Being private doesn’t mean that I keep people at a distance or hide from sharing life’s realities. Being private to me means practicing discernment when it comes to revealing the inner most aspects of my soul. Being private means holding close to me the things I value the most, like love, nobility and even pain. Privacy means rather than being fed by the retelling of stories in order to get a variety of responses and reactions from others, I strive on my own strength to navigate what life gives me.
With that, it is time to be real. To discern my truth. The be noble in my bravery. To be raw with my pain.
For the last five years I have lived with debilitating back pain. I have done most methods offered to me for relief–holistic to traditional. I have acupunctured, medicated, dry needled, drugged, essential oiled, endured surgical procedures, meditated, prayed and begged for just one day without pain.
I have faced these trying times with what I believe to be grace. I have looked for the spiritual meaning and gifts layered within the pain. I have rarely asked for, and even less often, been easily able to receive help. I’m certainly not looking for a pat on the back or even acknowledgement for how I have chosen to face this. I know that the choice that I have made to keep my pain and medical worries mostly to myself was done for no other reason but to maintain my emotional need for privacy and even more, my deeply rooted need for safety.
Well, part of my unfolding is growth in all areas. So, I am owning it. I am owning the reality of my pain and I am getting really real with the truth.
The surgiery I had in April to repair a severely torn hip labrum has so far proven to be less than successful. I’m battling daily pain and complicated pain management while trying to return to my full-time job as a yoga teacher for individuals with disabilities and also the primary caregiver for my disabled adult daughter. My job requires me to be incredibly present and inspiring. Although the work requires a tremendous amount of emotional and mental energy, it is also richly rewarding. And the reality is, it puts food on my table financially, so NOT working is NOT a viable option.
In attempting to reduce pain, I have gone back to my pain specialist for help. Next week I am having a procedure to diagnose the possibility that a technique that involves cauterizing the facet joint nerves would provide longer relief than previous attempted pain relief injections. Additionally, he feels an MRI needs repeating to determine if labrum from the hip surgery is healing as hoped and has not re-torn. Finally, he feels like my SI joint has some similar dysfunction that would also benefit from similar treatment down the road and the extreme swelling in my glute muscles and pirifromis muscle need addressing.
A good ol’ case of what comes first–the torn hip or the deterioration in the spine? More important is not the cause or the why, but instead what is next and how does my spirit stay intact?
At this moment it stays intact by leaning into the pain and circumstance. Not looking for any hidden message or learning opportunity, but wrapping my heart around the pain my body feels and allowing it to feel. It is about grieving what has been lost; cycling, hiking, sitting cross legged, yoga postures, ease sitting during a long dinner, a drive in the car and a day or two without thoughts consumed by pain.
It’s about revealing truth. Raw. Real. Honest. I also have come to realize that within the spacicousness of being open and real the privacy of nobility, discernment and love for self also remain. It’s a definite moment to bask in the process of unfolding.
I have spent quite a bit of my contemplative time looking at opinions and judgment. Specifically, where the two mingle and where the two are clearly different.
I catch myself proclaiming opinions but later wonder if these sometimes self-righteous statements are really laced with judgment. I have been struggling with expressing myself based on my opinions/beliefs/experiences and balancing it with judgment.
Maybe being judgmental isn’t the same thing as having and expressing an opinion. Being judgmental—at least how I have come to learn about it—is not about discernment. It’s about judging the beliefs, actions, inactions and opinions of others. To me, it is that stand-off attitude and make a statement of all-knowing authority that if spoken would make the person feel bad.
Here’s what I see as the difference between judging people and having an opinion: an opinion is a viewpoint, a so-called judgment based upon observation in the context of our own experience and bias. We all have them.
The difference I feel is when we have an opinion with a “charge” to it, when our opinion is fueled with emotion then the opinion is most likely a judgment.
We’re making someone wrong. We’re being judgmental. We’re separating.
I am trying to learn that it is a waste of time and energy to be so invested in another person’s actions or beliefs. It’s challenging enough to improve ourselves, and it’s virtually impossible to attempt to improve other people.
Most of the time, being judgmental is about being right. Rather than focusing on being right, I am learning to have a check-in with myself to look for what exactly is behind my emotions and need to express an opinion. Then I am trying to voice my heart-felt thoughts in way that has nothing to do with being “right” and everything to do with seeking to understand.
After all, isn’t being human about being a seeker? Wanting to understand? Being open?
