Aparigraha-Non-Attachment

How to let go by non-attachment.

Aparigraha, one of the Yama’s from Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of yoga.

The yamas are essentially moral guidelines by which to live with regard to our relationship with ourselves, and the world around us. These moral codes can be applied both on and off the yoga mat, helping us to practice not just for the benefit of ourselves, but for the world around us.

Aparigraha translates to non-attachment, non-possessiveness, non-greed.

Yesterday, my wonderful friend Anna directed a sound bowl meditation class over Zoom. The theme of the class was ‘Letting go’.

As I closed my eyes and listened to her guiding us to let go by way of perception; letting go of the past, accept what has occurred and to accept things now as they are. Let go of the future, of things not yet occurred. Place all of these anxieties and thoughts beneath your feet and into the ground. Stay present. It does not mean to not honor these feelings or thoughts that come up in us, but to then not give it a place in where you are now.

It is so difficult for any of us to live 100% in the now. It is a practice that you must practice over and over. At the beginning it is minute by minute, then gradually hour by hour and eventually day by day. However, our human nature is always to revert back to listening to the stories in our heads, instead of the truth in our hearts.

We are taught that the heart only bares our desires, passions and wants and that these things have no right in our lives because if we are not struggling or aching or in some way, sweating to an end goal, we don’t deserve it. However, the heart is much more than that. It is our only truth. What lies in our hearts is who we truly are and if we relied on listening to it more, we’d know that we can live in the present and slowly let go of what is in our heads.

Those desires, passions and wants, are your true self. They are not governed by obligations and shoulds. If we looked closer and built a closer relationship with our heart, we’d see the truth of who we truly are and the potential we have to grow into the person we were meant to be.

Once you get a hint of your heart and the wants it is seeking, you begin to want to know more and more and you become lighter because you are not bogged down by the false feelings your head creates. When something is false or fake, it seems to weigh heavier because you have to hold up a stronger façade of yourself to others. However, when you are living in your truth, there is nothing to hide or lies to keep up with and you live lighter and freely because you are free.

As I fell into the mediation yesterday, I wondered how to explain letting go to some that are so used to thinking if they repeat the stories over and over in their heads, they’ll eventually figure it out. And I thought of this:

Imagine yourself holding bags of groceries. They are plenty and heavy; like your thoughts. Once you reach home, you’ll need to put these groceries away or they’ll spoil. Each grocery has it’s proper place; refrigerator, pantry, bathroom closet, etc. Once the groceries are out of your hands and into their proper place, you immediately feel lighter and no longer see your groceries, they are away, where they belong.

If we looked at this from the prospect of how to put our thoughts away into their proper place, we will feel lighter. Once a thought from the past pops up, place it back in its place by simply saying:” I am here now. That belongs there.” You can even name where it needs to go, example: “This thought belongs to my 7 year old self.” And then tell yourself where/who you are now, the date and time and what you are currently doing: “I am 37 years old, standing in my kitchen on Tuesday at 8:15am, scrambling eggs for breakfast.”

If a thought from the future pops up, the same practice can be taken, however in reverse. State what you are doing, who you are in the now, the date and time & what you are doing and where the future thought belongs: “I am 37 years old and I am standing in my kitchen scrambling eggs for breakfast. The thought that is coming from a future place does not belong here because it is Tuesday, 8:15am and I can’t foresee the future.”

These are things that have helped me tremendously. I am not a doctor or psychologist or anyone with a degree. However, I am a human having gone through some intense traumatic experiences and I can tell you what has worked for me over and over again. I have walked the path of least resistance and the knowledge I have, comes from experience & practice.

Again, this is a practice. Therefore, it must occur often and with practice it becomes easier. The thoughts may come but they will not take residence in your head, eating up every moment of your life or debilitating you. Instead they leave as fast as they arrive or not at all.

So to live a life of non-attachment and letting go, it is about staying present because it is the only time we have.

Eckhart Tolle said: Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.

We have the power within us to live in the present. The tools to stay focused on the now and to be more aware of this very moment lie in letting go by not attaching yourself to the past or the future and accepting the now.

