(Part 1 is here.)
In the process of becoming myself again- which, at least at the individual level, is what yoga really teaches us to do- it's been increasingly necessary for me to find the willingness to peel away the layers- habits, patterns, painful memories, stored trauma, unskillful and unhelpful beliefs- and have a clear and compassionate look at what's been going on. (Compassion: the quivering of the heart in response to suffering.)
There's a saying in the 12 step world- in the form of a promise that comes to pass when we put in the work: "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." In other words, we remain present to ourselves, accepting all that has come without judgment, to the best of our ability.
This is a process of looking in. And it starts with an inquiry: What's present now? What are the blocks that I allow to remain right now that disturb my felt sense of connection and trust with the universe, which is "God as I understand God"? After all, even if the connection is there, being human, old patterns continue to create a clouding of the vision- and I can't see it anymore. Any resistance that I indulge- by avoiding, ignoring, stuffing, denying, or shaming- simply results in that samskaric (root word of "scar") groove getting deeper and deeper. Since my desire to recover my felt sense of connection these days far outweighs my desire to indulge my unhelpful patterns- which can return, those grooves are deep!- I've got to use my tools, steadily, kindly, gently.
Kind and gentle doesn't necessarily mean comfortable.
It means I get to experience it all without blaming or shaming myself- and leaning into love (Erich Schiffman says that love is the willingness to see a person or thing exactly as he or she or it is) whenever I can.
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to practice the self-forgiveness meditation again. This was the third time I've practiced it with my teacher Rolf. In this particular meditation we are asked to envision ourselves at age 0-10, 10-20, 20-30, and so on- and to do so from the perspective we had then: what we knew, what we didn't know, what we were like at the time. What I noticed this time around is that the more I leaned in to the discomfort, the more clearly I could see myself at the age I was being prompted to do so- the more understanding I applied- the easier it was for me to do the next part: Forgive her for being imperfect. Forgive her for making mistakes. Forgive her for being a learner in this lifetime. (That last part was the easiest- I'm nothing these days if not a learner- highly recommend it.) Then, we send metta (loving kindness) to our younger selves: May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you find your freedom. May you know peace. May you walk through the world with ease.
The radical (meaning from the root) shifts I've experienced this year are astounding, and right on time, since 2016 was the most difficult year yet in my recovery. I'm holding myself more and more in compassion. Many of my relationships are clearer, freer, and more harmonious. There's a teaching of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron that says that until we free ourselves from "the hook" of habitual patterns of suffering and blame usually involving stimulus (or irritant) and conditioned response, we are more likely to put others on a hook too.
Now that I've learned largely to let myself off that hook, as Rolf says, I'm out of the hook business. I don't want to put myself or anyone else on there again. And without the hooks, I feel more like myself. Whoever that is!
Being in a community that supports my goals and aspirations is critical. I have to do this work myself, and yet I cannot do it alone. Now more than ever, I'm grateful for spaces that remind me how to do this work- and that I can do this work. That was the real message this past week at Kripalu: community is what I make of it when I'm doing the work. The support is there, if I reach for it. Turning inward, reaching outward.