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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Struggling

 

 

stormy sea

 

Well …Week 7 of my Yoga Teacher Training has arrived.

And the truth is, I probably shouldn’t be taking the time to blog this.

I should be working on a short essay on the erector spinae muscles that’s due. Or studying for a quiz coming up on the Koshas, Doshas, Gunas, Chakras, Nadis, Prana and OM.

Or I could be rushing off to fit in one of my 4-5 required classes this week, or tackling my last class observation of another teacher and oh yeah, I really need to be memorizing and practicing my hour long teaching script consisting of Surya Namaskara A & B with a peak pose of Camel that needs to be taught in front of a real class.

But honestly, I need to write this.

I really need to tell the truth for no other reason than it’s real and it’s happening. And maybe ---just maybe---you might be able to relate.

Can you remember a time when you felt like you were barely holding on, when life felt like you were clutching to a jagged cliff with your raw fingertips?

A time when you felt tired. So tired of always feeling like no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t quite catch up. When normal activities like cooking and house cleaning fell to the wayside because you were trying to get through a challenging time?

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via

The other night I stood up in front of our class and taught a  sequence of balancing yoga poses.

Everyone had been assigned a segment from the hour-long teaching script we will all eventually perform for our final exam.  But when I’d glimpsed the part my teacher had assigned me my heart sank. I literally felt sick. I had been memorizing like crazy—but never made it to this section of the script yet. Not only did I not have the body cues memorized for each of these poses, I couldn’t really do them particularly well. And I’d have to teach it in the following class.

Sigh. Once again I was feeling like I had play ‘catch-up.’

I took a deep breath. And kind, patient Elizabeth came over to show me the poses.

And then for the next 24 hours, my life was a blur of memorizing and rehearsing out loud and pasting pictures of the poses onto my script to jolt my memory.

Because the truth is, being the oldest one in my Yoga Training course ---and the least experienced with Yoga-- has been more difficult than I anticipated.

I don’t think it’s age-ism to acknowledge the differences I feel between myself and some of my twenty-something year old fellow students. Because no matter how young I might look or seem, my physical body is still fifty six years old—that’s reality. And yes, my back has been neglected for years. And yes, it gets stiff and sore; I can’t do more than four, maybe five (flow) classes a week without some real achiness.

So there are times inside the class when I feel self conscious. When I notice how much longer it takes to memorize and learn an entire new world, filled with Sankrit and poses and tons of body cues and teaching scripts and ancient yoga concepts and philosophy. There are times when teaching in front of my class feels overwhelming and stressful, a stark reminder of the fact I had less than six months of yoga under my belt when I came into Teacher Training.

Thank goodness for two fellow students—the owner of the studio and dear, sweet Alice---both in their early forties and sharing my similar struggle to memorize big chunks of material being hurled at us weekly.

Otherwise I would feel totally alone.

A feeling that is starting to take a toll on me.

So here’s the truth in a nutshell. Most of my fellow students have been practicing yoga for years. And when I look around my class it’s a fact that I am technically the most inexperienced.

So any reasonable observer might say, “Hey---no wonder you’re struggling to keep up.” Right?

Except that’s logic.

And feelings emerge from a deeper place; in fact, feelings can seem downright confusing and mysterious until we examine them more closely.

In Yoga this kind of turning inward and peeling away the layers is called Svadhyaya, which means self study.

And in my language of psychology, it’s about recognizing that when we’re experiencing unusually intense reactions to a situation or person--- it’s most likely because something from our past is being triggered.

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In these last weeks I’ve found myself asking, “Why is this Yoga Teacher Certification Course feeling so damn stressful to me?

I mean, even I see the irony.

And I’ve realized the answer.  It’s not just the accelerated pace of the class. It’s the particular dynamics I feel when I’m inside this class that have been bringing up raw feelings from long ago.

Or in my case, feelings that surface in the form of an old memory tinted in soft gray like a Charlie Chaplin film, with slow jerky images moving without sound.

