Stirrings of a Nervous Breakdown…I mean Spiritual Awakening?!

I intended to write about feminism – a list of why we need a new movement and a direct response to those that have decided that feminism is no longer needed. Yet, this is what came out when I sat down to write.

It is revolutionary and terrifying to release the control and movement of your breath into another’s control. At least for someone that likes to be in control, which of course, isn’t me.

About a month ago, I was in the middle of my 2nd Yoga Teacher Training Intensive at Circle Yoga Shala that was focused on Pranayama (Breathing Techniques). I climbed the hills of Hwy 7 to the shala with a hybrid of emotions not yet knowing these would be forced to the surface in a room full of individuals due to focusing my attention on breath alone (under the guidance of my teacher, Matt).

On the 3rd day, we began the practice of Kapalabhati – “Skull shining breath.” (Get your jokes out now, Amanda).  In the middle of practice, I felt my chest tighten, my jaw clench, and tears flood down my face.  Completely perplexed by what was going on, I tried to make myself as small as possible in the room, not garnering attention from anyone. I have always been the “I don’t cry in front of other people” person. Also, I loathe being the center of attention which is obvious by the deep shade of beet red that rises in my face.  Yet, here I was sitting in what felt like a crowded room searching my head rather than my heart for why on earth I couldn’t gather myself and stop. I didn’t want to sit through this and show what I perceived to be a weakness. For some reason, I stayed put. I didn’t rush out the door and head off that mountain though I entertained that thought for about 15 minutes.  My tears slowed but I knew the minute we circled up to talk about our experience they would return. All Matt had to say was “Why the drop in spirit?” and here they came.  What I struggled the most with was my inability to pinpoint the cause of this downpour.  I sat there thinking is this what a nervous breakdown is? Have I completely lost my mind? Graciously, Matt moved to the next person.  I was really hoping for a break, but after everyone shared we went back to practice. And here they came again, but rather than forcing the tears and the emotions to go back to a tightly closed bottle, I sat there and let them come. I could not do the practice that was being taught, but I did stay with my breath body.  The practice came to a close and I wiped my face as we circled up. Holly (my teacher too) came in and noticed my drained face. She had me try and relate what was happening.  She observed that even in that moment I was barely breathing, so her only instruction was to breath in my stomach.  The rest of the day went on with a screaming headache but with kind love from my teachers and all the other students.

That night, upon Holly’s invitation, we sat down and discussed my experience.  I cannot write everything I learned from her that night; this would go on and on. What I am reminded right now, is the understanding and full belief that the trauma you experience in life is reflected in your body and your breath. If you spent much of your life in survival mode, this is reflected in your posture and where you breathe.  At the moment, I no longer need to be in survival mode. My task is to learn how to reside in peace and allow the wounds that have healed to be only a part of me. All the stories that have molded me into who I am today do make up my identity, but not all of it.  It is difficult to relay in words everything that was revealed to me.

The next morning, I woke up with a new sense of self-confidence. By showing my softer side to those around me and even to myself, I became more open. The guilt of previous mistakes, decisions, slowly began to drop off and I was ok with “mistakes” again. The perfection I set was the isolating force that kept me from fully diving into humanity. As well as my normal doomsday perspective of “expect the worst and be surprised with the best” was replaced with the life perspective “to be present in the joy and sorrow.” It could probably go without saying, but I have a lot to unlearn along with returning to my body and my breath with loving kindness.

I’ll call this a mini-spiritual awakening, rather than a mini-nervous breakdown. I’m hoping the effects continue to soak my entire being. I’m intensely grateful to my teachers and fellow yogis at the shala and all my dear friends and teachers back home in Little Rock. I’m awed by the loving embrace and encouragement that you all send my way.

“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Cat Hair Strangulation

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This back deck has produced many life giving conversations.