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Truths on Losing a Baby

I didn’t want to fail but it wasn’t really up to me. When I was losing him, I swear I thought I was going to get to keep him. They told me they heard his heartbeat every time they put the monitor to my belly. You could hear his beautiful, strong heartbeat. He wanted out of there too. He wanted to see us too and hug us and kiss us and play with us and watch us grow old and be a big brother. He wanted us to watch him smile and laugh and discover everything this world had in store for him. Sadly, that wasn’t up to us. What we most want sometimes, isn’t up to us.

I want to believe he’s better off wherever he is but the truth is, my angry side. The side that took away my belief in becoming a mother tells me differently. It tells me he’d of had the best life with us here.

He’d of been 12 this year.

No one really prepares you for loss. They don’t really talk about the possibility of it happening or how to really cope with it. They tell you, everyone grieves differently. They don’t tell you that losing a child is so very different from losing an adult. Someone that had the chance to live and experience life. Someone that maybe felt love and gave love. They don’t tell you any of this.

No one barely talks about what it feels like to go to a place that you place high hopes on helping you save your child, only to come home with an empty stomach but still protruding where his body used to lay. Or how you’ll go to sleep and wake up the next day having forgotten for a split second, then like an avalanche it all comes rushing back; the scare, the scream, the giving birth to death, the asking if you want to hold him, the no and then the box they give you with pictures of his beautiful face and the knitted hat they placed on him; in case he was cold?

We do such ridiculous things to sweep under the rug such raw moments. Instead, I pictured him yelling out to me, “Mommy, don’t let them do this to me. Help me mommy,” and they just couldn’t see his suffering through the monitor. They assumed his strong heartbeat meant he was going to be able to make it and fight whatever it was and make it to the other side where me and his father waited months to meet him.

Instead, I can still hear the screams of his father as he crouched down in defeat in that hospital hallway yelling, “not my son, no, not my son!”

This, they don’t tell you. They are unable to. We are unable to express how loss is more than a burial in a small box placed underneath the dirt. It’s the pieces we lose of ourselves. It’s the hope and dreams that go lost too and get buried in that box with it. It’s the stories we had made up about him that get buried, that we’ll never, ever get to know if they could have been true or not. If we could have ever pushed him on a swing or let him go when he yelled, “let go, let go” and pedaled himself down the road.

Yes, dreams and hope eventually come in other forms, in other lives, other births. But it doesn’t mean we ever forget the losses and the confusion that came before.

I can tell you, those having lost, losing now, about to lose; stay in your pain, stay there for a while. Stay in the stories you built. Write them down. Stay in your confusion, in your hurt, in your disbelief. Eventually you’ll know when it’s time to catch your breath and then another one and one more. You’ll know when to put it to rest in peace.

Every so often, the moment will hit, that loss will hit, those feelings will hit and you just steady yourself. Ask to be excused if you must and you remember that child, that hope, those dreams and give it the life it didn’t get to have here, on this earth plane. Say its name, picture its voice, its face and give it life, even if only but for a moment, give it life.

Mind Trap

What am I doing it all for if everything I write  remains in the dark?
If the messages I receive I keep to myself? They're doing no good up here and definitely no good on this scrap of paper.
The messages are for now. Not for when my child finds them one day in an old box, tucked away in a closet.
Everyday it seems like the same quest with no actual map
I know where I want to go, just not how
Or how and not why
Or why and not now
It's such a fucked up way this head works sometimes
The constant self-motivation is exhausting
The reminders of doing this first or that first and then this and then that
When I really just want to do this
This very thing I know I was gifted
The gift of placing pen to paper and writing out words meant for you
So in my daily struggle, that is the only solace I hold on to
Knowing that it's for you
The one as broken as me
That needs to hear these words
That finds them randomly one day, while skimming a book and landing right on this page
Knowing that yes, this is your sign
This message is for you
These words are being written for you
And it's in that, I find the strength
To get up from my lazy ways
To get up from the lies I tell myself about being enough 
And I place the pen to paper to tell you these words

Prayer = Express = Freedom

I believe many don’t pray because they simply don’t know how to pray or who to pray to or what to pray about or that it has to be this big, drawn out, theatrical performance with lit candles, in a dark room, on their knees at a particular time of day or all day and all the time.