I close my eyes and I see it.

 

A little girl. The smallest in the class standing at a miniature table wearing a starchy blue apron that covers her dress. All around the table are classmates bent over  pieces of shiny white paper covering the table. The children are spreading thick, globs of rainbow colored paint over their paper and the little girl is painting too. But suddenly she stops and she looks up. She is watching the other children, the way their brushes swirl across the paper in bold sweeps, she sees how the bright colors turn muddy brown when you swirl them together and she sees how no one seems to care about this. She notices how lots of kids move their tongues over their lips when they spread their paint. And then suddenly, she feels it. The stinging hot water in her eyes and a hurt feeling in her chest. When she cries the pretty Kindergarten teacher with the stiff, yellow hair hugs her and asks her what’s wrong. But the little girl only sputters out a few words into her teacher’s soft, damp neck.

“My painting,” she cries. “Is not as good. It’s not as good as theirs.” .

 

changing your life narrative

 

We are all made of stories.  Rich, deep, complicated, dark, and shiny threads of life all woven together to move us forward on our journey toward wholeness.

Our growth happens when we can own all  of our experiences—the good and the painful-- and acknowledge when it’s time to let go.

This is the key. We must know our past without being bound by it.  

Those feelings I had at the Kindergarten paint table were a source of mystery and confusion for me for many years, a powerful memory that stayed with me because it became the lens that I saw the world from.

There was everyone else. And then there was Me. And without understanding why, I came to believe that there was something different about me. Something intangible about me that was inadequate.

Something I must hide. And so I came to believe that I had to work harder than the next person just to keep up. Just to make my ‘painting’ as good as the next person’s.

It made me sad to think that I could be so filled with self doubt and shame at such a tender age, although at the time I had no words for those feelings. In fact, I didn’t learn until I was a graduate student in a Counseling Department what these feelings were about; I didn’t realize how unresolved feelings can get passed down through generations.

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Because I learned that the sensation of shame so long ago was not mine, but rather it belonged to my mother’s story. I didn’t know for a long time that my beautiful, young mother endured a shame-filled nine months when she became pregnant with me as a teenager. That she was ignored and shamed by her own father, shunned by my father’s family and forbidden to see my father until he was old enough to marry her. I heard much later about her feeling of aloneness and heartbreak during her pregnancy with me.  

But this was a secret for a long time.

I couldn’t understand –until years later—that her overprotection and clinging to me had nothing to do with any deficiencies in me. This was simply my mother’s version of love, the best love a young, undeveloped girl/woman could offer her first born.

But children can’t know the back story being lived by adults, they only sense the emotions. They sense the secrets. And they assume it must be something about them.

As a therapist I eventually came to love discovering the important clues contained in family stories and in our innermost feelings because these are puzzle pieces for understanding our later struggles..within ourselves and with others. We all have layers that can be peeled away to expose our tender, authentic selves.

The question becomes about our willingness to risk discomfort to move past old, outdated ways of seeing ourselves.

For a long time I felt painfully “different.”

But these same feelings also fueled my independence and rebellion from a family that was deeply loving, but culturally sexist in their views. These feelings of differentness were the same ones that propelled me forward through college, and grad school and into the field of therapy. From an extended family that had never gone to college yet.

But not without a whole lot of tears and therapy and risk-taking along the way.

 

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So how do you shed your old-outdated-identity? How do you begin to change your life story in a direction that better reflects who you are today?

Here’s the answer.

  • You do it with action. You do it with your behaviors.
  • You acknowledge your fears, yes.…but then you keep going. You act “as-if” you are that person you want to be…and you keep moving.
  • You face the discomfort and you step into it.

I wish I could tell you an easier way.

And I wish I could tell you that those original achy feelings go away forever, but the truth is that in times of stress, or when we find ourselves in those old dynamics again,  remnants of those tender feelings may pop up again.

