Life Lessons from Breath of Bliss

(Song Dedication: In My Body by SYML)

I couldn’t have fallen asleep, could I? I wondered out loud to a few participants as we ascended the stairs from the yoga studio following an intense 3 hours of breath work together.  I continued, It was wayyyyyy to loud, there’s NO WAY I could have slept through that!  My bliss breathing counterparts laughed.

I guess I was in a “dream-state” like the facilitator had said was possible.  In my dream it was very cold and I was very hungry.  No this isn’t meant to be a joke, that is what I felt.  Cold and hungry. (Before you nay-sayers come up with perfectly practical reasons for this, I will let you know I wore smartwool socks, fleece tights, and a fleece jacket and no, I wasn’t outside…I was in my yoga studio, that I have always felt comfortably temperature controlled.  And I had eaten some hearty, homemade chicken and quinoa soup and ate an apple on my way to the location and felt comfortably full before the circle breathing commenced – sorry if that came off as defensive, just trying to give some context).  Could these feelings confirm that some of my most basic needs were not met throughout my life and that I still continue to struggle to provide for myself as my own caregiver??  Sure, I will go with that.  Metaphors abound though, non?!

The most powerful work for me was meeting my twin painbody.  Out of the 20 people in the room, mostly strangers, WE somehow got into each other’s gravitational pull.  Eckhart Tolle talks about how painbodies are often attracted to one another – many times in unfortunate circumstances, like car accidents.  So there we sat, complete strangers, holding witness to our “Dark Shadow” who accompanied each of us to this ceremony? ritual? gathering?  Whatever it was, we were both there and our souls met within 30 seconds of the first exercise (wait a minute, no one told me there would be partner work!  I have an aversion to this…even in a workout class – another issue to psychoanalyze but at another time).  Face to face, hands over each other’s hearts, soft holding gaze (my entire body wanting to retreat…so vulnerable and intimate with an unknown human – I don’t even do this with my husband…but perhaps we should,  now that I think of it).  Anyway, we made an instant connection and I felt as if I were looking in a mirror after one of my depressive episodes.  It was hard, but it wasn’t me.  It was another human being, I could not look away and reject her sadness the way I do with myself.

When we were instructed to move into phase 2 of the exercise, I recognized the compassionate inquiry model Gabor Mate had us practice last week.  Emotionally holding someone else while they shared their thoughts and feelings.  No nods of recognition, no smiles or laughs to demonstrate our approval and certainly no talking.  Giving the speaker space to articulate their truth, no judgment good or bad.  As a person who experiences anxiety, I am constantly looking for cues to read the audience, say something right to elicit a welcoming reaction and perhaps protect myself from scrutiny.  There’s the trouble, the anxiety doesn’t let me speak my truth in its entirety because I run the risk of losing the perceived attachment to others. I sacrifice my authenticity.

My partner struggled to articulate at first, caught off guard like me as a first-timer to this process.  She verbally noted her discomfort in not knowing what to say next to my quiescent expression.  I tried so very hard to express with my eyes that I was hearing her.  She may not have been able to recognize that – being that my face was strange (not in a funny looking way but an unfamiliar way – the way infants make strange with people other than their parents) I was unknown to her.  I listened without any preconception of response.  I did my best to honour her with my presence alone.

When it was my turn, I was able to demonstrate my deep empathy and connection by authentically sharing my dark shadow that followed me into that space last night.  When I talked about my son and my wish to be a better mom, a better partner to my husband and showing compassion to the little girl who still believes she is not good enough and ruins peoples lives, her eyes focussed with recognition and tears, Oh! I know you…we’ve met before…I am not alone with my shadows and struggles.  And neither was I.

The remaining process of laying and circle breathing, for I have no clue how long because I am still wondering about my level of consciousness, did bring me this realization; my body and mind are not yet ready to share.  I must be patient and do the work.  When the work has prepared me, I do believe my spirit will release the knowledge I am searching for: who am I, why am I?  I’m just not ready (or my dumb-ass friend Superego – Gabor says I am allowed to call it that – I am not calling myself that – Superego is not who I am).  Superego is not ready to surrender her post although the war is over, she still occupies the country which is my being.

The conclusion of the ceremony (yes I am comfortable labeling it as such, it’s meaning is an occasion of celebration for a particular event or anniversary– which it was both of these for me) allowed space for people to share their experiences and I was able to share my gratitude, through tears of dignity and strength, to each person in that room for showing up.  In closing, we all hugged at least 3 people and my listening partner and I have plans to connect.  At the very least, I walked out of Sun & Sage Yoga with a feeling of stability, a shared experience with truly wonderful people in my community and a new friend.  Scratch that, 2 new friends…I am really starting to enjoy my own company these days!

(Fast forward to this morning)

It was a tough night sleep-wise.  I wanted it to come so badly – but like a desperate girl looking for attention, it gave me the opposite and I wrestled with sub-par napping throughout the night.  Just as I was ready to resign myself to this restless reality, it came.  I found that deep comfortable peace…and then my son jumped into my bed at 5:50 am whimpering from a bad dream.  (smile and sigh)

He tossed and turned and tried his best to be quiet and still but like me hours before, it wouldn’t happen.  So we laid together in the darkness, breathing deeply, holding hands.  When I rolled over he began stroking my arm gently – lulling me into a sleep state – it was so loving.

When we officially decided to face the Thursday ahead, we got up and brushed our teeth ready to proceed with our routines.  I hesitated.  I had a feeling of hung-overness, without the once-fun night of dancing, loud music and vodka that preceded it (aaaaah, my 20’s – aaaaannnnd early 30’s).  Actually, in review of the night, there were instances of the first 2, but no vodka and still a headache?  Not fair!

Giving the compassion my 6-year old was able to give in the wee hours of the morning, I followed his example.  I stopped and asked myself What do you need right now?  I responded with I need to stay home (which meant letting go of my dedicated routine of walking, then yoga class, groceries, then laundry…)  So I dropped Jack at school and brought myself home.

There I sat in my kitchen, drank some water, wrote an important email I had been carrying around with me since yesterday, drank more water, got on the floor and did an hour of restorative yoga in front of my fireplace, drank water, responded to people’s questions and comments from my blog and then realized it was 11:58 and I was still wearing my pajama bottoms (for the record, I had at least put on a bra before I realized my game plan had to change).  I decided I would even allow myself a cup of coffee instead of my ritual green tea.  Oh the rich aroma…I could have been happy just inhaling the scent of it…but since it was already made it would have been a shame to waste it.

Again compassion abounds when I learn to recognize it in its various forms.  I tried something that really pushed my boundaries and am so glad I did.  I am learning how to cultivate more self-compassion, in my PJs, at noon, because I am the farthest thing from lazy and not good enough.  Time to drink some water.




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