It’s really much simpler than this. Often we pray when we’re in need, in trouble. So many of us don’t often pray when things are going well because we simply forget to. We are happy and don’t need help, so why pray? We often think of prayer as our last resort. And this is where the trouble lies.

Prayer should become like the glass of water we seek daily to quench us. It should become as easy as breathing and as present in our lives as we are. It should become as easy as it easy to talk to a friend or a mother or sibling.

The word ‘prayer’ gets a bad rap. The minute one thinks of it, they think, religion, God, spirituality. What if we changed it to ‘express’. What if we asked ourselves daily, how can I express my gratitude, my pleas, my needs, my scares, my wishes, my hopes, my thanks? Who can I talk to? Write to?

Grab your cup of tea and sit and just talk. That is prayer. Close your eyes if you’d like to, so as not be so distracted. And whatever comes up, just say it to whomever you want to pray to. Whomever you believe created you and this earth and is not of this earth. Whomever you believe is all powerful and knowing and loving. I pray to God, to me He has a name and a face. To me, although I say, He, it doesn’t necessarily make or break what I pray about. Gender is of no importance to me. For some it is. So be it, make it a she or neutral. Truthfully, He is a Spirit, not of this earth and is so grand and encompassing that whatever you make of who you’re praying to is fine. He has come in many forms but one thing remains-He is One. There is no one like Him. No one that will understand you more, love you more, protect you more and believe in you more. So again, whomever or whatever you pray to, remember that. That’s what makes prayer so powerful and useful, that it’s not just a conversation with a friend. It’s a conversation with someone or thing that has the power to move mountains.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to make it understood that prayer is a conversation and should not be a recitation. When we recite, eventually we are not even listening to the words we are reciting. They hold no value. We are merely like robots pushing our mouths open and reciting words we’ve memorized.

In a conversation, you don’t know what will come up. You can talk about what’s happening in your life, what you’d like to happen. You can pray about not understanding things and wishing to. You can ask for strength to complete a task or ask to be uplifted. You can pray for others and their well being. You can ask to be guided and to have your eyes and ears peeled open to see and hear of any signs that are meant for you. For some it may feel like a one sided conversation, but in this way, you are really getting every and anything off your chest that you otherwise don’t know how because of so many reasons we sometimes don’t share our thoughts with others; rejection, judgement, laughed at, confused, ashamed, guilt. Sometimes we just want to be heard and not necessarily spoken to.

Just knowing that you can speak without fear of opposition, is already a great step in prayer. Well, what’s the point then? some of you may ask. I can just talk to myself and figure it out.

Have you guys ever talked to yourselves to try and figure a problem out only to repeat the same story over and over and have it snowball into something else? A scenario so big you don’t even remember how you got there. Then what often happens are the menacing thoughts because you’ve filled your head up so much, there’s no room for anything else. This often causes anxiety and depression.

Praying eases you of these thoughts. Because as you pray and talk about the thoughts in your head, you release them and the more you pray, the more you realize how easy it easy to share those thoughts and soon your thoughts lessen because they’re not getting so crammed up there and you have room to hear the messages. The messages come. Maybe not in the way you think or as soon as you think. Our time is very different than that of God’s or the Universe. We, as humans, want things done and answered now. We seek quick gratification. Instead, we should pray for patience and ask that whatever it is we are seeking, is truly meant for us. If so, to let it find its way. We can ask for patience and we can even ask to be able to see/hear the answers when they arrive.

We’ve got the conversation part down. Now, lets move on to other ways you can pray.

Journaling or letter writing. We’ve all written letters or emailed a friend, right? It’s the same format with prayer writing. You can write it to a “friend”, that friend being the person you believe to be greater than you or you can journal it. Journaling is beautiful because it’s like diary writing. Whatever you write, is between you and those pages and of course, whoever you imagine is listening to your pleas and thank you. (And yes, I meant ‘pleas’ and not ‘please’).

