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

Fellow Doubter

Last night’s storms created the best mood for reading the night away. I’ve been in mourning after finishing my last book, leaving me struggling to start a new one. However, I grabbed Rachel Held Evans’, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” from my bookshelf and her humor, contemplation, frustration, doubt, and overall faith was the perfect fit. She sits with the uncomfortable passages…something I find tremendously hard, especially in regards to how women were treated/viewed in the Old Testament; the stonings, the rapes, the ownership by men – to name a few.  My blood boils reading them or hearing people say the Bible has all the answers or is the perfect guide to life (especially traditional marriage). I want to ask, as the author does, have you read the Bible? I mean – like all of it? It is a landfill of grey areas and stories of sordid characters. Yet – I find comfort in it. Admittedly, more so when Jesus arrives on the scene and starts debunking the literalism held by the rabbis. I have long left reading the Bible in the literal sense – I had to. There are passages that still make my stomach turn but though I do believe it was divinely inspired – it was still put together by the hands of men (gender, for me, is important here). That is where I sit – uncomfortable but hopeful and inspired especially by the life of Jesus and many of the characters of the Bible.

Visits from friends, nutritious and yummy brunch at The Root, and probably one of the most relaxing yoga classes I’ve experienced in a long time produced a wonderful Sunday. I left the yoga studio and was taken aback when I first heard my voice – the quiet stayed with me longer than usual. Needless to say, grocery shopping probably was not the best choice of activity after class but this led to cooking for the next few days. Also, I booked a retreat filled with yoga, meditation, and hiking in the Ozark Mountains that will begin Wednesday! I’ll be unplugging entirely and can’t wait!

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” Marcus Aurelius

Copyright: Jennilee Marigomen April 2013 Filed under lukas, whytcliff park
Copyright: Jennilee Marigomen
April 2013 Filed under lukas, whytcliff park

Downsizing and Leashes for Cats

Copyright: Jason Hines: To Resolve Project 2012 // Live Simply
Copyright: Jason Hines: To Resolve Project 2012 // Live Simply

Today began with two cups of coffee, the initial one was dive-bomb destroyed by a lingering fly – one of about 15 that circled my chair all morning, and a muggy summer garage sale. People came and went and few folks bought our stuff. Amanda and I prepared and dismissed the rain clouds and flying pine needles, though this weather did result in today’s favorite quote, “Is that my hair or a pine needle?” The leftovers were donated to goodwill and a literal weight was lifted. Now to find a new home for my full size mattress set. Things are a goin’ out the door and into someone’s else space.

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” –  Epictetus

This morning was Part I of LIfe Downsizing – for what I haven’t a clue. Possibly a future of communal living (if I could find another soul(s) interested and actually willing to create this reality in Little Rock) or living it up in a VW van or just merely a much needed return to simplistic living. If the VW van is ever to work, I need to conduct an experiment: one that involves a leash and my cat, Dylan. Anyone actually given that a try, meaning putting your cat on leash or living out of a VW van with a fairly temperamental old cat? I’m quite petrified of her reaction… and mine too. One good sign is that her previous owners named her Dylan after her love for Bob Dylan. So maybe in her previous life or deep down in her cat soul – she is a hippie, restless transplant too? Don’t worry, I’m not kidding myself here.

The evening rounded out with the construction of a fairly nifty stroller, cuddles and a diaper change with sweet Clem, and a good hug from my dear friend, Laura. All and all a stand-up Saturday with yoga practiced off the mat.

Now to bed to the delightful new Civil Wars album.

Joy and Palin?

exactly where you are supose to be

Day Two has commenced and funny thing, I already feel better. Placebo effect, possibly? I think the realization that I can and will do this – this renewal of sorts – allows me to feel more in control or rather has twisted my arm; changing my perspective. Though I did have a lot of caffeine yesterday, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with being energized. It does help that I’m not doing this alone. I have an accountability partner-in-health that encouraged me to find joy in yesterday – my charge: two happenings where I found joy. I found more and thought I’d share:

  • Interest and focus as returned with revelation on possible, *cough* career, vocation goals cough*: First things first, taking the pre-reqs for nursing and then crossing ever appendage that can cross that I will be accepted into nursing school and most importantly having it funded.
  • Gratitude for my job and boss – if I ever complain about this, you have my full permission to smack me with a sock – a soft fluffy one.
  • Increased energy – vitamins and caffeine, don’t forget the caffeine.
  • Reflecting on putting sweet Charlie, my youngest godkiddo, to bed the previous night.
  • Seeing my beautiful friend, Laura, and her little baby Clementine finally in their own home after a week in the NICU
  • Encouragement from fellow yogis.
  • Amanda – enough said.
  • Finally – The fact that I did not rear end the minivan in front of me with the “Pro-Life, Pro-God, Pro-Gun Palin 2012” bumper sticker. This took a lot of restraint. I take solace that it was fading and hopefully one day will be just a big blank sticker.