Like me and this damn class right now. When I look around the class and notice that everyone is younger, and seems to be ‘getting it’ so much easier than me. At least that’s the little girl kindergarten feeling.

Ok. So here’s what happened the other evening when I had to teach my portion of the class. 

I was supposed to add a few words about the Fourth Chakra, otherwise known as the Heart Center, our source of love and compassion.

So during the portion of my script when everyone was resting in their Half Pigeon Pose, I stood in front of the room and composed these words:

Which happened to be words I needed to hear myself.

(I hope you do too)

 

Everything you’ve experienced in your Life so far

has brought you to this place.

You are here

because you followed your Heart Center.

Without even knowing what lies ahead.

But you know that when you peel away the layers

you GLIMPSE the essence of Who You Are.

And you are Not your Past.

You are Not your Fears

You are Not your Flaws

You are Not your Worries.

You

Are Enough.

Right now.

You are Courageous.

You

are Love.

 

 

 

This post is dedicated to anyone who has ever looked across a crowded room and

wondered, “Am I the only one who feels this way?”

Please know…. that you are not.

 

Namaste

from your humble friend,

Leslie

 


my other yoga posts:

my Big News

have you ever felt like an imposter?

thoughts on being enough

 

 

 

 

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15 comments:

Art and Sand said...

Oh, Leslie, this is beautiful!

I have too many thoughts running around my head right now to write any more.

I know that you are nearly finished and I am so happy for you and where you are right now.

Joanne Nauta-Koot said...

Thank you for writing this. Your honesty about your struggles and self discovery about things that were buried so deep; is very similar to what is happening in my life. Just reading about the depth and intensity of what you are experiencing; rings true in my heart. I don't feel alone anymore, thanks to you. I have always had my inner (child) voice, telling me that I was/am not good enough. But the last few weeks I have been forcing myself to go beyond listening to my "own inner voice" and try to figure out the background noise of where it came from. As you said, many of our/my struggles are inherited by experiences, and other peoples own issues that are projected and played out on us/me. Consciously or unconsciously. It is so difficult to begin to separate and let go of all the negative emotions, and memories that are pulling us back into the past, and into old patterns of thinking and doing. Your post has been printed out, and put into my "save" folder, so that I can physically lay it out in front of me; to see, read, and begin to feel that I am good ....as I am ....now.

Karen said...

Leslie,
What a poignant post. I know from your words and determination that you will be a wonderful yoga teacher. I'm nearly a decade older than you and I'm not sure those self doubts every go away. I have just gotten better at forging through when they pop up. Thanks to the wisdom of wonderful story tellers, like you, I've learned that we all journey through life with ups and downs.
Good luck at your classes wind up. I miss your beautiful decor posts, but love it when you tackle a topic such as this. I come away inspired and reassured.
Enjoy a wonderful weekend, the items you feel you need to catch up on will be there when time permits.
xo,
Karen

michele said...

beautifully articulated, leslie. your thoughts stir up all kinds of rich stuff for me. you ask how one sheds the old identity and transforms, and that is the journey i find myself on. however, mine is more a contemplative christian oriented path. so rather than looking to change via behavior (which is what i have done so much in recent years in my attempts at SELF-transformation) i have turned inward to BEING and not doing or relying on the surplus of tools in my self-transformation shed. i am emptying, dying to self, surrendering all thoughts and feelings to Him, finding rest in silence/solitude/stillness, and receiving perfect love in the vast spaciousness of a more purified soul. i have always been a contemplative who loves reading the mystics. now i am cleaning house--as you might guess the purging and radical simplifying of our move is an amazing metaphor for my journey. new life is being breathed into me without any DOING or morally correct behavior or polished picture of emotional health. in the process i am uncovering my true self (i am a 4 on the enneagram, and this info has deeply humbled me as i thought i was just 'complicated' or 'too unique to understand.' ha! there are tons of me's out there!). how beautiful that you are discovering a very transformative EMBODIED transformation, also characterized by deep humbling and bringing the head into the heart, and my route varies. btw, i'm going to yoga on tues even tho i suck! love and peace to you right where you are.