I’ve found methods like these to work for me. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to praying. There can’t be. We are all made differently in the way we think, feel, speak and believe. Therefore, how you approach prayer should equal to how you approach life.

The main point is to not keep it in. Not think you’re alone in anyway. That there is someone or something greater than you that has your back, that wants all the goodness and riches of this world you deserve and more. That you can count on someone/thing other than yourself. That you don’t have to carry the burdens of life on your shoulders. That you have a way to release your feelings and thoughts and not keep them in only to feel heavy and explosive.

What if I don’t believe in God or something grander than me? I believe this is where you need to start expressing and asking questions. Ask yourself, where’d I come from? Who built this body of mine, these cells, these organs, all the things inside of me so intricately that I don’t even have to think about breathing or tell my heart to keep beating? Ask yourself the hard questions first. Consider where you came from, how you were made, how the grass and trees and flowers and animals of all kinds were made. Begin there. Begin at creation. A creation that could not possibly have been made by man. So when you begin there you can begin wondering and coming up for yourself who you think has your back. Who you think is all encompassing, all loving, all knowing. There’s got to be, right? You have an entire life to find these answers and these questions too can be prayed and written.

It does not have to equal God for you. It can be someone or thing entirely different. I am not here to try and convince you or preach to you. I am simply saying; there is a way to let go and let be all your anxiousness, all your burdens and you do not have to get down on your knees for it and look up at the sky. You can sit at a desk, in a park, on a mountain and look around you and say, ‘thank you, thank you, thank you or help me, help me, help me.’ You can even say, “I don’t know what to say. Where to begin. What to ask for. Help me understand.”

And watch how the power of letting it out unfolds a whole new way of looking and appreciating the world around you.

A Note to the Unborn

What if we were able to be exactly what we felt all the time? Without fear of judgement, who’s watching, who’s got something to say?

If we could be our truest selves without boundaries or defaulting to the selves we were told to be.

If we could be allowed to feel all our feelings. Our downs and our ups without fear.

What if we were capable of living without all this fear? Why do we live with so much fear? Always trying to put on a show. A sort of façade? Why? Just why?

All these things we were told to be, behave like, believe in. What if from the time our chests beat freely from the outside of our mothers womb we were immediately able to just be? Not instilled or taught default ways of toxic cycles?

What if from the very beginning we were ourselves? Taking in only what we liked or what we enjoyed?

Don’t instill in me your views. Tell me how to dream. How to listen. How to speak up. How to lean in to my feelings. How to feel them. Tell me how fear is a part of exploring what’s meant for me.

Instill in me the values of being human; love without conditions. Accept all of humanity as they are; learning and still learning. Educate me on the foundations of life; we are life, experience it in all its ebbs and flows.

The Things that Make You

You are not your outside parts.

You are not your eyes, your ears, the color of your hair or the shape of your brows.

You can’t see loyalty by the length of hair or humor by the shape of brows or honesty by the color of skin or gentleness by the shape of bellies.

Nothing of what you look like on the outside defines you.

The essence, the truth, the root of you, is not a thing, a shape, a length, a color.

It can’t be touched or poked or molded.

Who you are is embedded deep inside of you.

A feeling.

Not tangible.

Your heart, holding all of who you are.

Darling remember, you are not your outsides.

Not what you wear, where you live or what you eat.

Not the home you live in or the family you were raised by.

You may have your mother’s nose, your father’s eyes and your aunt’s sweet ways.

But your outsides; your accent, your scent, your broad shoulders and thick thighs, no my love, those are not you.

You’re weird, you’re unique, you’re different.

You’re the things that make you cry and laugh and giggle and yell.

You’re the secrets that you keep.

The things you find amazing and lovely and whole.

The things that frighten you and keep you awake.

The things that you can’t speak of without your throat going dry and holding up a finger asking, “Just one minute please?”

You’re you.

Beautifully and wonderfully made.

Celebrate it.

Shout it from your rooftop.

Thank you for you.

Thank you for your presence.

Without it, we’d be empty & one less human away from amazing.

And in this life, we need all the amazing we can get.

Talk to your Kids

Growth is hard. It means shedding the things you are most comfortable with. Letting go of beliefs you’ve come to live by.

