Lessons Gifted.

Let go and trust

Image found via Pinterest.

So, I hurt my back at our yoga retreat this past weekend. Like really hurt it. Laying in the fetal position, crying, scared, panicked about how I would get myself home the next day with a 90-minute drive ahead of me, panicked about how I would even be able to get myself off of my mat and back into the house.

The whole trauma of that summer 4 years years ago came rushing into my mind and into my body.

Let me just say, if your back is going to go out, then having it happen at a yoga retreat— surrounded by people who love and support you and can offer massage, Reiki, and an OT who can help you move in the least painful way possible— is the way to do it.

A few lessons that this experience gifted me with:

  1. Bee’s breath works, folks. Like seriously. I apparently went into mild shock as my body trembled uncontrollably (not a pleasant feeling when your back is hurting.) I couldn’t take a deep soothing breath or even make a sound to stimulate the vagus nerve. Then I remembered Bee’s Breath. As soon as I did that the trembling lessened. When I stopped it started again but a little less intense. I just kept up with that breath until all that energy was released. I believe it was the story of the trauma from the first time it happened needing to be released from my mind and my body.
  2. Be careful and intentional for what you put out into the Universe. The first night we had a fire ceremony and I burned the desire to release the old story/beleif that I can’t be loved and accepted exactly as I am. Well. The Universe said okay, let’s do this. As soon as my back went out, I had to love and accept myself in this vulnerable state. I then had to accept the love and support from those around me exactly as I was: crying, hurt, vulnerable, scared, anxious. There was no mask to hide behind. It was just me, raw and there exactly as I was.
  3. Be careful what you ask for. Recently, I declared that I wanted to be more courageous, vulnerable and authentic in my life. Well, this demanded that I be all three things at once. So…thank you, Universe???
  4. I had to ask for what I wanted. But first I had to figure out what that was. Finally I asked myself if I could wave a magic wand and have anything I wanted happen, what would it be? I wanted to wake up in my own bed. Once I got clear on that and was brave enough to ask for it, so many wonderful people stepped up in amazing ways to make that happen.
  5. Don’t ignore messages I get from my writing. I had a nagging sinus headache all that day. In my writing it came out that the headache was actually unexpressed sorrow. I thought, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and went on my merry way. A few hours later, I am sobbing in the fetal position on my mat, then in my bed, and I have cried at some point every day since then, crying, writing and releasing all of that sorrow.
  6. Surrender. It’s message I need to learn over and over and over again. To surrender to what is, not what I think it should be. Surrender to the moment as it is, not as I want it or expect it to be. Surrender to the needs and desires of my body instead of pushing it. Surrender into grace. Surrender into fear. Surrender into sorrow. Surrender into joy. Surrender into anxiety. Surrender into acceptance. Surrender into what is. Surrender.

(Update: I am in so much less pain and so much more mobile than I expected! I was crying to my doctor that I don’t understand why this keeps happening when I am doing everything right. She gently reminded me that this hadn’t happened in over a year and the reason I am in not in much worse condition is because I have been doing everything right. Get yourself a doctor like mine.)

 

Listening to my Body.

just be

Image found via Pinterest.

My low back hurts.

It’s not completely out but it is definitely talking to me.

I’ve felt it coming for a few days. There was that twinge going up into forearm plank Sunday morning. There was the moment when I almost fell off  a bike during a 14-mile ride later that same day and twisted kind of funny. There was the day my dog almost yanked me off my feet chasing a squirrel on our walk. Then there was moving our daughter out of her apartment yesterday. First I felt a little tweak lifting something  heavy onto the trailer and I was at an odd angle. When I really felt it was when I leaned down in the car to pick up a piece of paper.

That’s all it finally took, a stupid, small move but like I said, it had been building up.

So, no I’m not flat on my back. I can move, walk, (hopefully) drive, do some gentle yoga. I know how to care for my back.

When I ask my body what this is telling me this is what I hear: Less doing, more being.