This weekend was entirely too necessary. The cement walls of Little Rock and the uncertainty of new beginnings was piling 10 pound weights on my chest and my cat decided to add a little pressure by covering it all with cat hair. Every day I felt as though I was strangling on the previous evening’s happenings, insecurities brought about embracing the cuss words: vulnerability and openness, and my romanticized notion of a life not my own. How quickly this can spiral into self-doubt which in turn makes me want to run and hide under the covers, also infused with black cat hair – damn you Dylan.

I needed open air, yes that would solve all my busy thoughts. I can’t say that it didn’t help but more so what softened and quieted my mind were the conversations I had with dear confidents that have seen all of me. Friends that love me for my vulnerabilities (word of the week) not despite them – some I have deemed family, you know who you are and have been warned. They understand the longing within me to do more for others, need for self-compassion, and the understanding of my past but more so the acknowledgment of the person I am now and the allowance to let me be – fully and without judgment – one huge hair ball of lovely, dark, light infused, tragic and courageous elements.

Amanda, my friend/counselor/sister, has lent me these words over the years- dichotomy and cognitive dissonance. I was speaking with another friend, Sarah, this weekend and finally realized that much of my internal discomfort was the result of a dichotomized self – I was split in two and felt as though I had to choose a side. Could I be both? Hold both life perspectives, dreams, all the while allowing for change and spontaneity to change either side? I was feeling pulled in one direction towards independence with connection and adventure and the other also with independence but with deep, middle earth, roots. Can’t I have it all?

(Cue my youngest godkiddo’s words the fake and overly dramatized, “Wah. Wah.”)

Sometimes choices are necessary and we live in a world where we are bombarded with them every waking second. We avoid or make them with too much or too little thought. But beware of the bite of cognitive dissonance. Here I was sitting, living a life that did not match up to what I believe to be true (ok that is dramatic, but you get what I’m saying) – leaving me to seek or romanticize a life that a friend was living or reverting to a past time that I made to be more truth than it was in reality.

My weekend was too necessary and exactly what I needed. Surrounded by friends that love all of me helped me feel encouraged and gave me the courage to embrace the uncertainty that is within my life – this is to live life fully with the belief of worthiness and that I am enough, we all are. I can have multiple dreams but I can’t forget to live in the moment because if I check myself I will recognize that this is a way for me to erase as much vulnerability from my life – to live for then rather than now. If I’m out of the present I can make so many wonderful plans that may never affect me, convenient, eh?

Rather than sitting here in fear of a life wasted– I sit in gratitude for all the amazing connections I have made over the years. Thank you dear friends for your consistent love and the challenge to live a wholehearted life – take this appreciation now because this may change when the hurt of living in a vulnerable world creeps in and then I’ll need reminding to keep going despite this- along with a huge, hand churned bowl of almond ice cream.

The Big V

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Vulnerability (surprise): At times I cringe at the word, what it applies, the aftermath when things go, well, not as you have planned.  Growing up in a house where my vulnerability was without control – small child surrounded by one careless and reckless adult – I grew up quickly and left this part of me walled off and for many years I only let a few pass through.  At times, I would function as the IDF, letting you through but rarely acknowledging it and some day you may have come to the crossing and found the border closed off, no passage, regardless of what your ID card said.

Along with my childhood, other life experiences have led me on the path of making everything casual and without expectation, at least outwardly. Living through the deaths of those close to me – family and friend alike – my only expectation for much of my life was to forge the path alone because ultimately that is all you have. Given for me it could go without saying that, I believe God was and is with me, however at times the dark night of the soul would reign and any kind belief in a spiritual presence felt absurd.

Funny thing is people constantly compliment me on how independent I am.  Of course, I am independent and I value my freedom and inner strength. But also, you have to understand I don’t have, nor have I ever had, the choice to be any other way. Some folks have safety nets; I have a black hole that is looming.

I promise this will become less cynical. Now to passion since I feel like they can and do go hand and hand.