Growing means getting uncomfortable in an already uncomfortable world. It means shedding layers of years of thoughts thought to be real. And letting go of people thought to understand you.

It means letting go and floating into an abyss and having only your faith and hope to hold on to. You are blind in the abyss. Not seeing anything above you, below you or inches from you. All you have is what’s inside of you & it’s telling you, “This is our only chance of survival. It’s either this or stay stuck in the comfortable and stay small and get smaller and smaller until you don’t even exist any longer. The other side of this is where we have the possibility to understand things our feeble minds can never dream up. So let’s get uncomfortable and feel our way through.”

Speaking to my child over dinner one night, she began to tear up as she spoke about the things she missed most before the pandemic. And as she spoke, it dawned on me, this is the first dark period of her life and she has no other ones to compare it to and say to herself, “Yea, ok, I’ll be fine. I’ve been here before, I can see the other side of this.”

She doesn’t have the capacity yet or the know how to see it through. She’s being told and forced to see it through but it’s so much harder to do that than to have the perceptions of someone older, like myself, that has been through some dark shit in her life and had the capacity to get myself through them.

Hope and faith are not in our DNA. One finds those along the path of life. They are found in the trials and pains and lows of your life. And you hold on to them long after the disaster has been cleared away and you search for them when life throws you more shit. Hope and faith work together interchangeably. Grace plays a big role too in all this. Something else that is taught and learned and not part of our DNA.

Adults have the capacity and means and have experienced many of life’s ups and downs to scavenge their way through, ask questions, come to conclusions. A child does not.

A child is still being told how to behave, dress, speak and what to understand. They have adults around them to protect them from falling, burning their hands, scolding them to stop jumping off the couch or they’ll crack their head open.

But we, the adults, never thought we needed to prepare them to have their lives and all they knew of it to be snatched right before their very eyes. By the time I came to understand we were not headed back into our known worlds any time soon, my child had already lost all the things she looked forward to-faces of friends, park dates, school events, kisses and hugs from family members, splitting ice cream on a hot summer day, impromptu meet ups, after school swim team and locker room antics. These all were taken away within a 24hr period without any forewarning or prospect to when she’d get any of it back.

Sure, life got slower and less busy and more time with family was spent and dinners and conversations went well into the night.

But so did dullness and boredom and restraints settle in. We closed up, we lost general functions and freedoms and impromptus without any end in sight.

We are being shoved all these rules but no one is telling us if there’s another side to this. We are being led by the blind and you can hear the fear in the voices of these rule makers. It’s the same fear I heard in my daughters voice last night. She was choking up and still too afraid to show me her vulnerability and fear. Like someone slipped her a note that said, “Suck it up, don’t cry.”

Maybe to her she thinks, what’s it matter if I cry or share how sad I am, it won’t change anything. And that’s the worst part. We went into this never taking into account that our children don’t only need physical protection but heart protection too. They don’t just need an adult to remind them to brush their teeth and get ready for bed but they need us to just listen more and see through them more and let them know, we too are scared, we’re humans too and we get your fears. However, we need to share ourselves and be vulnerable with them so they can learn that vulnerability is human. We can say: the difference between you and I, my darling child, is I have been here before and I’ve been at the backend of some terrifying things in my life. I have been afraid and not known if and how I’d make it through. I only knew that I wanted to make it through. I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to laugh and be free again and I knew that my great Father wanted that for me too. I knew that when I was put on this earth I wasn’t meant to live in fear or small. I knew that the reason for living was to live and gain knowledge and never stop learning. And whatever you believe in; God, Universe, a presence with no name, you must believe that there is something grander and greater than you that is watching over you and protecting you and created you as you unique as you are. So when you are in that scary place you can understand how faith plays out. You can put faith in what you believe and that will take you through to hope.

