Something’s different. I didn’t cry in yoga class today.
Faith Hunter teaches some of the most stirring heart-opener classes that I have experienced in my 20 years of practicing yoga. She laid one on us again today. She started with that block under our shoulder blades. She guided us through simple yet powerful Asana – Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Warrior II, Camel and lots of heart shining twists. She reminded us that there are so many things that we can love with all of our hearts, that all of our passions and devotions reside within the Anahata Chakra, and that
we have much to be grateful for…even when it seems there’s nothing. She played Krishna Das’s Kirtan chant, “Baba Hanuman” – Jaya Seeyaa Raama, Jai Jai Hanumaan. (Victory to Sita and Ram, Victory to Hanuman, Victory over the darkness of suffering.)
She even told the story of Hindu demi-god Hanuman proving his devotion to Lord Ram by ripping open his chest to expose his heart – where Sita and Ram dwelled.
As we sat in Hero pose with both hands resting atop our heart centers, we were invited to breathe deeply into and focus all of our attention on our chest area. A swirl of thoughts and images whooshed into my mind: music; baseball; the Farmers Market; community; the delinquent punks in my neighborhood; the incarcerated, hurting and healing beings with whom I hope to practice yoga; friends; family; addiction recovery; yoga; service; Kali, Shiva, Saraswati and Ganesha; nature; health; life – this and so much more rushed through.
All of the things that sustain, motivate and inspire me; all of my passions, all of my joys, all of my loves.
I thought for sure the flood gates would open.
Yet still, I didn’t cry.
However, the gal next to me sobbed her face off. I’ve been there. Today, instead of being tugged into emotional upheaval, I plunged into my heart’s deepest strength. I dedicated my practice to my neighboring yogini, who in all her gut-wrenching, nothing-to-hide vulnerability was actually strongest person in the room.
Hah! NOW I’m crying! Gratitude. That’s all it is – gratitude that I can finally hold space for others these days, instead of always being the one who breaks down. I didn’t have that ability before, because my pain was biggest. My pain was bigger than anybody’s, because I had not touched the surface of facing it, understanding it, processing it.
Recently, on the occasion of celebrating 10 years of sobriety after a long struggle with addiction and its related consequences, I received the following note from a dear friend: “You have achieved more in the last 10 years – more discipline, more self-realization and more authenticity – than most of us do in a lifetime.” Wow. Although the “more than most” could be argued (I know a lot of folks who’ve done some pretty dedicated self-examination and transformation work), I did embrace this perspective for the 1st time, and give myself credit for the sheer amount of dedicated effort. Not in a self-centered, “I did this”
way, but simply in a manner of recognition. Without realizing, I have cultivated a devotion to growing and healing that resides most deeply in my heart.
A friend posted a Rumi quote on Facebook today; I think I’d like to continue working toward this kind of wisdom: Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
Facing life in order to transform and then serve others is the one thing I do wholeheartedly, devotedly, consistently, without fail. Right now, I do not have a full-time job; I do not have my own family, husband or children; I do not have a lot of the activities and things that motivate and fill most people’s lives – but I do have the consuming responsibility to leave behind a past of destructive patterns and continually cultivate a new, healthy life. Because for a recovering addict and trauma survivor like me, it’s do or die. Plus, I like it. Seriously! I like growing! I’ve even come to appreciate growing pains, believe it or not.
Last year was a fantastic one for that new health. I tend to mark my years from Autumn to Autumn. My birthday is in July, the Jewish High Holy Days fall in September or October, and my sobriety anniversary is in October. Therefore, late summer to early fall is an important “season” of reflection and visioning. Looking at this past year, I see that I have become stronger than ever. In fact, I believe I am transforming from someone who is in the process of healing, to – remarkably – a woman who is quite strong. And if I focus on that strength, anything is possible.
I will always have my story – a broken gal, going through hardship and growing into new life. And as long as that story is helpful to others, I will continue to tell it. But I’d like to stop telling that story to myself. Today I resolve to begin writing my new story – one of embracing strength and rocketing forward with faith, confidence and a positive mind.
This is a welcome change of heart. Victory over the darkness of suffering, indeed! Jai Jai Jai!