Just my opinion. ;)
When I began my Yoga practice years ago it was purely for physical benefit. I spent hours thinking about and working towards the “perfect” alignment or posture. My addictive personality became quickly obsessed with every successfully attempt of a difficult pose and how could I compete and win against my self and others.
I had no idea of the layers and layers of exploring that would unfold beyond the physical. The more I practiced, the more I wanted to know.
Following my wake-up from a life of unconscious living I started to understand that my existence was so much more than my (then) overweight body. Imagine my shock and eventual gratitude that came when I connected my mind, body and soul.
One of the greatest gifts that I learned through Yoga is my over-active need to survive. As I began to understand the chakra system and how the energy centers play a role in my awareness of physical symptoms and personality traits, I flourished in my understanding of why I often fall back into the old habit of survival. At the time of first learning about the chakra system I was also deep into therapy looking at not only family of origin stuff that was manifesting into disastrous relationships, but I started to look at how I had created walls around me in order to stay safe and feel secure. For me, this can look like a small circle of friends, meticulously controlled home clutter and budgeting, extreme work habits and obsessions with being busy, reclusive tendencies and other need for control. Through the realization of this, I also became armed with ways to combat the often destructive tendencies in order to survive.
When I catch myself falling back into the patterns of these habits, I have learned to pause and look a little closer at the correlation to my feelings and my actions. The penchant for ensuring I am safe and secure can sometimes isolate me from people and experiences that might actually enhance my life, or at the most it might really support my urgency to feel safe. The work of the first chakra isn’t to become a badass, it is to develop and nurture the aspects of my life that create a solid foundation so that the other facets of myself are just as illuminated.
When I had hip surgery nearly two months ago, my internal pressure to feel safe kicked into full force. I planned, anticipated and foresaw the snowball effect of not only medical costs but also lost wages. Since teaching Yoga is my primary means of income, the reality was startling. Although I pride myself on extreme financial awareness and careful monitoring– so much that my monthly budget is typically accounted for within $25.00– the knowing that being on crutches for four weeks would greatly reduce my income. I affirmed over and over that my priority was to heal, not work and I watched my pennies even closer.
Following surgery, there were hours to spend in the company of myself as my body worked to heal. I practiced a different type of surrender than I had not previously practiced and the softer version of me brought a self-tenderness that hadn’t before been revealed. I enjoyed the new pace and the time to sit and contemplate my path. I spent many hours being grateful for my life and how I came to be who I am today. I looked closely at myself with a more delicate eye. Through the deepening of my practice, I saw that my tendency to be dominated by an over-active first chakra and the part of my story that has been laced with feelings of unworthiness, I also watched as these feelings had trickled into how I have come to believe that giving feels safe but receiving is weak and vulnerable. Weak equates to being unable to survive and feeling at risk.
At a cross-roads I saw the trifecta of either surrender or struggle; I don’t receive well, I don’t like to feel unsafe and I thrive with the challenge to survive.
I am a giver of goodness and I had come to believe that I just don’t receive well.
When a friend approached me about setting up a funding campaign to reduce my financial load, my immediate response was a firm NO. Days went by and conversations with the people closest to me were had, I realized that this is a chance to grow…..with also the amazing benefit to receive. Someone also recently said to me that as I refuse to receive I am also denying others the chance to give. So, I said yes. And I am blown away and deeply grateful. Besides this funding campaign and the generous efforts of an amazing man, I am on my way to being just fine. Actually more than fine.
Safe. Secure. Surrendered.
There are countless books that line book stores that give tips and strategies to heal the wounds of our childhood. Therapist’s offices flourish over the family of origin issues that bring clients in week after week. For some, there are years spent dealing with the painful memories that crop up in our adulthood. It seems that this happens when we begin to have families of our own or our relationships begin to suffer as a result some deeply seeded emotions that are usually lying dormant until the ripe time to emerge.
Of course, we all have a wound or two no matter how ideal our growing up years were. To think or assume that we are immune to it is a set-up for emotional soreness. No parent is perfect and it is in our own recognition of our mistakes or areas to grow we can being to unpeel the harmful thoughts that infiltrate our present life.
For me, I have read the books. I have gone to therapy. I have done the soul work. I have written the unsent letters. I have forgiven. I have set boundaries.
And yet, there are times when the painful feelings of separation and being unseen bubbles up from deep within to catapult me into a present day question of my worthiness. In these moments I wonder and ask myself if a parent or sibling refuses to be part of my life or love me, how can anyone find me to be worthy?
I find that when these seeds emerge again, I spend time in the place of questioning and in sadness. But in truth I am wasting time. Would I really want someone in my life who places so much judgement on another human being? Would I really want the strings-attached conditional love that comes from a place of animosity for others? Would I really walk into that to risk being shamed?