I also understand that it’s my obligation to protect my child and show her the ropes but that doesn’t mean I’m not supposed to not be human. Growing up in a home where both parents rarely showed their vulnerable side had me believe that when you become an adult you have all the answers and nothing is scary any longer. Instead what I’ve learned is that most adults hold their true selves from their children. Thinking, that if we teach them to suck it up and look ahead, we’re teaching them strength. Instead what we’re doing is teaching them how to not relate to feelings and how to shove them down and when we’re doing that, we’re taking their human side away. The side where we relate to other humans and connect with others. And when we’re not connecting, we aren’t given a chance to explore the possibilities and potentials of this world. My God created man and then He created woman to accompany him. We are known to need human connection to survive.

Is it scary? Yes

Is it confusing? For sure.

Are you alone? Never

Can you cry? Please do.

Will you be angry? Most certainly

Is it worth it? Without a doubt.

It is our duty as our child’s parents, caregivers, the adults around them to have them understand we too are human, we are not untouched or unscathed by life and we can show them the way out to the other side. Since we are our children’s first human connection, lets connect on levels of empathy and vulnerability and talk about fears and the scary things that sometimes children don’t know how to not make scary. Let’s be our child’s first human connection to a better world. Don’t be afraid to show your human side to them. Get down, literally, to their level and look them in the eye and explain to them things that they will otherwise make up on their own. Be open with them. Cry if you have to and please, let’s not ever tell them to suck it up or crying is for sissy’s. Let’s explore what’s passed the tears and get to the other side.

Tangents

If we are seriously too blind to see what is going on or too dependent on this world to fall into the trap of fear and anger, then we lose the battle.

There is a war. There has always been a war, since the dawn of time, of good and evil. You can not at all choose one without admitting there is another side. The thing is, when you accept that there are 2 sides, then you can begin to win.

There is no light without darkness.

This world is in a state of complete darkness. The wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing and the wool is to being pulled over our eyes daily.

You can choose though. Free will is still on your side. Remember though that with free will we can not cancel out consequences-good or bad. Every action as a reaction.

You can choose to fall into the lies and the anger and the hate and fear causing you to rise in violence.

Or you can choose to listen, decide they are lies, that they don’t have your back and rise in unison and go against the liars and call them out for who they are and move against the grain.

When has violence ever been the solution? When did battle and lives lost ever bring solace and peace? All its ever done is bring more violence, more sadness, more hate, more retaliation, more divide.

But how, you ask, without bloodshed? How will they listen if we don’t show them how serious we are by using our fists?

The same way we’ve always dealt with ignorance; educating it and if they still don’t understand, then willfully choose to walk away.

Why must we prove our points? When did this become the norm?

Social media has made it so we are allowed to share every miniscule thing that passes through our minds and make it visible to the outer world; friend or not. It’s made it so easy for us to literally share A. Damn. Day. about All. Things. We don’t even need a response in words. One click of the ‘Like’ button and we’ve got a fan club. A “right” to our opinions and to share them and to then bully others into trying to believe us because if not, they can “defriend” us.

None of this is human and again, if you are too blind to not see this, too blind or so disconnected from humanity to not allowing yourself to put an end to all this anger and hate and go against the grain and SPEAK. THE. FUCK. UP. even from way in the back of the room, then you are losing the battle and walking further into darkness.

Speaking up does not mean, yelling your point. It means, educating those that are spewing lies and then choosing to say, you have your opinion, I have mine. It does not mean arguing or bullying your way in. It also means, educating yourself. Our opinions and beliefs are not facts, remember that. We all have a right to our opinion but we also have the right to ask to be heard and be open minded to listening. We also have the right to disagree and still hold a place for others’ opinions. But all in all, what needs to never be taken away and should always hold true is humanity, compassion, empathy, love, understanding. The things we as humans were created with and seek in others, we too must give in return. And holding those things allows connection. It allows us to go back to the very thing we all seek-human connection. To be seen. To be noticed. That’s what this whole battle of the world is about-to be heard, seen, noticed. It’s a basic human need. We all seek it.

This world has grown more and more into the belief of instant gratification. If it’s not instant or convenient, we don’t want it. We want all things, now. If now is not an option, then it means nothing to us. No time to waste. We don’t like to wait because waiting means to sit with yourself and sitting with yourself means pausing, pausing means staying still, staying still means not moving, not moving means not busy, not busy means not producing, not producing means not contributing, not contributing means no one sees us, no one seeing us means we have no meaning, having no meaning means we have no purpose, having no purpose means we are non-existent, non-existent means we are not living and not living means the ultimate thing we never want to be; dead; physically and internally.