The concept to live passionately has always resonated and detracted me –I understand the romanticized notion, but when you have lived through some chaotic times this is also a taboo. Living life fully I’m on board with. However, I do believe that analysis gets a bad rap. Spontaneity is amazingly wonderful and sometimes detrimental. I don’t think that your default setting should be living life without thought or concern for reality.  Living life intentionally, doing this “passionately”, being cautious yet fearless and always open to adventure – it’s all a balance (as we used to say at Eastern).  Going all in on one side of the coin is going to leave a trail of hurt within yourself and to those you are surrounded by.  Maybe I’m off here but that is where I sit on this notion yet I can see where passion towards life has taken me to wonderful and dark places, both valuable.

I have lived my “vocation” passionately and failed miserably – however I would not trade these experiences however bad, dark, depressing and off putting they can be to others. They have made me 100% fully who I am today and shockingly I like who I am. I believe walking the fine line of self-confidence, self-love and hope in your own growth is possible.

 Now the uplift…

Over the years, I have learned that I have an amazing community of friends that have decreased the black hole and allowed me to become comfortable with acknowledging and embracing my vulnerability.  Furthermore, the phenomenal example that my grandma laid out in front of me – her strength, courage, and perseverance despite the circumstances consistently remind me that I can and will make it. That is ok to ask for help – which isn’t a sign of weakness nor co-dependency, but true community. We are to lift one another up because ultimately we are reliant upon one another and creation.  We, as beings, cannot live this life alone.

All and all vulnerability and I have comes to terms with one another – in a passionate embrace of a life lived through loving kindness and regard for yourself and all beings and creation. I have become more open to the idea to being present and curious for the right now – allowing the past to be my story, the future to be untold.

I live for the present moment with a logically driven, emotionally open heart.

At least on most days.

Oh Ralph

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”  

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Lee Mtn – Dover, Arkansas

Beauty is within us and until we recognize this the beauty of the world will only be blur of colors or obstacles to maneuver through – arriving at our destination as quickly and blindly as possible. We will only be carrying hurried images rather than the amazement of the world.

I’ve tried to learn to stop. Of course, I’m wonderful at times and other times I’m screaming at the driver in front of me to “MOVE!”

This to say, I’m speaking more to myself than to anyone else really.

I’m becoming a lover of myself but not in the arrogant mindset that permeates our society.

I love my flaws and strengths.

My passion that can override logic.

My gratitude for this moment because of those I’ve lost.

My unconventional upbringing and who that has formed me to be.

My red face that burns whenever more than one person looks at me.

My doubt in what I believe.

My grandmother-like qualities – 4:00 dinner, bed by 9:00, inability to fully function until I have 2 cups of coffee in my system.

My idealistic hope with the acknowledgment of my once ( and still sometimes) cynical mind and heart.

My excitement in multiple projects – meaning sometimes I only finish one of ten.

My family of friends – blessed beyond measure for the souls in my life.

My God – the incomprehensible and unconditional love that flows freely from the Holy Trinity.

Ok, well that is a lot of “My.”

I hope that you find the  time to embrace all aspects of yourself.

Loving yourself  helps you fully love another.  I think it is somewhat impossible to really love another person if can’t love yourself.  I know…this is something you have heard multiple times. I’ll admit this was a hard lesson that I may have to learn again.

Learn to stop and see the beauty in your soul. I believe this will enable your eyes and heart to see the beauty surrounding you.

Toxic: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful

Definition of Tox-ic:  

: containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation
2: : exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis
3 : : extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful 
4: : relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market
Over the past year I  found myself living in two relationships (neither involving family members) that were toxic; one that was exciting but harmful to my soul’s true longing as well as others and the other one that had been maintained due to my inability to speak truth into it and acknowledge that the feelings I had were not that of the other person.

I caused hurt in both individuals.

I wish the hurt, anger, and wounds could have been avoided and looking back I acknowledge that I could have at least eased some of the pain, especially to one individual.

