The Visitation

baby dragon

In September and October of this year, I went through a 4-week 200 hour yoga teacher training (YTT). Every week we focused on a different type of yoga. Week one was hatha, week two was vinyasa, week three was yin, and week four was restorative. I had no expectations for this training, but I was also ready for whatever might happen. I had heard stories of other yogi’s reactions and experiences while going through YTT, so I was prepared as much I could be.

Through the first two weeks of the training, I was coursing with energy. I felt like I was plugged into a socket, and I had an unlimited electrical current. When one practices yoga daily, I learned that it was not uncommon for the chakras to open, and the channels to clear to allow energy to flow freely. In the past, I had practiced yoga one to three times a week. During this training, we practiced six to seven times a week. Apparently, I had tapped into a continuous energy source.

It was during the third week I had a powerful and emotional experience. It was during this week, my energy changed. Yin yoga, or really any yoga for that matter, can bring about emotions. I think especially in Yin yoga because the purpose is to hold poses for an extended period of time. When we hold poses, it can help unlock trapped emotions. While I “emotionally” skated by in the first two weeks, feeling a positive emotional charge, it quickly changed in week three.

When week three began, I was looking forward to it because my body was tired of the more intense physical yoga, but I got more than I was expecting. From the very first pose in Yin yoga, I found myself getting angry especially in poses like reclined butterfly, baby dragon, twisted dragon, fire-breathing dragon, frog and sleeping swan. I noticed I was the angriest when I had sensations in my hip flexors and groin. Luckily I knew emotions might arise, but it was still alarming to feel anger taking over for no apparent reason.

When I do feel anger, I know it is not a primary emotion. There is always another emotion trailing behind it that wants attention. I just have to be willing to converse with the feelings, let them surface and uncover themselves from their hiding places, and speak.

On one particular day, I felt more frustrated than usual. As I was holding the yin postures, I felt as if I had no choice. In yin postures, we are supposed to sit with the sensations we feel, as long as it isn’t painful, and just notice what is going on. As I was in dangling pose, also known as uttanasana, I felt anger crawling up through my spine and belly and making its way towards my throat. I felt mad because I didn’t want to feel the sensations that day; I didn’t want to hold the poses for 5 minutes. But I eventually backed off of the pose. While I was hanging, I rested my hands on blocks instead. Suddenly, I felt less angry and more like I had a choice. Once my body realized that, it actually started to open more.

As we moved through the yin yoga practice, anger kept popping up, and I continued to make the choice to sit with it. In one particular pose, baby dragon, I started to struggle. As I felt all the tingly and uncomfortable sensations in my hips and groin, the anger ignited like a fueled fire. As my anger peaked, I started to cry. It can be quite maddening to experience emotions with no apparent cause why. I was also battling with the fact that I was crying in front of other people. I have no issue with crying, as I find it to be a good release, but normally I am in the safety of my house and not in front of strangers. In spite of my reservations, I didn’t want to deny this release, these emotions, so I allowed it to happen.

As my tears fell, I started to feel my mom’s presence. My mom passed away in December 2014, and there have been moments where I felt like she was around especially right after she passed away. It was usually through dreams or symbols like songs on the radio, double rainbows, and birds and their behaviors. But over the last two years, there has been a drought. I have felt alone left wondering if I had disappointed my mom or if she had just simply moved on.

As suddenly as my anger appeared, so did my mom’s love. My tears turned to joy and sadness. As I held the pose, the feeling of my mom’s love intensified. I was in a cocoon of security and comfort like being in her womb. It energetically felt as if my mom had her arm wrapped around my shoulder. I hadn’t felt a reciprocated bond in years and certainly not like these feelings I was having.

My tears continued to fall taking my anger with it. I felt wrapped in love. We moved through our practice and more postures. My tears continued to fall because I missed my mom so much. My mom was there; her spirit was tangible, or at least her love was. As we settled into one of our final poses, reclined butterfly pose, I felt my mom again. I felt the actual weight of her love like an invisible blanket had been draped across me. I was able to feel, receive and accept her love.