I think not.
Instead, I recognize who they are. I know that when I get to the place where I am spiraling into thoughts that are laced with anger, rage and even retaliation, I know that I must stop and do my own work.
So I practice compassion. For myself first and foremost and I see that I am worthy and I am good. I then practice compassion for them. True Metta (loving kindness). I see them as the young and wounded little boys and realize that their action are a result of their own stuff and what they are feeling is the sharp stabs of their emotional bruises. They are likely unable to feel them in a way that can heal them, so they discharge the pain onto others.
I get it. I understand it because I have been there.
Today and hopefully tomorrow, I am choosing compassion rather than pain. I know my worth and I know questioning it is time spent wasted.
One of the greatest insights that I have had throughout this experience of healing is that time is as equal, if not more equal, as money.
For as many years as I can recall, I have had the disease of being busy. Some of it is that I love my work and honestly enjoy what I do. It can also be explained as deeply seeded thoughts around my value and worthiness being directly related to how I busy I am, resulting in that I have struggled with saying no to work. Another aspect of my need to be busy is that I somehow have believed that my needs/desires/wants/deserving are less than everyone else’s.
Keep in mind it isn’t as though I am a greedy or money hungry person. In truth, I live quite simply. I had no debt until this recent episode of medical expenses and facing the reality that when you are self-employed, no work means no money. I bargain shop and live frugally by occasionally going out to eat and rarely shopping. Of course, the reality is my busy schedule does not lend itself to hours spent at the mall or a luxuriously slow meal.
On my last week of medical leave, I have spent hours looking at my current schedule and eliminating what does not feed my soul. Getting rid of the unnecessary trips in the car. Purging the craziness of being overbooked.
Making space for time on my patio. For reading a book. For lounging around with my love. For naps (what??). For life’s pleasures.
Because in the end, it is not going to matter how busy I am. What will matter is that I had time to enjoy life.
According to Webster dictionary laughter is defined as an expression or appearance of merriment or amusement.
According to me laughter is the necessary nectar of a good and healthy relationship. It is the soothing agent for when friction arises. It shifts the moments of tension into fits of amusement and light-heartedness. It is indeed the essence of life.
When I look back at the entirety of my life I see that it was mostly spent in a state of seriousness. It isn’t as though my childhood was empty of laugher, but it certainly was not a common thread. I recall laughing with my brother and my best friend from time to time but my home itself was not filled with jokes or humorous doings.
I jumped into the grown up world at a young age and that left little room for true deep belly laughter. My world was raising three little kids and the source of my giggles often came from their antics. My relationships with adults took on a serious tone and there was never much space for laughter.
As my life evolved I developed a genuine friendship with an incredibly vibrant woman whose very being is one of great humor. Her laugh itself is boisterous and loud. Her appearance is so gregarious she is known well for her spirited choice of hair style and clothes. Her entire essence is that of pure and resounding joy. How lucky I am to have her enter into my life many years ago.
Not long ago following a visit with her, I realized that in my life I had little laughter and therefore the seriousness of my life became stifling. Seeking to change that aspect of my existence I began to evaluate my life and where in it I could create more space for the merriment of finding humor on a daily basis.
Nearly eighteen months later, my life is a daily circus of amusement and hilarity mingled with a sensitive and deeply moving connection of sincerity and calmness. A beautiful balance has occurred and my life is completely full of both laughter and intentness.
Here we are again. Another opportunity to practice self-care and self-love following a surgery and a chance to look at my yoga ‘practice’ in a much deeper way.
This time around a hip surgery to repair a torn cartilage, likely damaged as a result of too much yoga. Yea that is what I said…..too much yoga. Specifically, too much external rotation in pigeon pose during in an intensely heated class. From what I have learned about this type of injury, it is unfortunately quite common in yoga teachers and practitioners who practice in heated classes. The ligaments, tendons and cartilage become too hot too fast and get over stretched and over loosened, often resulting in an injury like mine. My pain specialist told me he currently has eight yoga teachers seeking treatment for the exact injury. Hmmmmmm…..
The recovery for this starts with four weeks of minimal weight-bearing and the use of crutches. After that it is a slow and mindful period of rehabilitation and careful attention to not over rotate the hip to undo what the surgeon has done to repair the cartilage. The complete recovery is typically three to six months.
Plenty of time to ponder and to practice in a totally different way.