This week I’ve thought of both of these relationships often due to recent conversations that involved their names or to continued reaching out by one of them. My heart aches thinking that I’ve left any bitterness in someone’s mind, that I’ve left the idea lingering that I think they are a “bad” person — this is not true.

Our journeys together were and are over.

We did not bring peace to the world we lived in, rather a toxic, often surface level with heated emotions existence that willingly caused harm to more people than we even wanted to grasp.

One should have never begun but that is a lesson learned in itself and the understanding that I need to find rest in God for these tempestuous emotions.

The second ended without the comprehension of the other person involved. The relationship founded enormously on the other person’s life, initially with my full consent. This turned into draining conversations that left me avoiding phone calls (admittedly not correct way to handle situations) and interaction.

These statements are not intended to mean that I am guiltless in the toxicity of these relationships. I was an active participant and I fully believe that the mixing of our personalities and current situations in life were not life giving — this not making either of us “bad” individuals.

Though good has come from these relationships.

I’ve become a stronger individual that seeks a community of lovers of kindness, action, and accountability.

My truth telling in relationships of all kinds has deepened and my initial status quo mentality has been transformed: redefining and deepening relationships.

The maintaining of daily, immense gratitude for my friends which stayed the course even when I fell into the dark night of the soul for many years. Thank you for loving me when I deserved it the least and for watching me grow with encouragement and without judgement.

My community has flourished since I found love for myself, renewed love for God, and for life in general.

I hope the lesson I’ve most learned by both of these relationships is to live my truth while remaining gentle with myself. 

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Somewhat unrelated quote and link to an affirming article:

“In the meantime, trusting that he knows our needs, can we cast off society’s stereotypes, the shame and the pressure and the judgment, and live FULLY in our own bodies, not needing any other human to make us complete, trusting that if Jesus could do this life alone, we can too?” Excerpt from In which being Single is something to celebrate written by Emily Wierenga

First Loss

For the past 12 years on September 26th, I’ve made a single phone call early in the morning. I call a dear woman who has been nicknamed my “adopted mother.” She lost her son on this day and I lost someone I cared for dearly. I’m not one to believe in the “it was their time” mentality, but I’m also not going to strip this away from someone who uses this frame of thinking to help them live each day. I do believe that if you are willing, good can come out of the greatest pain.

Richie’s death left me feeling for the ground, searching for air, and reprieve from the onslaught of emotions. The insurmountable pain and the complete perplexity of knowing that there really isn’t anything you can do to change the current circumstance were terrifying. I have one vivid memory of being completely inconsolable and my grandma coming into my room, brushing my hair and acknowledging she knew there wasn’t anything she could say or do to help my pain ease. She allowed me to be in pain and that is a gift.

With grief, I believe you have to feel it fully and let it run its course. The pain becomes less, though can occasionally rise randomly, but life is still livable, enjoyable and full of hope and love. This was my first experience in losing someone very close, unfortunately it wasn’t my last in my late youth and 20s.

I learned I am breakable. But I’m also mendable. I lack control in many parts of life, but I can control how I view life and at least strive to live it fully and openly. That good can come out bad, even if you can’t see it at the time.

I extremely value my relationship with my “adopted mom.” She has been there, standing by my side while I mourned the loss of my mother, bestfriend, and as of late, my grandmother. She understands or at least knows the feelings of grief and of the battle to restart life. She has been a confidant, encourager, faith builder, and accountability friend. I am thankful to Richie for allowing me to meet his mother and for her continued love over the past years. Maybe that was the point of it all, who knows. I’ve learned to leave those questions at bay and just live in the moment.

“But grief still has to be worked through. It is like walking through water. Sometimes there are little waves lapping about my feet. Sometimes there is an enormous breaker that knocks me down. Sometimes there is a sudden and fierce squall. But I know that many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” Madeline L’Engle