

It brought me to tears. I am hearing it everywhere right now. There’s a line from Lord of the Rings:

Lasto beth nin, tola dan nan galad” – Listen to my voice, come back to the light.

Come back to the light.

Return.

It just now struck me that I call my writing page “Resilient Audacity.” Resilience is bouncing back…

To me, resilience is RETURN.

To return to the core, the essence of myself that has always been there. The light that shines at the center of myself.

“Conmigo” is from a Neruda poem –

“Oh tú, la que yo amo,
pequeña, grano rojo
de trigo,
será dura la lucha,
la vida será dura,
pero vendrás conmigo.”

“Oh you, the one I love
little one, red grain
of wheat
the struggle will be hard
life will be hard
but you will come with me.”

This hearkens back as well to my favorite spoken word of all time that I posted about here a couple months ago: Andrea Gibson’s The Nutrionist.

I heard another poem by her recently and it said,

“You don’t have to leave to arrive.”

The Universe so softly, lovingly, wonderfully whispers to me: to come with, to return to the light. The one that’s been there waiting for me all along.

I’m… Tired.

So, I’ve been ramping up and speeding up and trying to organize so that I can shift this blog over to a new design and a new domain name. (Yes, for reals! Coming soon!) But one thing keeps coming up for me.

I’m tired.

I look across the blogging web-o-sphere and my mind automatically starts comparing and compartmentalizing. “Oh, this one has that many followers, oh that one writes so cleverly, oh that one is good at branding and marketing” until suddenly I am so small that I look like a mouse and my voice comes out in a squeak. How dare I think I have anything to offer?

I get discouraged because I try to build readership but let’s face it – I’m shooting in the dark. I don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest. I want to market myself, brand myself, speak up for myself, but I look around and get overwhelmed. Everyone else here seems to have it figured out. Me? Well… I’m just one. step. behind.

Until finally looking at it all, I’m so tired that I just want to toss in the towel.

Of course, this means it’s time to lean in. Lean right into that nasty pain that’s whispering insidiously, “You’re. not. good. enough. What makes you think you have anything worthwhile to share?” And keep leaning. Lean forward so far that I fall over the cliff and suddenly I’m flying, out of the nest like a baby bird, flapping my wings and looking socially awkward but hey – I’m keeping myself afloat.

The thing is, I need some air currents to catch my fall.

I’m hoping you can help. Listen, I’m stubborn and it isn’t easy for me to actually ask for that heavy word – HELP. It’s a four-letter word after all, and far more damning than any curse. But I’m tired of being tired. I do believe, so deeply and genuinely, that my words are worth it, but I just can’t do this alone anymore. I need you. So I’m asking.

Can you tell me what you’ve done to market your blog? To get your voice out there? To be so audacious and daring and brave as to believe that your words are powerful and deserving of an audience, and then going and getting one? How do you get past the overwhelming feelings that comparison brings up, and what you do on a daily basis to combat it? How do you manage keeping up with your readers through social media? Would you be willing to share your secrets with me? If so, share below or send me an email: bornsirius at gmail dot com.