One way my practice looks different is writing and collecting experiences. For years, I have wanted to document and write all that I have experienced through having my unique girl and as a result my teaching yoga to people with disabilities. It has been a remarkable journey and to write it all into a logical book format has begun a beautiful practice.
I am also practicing more stillness. My typical day is one of five to six classes throughout the day with only enough time to drive from one location to the next. I usually eat in my car while I am driving and by the end of the day, I am so overstimulated and nearly frantic that I collapse into a heap when I get home. Now, I am required to sit and to mostly be still. I allow myself a few hours of computer/writing time in the morning and then the remainder of the day is quiet awareness of what is going on around me. I am watching as spring takes shape in my neighborhood through the beautiful front window. I am noticing the sounds that I typically do not get a chance to hear when I am gone all day. I spend hours reading, journaling, building jigsaws and just being in the silence of my home.
One of the most beautiful gifts of this experience has been the connection I have developed with my mom. She graciously offered to fly up from Florida and spend a week helping me. The time together was far more than just her assisting me with daily care. This was a visit of redemption. Her loving ways and nurturing seemed far from the childhood memories of being sick that has haunted me. As a little person, and as she was a single mom self-employed, when I was sick she was stressed. Now that I am grown I can easily see that her stress was not about me. For years, I took on her emotional state as shame of being weak, sickly and a pain in her neck. Her coming up to help me healed so much of that falseness that I have carried for years. I came to realize that she did the best she could during that season of her life and now I get to experience a non-stressed mom nurture me with the most tenderness I could have ever wished for. The slight of hand caring and tenderness of her touch was like a balm for the wounds that I have felt most of my life.
I have done this medical recovery thing a few times in the last several years. Each time, I get a little more aware of what practicing really can be. The mindfulness and respect for my body gets a little richer and a little deeper. I am reminded of the fragility of the human body and the power that can come with being more in the present moment. I am grateful for the love that exists between a mother and a daughter and the healing that can come in unexpected ways.
Over the course of the last five years, I have struggled greatly with a nagging back injury that comes and goes with an intensity that reminds me of the fragileness of my body and yet also fades just as quickly, which leads me to sadly forget that very lesson.
I am again in the cycle of chronic pain. This time it is one that is vicious in its intensity and relentless in the duration. Weeks and weeks of chronic, debilitating pain that literally brings me to my knees. Writhing in pain more than being comfortable, I have leaned into it with a tenacity different from times before. For the most part, I have surrendered. I have accepted it as it is and have done my best to just be with it. Gracious in my efforts, I have mostly stayed in the present moment experience and have eliminated the thoughts of fear that typically take over.
In understanding that fear, or specifically fear of scarcity and unworthiness, I have resisted the urge to tell that story. Rather than allowing fiction to take over my life, I have stayed in the story of the now.
Right now, I hurt. Right now, I have plenty of money. Right now, I am seeking medical attention. Right now, I my yoga practice has minimal asana. Right now, I am walking with mindfulness. Right now, I am okay.
As I tread in these familiar waters , I am grateful that this time as I am doing so mostly without panic. The fear of the unknown remains just that. In the meantime, I am openly asking for guidance as to next steps and how to move forward on my path of service and sharing what I believe to be the way–grace and gratitude.
Little did I know how a divine meeting and some play with paintbrushes would lead me down the path to the present.
Little did I know that through trials I would crack away the armor that has protected me for a lifetime.
Little did I know that the capacity to yearn for someone else could come from the depths of this independent woman.
Little did I know how the desire to be better would take me falling face down and risking it all.
Little did I know that I am worthy and that I am good.
Little did I know that I am totally and completely all in.
My life had begun to change early January of 2015, if not before, as I began to listen to the inner voice nudging me that my current situation was blanketing my essence. Tired of hearing and feeling I was not enough, the spiral into ruins began the early months of 2015. At the time, I was preparing to just break free of the pain I was in and was in no way looking for anything other than soul work.
The Universe had a different plan.
It happened like this.
He reached for my hand to shake it and I instead asked for hug. A few weeks later, I painted. A few more weeks, I painted again.
The process of ‘painting my soul’ required me to open the door ever so slightly to my inner thoughts and feelings. Through those two creative processes part of my story was shared. A friendship had begun.
As I moved out of my home and left a life behind, he watched from the sidelines my decision-making, my crazy relentless schedule and my own process of healing.
Months went by and a closeness came. More months went by and a tenacity came. More months went by and clarity that only comes after a storm came.
Today, there is a beautiful space of connection and love. There is contentment that is immeasurable. There is spaciousness and freedom.
Little did I know what a year could do.