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Not Your Average Yoga Retreat

I took no yoga pictures, but managed to sneak in a quick run during our one legitimate break and snapped this one.

I went on a retreat for yoga teacher training this past weekend. An image is likely coming to your mind. Perhaps you just let out a sigh that was a mixture of relief and jealousy. Whatever it is you’re imagining, let me assure you. It was not that.

I don’t mean to say it was bad. I cried twice publicly and full on sobbed for a solid hour one evening while I shared a personal story with my roommate. I was obviously affected by the experience, and I feel like I can say with some confidence that I wasn’t the only one.

But it was not relaxing. I was up at 5:00 am every day so I could pump and still get to the 6:00 am asana practice. Nursing Baby Girl takes all of maybe 5-10 minutes, but some combination of performance anxiety and unnaturally small breasts/improperly sized equipment led to 40 minutes of pumping per session. For the most part our free time consisted of 10 minutes here and there to collect our things and move to another location. And a second round of pumping commenced around 9:30 pm when we were finally dismissed. In reality, it was exhausting.

The focus of the weekend was yoga philosophy. We went over the entirety of the Yoga Sutras and about half of the Bhagavad Gita. I’m churning over all of the material.

I think I would’ve oddly felt more comfortable studying the bible for a weekend, because I am very much at ease with not being Christian. I feel more conflicted about yoga philosophy because I know with a certainty that I want to teach. How much of the material do I have to buy into in order to teach in good conscience?

“Take what serves you and leave the rest.” This is what they tell us. So I plan on setting aside a good chunk of it to mull over in my own time.

I am taking with me the beautiful friendships that are beginning to bud, blossoming and flourishing. At the end of the last day of retreat we did a closing ceremony, during which most people shared very personal and emotional thoughts and stories. We cried and we hugged. It was profoundly moving.

As Brene Brown says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

I am beyond grateful for the bravery this group of women showed through their vulnerability and authenticity. The love and acceptance within this community is the medicine we all need.

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The Poignancy of Mindfulness

Poignancy-Mindfulness

Turns out there’s more to mindfulness than joy.

When I walked into my mom’s house this afternoon she was in the kitchen unloading dishes. She heard me open the door and called out, “Well, should we just start crying now?”

“I told myself I wasn’t going to just walk in the door and start crying.”

“We might as well.”

*      *     *

I kicked off 2017 with a 24 hour cleanse. I didn’t really plan on doing one. This was the kind of cleanse that chooses YOU. My husband did it too. And then Baby Girl did it the next day. It’s been a rough start to the new year.

*     *     *

I started reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. So far it’s incredible. Her writing is so beautifully raw. I want to write like that. I want to dig deeper and pull out more heart and more gut. I want to write more honestly, like Glennon. I think she may be my #2 hero. Second, of course, to my mom.

*     *     *

Brené Brown says we gold plate grit. “We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending.” I don’t want to gold plate anything. Today during yoga I chose for my sankalpa, my intention: I am a Truth Teller.

Those who know me well know this about me. They are my safety net. I don’t have to keep myself together inside the cocoon they have built for me. But there is a hole growing in my net and I’m falling through. It’s time I let more of the world see me get messy.

Because right now I am a mess. I feel like I’m living in a world separate from the regular world. When I’m living in the regular world I worry about things like laundry and kindergarten registration, how many vegetables I’m eating and how many people my posts are reaching on Facebook. In the regular world people set New Year’s resolutions and build plans to reach their goals. I know this because I was living in the regular world just last week, before the news.

*     *     *

I came to a realization over the last few days. About mindfulness. That’s a trendy word these days, isn’t it? But what is mindfulness? I thought it meant something about being fully present in the current moment so I could appreciate it and feel all the joy. That sounds pretty nice, right? We should definitely practice this mindfulness thing. But we don’t because we rush through life worrying about things like laundry and kindergarten registration. We’re too busy and shallow to be mindful.

Except for I don’t think that’s the problem.

*     *     *

Tomorrow we’re having family pictures taken. It will be a special day. It may be the last day my mom is feeling good. It will almost certainly be the last day she doesn’t look sick. She will lose all her hair in 10 days of daily, full brain radiation. It’s possible the cancer has spread to her spinal fluid and she will also have to do more chemo. She has 4-12 months to live.

But tomorrow will be okay. Tomorrow will be good. Tomorrow my whole family will be there. My husband. My Mom. My Dad. My Baby Girl with that big goose egg on her forehead. The one she earned tonight tripping over a pillow and falling into the coffee table.

Big Girl will probably get upset about something, at some point, and refuse to smile or play along and we will get frustrated and angry. But we’ll work through it and she will say all the sweet things she always says. She’ll tell me she’ll never ask for a better Mommy and she’ll hug my leg and she won’t know that her beloved Grandma is leaving her.

And by the end of it we’ll have a set of photos to remember the day. Sometime in the future I’ll look at those photos and wish with a heaviness and desperation that I could go back. To a time when Baby Girl was still a baby and Big Girl hadn’t yet learned to grieve. I’ll wish that I could hold my mom’s hand, covered in wrinkles and prominent veins, cry while I tell her about my fears and revelations and be held in the safety net that she is.

Tomorrow hasn’t even happened yet and I already feel the loss of it. I am profoundly grateful for it because I am acutely aware of how fleeting it is.

*     *     *

“How can we practice mindfulness? How can we truly be present and appreciate the joy of a moment, without also feeling sad for the loss of it?” I ask my mom this afternoon.

“That’s the thing. You can’t.”

“I don’t think it’s a busyness thing. I think it’s too painful.”

*     *     *

We talked about a lot of things today, my mom and I. Marriage and children. What to wear tomorrow. What happens to a person when they die. The poignancy of mindfulness.

Today I’m choosing to be present in my life. I’m sitting in the sorrow and feeling all the joy. And I’m telling you about it. Right now. In the middle of this story. Before any fucking growth happens. Because I am a Truth Teller.

Photo Credit: Sad. by Jackie.Ick is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped and text added to original