Simply LKJ said...

Leslie, the post hit home as usual. I was that child who grew up thinking I was never good enough, didn't measure up to my siblings/others. With age, I have come to realize that the person I have to truly live up to is the one who created me. And, as my Granny used to say, "God doesn't make junk." We live in a broken world that is so full of comparison, the grass is greener, but truth be told that grass may just have been sprayed with color to look that good.

Blondie's Journal said...

Leslie,

I feel like I'm in good company with the ladies who have left comments and I'm sure there are many more who are nodding in agreement but not putting it into words. Know you are helping so many searching for answers and a bit of self esteem from and after the pain we endured as children. I am a child who lived with mixed messages and never really felt loved. As an adult I feel i have to go to extremes to feel loved and that's simply not healthy. You have to love yourself and it is, as you say, peeing away layers. We build a hard shell to keep from getting hurt again and at the same time, that shell keeps us from looking within.

I wish you all the best with your endeavors and unrelenting effort to do something that you have made a goal.

All the best,

Jane xx

DREAMS ON 34th STREET ~ French bread & family said...

Leslie.

Beautiful.

I saw this post pop up on my sidebar, until now, I did not have the time to read and digest it.

I promise you, when you reach my age...63...you will look back in retrospect and think..."it was all worth it". What you are doing now is beyond perfect preparation for the decade ahead of you, both mentally and physically. (If there was one decade in my life that I would do over, it would be my fifties. I had no one to go to for help. I navigated the decade on a wing and a prayer.)
Your "script" is a gift to me. I plan to sign up for a yoga class next week. You have learned to teach...I must not linger any longer...I must try and grow.

~Lynne
w/L

Calypso In The Country said...

What a beautifully written and heartfelt post. Like always, when I read your blog, I have to stop and think for a bit. We have all felt that way Leslie. My parents were divorced when I was young. None of my friends' parents were divorced so I felt embarrassed even though it had nothing to do with me. These feelings stay with you and come out to haunt you at different times. Thanks for another thought provoking post.
Shelley

Pam Kessler said...

I am so proud of you! Even though it's hard and sucks at time, you are still plowing through and sticking with this. That is huge! I'm afraid I am one that looks around and sees all the beauty other people are creating and instead of crying, I just throw my hands in the air and give up. I'm trying so hard not to give up on this whole blogging thing right now. It's hard and it sucks at time, except I love it when it works :) Good luck with your classes!

Heather Lindstrom said...

Thank you for sharing your truth at this moment in time, Leslie. I can only imagine the challenge it is to take on such a new practice-both physically and mentally. It sounds totally absorbing. Thank you for stepping out and writing this post. I didn't realize quite how much we have in common with our earliest stages of life. As we know, all that early drama can definitely leave some wounds. Despite years of processing, healing and perspective taking-- a difficult event can bring that self-doubt back into the equation. Here's to the next chapter of growth and healing.
Inspiring post---love to you.
xx, Heather

Cindy Hattersley said...

Leslie

You are my hero for toughing this out. I can't even imagine taking on something like this at my age. You are going to be a wonderful instructor and mentor. You go girl!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Beautiful. This is so powerful and self-searching...thank you for sharing your insights. I will keep your words in my heart. You will be a wonderful teacher, Leslie.

louisek said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. All best wishes to you Leslie..

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Leslie,

Not sure how I missed this. I hope that your class went well. How wonderful to have taken this journey, you are on a path to help yourself and others as well. Not only in yoga, but here on your blog where you are a friend to many and where your wisdom and words have comforted, encouraged, inspired and enlightened many.

I am so proud of your new journey, as are many above. And I am inspired by your openness, something that is sometimes hard to be in blogland where everyone seems to be perfect.

I am rooting for you! Thanks for sharing your experience and these beautiful words.

simone a said...

I SO needed to read this right now.
Will be be back to comment more ASAP Xx

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