When my birthday approaches I inevitably write my list of goals and aspirations for the coming year. I reflect on the previous year and note what I have done, what I have achieved, and am usually pretty pleased with what I see. I look at each birthday as a chance to start over, recreate, re-do, remake. It’s a blank slate, a RE-BIRTH. All things new.
I turned 38 on Friday and I got to celebrate by starting my day with 27 beautiful yogis. They sang happy birthday to me, which nearly brought me to tears. And then they blessed me again by allowing me to lead their practice. How did I get so lucky?
I had a theme for this class – Death. WHAT?! Actually, the theme was really Re-Birth, but before a re-birth can happen, something has to die. As we approach our mat, we may have expectations, fears, judgements or beliefs. We might feel tension, weakness and vulnerability. By the end of the class, in Savasana or Corpse Pose, we hope that some or all of those might die – that we might be able to let go and create space for something new to grow. Allow them to become fertilizer for the soil so to speak. And then from the heart, our radiant, true Self can bloom. I set the tone of the class with my playlist. Alison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray”, for the warm up – helping us to connect to something bigger, something inside. Madonna’s “Shanti/Ashtangi” is a really beautiful, very rockin’ version of a Sanskrit chant that helps to start building the heat, the fire as we start the process of burning through the layers. First in the physical body – it gets warm and pliable. We then tap into the breath to create a connection. As we practice, we allow the breath to be the music to which the body moves to. It is our guide and when we follow, we are fluid and graceful. When the two connect, the fluctuations of the mind begin to quiet. They take place somewhere in the background. And then the heat can grow and spread. At this point the Vinyasa is in full flow. The sweat is dripping, the breath is fast. With these words from Josh Garrels’ “The Resistance”
we are reminded of the importance of this work – that it’s not just about stretching our hamstrings, making washboard abs or tight tushies, it’s the inner transformation that is important.
Every mortal breath, is meant to bring forth fire
But only when the fear of death, gets consumed
On the funeral pyre
So let the flames rise higher
Throughout a class, I will continuously remind my students to check in, listen to their bodies and see what arises in their minds. And then let it go. I remind them of their intention – Friday’s was Re-Birth. I asked them what was dying, and what was coming to life inside of them. What is growing that wants to be expressed?
I got a new haircut a few weeks ago. I absolutely love it. It’s been calling to me for a long time now and I finally just did it. I needed something new and fresh, something that started to reflect the changes I felt inside – asymmetrical, a little edgy and fun. It’s totally me.
A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.
~ Coco Chanel
Yeah. Definitely. I feel that in my soul.
This has been a long, hard year (actually almost two) of growth, change, hardship, devastation, brutal honesty, secrecy, tears, heartbreak, forgiveness, and soul-searching. And it’s not over. There are days when I don’t think I can possibly take anymore, and then somehow I make it through that day, and on to the next.
I’ve come through the past year and realized many things about myself. I am incredibly strong. I am loyal. I can work harder than I ever thought possible. I can also hurt and – more importantly – LOVE more than I ever thought possible. I carry years of hurt, anger, regret, fear, and resentment inside of me, and they find ways to sneak out. I am open and vulnerable. Even now. Even after being hurt. I wear my heart on my sleeve. There are no secrets with me. But I’m a Gemini, so my heart can change very quickly. I can be lighthearted and happy one moment and angry and bitter the next. Sarcasm is my greatest weapon, and I aim to kill. I can wither another’s spirit with a simple word. I’m not proud of that. It’s my defense mechanism. The wall I put up to make sure you don’t hurt me first.
On my running playlist is Amazing Grace – the version by the Dropkick Murphys. It’s rock-n-roll meets bagpipes and I love it. Morbid? Maybe. But for some reason contemplating an ending, makes it so much easier to run a little faster. The pain in my legs and my lungs seems so much more tolerable when I consider the other option and a screaming quadriceps is better than a broken heart any day.
With the idea of rebirth, comes death. Something has to die to be reborn. Can pieces of us die? The parts that no longer serve us? The beliefs that once kept us aloft, that are no longer true? Can we let those go so that something new, something wonderful, something true can take its place? I think so.
So on this, my 38th birthday, I choose to let die the fears, the regrets, the anger, the resentments. And in their place I choose to make space for love, forgiveness, kindness, hope, and courage. All things new. All recreated. A life rewritten by me, for me. Like the Phoenix, from the ashes that was my life, I will rise. I will become all that I was meant to be. Nothing holding me back. REBORN.
How does one go about making such HUGE changes? The only clue I’ve been given so far is Yoga. And that was given to me loud and clear from two sources. So I will continue to dive deeper into my personal practice. I will read, learn, meditate and teach. Because the more I teach, the more I learn. And because when I open my hips, somehow I also open my heart. I hear a voice inside, sometimes it’s just a whisper, but lately it’s gotten a little louder. Yoga helps me to get quiet, get still, be present and connect. And then I can truly listen.
What does this transformation look like? I’m not sure yet. I have the usual goals and “things I want to DO” list… but this is a deeper inner change, that may not look like very much at all on the outside. And then again my life may be completely unrecognizable as I navigate this new road I’m on. It’s hard to say just yet.
I do know that part of this is being open and vulnerable. In the last two years, one thing that I have learned is EVERYONE carries around something – some SHIT. They’re all fighting a battle. Their life may look perfect and amazing and easy on the outside, and then you find out that they are struggling in some way, just like you are. But I didn’t find these things out until I started sharing. I found I could not hold in my pain and sorrow. They would just come out. I would feel bad, silly, and oh my God so vulnerable when opening up in this way, but there was usually a palpable relief as the other person realized it was then safe for them to share their struggles. I’ve created deeper, more meaningful friendships than I’ve ever had, in a mutually beneficial circle of support, trust, and vulnerability. I’m so grateful for this. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And I think if everyone had this sort of connection, many of our more mundane human problems would end. Human connection is all we ever want. It is our deepest desire. It’s the easiest and hardest thing to have. It requires being completely open to others, allowing them to see the crazy, the dark, the nasty inside of us. And trusting them to love us anyway. And in return, they’ll show us their dark and dirty self, and we look and listen with only love, no judgement. Only through our vulnerability can we be completely authentic. Otherwise we are just a shadow of our Selves, not living to our full potential, not letting our light shine brightly.
But being vulnerable can be scary. There is the chance of being hurt. But here is what I have found – No one can hurt you unless you aren’t speaking honestly. If there is a falsehood anywhere in your story, then yes, they can hurt you with that. But truth can’t hurt. Only secrets and lies can hold you hostage. The truth, as they say, will set you free.
I finished Friday’s class with everyone lying in Savasana, Corpse Pose, listening to Amazing Grace. A soft, beautiful, piano version. I gave them the chance to let go of all they held onto, all the burdens they carried, all things that no longer served them. To let them die. And when it ended, and I rang the bells, I asked them to rise. To rise up from the ashes, to feel renewed, reborn.
Happy Re-Birth Day to me.
Tell me, what is it
you plan to do
with your one
WILD and PRECIOUS
~ Mary Oliver