Parked in front of my favorite dive bar, yet scheduled for a kickboxing class down the block, I start to think, Wait. Why am I here?! “Because you’ve tried every tool in your yogi tool box and you still feel like an a-hole,” says some smart little voice in the back of my brain.
This journey started about two months ago after a particularly emotionally brutal incident. Now, the ‘incident’ itself doesn’t matter because we all have those out of the blue train wrecks we wished had never happened, but hey, here we are. Luckily, I’ve had ample training on how not to feel like an ass.
I started with meditation, and I’m talking some serious meditation; not a five minute app and off to the gym. No. I wanted to be myself, like, right NOW. I sat with a buddhist nun for three hours and I was able to access mostly sadness. If you’ve meditated before then you know that this is just the most pronounced feeling. There are often many other underlying feelings. After three whole hours, I found just one. No big breakthroughs, but I left with the pride of actually sitting with that feeling and not diving head first into a bottle of vodka. I meditated for thirty minutes, every day, for three days after that, before deciding I was ready to get back on my mat.
It was a beautiful 6am practice filled with my yoga family and two of my favorite teachers. I even felt moved to post on Instagram.
The post was partly true, I was lucky, but in actuality I hadn’t separated myself from my feelings at all. I was a giant ‘bag of mess’ and I was about to step on my mat and go through an hour and a half of moving meditation. About halfway through the Ashtanga Primary Series, I heard a ‘pop’ in what I thought was my clavicle. (For you yogis, I was attempting Supta Kurmasana and being adjusted.) Here’s were things get strange- I didn’t care and I finished the practice. It wasn’t until I got in the shower after practice that I cried, first from the excruciating pain (I had pulled my shoulder), then from the realization that I wanted to hurt. I wanted to feel real physical pain. Not good. I dragged my crippled butt back to the mediation cushion. I meditated for another two weeks, 30 minutes, every day. Partly because I couldn’t practice yoga until I was healed, but also because I know full well that depression is a very slippery slope.
My first meditations involved just recognizing my feelings. There’s so many ways to do this, but I always start with the most accessible one, so in my case- sadness. I let myself feel it and then notice all the stories that swirl around in my head and reinforce that feeling. After a couple of minutes, I let go of all the thoughts and just feel the feeling in my body. For me, sadness lives in my heart. It feels like my heart is ten times bigger and heavier than it should be. The next feeling that came up was shame. Of course. That’s why I nearly destroyed my body. As I sat with shame, I realized it was the shame of not being able to protect myself from being hurt (so… unrealistic, at best). The moment I was able to really see and feel shame, it started to dissipate and along with it, some sadness.
After two weeks, I changed my meditations. I practiced Loving-Kindness, which made me happier throughout the day and restored some of my faith in humanity, but didn’t make me feel any more ‘myself’. I then tried Mantra Meditation, repeating “I forgive you. I love you. I release you.” 108 times around my mama beads. This prompted me to actually call and text people who’d really hurt me and forgive them. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, but in my experience, people either don’t respond or think you have some kind of ulterior motive. It’s entertaining if you find the humor in it.
After two months, I had accessed sadness and shame, forgave, and felt somewhat more myself, but I knew there was still a nasty little gremlin lurking just behind my belly button. Well, at least that’s where I imagine anger lives. Now, I’m not great with anger. I am a serious anger-avoider. I hate how it feels and I hate being ‘mean’. I am also fully aware that the only way to overcome anything is to face it head-on. This is why I ‘m now sitting in the gym with my gloves on. I want to see anger. I want to feel it. I want to beat the crap out of it.
With each swing connecting with the bag harder, and harder, I start to feel something bubble up to the surface. Anger, though smaller, and not as intrusive and all encompassing as I had imagined it, is here. I can now see this feeling as something other than myself, and every jab and roundhouse is FUN.
By the end of class, I’m lighter, soaring even. Maybe it’s part endorphin-rush, but it’s also the shear joy of staring down my fear and dancing with it.
I would love to end this post by saying that I am awesome, and I’m so much stronger now, and I believe in unicorns… but we all know that life is a process. And, no, I’m not completely myself. I may never be that person again, but that’s okay. I’m this person now. Whatever that means, I’m excited to find out.