All our lives we aspire to live but we’ve botched up the entire meaning to that. Living does not mean to figure out why you are here, your purpose, your role. Living means just that; live. Why have we complicated this? It means to be grateful every morning our eyes open and we have breath in our lungs and to say; great, a brand new day, bring it! We have been so bogged down by this belief that the grander material things in life will make us happy and in that scheme of things we’ve chased goals instead of dreams. We’ve checked things off a list instead of discovering things as we go about. And in it all, we’ve lost ourselves as humans.

Living Off Your Mat

Living off your mat is not the same as when you practice on your mat. You don’t do an hour of yoga and a 20 min meditation session and suddenly are floating through the rest of your day all Zen. This is not reality in anyway.

For me, I began my yoga journey because of a friend that brought me to a studio after not being able to pick myself up off the floor for quite some time. My reaction to her asking me to go was not good. I never understood how moving and directing your body in different and odd positions while listening to cues in a language I’d never get, was going to help in anyway.

My first class I sat criss cross on my mat, surrounded by several unknown faces, and felt very out of my element. The instructor began with a quote. I wish I could remember it. I only remember my heart beating fast because I was on the verge of tears. She asked us to close our eyes and the tears just began to fall. I know she saw me as she put her hand on my shoulder and asked us to take a few minutes to go in.

In? Where was I going in to? The LAST thing I wanted was to go into anything. I was already in a deep, dark hole I couldn’t manage to get out of or even understood how I had fallen into and now she wanted me to go in to something?

I just sat and allowed myself to cry. I got through class somehow but quickly wanted to get up and get busy so my head could stop thinking. Busy made me not think. I thanked the teacher and my friend, got into my car and drove home with the radio blasting. Already making plans on how to remain busy for the rest of the day.

My friend texted me that evening, asking if I’d liked it and if I thought of going back. “It was great! But not for me. I need to move quicker. Maybe I’ll get back into running.”

“Or maybe you need to slow down?” she responded

The thought of slowing down caused a lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in my chest. Slowing down would allow the thoughts to creep up. For the fears to come swarming in. For the dark to overshadow me. For my body to go stiff. For the world to completely collapse around me. I had a daughter to take care of. I had plans I needed to get to. A job to show up for. I had no time to slow down.

That day I printed out a running plan; couch to 5k. My ass was going to get that serotonin going and I was going to get back to the old me.

Day 1, I show up to the track at 7am, ready to tear up the pavement. 2 loops around at a fast pace and my heart was beating at a rate that seemed almost like an attack. My breath was so rapid I couldn’t hear the cues from my phone on whether I was supposed to begin jogging or walking for a minute. Ripping the headphones out, I chose to just walk the rest of the way to my car, giving up and giving in to this terrible, terrible new life I accepted I’d now need to live.

Something obviously happened along the way to get me into this hole and I was too scared to figure out what it was. However, I was also too scared to not figure it out. A catch 22. A real dillema. Face it or not, the big boogy monster was still there. It wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t outrun it, outwit it, out drink it, out busy it.

All my life up to that point I had run. Whether it was in a race or an errand or from things I didn’t want to face. Racing and busy were my forte. I loved running for people too. I ran favors for people all the time. It made me feel good to be of service. To feel needed. My stuff could wait. I was a night owl, I could get to me then.

The truth was though, by the time night came, I was too tired to do a thing for me. All I could do and not have to think was watch television. I convinced myself that tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow I’d get to me.

So many tomorrows later and at 37 I had a nervous breakdown. My tomorrows turned into the longest nightmare of my life. Every fear, every thing I ran from, started running towards me and grabbing at me and punching me in the gut, in the face, kicking me, scratching me, slapping me.