There are so many times I just want to share my life with my mom. I miss talking with her daily. I want to hear how her day went and what she experienced. I miss having the one person who knew me in a way no one else could; the woman who gave me life. I will never share a similar bond with anyone else. What I am left with are saved voicemails from her, photographs that just keep getting older and a peace lily plant from her memorial.

To have this momentary connection of my mom being present again reminded me of our bond: the love of two souls who agreed to be a part of each other’s lives through birth, life, death and rebirth.

Solitary Confinement

wild thing

I am almost halfway through a 4-week yoga teacher training. Today my assignment is to disconnect from the world. I am supposed to try to not talk, I am not supposed to use my phone for any purpose, I should not use the internet or watch any television, and I am supposed to avoid any distractions that take me away from my “self.” I have decided throughout this day to blog about my experience because I am allowed to write, journal and read if it helps me to connect to my “self.”

I have no idea what to expect from this experience. I am not someone who shies away from alone time. I spend a lot of time in nature; I love to run, do yoga, write and journal, and I enjoy reading. But I already have this feeling of, “What do I do with myself?” I am one hour into my silence, and I have been home for 30 minutes. I already feel like I have so much time. Since I have been home, I have washed a load of laundry, I folded a load of laundry, I took my dog out to use the bathroom, I made breakfast, and I am working on this blog. My day feels like an expansive canyon that continues to spread out. I am able to imagine all sorts of possibilities and options.

I want to run on a new trail I discovered. I want to take my dog for a walk. I want to write. I want to play on a new disc golf course by my house. I want to continue working on a puzzle I am in the middle of. I want to meditate and practice my yoga postures. I want to take a nap…But I realize part of this assignment is just to be. To be an actual human “being”, not just doing. But the things I truly enjoy doing connect me to my authentic self. I am not just trying to fill my day with meaningless actions.

I think some of the problems we experience here in the States are filling our time with things that don’t matter. We just try to fill “dead” space. So we zone out on the television. We spend hours down a Youtube rabbit hole. We will be on social media for hours on end. Then we find ourselves more disconnected from ourselves, and we wonder where the time has went. Another problem we run in to is zoning out on the things we have to do. We take ourselves out of moments like when we shower, when we cook, when we walk our dog, when we do laundry and so on. We let our minds drift while we do these tasks, and we just give moments away; we just give our treasured life away by not being present. So my main focus is to do what ignites my inner flame. To do the things that take me home within myself.

I also want to allow even more time for self-reflection. I am two weeks into my training, and I am realizing and able to see how much I have grown and learned over the years. Since this training began, I feel bad ass. I feel secure; I feel powerful and beautiful. There have been some obstacles, but I feel deeply rooted in my “self.” I trust myself, I trust my feelings, and I trust the things I know. I have not wavered. This isn’t in a “I know better than everyone else” or “I am always right” sort of way. This is in a “I know who I am, what my boundaries are, and what I expect out of myself and other people” sort of way. It is a strong feeling of self. Of feeling cemented in who I am.

***

I have now been in silence for 6 hours. I took a 90 minute nap which was refreshing. I also walked my dog through our downtown area. I actually felt like a voyeur. I was peering into this world, the people moving about, and the cars driving by, yet I felt separate from it all. Besides walking through the streets and past other people, I had no tether to my surroundings. I just felt like an observer.

I also ran the trail I found by my house. I have driven past this trail for almost two years, and I just started to notice it a year ago. This seemed like a great time to actually run it, and I love trying new running routes. I love the surprise of not knowing what is coming around each turn, what I will see, and what the terrain will be like. This run turned out to be quite fitting for my current circumstance. I didn’t see any other people on the trail. The trail followed the river, and it followed the outskirts of town. While I was on this run, I was once again a voyeur. I watched the cars driving over the bridge unaware that I was spying on them. I saw my town from a distance seeing it from a whole new angle. I was really able to see each individual house that was built into the hills of the city. I was also on the side of the river I had never been on. There were herons wading. Several times they flew ahead of me leading me along the path. A hummingbird zipped by stopping at a flower. The grass has been freshly cut and it awoke my sense of smell.

