So I started my yoga teacher training tonight (yay!). On Fridays, we practice sangha, which is a sanskrit word meaning "community," getting to know each other, discussing our struggles and triumphs and understanding how those affect our yoga practice, with the support of our community. Cool, hippy idea, right? In theory, it's right up my alley. On the other hand, it expects a lot of intimacy. Four of the fourteen of us cried while making introductions tonight. Many of us have a painful past that draws us to the practice of yoga, myself included.
I was a coward tonight and shared the PR-ed version of my experiences and the crash that drew me to this self-reflective journey. In the end, I shared the less air brushed version of the truth with a woman who talked about her own mental health struggle and I felt better for it. If I could go back, I'd put the whole thing out there. Alas, there is time and these people will most certainly get to know me better.
Although I don't want to detail the experience too much, partly because that's not what this blog is about and partly because I don't want to publicize the mystique of what I'm doing, but I did have some pretty intense observations tonight and I'm thrilled by that. It means that this training, this journey, will be exactly what I'd hoped it would be. Self-illuminating.
We did a walking meditation exercise tonight. We started out walking slowly, looking at the ground. I walked too fast. I didn't leave the circle until another student did. I knew where the instructor was at all times. I barely breathed, despite that this was a meditation exercise and breathing is fundamental in all things calming. I couldn't shut my spinning thoughts up.
After a time, we were to look at waist level, but without making eye contact. Then we moved to shoulder level without making eye contact. Last, we were to continue this slow walk, while making eye contact with another and moving toward them. We stood across from each other and simply looked into each other's eyes. This may sound silly if you've never done it, or if you don't have any issues with confidence and intimacy, but it was difficult for me. A feeling of almost embarrassment washed over me, like M might see right into my dark, broken soul. I flushed. After a moment, we were instructed to tell the person the first word that pops into our head to describe the other.
I am disappointed to admit that I was most interested in what the two instructors said to describe. Why? It's about pleasing. They are the ones in charge, so they are the ones to please. I seek their approval above that of my peers. Of course, I think that both instructors would suggest that no part of this exercise should have been about approval from anyone, but in the support of the community around me and learning to bond with those I will travel this path with.
My instructor, who is a psychic and intuitive medium, said I was vulnerable and a powerhouse. I love to hear that. She's right on, of course, with the vulnerability. I was practically cocooning myself while I walked. The assistant instructor said I was unpredictable and unexpected. I like the idea of not meeting expectations, surprising, despite my innate desire for approval. There were a few others, but over and over I heard "strong."
There is a very real part of me that believes those folks are wrong. There is a growing part of me that hopes that maybe they're right and it's me who has been wrong. I've felt so weak throughout this process. I haven't felt strong or brave, two words that my wonderful, supportive friends have used over and over. The tiny, evil voice in the back of my head instantly responds with "fraud" when I hear that kind of accolade.
Tonight, though, in the warmth of the circle of new friends of my yoga community, not only did I feel the kinship that the exercise was designed to inspire, but I felt the tiniest spark inside. In true yoga fashion, which I affectionately refer to as "hippy," I'm visualizing that spark into a raging fire. That spark is hope and it's burning.