One minute I was loving life or so I thought I was. I was living a very surfaced life up until then. Doing what I thought was expected of me. No one put these expectations on me. However, no one told me I was allowed to think for myself either. I always assumed my duties included whatever role I was currently playing in my life; Christian, daughter, sister, wife, daughter, employee, friend. I always took these roles on as meaning I had to lead them. I had to take the lead on them and I didn’t need help. I wasn’t taught to ask for help. Asking for help meant weakness. It meant that I couldn’t do it. It meant that I was insufficient. I wasn’t enough.

This is not something that was taught to me. I believe it was the way I saw others in my life and the roles they played. I had very strong people around me. Or rather, I had tough adults around me. Adults that were shoved into roles they hadn’t realized the choices they made would take them there. And these adults were tough. Tough in words, tough in teaching, tough in reprimanding, tough in love. I admired their toughness. I wanted to be tough. To hold strong. To stay undefeated at whatever life threw at me. I didn’t know that strong and tough meant different things. I thought they were interchangeable.

So tough I became. Tough at how I conquered tasks. Tough at how I spoke. Tough at love, at life, at affection. I became so tough I had no damn clue that I was allowed to even let love into me. That loving myself was an option. My thoughts were that being of service to others was loving myself. I loved myself so much by loving those around me more by putting them first. Loving yourself was ego driven. You weren’t supposed to be ego driven.

All these teachings and not one person told me I could love myself. That being strong and tough were different. That being tough didn’t mean love had no place in you.

When I look up the word ‘tough’; very difficult to do or deal with. physically and emotionally strong. Able to do hard work, to deal with harsh conditions. I was all these things; difficult to deal with in my relationships. Shutting people out if I felt offended. Not giving them chances to explain. Not affectionate or able to receive affection comfortably. Physically strong because I literally would run, run, run all day, forgetting to eat, drink or at times even use the bathroom. Emotionally strong only in that I held my emotions in or exploded. The good and bad ones. If I was angry with you, I couldn’t communicate calmly. If I was sad about something, I pushed it down. If conversations got emotional I immediately felt like crying. If I felt like I wasn’t being listened to, I quickly got defensive. My emotions were two extremes; screaming to get my point across or crying and not being able to say a word.

Years of this brought me to where I was at 37. In a dark place. If felt like I was being stabbed from the inside. The thoughts came on uncontrollably. My emotions and feelings were all over the place; laughing, angry, crying, tired, wide awake, energetic, loss of appetite, famished, confused, enlightened. I could not stay with one feeling long enough to look it in the face, to lean into it enough to maybe make some sense of why I was feeling it.

Until that yoga class. That yoga class had me crying long enough and had me have to stay still long enough to face things. Things my brain was so apt to quickly want to shut down as a scary thing and usually you run from scary but that my heart latched on to. The space I was in in that studio, those surrounding me, the energy that surrrounded me, had me feel safe enough to stay still enough to let the thoughts in without pushing them out. The way she spoke during throughout class, kept me calm. I was able to process thoughts I hadn’t wanted to in years.

That yoga class was the 1st of 4 years of practice. It was that yoga class and others that followed that I was able to process thoughts and open myself up enough to delve into years of my own mental abuse. To fix me. Fix my way of thinking. For years I had lived in “go” mode.

Getting on the mat has me slow down enough to reacess myself. It’s also allowed me to see life off the mat in a very different way. Off the mat I still get angry and busy, however, the biggest difference is now I am AWARE of these emotions. I don’t let them lead me, I lead them. I immediately become aware of what state I’m in and lead myself to where I want instead of letting the emotion lead me to where it wants. I am in control of me now. I am no longer too busy for me, no longer too angry to spit out words I don’t mean. My voice is stabile enough to say what I need to say without fear of hurting someone. That’s why I used to cry during hard conversations; I was so afraid that what I needed to say didn’t matter enough and so crying covered up my words. Giving me the ability to shut down and nodding and giving the other person power to believe what they were saying was true and my tears confirmed that.

The mat is sacred to me and what I learn on it day after day, teaches me how to continually stay true to me, even when it’s tough, even when strong sounds safer than leaning in. Even when scary things show up, I am able to talk myself out of my brain and into my heart. Leading my thoughts to their true destination.