The trail ended up being 2 miles long, so I ran an out and back which made it 4 miles. I ended up in a moving meditation as well. I really connected to myself and my surroundings. I took turns focusing on my different senses as I ran. I listened to the sounds around me: car engines, plane engines, and bird calls. I felt the sensations in my body: my leg muscles tightening as I pushed off the ground, my arms pumping to the rhythm of my feet, the last of the summer breeze blowing through, and the air flowing in and out of my lungs. I focused on my sense of smell as well, but the freshly cut grass was so powerful it just dominated. I looked around me and devoured the sights: the shallow river with wading birds, the uneven trail with banana slugs and their slime sticking to the blades of grass, the green trees comprised of individual, unique leaves, and the mountains sitting in the skyline.

***

My evening is starting to wind down. I have some studying to do, and a meditation and breath work to do. But it has been helpful to write about my feelings and experiences as they happen. It is helping me deeply connect with the moment I am in. Writing this blog is bringing up a new perspective as well. This feels like my one link to the outside world. I have no contact with my loved ones. I have no real contact with the outside world. It is just my dog and I in this clear bubble, and I am not even conversing with my dog. But writing out my experiences knowing I plan on sharing them with others gives me a strange feeling of connection. It is like a spider web; I am the circular center and the filament branches outward connecting me to others.

I think we are also used to sharing  ourselves, our lives and our experiences with others. We either physically share moments with people, we talk, write or text our experiences to others, and then there is even social media where we can share our daily lives. Today has been interesting because at this moment, no one actually knows what I am going through or what I have done. But in this solitude, I have felt that invisible thread that ties every last one of us together.

Crucial Connection

AAMC1

Being an Adventurer-Explorer doesn’t strictly mean traveling for me. It also includes staying connected to the things I love and exploring them in different ways. I also like to try new things and have new experiences. So part of my journey has not only been to see as many places as I can but to follow my whims. I spent a vast majority of my life trying to please others, and I lost myself somewhere in the process. I am the dusty trunk in the attic waiting to be opened with all the forgotten treasures inside. So I have been trying to rediscover myself. I don’t like to say I want to find myself because I never lost myself; I never went anywhere. But I did hide away in the dark corners of myself, and now I just need to coax myself out.

I first started to focus on the things I knew I already loved and enjoyed. Those activities that made me spontaneously smile, feel peace, and made me feel like I had just been birthed into a bright, new world. Since July 2008, I have been a runner. It has spoken to me like a lover whispering a secret. The way I feel on a run when the sun is smiling down, the sky is filled with white puffs of clouds, the breeze is blowing, and my leg muscles are churning is unmatched by anything else in my life. The meditative pounding of my feet and the interaction and connectivity with nature genuinely makes me feel like a balloon that may burst from being too full.

In July 2015, I started a regular yoga practice. I have been lucky to find yoga studios that spoke to my heart. In Colorado, I went to Cambio Yoga Studio, and here in Oregon I go to Seaside Yoga. I can’t even begin to explain all the principles of yoga that have crept into my daily life. On and off the mat, I am able to practice being fully present and attentive in a moment, breathing deeply, and to accept where and who I am at that exact time, not even to mention the strength and flexibility I have gained. To have yoga teachers who know how to reach inside their students and pull out all the light and the shadows and have them harmonize together and to have their students come back and crave more peace, more self-acceptance, and more love is a special gift.

