Welcome to Day 22 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.” We are almost in the final stretch here.
Here is today’s quote:
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
This post wrote itself five days before it was written.
It was the last class of the year. It was packed. This room nestled amongst the trees and graced by several windows which overlooked the woods was our safe place. Is our safe place. Many of us have been coming to this class for several years to give ourselves the gift of yoga as taught by one of my most favorite people on Earth.
I was running late that morning, I had to drop off Thing 3 at school. His class was being taught “Family Life Education” (sex ed). The curriculum for the 4th grade was a bit more advanced than I wanted him to have to deal with at the tender age of 10 so his father and I decided to keep him home for the class. He still believes in St. Nick.
I peeked through the gap between the two swinging doors of our yoga room and saw that the women were chatting and so it wasn’t centering time yet. I snuck in, went to my corner and laid out my mat. Our teacher announced that the class was going to be slower. Delicious: a yin practice. “How incredibly lucky!” I felt. I love yin yoga: it’s so meditative and serene. The connection it promotes with the body and the breath and consciousness is so great and so needed this time of year, which can be so unbalancing.
The asanas ended early. We did our svasana. Early. I noticed that something was different but I’m good with change; you
have to aim to be if you’re into yoga.
Then our teacher dropped the bomb: “I’d like to have everyone get in a circle.”
I was not feeling this. I had a hard night Tuesday — I’d just discovered a lovely picture of Mom and the boys from 2010 (have I already written about that?) and it threw me for a loop. I’d also exchanged a series of unfortunate emails with a friend who’d decided (without including me) that our friendship had run its course. I was on spongy surfaces, even though I understood her decision and I agreed it was likely for the best. It’s hard, as a yogini, we try not to judge, we try not to hold on, to practice non-attachment, but it’s hard to let go. Sometimes we want to say, “Are you sure?? Do you know what you’re doing?!” as if I am somehow greater than the peace this person achieves without me in her life.
So I grabbed my kundalini shawl (the one from the retreat):
And I covered myself in it as though I were modeling for a statue of the Virgin Mary. I needed my cocoon. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be in a space with the other women, it’s that I didn’t want to be in a space with the other women.
I just wasn’t there. I wanted to honor them by staying, but I didn’t know what we were in for.
“I have a bowl,” said my teacher. “It’s a meditation bowl. And I’d like us all to offer a word or a few words, time permitting, that expresses your feelings, wish or intention for the new year,” or something to that effect. If you’ve been following me this year, I have had a proFOUND year of personal growth and a massive loss. It’s staggering when I think about it.
To sum it up, here’s what I wrote to a friend about the experience (pardon the punctuation):
… as soon as my teacher explained the exercise, a word literally blew into my consciousness and would NOT go away or be replaced. it was unyielding, ironically. it was “release.” as the bowl advanced around the circle of an eventual 22 women, i was 16th, i became more and more emotional. my body started shaking. the bowl came to me. i removed my hands from beneath my shawl and held the bowl. i was sweaty yet totally chilled. the bowl, warm from the other women cradling it, was tarnished on the outside, gleaming sterling on the inside. i fell silent. i shuddered in tears and wept like a child at the feet of God. i literally could NOT speak. i felt like such an energy vacuum, such a fraud: this “writer” who can’t come up with something pithy for the end-of-year class. it was a lot of ego which was swiftly kicked to the curb by my feelings, or something. one person touched me briefly me and she pulled back; i was grateful. i was not in a place, i was not feeling worthy, to receive it.
It was profound. I didn’t bother trying to interpret it; try to MAKE it into something else, I just thought, “hmmm… this … nope, can’t do it…” and passed the bowl. God was in that bowl.
She wrote back, crazy excited for me. She’s super spiritual and very enthusiastic and completely in touch with her purpose in life, so I wrote later to her,
… why is all this happening to me? is it because i’m so full of shit? hah! no, really? is it that i don’t need to “try” to be strong anymore, because it’s pointless? was that word and its replacement a tactic to teach me? my thinking could not even touch the feeling. i was thinking: mom release mom release mom release mom release… and i couldn’t say anything. internally i was going, ‘rrrrrrrrr rrrrrr rrrrrr rrrrrrrrrr nope.’ i shook my head. sniffled, tried again, ‘rrrrrr rrrrrrr rrrrrrrr-rrrrr rrrrRrrr.’ no.
The whole “experience” was no more 10-12 seconds, about the time others took to share their pearls.
I submitted, continued blubbering and passed the bowl to the next person, and I heard all their meditations while I desperately tried to regroup, but apparently my soul would have none of that. I just sat there, weeping, sniffling, feeling dopey but totally ok with it. I felt so safe. Once I stopped trying to stop crying, it stopped. It was crazy powerful. We have no control sometimes; especially when we think we do. It was like how I’d’ve liked to have felt around Mom if we’d ever let ourselves get that safe with each other. God was with me.
I felt like such a dork. I couldn’t talk and then I couldn’t stop crying and then when I did stop crying, I couldn’t stop talking. The energy coursing through me was like electricity. And those women! Oh! They are so wonderful. So strong. So loving and so compassionate.
I told one of them, “My word? Ironically, it was ‘release.'” And she hugged me tight and said, “YOU DID! YOU DID RELEASE! Don’t you see it?!” and I sniffled, “Guh. I guegg zoh.”
Brown is so right: it was because we were all connected in that room. Just like we’re all connected outside the room, the house, the car… wherever we are, we all are connected: me to you to her to him to her to them to her to Bipsy to Kevin Bacon.
That whole thing went down just as it should’ve. I still need time to process it. Amazing but true: My tennis elbow pain vanished after that experience. I suspect that means I released part of my grief, or my mom, or myself from the shame I feel, or the fantasy / wish I held on to for so long. I couldn’t do it alone; I needed those women.
I’m unsure of what I was supposed to release. It wasn’t “my” word — well, it was, it just wasn’t one that I got to pick, or say… My soul was filled by that empty bowl.
ps — I hope you are enjoying this series and learning something new and good about yourself. If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself I can tell you this: every day is different and we need to be kinder to ourselves. This “living consciously” stuff is nearly impossible because our reptilian brains freak all the time at the slightest imposition. I think one must have to be absolutely isolated from the rest of humanity in a cave in the Himalayas to achieve it because that’s the only way I’d never be able to blame anyone else for my crap.