I've been in what I sometimes call "listening mode"- meaning, taking in lots and putting out less. Some of my reasoning is simple energy management- with increasing responsibilities and a finite amount of physical, emotional and mental bandwidth, it's been necessary for me to scale down my output in other ways. This is a skill I learned in recovery that has served me well- the practice of discernment and boundary-setting.
What has resulted, though, is a backlog of information and learning I haven't been able to express publicly in a consistent way, over the past seven months. This is a long time for me. But I needed time to process it - and I still am, in many ways, integrating it all.
About a month ago I put the following sticky on my computer:
However, when I sat to write, nothing came out! I simply could not connect insight to language to fingertips. (This is a critical connection for me in order to write.) The concepts felt too intricate to put into words- and so, I simply held back. I had to go on trust that when the time was right, I'd be able to write again. Now is that time.
I'm at Kripalu again assisting the Yoga, Meditation and Addiction Recovery Conference held each year by my teachers, Rolf Gates, Nikki Myers, Tommy Rosen, and Dr. Melody Moore.
(Last year, after the conference, I wrote a series of blog posts which start here.)
It feels necessary to talk about recovery in very basic terms. It seems important for me to define what that actually is, and the best definition I can come up with is a process by which anything that is not-me is removed so that me, my self, can be revealed (which I assert is a manifestation of The Self- the divine- but that is a post for another time.) In a way, then, you might say that those of us who practice yoga with any depth are engaging in a process of recovery.
It's helpful for me to normalize this word recovery and bridge understanding of what that is, because for the time I've been open about being on this path, I can't count the times I've had the opportunity to talk to people out there, in the world, about what recovery means to me. Those conversations usually happen with friends, often those who practice yoga, who have come to me because they are trying sobriety from substances, or attempting to heal relationship challenges, or are stuck in some pattern loop that is causing harm to them or to the people they love. These things have created guilt, shame, remorse, resentments toward self and other and they are suffering more and more from their habits- and feel unable to fully integrate their yoga practice into this "shadow" dimension of their lives. Something feels interrupted, or blocked. (Tommy even dropped a bomb this week by defining addiction, in one way, as "the attempt to stop our own evolution.")
Rolf taught that we must live into the higher intentions or aspirational vows (sankalpa) that we have for ourselves and our lives. This has been true for me- and those intentions and vows have changed throughout the years as my recovery has deepened- by that I mean my understanding of myself, and my ability to be in a deep and trusting relationship with myself, has increased.
Of course, it wasn't always that way. When I got sober, which, by the way, was the easy part- I still could not conceive of a life where I did not drink alcohol, even though I was already there. In September that year I could not imagine Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year's Eve, without alcohol. I thought I could probably avoid daily drinking but could not imagine the big moments of my life without it. This, too, is alcoholism.
But in the 12 step rooms where I learned how to live a sober life, I was told I didn't need to worry about that. In September my goal needed to be not drinking today. In October my goal needed to be not drinking today. In November my goal needed to be not drinking today. And it all needed to happen one day at a time. So that was how it went- daily commitment to the practice of not drinking, accompanied by nearly-daily meetings with a community of people who supported me in my recovery. I worked the steps of recovery with a trusted friend who had been there too, clearing the wreckage of the past and opening a door to the present. This, coupled with my yoga and meditation practice, gave me stability and contentment upon which a "happy, joyous, and free" life could be built.
I arrived at the same conference at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California in early November 2012. I was 62 days sober and was not entirely sure what I was doing there- but soon I knew I was in the right place. My teachers were there to support me and that was wonderful- but it was the "walk and talks" between the sessions that really made the difference. I remember Suzy, from Southern California, with her boots and straw cowgirl hat, freckled face and turquoise jewelry and years of sobriety, walking with me on the way to lunch one day. I said to her, "I don't know how I'm going to do this 12 step meeting thing- how do I find time for it, with every wonderful thing I have going on?" At the time, Project Yoga Richmond was just two years old- extremely green for a new non-profit- my home life and teaching schedule were both overwhelming to me and I could not see making 12 step recovery a priority. Suzy looked at me and very casually but pointedly, replied, "Well, Dana, anything you put in front of your recovery you'll eventually lose anyway."
Suzy appealed to my fear of losing the precious two months of my sobriety I had accrued, the momentum for healing I had attained, and possibly with it any hope of ever being free of my addiction to alcohol, which terrified me, having watched my own mother succumb to this disease at only 50.
So I made it a priority. Now, going on six years sober, I have created with the help of my higher power (which is undefinable, unexplainable, and incomprehensible to me, even now) a life I would not want to trade for a single glass of wine. I teach as much as I like, have daily embodied and meditative practices, a community of friends on a recovery path, access to incredible teachings and wisdom through continued relationships with my teachers- all of whom are in long-term recovery. I have a felt connection to Source that holds me in every moment. My relationships are deeper, more authentic, and more easeful. Everything has gotten better, because I have recovered myself.
Best of all, perhaps- I get to share yoga and recovery through Y12SR, The Yoga of 12 Step Recovery, which was designed by Nikki Myers to support anyone on a recovery path with somatic and cognitive practices, including step study, trauma-informed yoga and yoga philosophy. I'm thrilled to work with teachers, counselors, social workers, family members, or those affected directly by addiction to connect the dots that for so long felt separate for me. I'm amazed that this is the life I get to live today.
My life is not without difficulty- even pain and suffering, sometimes- but my resilience has grown exponentially. I now "comprehend the word serenity" and I "know peace"- most of the time.
Last year I saw Tommy at a retreat and I told him, smiling ear to ear, "Tommy, I don't feel like myself anymore- in fact I am nearly unrecognizable to the person I was five years ago." He looked at me and said, "Dana, your consciousness is expanding. What a story to tell."
This is a story that needs to be told. Whether it takes a sticky note or the knowledge that the friends I've met this week at Kripalu are now watching this space for me to share what we call in 12 step recovery "experience, strength, and hope"- I'm committed, today, to telling that story. It's not just about my relationship to alcohol- it's about how my personal ethos relates to social responsibility, re-writing patterns and exploring what it means to be a citizen in the world walking a recovery path. More dots are being connected- as more is revealed to me. Listening mode continues, but the transmission resumes, just in time.
I'll be teaching the Yoga of 12 Step Recovery Leadership Training at PYR June 15-17, 2018. Registration is open now. This will be a full circle moment for me- back in 2011, Nikki brought me into the Y12SR family and in doing so, opened the door to the possibility of my own healing. I'll never be able to properly thank Nikki or Rolf for what they gave me- examples of what yoga and recovery look like and a belief that I could have that, too. If you are moved to join me, please do so. If you have questions about Y12SR or recovery, please contact me.