Since I was a child, I have always loved the water. I have a kinship to the ocean, but I love being out on the lakes and rivers as well. I think my initial love of boating came from my dad. He was an avid fisherman, and I learned pretty quickly that the best way to spend time with him was being out on the bass boat fishing. Then I had the opportunity to kayak, and I fell in love with it. My first kayaking experience was in March 2008 in New Zealand when we kayaked through the Marlborough Sounds to Lochmara Lodge. To be out on the rocking waves seeing seals lazily strewn across the rocks, penguins coasting through waves, and jellyfish with long tentacles flowing behind showed me there was no other way to explore or experience water. It was like sneaking into a movie my parents told me I wasn’t allowed to watch. I was exposed to a previously forbidden world that I never would have seen if not for kayaking. So in April 2015, I bought my own kayak. I have continued to kayak lakes and rivers encountering eagles, deer, sea lions, hawks, cows and goats, and just the beauty of the landscape itself.

Which leads me to all the activities that I have just recently discovered. Over the past 7 months, I have started to explore things that piqued my interest. One of those things was art. I have never been an “artist.” If I had any sort of artistic talent the closest thing I have is writing. But somehow I was drawn to art. Even though previously I would classify myself as one of those people who could barely draw a stick figure, I wanted to break that limitation I set for myself. I wanted to crack that mindset. I wanted it to be more about the feeling of creating than the actual final outcome. So I have taken an acrylic painting class, a drypoint class, and a collage class. When I am working on a piece of art, I am completely enthralled. It is like a mother consumed with her newborn baby. I have never had my mind so quiet. I have never been so present and involved in an activity. One of the only ways I can explain it is like being in a trance; it is hypnotic for me. I will be working on a project and the teacher will say, “We have about 30 minutes left.” I look down at my watch, and 3 hours have passed. Art transports me to a creative world where I am free. It has helped me break down walls I have set. Those walls that say, “I can’t do this; I am not an artist. I don’t know how to paint” or “I have never done or even heard of drypoint before.” Now, I just let myself be and create.

The other activity I have found that has challenged me but also helped me unlock a new side of myself is belly dancing. I have always had an interest in belly dancing, but I never pursued it. I never knew where to pursue it. Then one day, I was walking my dog and we passed by the Astoria Arts and Movement Center and there was a sign in the window for belly dancing. When I saw that sign, I knew I had to go. I have never taken a dance class in my life. Well unless you count the few months of ballet in 2nd grade. But I love to express myself through movement. I may or may not have weekly 80’s and 90’s dance parties in my living room.

I think the first lesson that became clear was belly dancing required me to let go. I am driven and competitive which makes me always want to be the best at what I do. But the more I stressed and tensed up, the less I was able to do in class. I always have high expectations for myself. In belly dancing, my body was learning things it had never attempted before: ¾ shimmy walk, body rolls, and hip twists in relevè with my left arm down framing my hip and my right arm up curved above my head. I found myself getting frustrated at first. Instead of connecting with the music and my body, I was fighting my own body and mindset. I found myself saying, “I can’t do this. My body just won’t do this.” It finally clicked that I first needed to just let go of perfection, and all I needed to do was practice. It took me several weeks to finally be able to do a hip twist in relevè, and it is still a move I am working on. Then I was introduced to the ¾ shimmy walk. In a very fast tempo the right hip must go up, down, and then out then the left hip repeats this motion. This continues back and forth to each hip while I have to try and walk. Right now, I am unable to do it very well. But after two months of taking classes, I have eased up on myself. I do the best I can in class then I go home and practice but even more important I connect with my body.

The second lesson I learned, which stems from what I learned in my art classes, was belly dancing is about feeling. It is about being present on the dance floor, feeling my feelings and conveying feelings. I may not have the best ¾ shimmy walk, but if I am connected to the music, to myself, and to the audience (when applicable) that is the most important thing. I have not always been the best at connecting to my feelings or to my body, but it is something I have been actively working on for years. Belly dancing was another avenue for me to work on it. I have went from fighting with my body to appreciating the muscles that move rhythmically with the music and seeing my growth with every class I take. Now I see it is more about feeling good than being good.

I think the most exciting and surprising thing for me is I have agreed to perform our 4 minute belly dancing choreography at the Liberty Theater with 8 other women for Astoria Pride in a few weeks.

I can only hope to embrace my beauty, my body, and the music and let myself just be.