Sometimes when you fall, you fly. -Neil Gaiman
I was flying when I came home to the United States in mid-October, fresh off El Camino. I felt like I was moon-walking my way through my much anticipated transition home, and that there was absolutely nothing that could bring my feet back down to earth.
My 33 day trek across Northern Spain was like taking an extended yoga class. I had learned the 3 L’s — Living, loving and levitating.
Somebody rain on my parade, I dare you. I’ll just fly up past the clouds and wait for the storm to pass. NBD.
Well, something happened in my second week home that clipped my wings and knocked me to my knees. My present reality: No money. No job. No plans. Student loans payments. A long distance relationship(?!). Loss of independence.
A shit storm of struggles quickly grounded my feet to the earth, and then, laughing, pulled the rug out from underneath me. I found myself on my knees, hands pressed together in prayer.
So many thoughts whirling in my head. How had this happened? How can I get back to that place? How can I be that me again–that amazing, carefree, life-living, bad ass who had just walked across an entire country? Where were the attitudes of love and timelessness that I had just cultivated?
HOW had I let the fear, insecurity and uncertainty back in?
If this is reality, I thought, I prefer the opposite.
And there it was, that important word; the clue to the next piece of my puzzle. The opposing forces that hold us together, the yin and yang that allow us to fly, can ultimately break us down if we can’t find a way to unite and balance them.
Here are four new practices I have undertaken in order to unite the yin and yang and cultivate balance in my life:
1. Softening into discomfort: I have taken countless yoga classes where the teacher would kick your ass through a series of asanas saying audacious things like, “Breathe into the discomfort” and “Are you clenching your jaw, gripping through your toes? Soften into the pose.” In those moments, I have usually wanted to round house kick the teacher in the head as sweat dripped from my furrowed brow and my arms and knees trembled. Holding chair pose for what feels like an eternity and a half sucksssss.
But the idea of softening into the discomfort is actually a practice that allows us to find our limits and then stretch them. Sometimes this stretch is just a second or two longer than our mind is telling us is currently possible. But over time, we can endure the discomfort for longer periods and build up strength.
If this practice can sculpt our buns and tone our arms, just think of the benefits it can provide to the most important muscle in our whole body–our kick drum heart!
All of the stress I have been experiencing recently had resulted in feelings of tightness and tension in my heart. I could physically feel a contraction in my chest and heart. I had to learn to cultivate awareness. When I start to notice this tension in me, I now take a deep tension releasing breath. Result? An immediate sense of relief. Usually the relief is fleeting, but as I gradually build and hone this practice, I am ultimately strengthening my heart muscle.
2. Shading my shadow: Having glimpsed a sliver of the perfect me, I was reluctant to admit to its opposite. Rather, I had hoped to dig my nails into perfection and hold on for dear life. In retrospect, I should have known that resisting this change was not going to end well…but hey, lesson learned, I’m only human and change is fucking scary.
So I began a quest to liberate myself.. from myself. I started by accepting the opposites and all that lies in between.
I began with the things that I don’t like about myself, and then I looked within to find the opposite. I began to see the contradictions. Oh yes, sooo many contradictions.
For example: I would give the world for someone I love, could also mean that I am capable of being selfish and self-preserving. But in between these extremes, there are 50 shades of grey (wink), and I can be anywhere on the spectrum and it’s all me. It’s all gravy baby.
Tension relieving sigh….
3. Lightening and grounding:
This technique is awesome. It’s the alchemy of energy. It’s the transmutation of heaviness into lightness. Ultimately, we are capable of moving our heavy energy to places that need to be grounded, thus freeing space for lightness. By focusing on drawing the feelings of heaviness downwards to our feet, we are able to build a base that stabilizes and connects us to the earth allowing us to be light in our hearts.
4. Looking at the reflection in the mirror:
We are all mirrors of one another and we reflect our souls into the eyes of other beings.
Anytime you have a negative judgement of another person, that same negative energy exists within you. Thus, we can practice releasing ourselves from the grips of judgement by committing to taking responsibility for ourselves. Whenever I feel an negative emotion as result of an interaction with someone else, I ask where its coming from within me and then try to peel back the layers and hopefully neutralize the negativity by uniting the two reflections.
Justin Timberlake nailed it:
You were right here all along
It’s like you’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me
I couldn’t get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it’s clear as this promise
That we’re making two reflections into one
On this note too, we can also find kindness and love in each other. Start with yourself! Be kind to yourself, and then you can be kind to others. Love yourself, and you can love others. This will ultimately result in people being loving and kind to you. Sweet!
These techniques have helped me to cope with the fall. But in the end, we don’t have to be afraid to fall. Sometimes in those moments of utter confusion, chaos and shit we experience insight, enlightenment and love.
“Hang on to the wind and trust. You are eagle.”