That makes total sense. I feel like each time I get to this point it is because of exactly this. I get so caught up in doing: doing the laundry the minute it begins to pile up in the hamper, cleaning the house every day, logging more miles walking and biking, teaching and subbing and more teaching and subbing as I save money for our trip to Europe, writing and blogging every day.

So much doing, doing, doing.

So little just being.

So for now, if you need me I’ll be here, just being.

Being present.

Being still.

Being here.

Books Read in May.

May 2017 Books

“Marlena” a novel by Julie Buntin

Tell me what you can’t forget and I’ll tell you who you are.

Some say that we never forget our first great love. I believe we never forget our first great friendship. That friend that shines a light into our darkness and casts a shadow on our light. The friendship is deep, quick, complicated. That’s how it is between fifteen-year-old Cat and seventeen-year-old, pill-popping, seen-too-much-life-already Marlena. Cat moves with her mother and older brother to a rural town in northern Michigan. The setting itself is exquisitely wrought, becoming an accomplice to the friendship. Cat’s mother is newly divorced, her father unavailable, her brother postponing college to help out financially and emotionally. Marlena is a perfect distraction. Cat is drawn into her life, her secrets, her pain as Marlena initiates her into her first everything: kiss, drink, pill. Within a year, Marlena is found dead in the woods nearby, drowned in a mere six inches of icy water. The story weaves the past and the present, moving back and forth between Michigan and New York as adult Cat receives a call from the past, whisking her back into the summer that changed everything. This is a gorgeous story of the complications of teenage female friendship, addiction, lust, boredom and searching for something to hold onto in the midst of things falling apart.

A sentence I love:

She’s leaning into my face, her cheeks iridescent as if recently wiped clean of tears, her mouth against my chin, finding my lips, and the her tongue, something un-cooked and too wet about it, something silly, and just as I begin to formulate a word for what is happening, kissing, she disintegrates into laughter, breathing it into me until it bubbles from her throat and overflows. like her laugh is my creation. And a smell, like scratching a branch with your nail until its green flesh shows, the residue left behind on your fingers.

“American War” a novel by Omar El Akkad

When I was young, I collected postcards. 

A second American Civil War breaks out in 2076. In our current incredibly polarized country, this isn’t hard to imagine. Reading this rich, complex novel we don’t need to imagine it, we only need to drop into the near distant future he has painted for us. In this world, war is not some abstract entity but a specific atrocity that impacts the daily life of Sarat Chestnut and her family. Woven with historical documents, letters and oral history to give a full picture of how we got to civil war again and what was happening behind the scenes, “American War” often read less like a novel and more like an inevitable reality. Stunning.

As an added incentive to check this novel out, my husband rarely reads fiction. Well, he picked this up on our vacation and finished it in in less than 72 hours.

A sentence I love: 

Why was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?

She’d learned recently that solid land was not the natural skin of the world, only a kind of parasitic condition that surfaced and receded in million-year cycles. the natural skin of the world was water, and all water on earth was connected.

“The Universe Has Your Back- Transform Fear to Faith” by Gabrielle Bernstein

In the spring of 2015, I had a meltdown in a yoga class.

I chose this book for the book club I lead at our yoga studio. I had one week to read it when I finally picked it up. It turns out it was perfect (divine) timing. My low back started given me problems last Sunday. Seemingly out of the blue. I had no choice but to slow down. Way, way down. In doing so, I gave this book much more attention than I normally would have. I was able to really absorb what she was saying as well as write out the prompts and even do many of the meditations. So, because my back went out-ish, I was able to dive deep into her words. And they have had a profound effect on me. The main gift I took away was how prayer and co-creating with the Universe is a dance that can happen all day long, in any situation. I guess I usually think of prayer as a bookend to my days, not something to call on throughout the day as needed.

Even the title spoke to me. The Universe has my BACK. It’s not just all on me to figure out what is happening, to fix it, to heal it. My back has become this metaphor for fear and how I become so tentative in my life for fear of hurting it. And then, just when I was finally feeling free of that fear, it went out for no discernible reason. Transforming fear into faith was exactly what I needed to explore.