I’m sitting here after my morning run – it was beautiful outside. The weather was unfathomably cool with a breeze for this time of year. I love that when you pass most folks on the trail you either get a smile, a wave, a nod, or a breathless mornin’ – a small sense of community. Little Rock, you aren’t too bad. Thanks for reminding me.

 

Leave those Walls Alone

Damn, it’s been a rough week both personally and in the world.  Rather than try and concise my confusing mind into a few words, I found that these artists speak brilliantly to the tidal wave of emotions that have left their traces across my face. Here’s to hoping that my anger decreases and my walls are left without holes and my knuckles without bruises.

Yoga Practice - The appropriate place to release it all.
Yoga Practice – The appropriate place to release it all.

“Never lose your fierce idealism. Let it be tempered by pragmatism, humility, and a willingness to learn, but never let anyone tell you that the better world you imagine is not possible. It is, through the power of partnership.”

Emi Kihslinger

 

“It’s a most distressing affliction to have a sentimental heart and a skeptical mind.”

Naguib Mahfouz

 

“Love is dark work; you have to get your hands dirty.

If you hold back, nothing interesting happens.

…You have to find the right distance between people.

Too close, and they overwhelm you;

too far and they abandon you.”

Hanif Kureishi

 

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

 

“Things didn’t work out because, well, greater things were in the works. It’s so difficult while we’re blind and hurting and don’t know which way is up. But, if you have faith in anything, have faith in the fact that the universe has a beautiful way of straightening things out far better than we ever could. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful– or where you always wanted to be. You will be grateful that things didn’t work out the way you once wanted them to.”

What Happens After What Was “Supposed To Be”

 

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be. ”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

“He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely. “

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

Ernest Hemingway

 

“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.

Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.

Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me.

I give you my discontent.

I give you my restlessness.

I give you my doubt.

I give you my despair.

I give you all the longings I hold inside.

Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.”

Shane Claiborne – A Prayer for Transition

A Response to Criticism and A Coconut Almond Chip Half Eaten Tub Lesson

I stopped writing recently after I received a very hurtful message from a family member filled with accusations. The black sheep of one side of my family due to functioning and persevering and not falling victim to the situations that I have been either unwillingly or willingly placed within. I chose not to respond, at least until today.

Despite the accusations there is an underlying truth, maybe not so much in the words hurled at me but in my internal response to them. Oddly (or rather normally), good has come out of the hurt. The good being the realization and amazement to the fact that I have the most wonderful family – a family mostly chosen not by blood but my true connection. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I have multiple strong examples of glorious women (and even a few men) in my life. That I would never change.  What I may change is releasing my notion of who people should be with the labels of father, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc. They are who they are and I believe in the possibility of loving them for who they are today. This is not to say that renewed, stronger relationships will bloom – possibly but not certainly.  I’m willing to try again in slow snail speed with a less hardened heart.

The lines thrown at me were not true but have allowed me to find a way through the pain to something brighter. I’m not even sure what that something is but I’m thankful for the light piercing through the cracks.

“Forgiveness is a choice you can make to free yourself from the shackles of your past, from pain, hurt and resentment. Forgiveness is your road to inner freedom. It does not mean that you need to forget, deny or condone what has transpired. You choose to forgive because forgiveness is the only way to transcend painful experiences and to attain inner peace and freedom.” – Sasha Samy

Now to the Tub Binge

It’s been a rough week with one evening spent watching a favorite Diane Keaton movie and eating half a tub of Coconut Almond Chip. I let myself have a night of self-pity, to be sad because if you numb the emotions of sadness and even anger – you also numb joy, excitement, and love.  As I have already mentioned,  I have some of the dearest friends who will listen to my rants during long runs (given where will she go), over coffee, and despite my unwillingness to hear anything they say – still let me speak and fling expletives all over the place and then second guess myself. They love every part of me and I them.

My pride was hurt. I usually find myself fairly able to distinguish between those that are trustworthy and those that are nice folks but not so much trustworthy. I was blindsided – something happened that I could not have predicted despite having years of evidence to the contrary. I blinded myself in the belief that there was mutual respect for one another. I was wrong and that’s ok.

The lesson I learned was taking the risk is by far worth it even with the  likelihood of a hurtful result. Also, that Coconut Almond Chip can soften any blow to the ego, as can the turtle neck/scarf wearing, awkward antics of Diane Keaton.

