You need a center, a way of being in this world, so that you are not going up and down with the ups and downs of life, there’s just no power in that. Of course, sometimes life brings situations that are so shockingly brutal, you’ll need time to recover, to grieve, to process. But short of those times when we’re blindsided, betrayed, or brought to our knees, we really don’t want to be stuck in a powerless cycle of suffering.
At a certain point, you have to unpack your bags if you feel you may be carting some old, heavy stuff around. The “how” is the thing for you to discover. Your “liberation pathway” is a personal process; there is no singular path to healing. For me, discovering and practicing yoga changed my life and my way of being in this world, which is why I teach. I believe if these tools worked for me, they have the potential to work for anyone. So I want to share, it lights me up to share. You can practice with me here, anytime: http://www.yogisanonymous.com I always try to emphasize the “how of healing” when I teach. There’s no better feeling in this world that I know of, than the feeling of lifting someone else up. Of lending a hand, an ear, a shoulder, whatever you’ve got. Yoga was no “magic bullet”, and I don’t believe there is one when it comes to healing yourself. So far I’ve been practicing over 20 years, 6 days a week. I’m not done yet, and I don’t believe we are ever done. We are always in process. But knowing yourself and healing yourself are essential pursuits if you want to be happy, at peace, comfortable in your own skin. If you want to be aware of what it is that gives you a sense of purpose and fills your whole being with YES, so you can spread that yes wherever you go. I feel all of those things now, but I certainly didn’t when I started this journey. It’s painful, lonely, uncomfortable work sometimes, but it is totally doable and also necessary if you want to realize what you know. And it does get easier.
For me, personally, I’d been in therapy on and off for quite awhile when I started practicing yoga. I have always found human behavior fascinating and intriguing. And like most humans, I’ve always wanted to be happy. In my experience, working with a great therapist can be very enlightening as far as identifying your “stuff”, or going through your baggage. (It might not be for you. Again, I’m just sharing my own “how to unpack story” in the hope that it may be helpful). A good therapist can help you put everything on the floor and sort it out, so you can start to figure out why you do the things you do. And how old stuff might be at play in your present. Part of being at peace is knowing yourself, understanding what makes you tick. It’s like having a trustworthy person hold up a mirror and kindly say, “Can you see what you’re doing? And is this serving your higher good?” So, I’d say I had that information about myself when I took my first yoga class. If we’d met and you’d been interested, I could have told you about why I was the way I was, but I couldn’t have done much about it. And I was not a very happy person. I was actually pretty serious and somewhat depressed. Numbed out. I was attached to my stories, justifications and rationalizations. I had my rage and my finger-pointing. I was a young adult, after all. And I liked my story, it was comfortable. Kind of like an old sweatshirt you just won’t throw away.
When I started practicing yoga, I began to realize that the quality of my internal dialogue was harsh and critical. Unforgiving. Judgmental. Your inner voice is your constant companion, like your roommate, except you cannot evict that voice. I was a Type-A perfectionist, and I realized I had zero idea how to give myself a break. If I made a mistake, said something or did something I wished I hadn’t, I’d beat myself up for days, relentlessly going over the event in my mind and redoing it, rewriting it, obsessing over it. I’d agonize and berate myself until I felt sick. Exhausted. Alone. In Vipassana meditation, that’s known as “boiling yourself.”
And I also had no real sense of what made me happy. What I was doing here. So I started to work on that on my yoga mat. My practice became a place where I did my best to feed a loving voice. If I fell out of a pose, or felt sluggish, and that harsh inner critic started piping up, I’d say, “No. Not here. Go away.” And I’d give myself a break, and try to replace the harsh thoughts with some kind and compassionate ones. I focused my mind again and again on my breath. And little by little my mind quieted and I started to understand what a loving inner environment felt like. Sadly, it’s not natural to most of us. We are inundated all day long with messages about how we are “wrong” in almost every way. How we don’t look right or smell right or feel right, or dress the right way, or live in the right house, or drive the right car, or sleep next to the right person. It’s kind of insane.
As I started to strengthen that loving, kind voice, I found it followed me into other areas of my life. I realized I’d had blinders on, for a long time. I’d been so fixated on my life, on what wasn’t working or hadn’t happened yet. On why I wasn’t happy. It was a me-focused life, and in retrospect, that’s kind of sad. Because if you really want to be happy, you need to turn your attention to spreading some love and some light wherever you go, whenever you can. And once you tap into that enormous, limitless well of love within you, you will naturally want to share it. To plunge your hands into it and fling it all over the place with abandon, with joy.
I’ve always been an avid reader (“Happiness Is An Inside Job” by Sylvia Boorstein, “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” by Stephen Cope, “Comfortable with Uncertainty” by Pema Chodron, “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro, and anything by Mary Oliver or David Whyte are titles I’d recommend), and I’ve always loved to write, so those are also tools of healing that I’ve used along my way. And I began a seated meditation practice about 12 years ago, Http://www.dhamma.org/ if you want to check it out. I hope at least some of this is helpful to you. It’s a bit of a departure from my usual posts, and pretty personal, but I want you to know I care, and I’ll share whatever I’ve got that might be helpful. It’s frustrating to read about these life-changing ideas without some tools to help get you there if you aren’t there already. Sending you so much love, and a big hug, Ally Hamilton