"The bamboo that bends
is stronger than the oak that resists."
Barry, my mind-body mentor, says that what I'm currently going through is a deeply spiritual process.
"I don't call it that for every one of my clients," Barry shared, "because even though I refer to it as releasing the past, what we're really doing is burning through your samskaras to achieve a deeper connection with your truth and who you are. Not everyone would call it a spiritual journey, but that is what we're doing, and because you're on the yogic path, I can talk more about these spiritual precepts, since you can better relate to these understandings."
During our call today, Barry imparted numerous insights about my behaviors and what I've been doing for the past few weeks. There were many silent pauses in our conversation, prompting him to ask, "What's going on right now? I know that when you're not laughing, when you're quiet, something's happening."
"I'm just digesting what you're saying," I told him, pensively.
"That's great," Barry replied, "But I don't want your logical mind to get in the way of this process. The more you intellectualize everything, the less your subconscious mind is participating and that's what we want to get to. We want to get to that place where all of these old admonitions are stored, so that we can really clear them. The moment you try to analyze and think your way through it, which is what you've always done and what your admonitions or ego want you to do, the more you're in your logical brain and moving further away from connecting to your truth. And isn't connecting to your truth what yoga is all about?"
Admittedly, I feel badly half the time I'm talking to Barry, as though I'm not doing enough or not doing it right, and when I tell him so, he points out that it's another admonition popping up.
"Good!" he'll encourage. "Use that! Get angry! Direct that towards your homework of releasing."
I do as I'm told, even though he's also told me not to be my customary "good girl" response.
"I'm turning towards food again," I tell him with a hefty amount of disappointment.
"Of course you are," he acknowledges. "It's easy to turn towards old comforts, but the important question is to ask yourself what admonitions are coming up when you rely upon food."
I tell him my default answers. "That I don't value taking care of myself enough? That I'm feeling uncomfortable and overwhelmed?"
"Yes," he says. "But those emotions could be related to any number of effects. Why specifically do you go to food?"
My brain is confused. In our most recent work together, I've already demonstrated that I'm afraid to answer him incorrectly, which turns out to be another admonition I learned of believing that I always need to be spot on and perform perfectly. He's called me out that I know the answers to the questions he asks, but that I'm so petrified of saying the wrong things, that I'll just stall and avoid answering. "See?" he'll say. "Do you see how deeply these admonitions affect your life? I believe in you more than this. You're an intelligent woman, you know what's going on. You can answer me."
My friend went through this same program when he was training to become a holistic healthcare practitioner, and he mentioned that Barry seemed to pick on him incessantly over anyone else in the group. Others would take note of it too, and no one was sure why. I liken it to Tom Kelly sharing his experience in the ashram, where the Head Brother gave him love by not giving him love, because that is exactly what Tom wanted most — getting the attention. "You get it by not getting it," Tom would relay the Head Brother telling him.
"So, what is leading you to the food?" Barry prodded when I didn't initially respond.
"I don't know," I told him, becoming slightly agitated. "My parents never said 'I love you' to us, but rather 'Have you eaten?' so maybe that's how I feel like I receive love? Maybe I feel like food is the only way that I can get it?"
"There you go," Barry affirmed. "That's your admonition."
By the time I got off the phone with him, I was tired. All of this work is hard, and it's not just hard, because of what I have to reflect on, it's hard, because it's telling me to go against the grain of what I've been taught and live my life in a way that more accurately reflects all of me.
Recently, I met someone who pointed out that it's obvious I'm a confident person, that I'm spunky, so he found it surprising when I told him that when it comes to being strong in expressing myself in intimate relationships, I'm at a loss. It's odd, because I have no problem being honest in my writing, and sharing that with the world, which is exactly why people have told me that my words are appealing. My heart is in it and it's obvious.
So then where does that honesty go when it comes to being all of me in every interaction I have? How do I continually default to being "the good girl," instead of just being Judy? All of this is especially challenging, because it's forcing me to accept — and even embrace — having negative emotions, something I've taught my heart to repel since I was a child.
"Being positive all the time is a delusion," Barry reminds me. "We live in a dualistic world, so saying that you shouldn't feel badly about things or not get angry or upset is unrealistic. And, to feel guilty about these emotions? That's false, too. If you believe that one source created everything, then anything — positive or negative — is all part of Source. So, are you saying that feeling negative is bad or wrong? Because if you are, then are you going against Source and saying that Source is wrong?"
Barry taught me something hadn't really popped up in my study of the chakras before, that the three lower chakras are all associated with negative emotions and energies. In order to reach the higher chakras, we need to move through these "not nice" feelings first. These negative charges are balanced by the positive charges of the higher chakras, and it is this polarity that gives us our form and our physical world. If we lived in pure bliss, this physical world would cease to exist.
What I learned growing up is that anger was very, very bad. I watched my parents go at it all the time, and constantly lived in fear that the other shoe would drop, that we would go from laughing together as a family to four kids cowering in witness to my parents screaming at one another in what seemed to be unprovoked and unpredictable moments that switched in less than a frightened heartbeat. I never knew that there could be another way to process negative emotions other than through rage and chaos, so I stuffed it all down until I starved and binged my way into oblivion.
Now, here I am, 30-some years later learning that these shadow feelings are actually okay? That if I tell someone I'm upset with them, or if something happens that triggers a response that isn't happy-go-lucky sunshine, it doesn't mean I'm a bad person? It doesn't mean that I'm being any less yogic than the "ideal" that is preached to us in our teacher trainings and this spiritual society at large? If I have feelings that are not filled with inspiration and light, it doesn't mean I'm doing something wrong?
It was still early in the morning and I had much of the day to go with deliverables due to clients. But here I was, in this blur of feeling like taking good care of myself mentally-emotionally-physically is really what my job is right now. And, though I feel this mounting pressure to write my manuscript, somewhere within me, I believe that the work I'm doing right now is preparing me for just that. This is all part of the book. This is all part of the narrative of how I went from over there to arrive over here. And, it's hard. It's incredibly uneasy to be vulnerable, and dependent, and most importantly, to learn to trust myself whole-heartedly and have just as much faith in this process of unfolding into the real me that is happening.
"You're doing great," Barry always ends our conversations. "You're exactly where you're supposed to be right now, totally in the shit. If you weren't there, this process wouldn't be working. Use it. You are full of love, and you always have been, and the more you can connect with your true essence, the more you will find that bliss, which is much more than being happy."
I believe him, because if I can do poses on the mat that I never thought were possible, and I understand that poses come to us when we are ready, then I will get to where I need to be right when the time is right.
This is the practice of yoga. This is the practice of living.