Life Day #17

I suffer from self-judgment – not so original, I know. I’ve begun teaching again – self-doubt and judgmental stories running through my mind are not so helpful in this arena. But I’m teaching again. Teaching yoga, my dream really. Ever since I stood behind a septarian at a yoga workshop many years ago. I couldn’t be more annoyed in my self-righteous twenty something body that such an old lady would deign lay her mat in front of me. I thought she would block my view of the teacher in all her slow, unable, fragile inflexibility. And then, what she did still blows my mind.  

She began and ended the class by schooling me about everything I thought I knew about yoga. See, I am pretty flexible (which, now in my forties, is not as much of a gift as it is a reminder that my joints take all the heat when I hyperextend). In my twenties, I thought yoga was really just a place to play with my flexibility, to enjoy long stretches, sneak peaks at the jealous eyes around me. Little did I know what this old woman would teach me – yoga is not about showing off your bendy. She was grace, she was breath, waves, movement, she was the air current and the breeze. She was the ancient scroll, today’s vernacular, and tomorrow’s hope weaving together. She was light in her touch as she deeply held her strength and flexibility. She didn’t show off – she was only present to her mat. The rest of us were merely witness to this woman, a moving meditation of Grace personified.

And now, here I am. Sitting in the seat of the teacher. And somehow, I am blocked by feelings of being an intruder, of never understanding the possibilities on a mat like that beautiful woman showed me. Don’t get me wrong, I have wept in poses, I have been moved to allow breath and movement to marry while my ego-self stepped back as witness to the body. I have had moments of meditative stillness that made time disappear like the mind slipping into a still and deep indigo mountain lake. I have had visions of rivers, canyons, chasms, and a dancing weaving light during savasana that have guided and informed major life decisions.

Still.

That woman.

And her mat.

Are always in front of me.

She blocks my view now of my students, and I am afraid to peak around her. Until last night. Last night I gave myself permission to teach my vision of yoga, to be present with what I love in yoga, how I see and experience breath and flow and asana. And I did it because seventeen years ago, a few years before I met Madam Grace Yogi, I got to walk into a hospital to have a giant tumor removed from the middle of my head. It had taken root in my pituitary gland, and its presence and removal would change my life. I call the anniversary of that surgery Life Day. And on that day and the days around it, I allow myself to consider but hopefully not dive too far into the time of that surgery –

It snowed that day in California. I did some yoga on my bedroom floor before leaving for the hospital. My older sister, my roommate at the time, stood by me in strength and bravery and love and drove me to the hospital. My parents came down to stay with us in our town house. I had two doctors – one wore three-piece suits and said his wife missed him during long hospital hours, one promised he was a nerd with no social life, so I shouldn’t worry that he would be hungover on the Monday morning of my surgery. When I woke in the ICU, my family surrounded me, and their fear and fierce love scared me – I wept and fell back to sleep. My younger sister cried when she saw the bruises and cuts and wasted away body I had become. I was told I’d never work again. I was told I’d never be able to have children. I moved back to Boise and my parents. I struggled to find my place.

And now seventeen years later, I have an amazing husband, I have lived in another country, I have traveled, I have beautiful giggling babbling growing blazing learning sons, I have breathed in the air of the Alps, broken my wrist as a snowboarder, dined in a cave, stayed in castles, ran barefoot along beaches and parks and trails, leapt from a cliff in Mexico, paddleboarded in Hawaiian waters, rode on the back of a motorcycle, dined in the Eifel Tower, honeymooned in Croatia. I have pursued dreams no one ever thought possible. And here I am in a yoga studio in Niceville, Florida, terrified to teach because of a ghost flitting in my eyes.

Still.

That woman.

And her mat.

Are always in front of me.

But last night I gave myself new permission. I let myself for a moment be free because I let myself celebrate that I get to live. I get to. I get to be here with my own feet on my own mat feeling grounded into this earth that I belong to. Because I got lucky. Because I fought. Because I was loved. Because I know how to love. Because the Fates smiled upon me. Because I had the right doctors. Because my body responded well enough. Because my family loved me. Because I want to breathe. Because I stand in the wind and spin and spin. Because I bow down in moments of grace. Because I am that woman now. I am that woman who stood in front of me. I am capable of grace and breath and wisdom and teaching was given to me eons ago as my gift and who am I to turn that gift away? Who am I to turn this life away? If I can fight, I will. I will fight to find my grace, my joy, my terrible lessons to learn, my humbling moments, my moments to glow in all that I am and all that I am meant to be. I will burn as the phoenix and rise again and again. That woman, you see –

That woman.

And her mat.

Are always inside of me.

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