On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Casa de Luz, I sipped my Kuchika Tea and chatted with my dear friend Lauren. We spoke of friendship, family, and transitions. She has stuck by me through the past year of adventure jobs, medical experimentations, and self-healing escapades. She’s an amazing friend. I mentioned how I had skimmed over some of the blogs I wrote over the past year and gagged at my hypocrisy.
“I’ve been acting like a baby bird regurgitating the food fed by its mother before it even had the chance to digest it.”
Es la verdad. I gazed so deeply into my own navel that I lost myself in a black hole.
How in the world did this happen?
I could sit here and blame yoga and mindfulness. I could blame my family, genetics and challenging circumstances… in the end, my self-absorption and senseless obsession with fixing myself got me here.
Yesterday morning I laid out my yoga mat underneath a tree behind Barton Springs accompanied by my journal, Bible and ukulele. I “flowed” on my mat as I felt my muscles and bones, moving to the rhythm of sensation, acting on the observations of what my body might need and want in that moment. In the middle of my movement, it dawned on me:
“I have spent so many hours on my mat, looking at my body, busy feeling and looking within myself that I disconnected from the rest of the world.”
Listening to your breath is an excellent tool, but not at the expense of listening to the words of others. Sure I have experienced revelations and insights through this time alone. In the meantime, the sun is rising and setting, destruction and life occur all around me, and I have been revolving around myself.
I use to preach about nourishing yourself, loving yourself and living with compassion. I learned these concepts from my yoga teachers, memorized the lines and immediately spouted them out as if I truly knew what they meant. I read books and articles on mindful living and practicing self-care… well, where did all that get me?
The teachings are not to blame any more than my teachers or my yoga mat. I may be a master at balancing on one foot while holding the other in my hand, but I am an amateur at balance in my own life. As I traveled and began to experience America as an outsider and critic, I acted as if I knew better. Well, as I pull my head out of my ass, I am seeing the world and myself through fresh eyes.
I’m not here to tell you to stop being mindful or quit practicing yoga. But I am confessing that spending too much time on my mat got me nowhere. I became a self-absorbed yoga crusader with a mission to empower others to listen to their bodies. Sure this is a great tool, but in order for it to be helpful, I’ve learned the importance of relationships and true connection to protect you from the dangers of navel-gazing.
Loving Your Neighbor
In my recent attempt at being truly authentic, I was forced to step off my enlightened throne to connect with others. I quit teaching yoga and went back to church. I needed to focus on something different. This shift has been quite difficult, met with intense resistance. I don’t always enjoy going to church on Sunday morning, especially when I could be out dancing the night before or the morning after… or sleeping in.
Going to church is teaching me to focus outward. I’m learning how much I need to practice loving others, encouraging each other in community. It’s really fucking hard. Frankly, through my inward journey, I forgot how to do these things. I understood the concepts and complained about how our culture was SO individualistic, but I made no attempts to change anything. Probably because I didn’t know how.
I forgot that spending quality time with friends, noticing where we connect and how I can support others in relationships brings me more joy than anything else in the world. I carried so much weight from my past experiences that I forgot how to connect with others and truly listen. All I could hear was my own voice, and it got pretty lonely.
Last year I taught a yoga workshop on forgiveness. Just as I was learning about it, I thought, “How about I teach it!” Surprise, surprise. I shared some quotes by Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela and we loved on ourselves by mindfully breathing through our restorative yoga poses as I chanted loving-kindness over everyone. Well, I barely even knew what it meant to forgive back then. I am taking baby steps now to release and let go of those who have harmed me, and attempting to forgive myself. It’s something I have to practice like flossing my teeth every day. Don’t worry! I’m not going to try to teach you about it. But I will say it has helped me to relax into life a little more, because it’s forced me to see some things as they really are.
Now that I’ve connected with my body and discovered so much about my interior life, I kind of want to participate in society. Just a little bit. Maybe thriving in our society is about more than being mindful and listening to our bodies. Maybe loving others and practicing forgiveness daily is more helpful than drawing inward to practice self-compassion. Sure, balance. But why not set aside this inward focus for a while to see the world as it truly is and use all that we have learned on our mats to do something cool that turns our focus inside out. I’m going to give it a try. What do you say?