Cheers to living wholeheartedly!

life
“When it is time to die, let us not discover we have never lived.”
Henry David Thoreau

Friday’s Tears

Copyright by Ryan Lee
Copyright by Ryan Lee

Last Friday I hit a frustration and irritation wall that left me casting bitterness towards a group of people. (It was probably a good thing I had taken a Sabbath from all social networking/media for 48 hours during this time.)

I’m going to say something that is glaringly obvious: Building community is tough, gut wrenching, and counter-cultural.

We easily speak about community, our internal longings for this Beloved community where we can share our deepest secrets (picture Little Women attic style with the inclusion of the strange neighbor, Laurie) and find rest for our tired souls. Yet, when it involves action many shy away or then claim that they are “private” or prefer a personal relationship with God or honestly, don’t give a rat’s ….. about doing anything outside of their normal routine.

I was very thankful for the miraculous family of 5 that loaded up their 3 kids and traveled across town to share a meal with their sometimes grumpy and stress filled godmother. They saved my sobs that evening.

Here is my confession: My pride was damaged. I had placed myself out there for all the world to see and in my own mind I had failed. Failed at engaging others into spending time with people they barely know to share a meal. I was trying to just offer a space and not use any persuasion as my priest so challenged us on Ash Wednesday. I made this whole thing about me, me, me.

All and all it boiled down to being hurt and losing sight of the reason for beginning this discipline.

My ah ha! moment came during savasana on Saturday morning when my lovely yoga teacher shared the following words:

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

― Rumi

I had stopped acting from my soul.

I had stopped feeling overwhelmingly grateful that even one person walked through my doors.

I had forgotten the reason – to build community (however small) and to learn hospitality. To allow God to teach me instead of plowing my way through what I thought should happen.

This Friday, I hope that if tears flow they come from the happiness of having beautiful souls in my life and the fact that I have food, warmth, and comfort to offer another person – a brother or sister. As well as, the understanding that I have a God that remains within me during times of absurd self-absorption and misguided direction.

 

 

Yoga: My Mobile Sanctuary

Lately, I’ve found myself in conversations centering around developing a sacred space. This means so many different, beautiful things and is extremely specific to the individual. We all crave a sanctuary. Well maybe that is assumption or a better phrasing could be that we all crave a place of sanity and calmness. I desperately do and for many, many years failed short of making this an intentional act of developing, creating, and re-forming this space.

My grandma was my sanctuary as a child. She was the one person I knew I could fully trust and would receive unconditional love. Even walking into her empty room as a kid would bring a sense of calm to my often chaotic childhood. I knew I was safe. I knew I could be myself. I knew that this was forever…or so it seemed until I lost my grandmother 2.5 years ago. I remember coming back to visit while I was living in Philadelphia, walking into her room and just curling up on her bed and playing with her arthritis swollen fingers. We wouldn’t talk alot, it really wasn’t needed. We had lived together since I was 3 and we knew each other fully. Sometimes the greatest expression of love is a silent presence. Though this wasn’t mobile and I struggled when I was far off in grad school or working in Egypt. I struggled to find this sanity in a world that seemed completely hopeless at times.

After grandma’s passing, I went into a pit filled with false sanctuaries that only led to temporary escapes from reality. It took about 2 years for me to wake up and remember to live fully and that involved changing my entire life: physically, mentally, and spiritually. This personally meant becoming a vegan, seeking a unbiased opinion to discuss issues that I usually avoided, seeking and staying with my faith community, oh and finding my running shoes again. (And this could not have been accomplished without the constant encouragement of my dear friend, Amanda. Who made an entire switch of lifestyle for herself and has been my inspiration to keep going.)

I believe this shift naturally led me to rediscovering yoga. Yoga has solidly become my mobile sanctuary. The challenging postures, the focus on breathing and staying in the  moment, learning the 8 limbs of yoga which has helped me to start peppering my life with what I believe is my purpose as a human being, has let me find myself again. And I actually love myself which I haven’t said…well…really ever. I use to believe that showing emotions and fully laying your barriers out there  meant that you were weak individual that wouldn’t survive a slight gust of wind. You would shatter. It is really hard to describe but yoga has allowed me to face my emotions and let them flow (sometimes they flow without my will but that is ok) and to let others see and here and know my soul. I am a fragile soul but I am also a strong soul: both exist at this moment.

Whenever I step foot on my mat, either in my apartment, office floor, or at Blue Yoga Nyla, I feel at home and that I have found a sanctuary that can move with life experiences and will meet me wherever and whatever I am. I have been blessed to have wonderful yoga instructors that graciously guide you and remain honest and transparent through their teaching.  So, thank you Stacey and Steve, for being a light!

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” Herman Hesse