‘I feel incredibly sad, a sadness deep inside. It’s almost overwhelming, a heaviness inside my chest that I carry all the time, if only I could cry.’
‘I’m sad and that’s my normal sad.’
Do you recognise these words? Maybe you’ve written or voiced something similar?
They’re from my journal, written in late Feb/early March 2016 a few days before I attended a Rising Strong workshop in Vegas. At that time I was doing absolutely everything I could to keep all the grief I was carrying in the box I’d created because I believed it was the right thing to do.
Let’s just say, it wasn’t working.
That workshop was the beginning of my healing journey and where I started to release some of the sadness I was holding. It was the first time I cried in public and when I realised how much we feel emotions in the body. As I wrote at the time; ‘emotions, we feel them in our body, they have a signature.’ (Who knew??)
Looking back I hardly recognise the Lesley who wrote those words. That Lesley was afraid of feeling her grief because she ‘knew’ bottling everything up was the best thing to do. She was largely numb; sadness was her norm and there was very little joy in her life.
And now on 8TH March 2019 at 6.22 am, exactly 3 years later I wrote these words during a yoga retreat in India:
Yet here I am, sitting in a swing seat having just done a week of yoga and taken myself to new places physically and emotionally.
The sky’s turning lighter with every moment; soon the sun will appear behind the trees ahead of me. I hear birds, lots of birds. In the distance there’s music from the village. I can see the shoulder of the mountain between the trees. A gentle movement of my legs rocks me back and forth. To my left is the Yoga Shala where the magic happened, several of my fellow yogis are meditating, a special time to do this during sunrise.
This is the place I need to be for the last sunrise of this amazing, life changing trip. I’ve spent too many hours to count here on this seat.
I can every bit of feel my body and energy moving round it, even the top of my head is tingling.
I feel calm and peaceful like never before.
There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go.
I’m anchoring this place, these feelings in my body, heart, mind and soul, storing many precious memories deep inside.
I’ve cried a LOT this week, and especially when I think back to how much I’ve changed. I suspect reflecting back on these past 3 years will always bring tears to my eyes, and no more so than the feeling that THIS is where I’m meant to be. F**k & WOW.
As we prepare to leave this amazing place, I know I’ll never be the same. I’m not sure yet how I’ve changed, but I know I have.’
After I returned home I had all sorts of plans, however for the first couple of weeks my mind and body craved stillness, walking, reading and listening to podcasts. And in the way the Universe works for me these days, each book I read and podcast I listened to, helped to build the meaning and insights I gained from the trip.
These words by Pico Iyer stuck with me and I believe this is what my unconscious was leading me to do.
This is what I’ve realised:
First the rogue water bottle
On the second day, in the middle of a meditation, all of a sudden there was a crash when, only a couple of feet away one of those metal water bottles fell to the floor. If you’d been watching you would have seen me jump, shocked to the core.
And it awakened something in me; almost immediately emotions came welling up and out of my eyes. I let them flow and, even after more meditation and 90 minutes of Yin Yang I could still feel more in my chest ready to emerge.
I asked myself whether this was more grief, wondering whether it will ever end.
Or maybe it was something else, realising that actually I didn’t need to know, all I needed to do was to allow it because doing so would heal me.
At the time I was irritated by the bottle and then I realised what a huge gift it was because it opened the door to my feelings. In the past I would have done all I could to push everything back down, but these days I surrender to everything because I know that allowing feelings to do their work and move through me is the root of letting go and how transformation happens.
Then the dragon
On the final full day the Yin Yang practice was a rollercoaster of everything. Initially I felt strong, then out of nowhere a huge wave of anger washed over me, first focused on a specific person, then at myself for allowing feelings of her to distract me from this magical practice. Then a couple of Swans** later I connected to my core and my strength and power returned.
Then it crumbled in the Dragon Dance*. We’d been doing short dances each day and today we did them all in one flow. We flowed together, supporting each other, sharing the trust we’d built so when one struggled, another took up the flow. It was incredibly special. Just f**king wow.
