To M, with loving gratitude always.
When we seek answers outside ourselves, we go deeper into the wilderness, further from home. Aparigraha (Sanskrit for non-harming) is about recognizing our fears and letting them go. We hold on to that which is not really ours in the first place because we’re afraid. We hold on to outworn beliefs because we are afraid. We are willing to believe that something outside ourselves will make us whole because we are afraid. Being afraid does not make us right, it only makes us unhappy. – Rolf Gates
My Hatha yoga instructor read this passage from her well-loved copy of Meditations on the Mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. “Do you find anything in this reading that applies to you?” She asked me, her only student that day. It was a wet, dreary March day and by some rare set of circumstances, I was the only student to arrive for my instructor’s beloved and usually well-attended Hatha practice.
We sat facing each other in hero’s pose. In stillness. In reverence. I searched for the right words that wouldn’t give too much of my heart’s story away, but my pain could no longer bear my wish to keep it silent. My hands flew to cover my face as I began to sob. Fear was something I knew well. Fear was something that kept me captive in so many ways cataloged by my therapist. Fear was a thief and a liar.
As we sat facing each other, I found space in-between my sobs and shared a fear, a realization, that had not been named until it left my lips that very moment. And I let it go as if I had pushed an old steamer trunk full of all my horrible memories into the ocean once and for all.
I lost my breath in the torment of tears to follow. My teacher left her pose, wrapped her warm arms around me, hugged me to her chest and brought me back to breath with her, heart to heart. She held me and our chests rose and fell in unison until I could breath again on my own. When I found my breath, she asked me if I felt ready for movement. I did.
We moved through a practice that focused on loosening one’s grip on fear. On leaving that which weighs you down, that which you can no longer carry, that which you can no longer bear, behind. That day, my teacher moved in time right beside me, not in front of me. She encouraged me with her movement and words to find my strength, my courage, my warriorship, and my unconditional love for myself.
What I learned that day, and many days since, is that healing, the process defined as “making or becoming sound or healthy again,” is not something that wraps itself up in a year or two after trauma. Healing is not a linear process. Healing has no due date. Healing is not pretty or succinct, is certainly not easy and is oftentimes scary. There is no direct path to follow when it comes to healing. I’ve also come to realize that that is OK. It is all to be expected and our courage develops the more we face what scares us.
What’s become clear to me, in-between the epiphanies and quagmires of healing, is that we will likely meet many brave and loving souls along our odyssey to self-acceptance who will so beautifully sit heart to heart with us in our darkest hours if we are able to loosen the grip of fear and let our broken hearts spill all over the place.
Most everyone has carried a load too heavy to bear. It’s because they know the weight that they rush to our side to help us carry the burden. To help us find our strength, courage, grace, and, once again, to find our hero’s pose. God bless them for it.
If you are experiencing a mental and emotional burden too heavy to bear, please seek the counsel of a qualified and well-seasoned mental health professional.