It has been a tremendous year – well, two – for me, one of those when my friends can actually comfort and encourage me by saying, “You’re being tested.”
We all go through these rites of passage. Sometimes we can attribute these forces of change to a mid-life crisis or name it some other transitional title to try to make sense of it, to stay grounded. Stories of butterflies and metamorphosis…
In the face of such profound change, that I am still standing is, to me, a miracle. I told my therapist this week, “It’s like tidal waves are crashing over and me and all I feel is a light breeze.” I may have exaggerated that last part a little, but I attribute my stability to my Yoga practice.
- My Yoga practice, like all practices do, has changed over the past decade. Now, instead of logging serious hours in a Bikram studio like I used to, I sit in meditation, Kriya Yoga meditation, specifically, daily. This practice takes me about forty-five minutes every morning, which is a significant time commitment, in my opinion. I have come to crave it.
- I apply Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga to my life whenever and wherever possible. I am familiar enough with the limbs now to match the principles to my life. I have had to go back to my Yoga Teacher Training binder and check and check and check…
- I also teach Yoga and Ayurveda on a regular basis. This grounds me. I maintain vigilant awareness of my breath, body and mood synergy. Though I happen to feel that I need more exercise these days, Bikram Yoga isn’t the right fit for me anymore. I move my body gently these days. The extreme environment of Bikram Yoga studios offer an incredible opportunity for gathering, focusing and concentrating mental and physical energies. The evolution of my Yoga practice has exchanged 105’F for a cooling, gentle Kriya practice, rife with opportunities to practice dharana, or intense focus, and is no doubt part of what is keeping me upright during this period of testing.
This year, I broke up with my boyfriend and moved back to the central coast after thirteen difficult and heartbreaking months in Northern California. Supreme Gratitude as Antidote: I am grateful for the opportunity to be back home.
My favorite Aunt Joan died last month – complications from lifelong smoking. She was my family mentor in recovery from bipolar disorder and she was very generous with me in spirit. V I am forever grateful for her mentorship.
I was robbed last weekend – ! – but, Supreme Gratitude as Antidote: there was no activity on my credit cards and my car windows weren’t broken, because I had left the car unlocked. (I dropped the cards without realizing they were in my car in my acute dog-loss grief.More about that below.)
As my friend, Sandra, said to me today, “Practicing supreme gratitude is the only thing that will save you from depression.”
In my deepest moment of depression, in bed one winter, when I allowed myself to really feel it and to be OK with it, to no longer suffer it, was my turning point, when the Light began to crack through for me in a broad way. Ishwara pranidana, “surrender to God,” according to Patanjali, is how I would describe this very human experience. Supreme Gratitude as Antidote: My life began to change for the better, in fits and starts, but over time, I saw a shift in subtle energy in the the room that was my life.
I surrendered both of my beloved dogs this year, putting them down. Humane, yes, but torturous for the heart. I had Ruby, my white Mexican street dog – who I rescued in Mexico- for fourteen years. She was my shadow, always beside me. I called her “a Mexican healer” when people asked what kind of dog was she. The extraordinary sense of loss-of-home that I feel with her now that she is in Spirit is a shift of subtle energy to my core. It was time for her to go and her death signifies a transition for me, in lifestyle and potential. I am grateful to that dog in so many ways. She trained me to relax and to have a daily ritual, dinacharya. I ache from the void. I feel unmoored without her tonight, and profoundly grateful for our service to one another.
My big dream has been realized this season: I am teaching Yoga in a jail-diversion setting to clients of The County of San Luis Obispo with co-occurring diagnoses (mental health and substance use disorders, mostly bipolar disorder). The magic of the creation of this project… the story is uncanny and took years to coalesce. Despite the triumph and victory, I have struggled, having to advocate for myself, for future Yoga teachers and for clients throughout the entire process: for adequate compensation, for access to the research results, for the design of the program to be beneficial for the clients. Governmental agencies tend to wring the creativity out of their employees by virtue of the way bureaucracies are forced to function. Organic creativity, when sublimated, is often replaced by fear – in the human body, in the manipura chakra and beyond, and in the foundation of the entity: the halls and offices of County employees. Having to work with that energy came as a complete surprise and caught me off-guard. I found it extremely difficult to navigate and, at one point, I almost quit. We were almost there and I was getting hot and frustrated. I am grateful to my girlfriends Toni and Daniela, who pointed out these bureaucratic tendencies to me, because now I can better navigate them, supremely.
I genuinely love to teach the clientele at the County.
I have so many things and people and experiences in my life for which to be grateful: a roof, a car that runs, food, loving family, jobs and opportunities, a purpose, a magnificent place to live, friends, willingness and education to continue recovery and advocacy…
Even so, I need a regular, unshakable practice of Supreme Gratitude. To keep those waves crashing lightly and to move ahead with an attitude that magnetizes goodness into my life, and magnifies it, I must allow myself to feel, in my body, the goodness, even in dark times.
I need the reminder, as an antidote to being not-in-control of much this life.
May Supreme Gratitude become an essential part of my dharana practice, moving me ever closer to a state of Supreme Bliss, mine by Divine right.