I underlined, starred and wrote in the margins of almost every single page. So much to take in, so much to explore. Seriously life-changing for me.

A sentence I love: 

As a spiritual activist, I believe that the greatest power we have to combat the terror of these times is our power to live in love. Love casts out all fear.

Moving Through Fear on my Mat.

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I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting my back.

See, I hurt it almost two years ago. Two. Years.

I hurt it so bad that I ended up on my bedroom floor in child’s pose, unable to move and my daughters had to call an ambulance.

It was humiliating.

It was frightening.

I lost faith in my body.

Ever since then, I have been afraid of hurting my back again. I’ve babied it. I’ve taken it easy, doing gentle yoga, and soft, somatic stretches.

But I haven’t really pushed myself.

Once in a while I do, but the moment I feel the least little twinge I back off again.

I haven’t hurt it that bad since then, but I have “tweaked” it and the fear of hurting it like I did the first time lingers.

Then I read an essay by Elizabeth Gilbert in the February issue of “O” magazine where she reflects on a knee injury. How it plagued her for over 13 years ever since her marriage had ended. When she finally got tired of being held back by that pain she asked what it needed She really wanted know. She heard it say it wants to run fast. To move. For her to stop using it as an excuse to hold herself back.

Oh.

Wow.

That’s exactly what I do.

I hold myself back for fear of hurting my back again.

I don’t take  challenging yoga classes.

I’m afraid of saying yes to fun excursions for fear that walking too much or moving in an unexpected way will tweak my back.

But then I realized that the more I baby my back, the weaker it is getting.

The weaker it is getting, the more chance I have of hurting it again.

So, I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting it.

I’ve decided to move it. Use it. Strengthen it.

I’ve started taking yoga classes again. Ones that challenge me. That force me to use muscles I’ve ignored for two years.

I’ve decided to say yes to things instead of no for fear it might be uncomfortable.  I ‘m 51, not 91. And even at 91 I want to be saying yes more than no. I want to be like Tao Porchon-Lynch when I’m in my nineties. Hell, I want to have her sprit and vitality now!

Each vinyasa, each lunge, each time I step my foot through between my hands I am moving through that fear. With each breath I am releasing it, making room room for trust, making room for what is happening in my body in this moment not some imaginary moment in my head.

Fear is just a thought.

Fear comes from not being present to this moment where I am fine, where my back is fine.

So, I’m saying yes again to each moment. I’m meditating daily. (104 days in a row so far.) I’m moving, playing, bending, stretching, strengthening and learning to trust my body again.

I’m learning to go toward my fear, befriending it, embracing it.

I’m literally moving through it.

And I’m finding tremendous strength and freedom on the other side.

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Expecting vs. Accepting.

Image: GotCredit / Flickr

Image: GotCredit / Flickr

Since I hurt my low back three weeks ago, then again 10 days later, I keep expecting to wake up, leap out of bed, pain free.

Sadly, that is not how it works.At least not for me.

And it’s got me thinking about what I expect versus what is reality.

I didn’t expect to pull my low back going up into shoulder stand at the end of my practice. I had to accept that that is indeed what happened. Wondering why and wishing I had just skipped that pose or that practice was not helpful. At all.

After a particularly emotional day where I cried and wrote pages upon pages, releasing years of pent up emotion, I expected to wake up pain free.

I had to accept that the healing process was going to go at its own pace. I felt a little better, sure, but there was absolutely no leaping out of bed.

After receiving a Bowen therapy treatment where I cried out of the blue then just as quickly stopped, I expected the pain to be gone with whatever it was that I had released.

I had to accept that it will probably not just disappear in one fell swoop.

I’ve had to accept that I need to rest. To ask for help. To relieve help. To slow way, way down.

Mostly, I’ve hd to accept that this happened for a reason and even if I do everything “right” it will take as long as it takes to heal.