My body amazed me, all week it bent further than ever and today I flowed like never before and balanced as though I was being held by an invisible cord. More than anything, I FELT incredibly graceful.
This rocked me to the core. I got VERY emotional (and I wasn’t the only one), it was a cry ugly moment or three, tears flowing and flowing, so much that my glasses were in danger of falling off. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t need to know. Maybe a combination of surprise, delight, joy and another wave of something coming up for healing, moving me closer to my authentic self.
As a child, hockey and netball were my sports; I hated gym and refused to go to ballet, and when I started yoga less than 3 years ago I felt awkward, stiff and was definitely not bendy. So to be flying in the dance, feeling graceful, feeling every bit of my body as it flows was a gift beyond words.
Next a swing chair
I took books to read and a sewing project and they remained untouched in my suitcase. For the first time in my life I spent hours just being. There were trips organised but, apart from hiking to see the sunrise, I spent my time in the Ashram, feeling that I never wanted to leave. In between yoga practices and meals I sat in the swing chair or a hammock.
Knowing that there was nothing to DO, only to be.
Again this was huge for me, apart from my meditation practice I NEVER just sit, my life comprises doing, even if that doing is reading, or listening to podcasts. I don’t just sit and look at the sky, listen to the birds and swing back and forth.
But apparently I do now. And it felt amazing. Granted I did cry a lot, and underneath I felt calm and peaceful like never before with the deep knowing that THIS was where I was meant to be.
And finally the stone
I’m writing this three weeks after I returned and I’m struggling to discover what my new normal is. As I’ve said, the stillness helped me to find insights and meaning, and when a friend commented on a Facebook photo that I look serene, I realised, that’s what changed.
Yes I’ve discovered how to cry, to be graceful and to just be. And more than that, I believe I’ve stripped off layers and touched the authentic Lesley who is serene, peaceful and calm.
I’ve come to a place of acceptance deeper than I thought possible; acceptance of my life, and mostly of all of me, of my wonderfulness and not so wonderfulness.
And also a new level of trust; I’ve recently been pushing hard to uncover where my path will lead me next and worrying because I didn’t know. And I realised what worked best for me in the past was to relax and be open to what comes up. So that’s what I’m doing now, trusting that the Universe has a plan for me and will reveal it to me in good time. There’s always wisdom to be found in Rumi’s words and this quote reminds me if I stray.
So to go back to the question in the heading; you’ve already worked out that the water bottle, dragon and swing chair are reminders that I’ve learned to let emotions move through me, that I’m graceful, and the benefits of stillness.
And the stone? As soon as I saw these words I realised how much they reflect how I feel. And, for now this is enough.
My message to you dear reader
You will have made your own meaning from my story, and maybe seen elements of yours, or what yours could be.
Or perhaps how I’ve changed seems too huge for you to contemplate. If that’s the case, I completely understand. I’ve already said that I struggle to take myself back, and in the same way if 3 years ago if you’d said have I’d be doing yoga in India, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I end with one message to you dear reader, it’s the same message that I always have (and I’m not apologising for repeating it) and it is.
I am the same as you and if I can find my way to happiness and joy, you can.
As you’ve read above, I was overwhelmed by sadness and grief and I’ve found my way to more happiness and joy than I ever thought possible.
My path included therapy, writing and yoga. That might be your path, or (most likely) yours will be different. But never doubt for a moment that there is a path for you.
I absolutely believe in you, and know you CAN find happiness. I believe you absolutely CAN get to the place where you’ll be buying yourself a similar stone.
Thank you for reading, and please leave a comment below if this resonated with you.
* The Dragon Dance is a fusion of Indian and Daoist Yoga. It’s a beautiful, graceful and energetic sequence designed to stimulate the flow of energy through awareness and vigorous movements. The dance challenges perception of stability, assisting you to get out of your head, into your body and centre and to connect to the power and wisdom within. You will move round your mat, twisting, bending, balancing and the dance Emma uses is different each time.
** And here I am in Swan with a bind.