In the early days of recovery (though arguably I'm still in the early days- this is the long game I'm playing, after all), I admit I didn't know how to turn the skills I was teaching toward myself. I didn't understand how to be radically self-compassionate. But in the first six months of 12 step meetings, meeting brave people with powerful stories to tell- I think I cried at every one, even if I didn't know why. I know now that was the god of my understanding moving in my heart and opening me up so that I could hear what I needed to hear and to learn what I needed to learn. And that "quivering of the heart" in response to the struggles of another helped me connect with my own suffering, in a way that felt tender, and real.
This was a necessary step: To feel intense emotional challenge and choose to remain on the path of recovery. No alcohol, no drugs- I needed to trust in the process and stay. Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am to have received this support and guidance and to have examples of what recovery looks like all around me.
Then I remember that first I only needed to be willing to listen. Later I needed to admit the truth of my present moment circumstances. What was I doing (in the name of controlling outcomes, as it turned out- addiction is all about controlling outcomes) that was harmful? Insanity is often defined as "doing the same thing and expecting a different result." So I needed to believe that something (other than just my own willpower) could help me be restored to sanity, should I seek it. Finally, believing I deserved restoration, I had to make a conscious and intentional decision (the root of the word decision is from the Latin, to "cut off"- in this case, to cut away anything that stood in the way of divine love and protection). This came in the form of a prayer, of sorts- to let that something else take over the things I was trying to control, maybe forever, but maybe just for today. These were essentially the first three steps.
In yoga, when we arrive on the mat, we place our feet on the earth, or our seat on the cushion. What's present here, now, in the body? In the breath? In the mind? Is there resistance or a block to our sense of presence? How about our connection with spirit? These help us realize what is and especially is not working- what are those patterns that feel constricted or contracted or messy or even catastrophic- and to be humble and honest enough to admit it. Then we set our intention- we make a conscious commitment- something greater than what the ego wants- a sense of purpose, or a skill that will carry us through our practice or day- in short, assert that something bigger exists and I'm a part of it. Then, we commit to taking suggestions, guidance from a teacher or the teachings- what we've learned or are willing to learn. We trust the process and stay. The process of coming to yoga, like the 12 steps and the recovery process, is best approached with honesty, open mindedness and willingness. And we renew these every day through our commitment to the paths we have chosen.
And now, the practice of yoga.