Life. Yoga. Joy.
Inspiring a life with smiles...™
"I see you sister."
It's breakfast time. I'm sitting in the cafe at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health with one of the assistant teachers of the 200 hour yoga teacher training program. For 15 minutes tears are streaming down my face as I talk of where I am at in my journey, and what I feel and want for my life right now. And when she spoke those words to me, "I see you sister," my heart just opened. What a feeling it is to be seen for exactly who I am, no judgement, no advice offered. Just a simple "I see you" ...how powerful it is to be seen and heard.
I love yoga. Coming back to my practice two years ago I rediscovered breath and movement. Yet it took two years to be able to comfortably rest in child's pose. I felt too vulnerable. I never took the time to inquire why. As I was looking into becoming a yoga teacher, I chose Kripalu's program because it advocated a style of yoga available to everybody regardless of ability, race, gender identity, strength, and flexibility. Kripalu yoga was a powerful tool for self discovery, and I wanted a style which promoted the health and well-being of the total person. Interestingly enough, I wanted to teach this style to help others, and little did I realize how deeply the practice would help and affect me.
Week 3 of the yoga teacher training has just ended. While I have been learning my asanas, alignment cues, pranayama, philosophy, anatomy, a hint of ayurveda tradition, meditation, the yamas and niyamas, etc, etc...I have also spent time in quiet reflection on who I am. And I discovered I had lost my way.
Once upon a time I used to sing and dance for the joy of it, daily. I laughed often, spent time with community and friends, fiercely pursued my dreams, and encouraged others to pursue their dreams too. But somewhere in the past decade I grew fearful of who I am. My voice was heard less and less. I became wrapped up in being the perfect teacher, spouse, person, and forgot to be my most authentic human self. I took my nose ring out for a number of years, gained weight, stopped being active, ate certain foods even when I noticed they were making me feel sick, worried about money, life, retirement, stability..
And I'm not saying that life has been all bad. I've had wonderful experiences, earned my Masters degree, loved my SigO, discovered new interests, cultivated skills that have served me well, and done all the things that make daily life normal - ate, slept, talked, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, even learned to cook (vegan of course). But, and there is a BUT, I stopped growing as a human being because I stopped myself from being seen as my own person.
There is a practice in the yoga tradition called "asteya" which loosely translates to "nonstealing". In the traditional sense it could mean not stealing material things as in the "Thou shalt not steal." It also means not stealing someone's time, energy, thoughts, and sense of self. Somewhere along the way, I broke this practice. I stole my sense of identity by thinking that what I needed mattered less than what I could give to my job, to my spouse, to this life that I thought I needed to do to be "normal". Even when I knew what I needed in order to be my best version of myself, I thought "I'm so lucky to have what I have, that I shouldn't complain about not getting what I need." And each time I thought this way, a little part of me went away and got lost.
After so many hours of reflection and svadhyaya (self study), I discovered the truth - that I felt lost, unseen, and unheard. I was no longer me, I was a spouse, a coworker, a team player, someone who got things done. But I am also a traveler, singer, dancer, lover, yogi, vegan, spiritual human being, and those parts of me wanted to be seen. When those parts of me went into hiding, there was no space in my body left for anything else. And so I could no longer breathe; I started having panic attacks. So much so that a pose as simple as child's pose took two years for me to be able to settle into. How could I be in such a vulnerable position and rest, when I was too afraid to be myself?
In Kripalu's yoga teacher training program (YTT) there is considerable emphasis on the power of yoga as a tool for self-observation. We are encouraged to bring this idea of mindful reflection into our classes so that our students can take a breath from each of their busy lives to engage with their most authentic self. Just as powerful is the program's encouragement to us YTT students to take this opportunity to cultivate a mindful practice in our individual lives as well. So this week, even as I am celebrating my success in teaching an hour and 45 minute practice teach class to my partner, even as I am thrilled to be close to finishing the 200 hour program and getting my certificate, even as I am excited to be saying Sanskrit words and creating a lesson plan for my final practice teach, I am observing the return of my self, my essence, my awakening of my soul as a human being.
"I see you sister."
It would be such a great ending to this piece to be able to tell you that I know exactly what happens now. The truth is that I'm not sure what this awakening means other than I can't close my eyes again to who I am and what I need. The good news is the knowledge and realization of who I truly am will be a valuable resource as I decide what happens next in this journey of life. I'm feeling vulnerable, scared, inspired, and alive.... and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Wherever you are in your journey my peeps, I wish you breath, clarity, peace and love. Know that when I look at you, "I see you"...and always with smiles...
Samantha Eve, a