and how our greatest challenges can serve us
Each year, I reflect back on what the previous year brought into my life. In March I had ACL reconstructive surgery for my right knee, I celebrated my 30th birthday, I moved all across the United States from Pennsylvania to San Diego, and discovered that it was only just the beginning of soul development.
When I tore my ACL last January, right after the New Year, a dear friend of mine invited me to examine how this injury was trying to get my attention. She noted that as a fellow rock climber, each injury she had sustained taught her what was needed to evolve in her life. Her advice altered the state of awareness I would enter into as I journeyed through a time of great healing. Rather than focus on why this injury happened to me, I focused on how this injury could serve me.
Having practiced yoga for over 10 years and teaching for the past 4, I have learned that yoga breeds radical awareness to the practitioner. You begin to realize the potential you have in your body; you notice what you are capable of, you’re growing, you express love, and you realize you are uniquely you, which then transcends into the belonging you have in your life. John O’Donohue wrote:
“One of the vital criteria of personal integrity is whether you belong to your own life or not. When you belong in yourself, you have poise and freedom.”
Being unable to walk and function in the ways I had done so previously, I had to very abruptly take on a new approach to living. This included my yoga practice. I went from teaching and practicing Prana Flow Yoga, which is a vinyasa-based practice rooted in the flowing energies of the earth, to engaging in meditation and pranayama, which can be understood as breathing into the life force. A few years ago my teacher, Maria Garre, told me that asana (the postures) are only a small step into the real work, and to enter the real depth was through pranayama and meditation. I began to understand what she meant.
There are times in our life when we are under a shadow, where we cannot escape the grief, the bout of tears and turbulence around us. As an old pastor of mine once said, there are times of war and there are times of peace.
Something I have come to experience is during these times of war is that we should be fully engaged. They needn’t be feared, ignored or even fled from. They are arising out of our own call upon them. When we ask for strength, we aren’t simply given a measurable amount of it. We are given an opportunity to create our strength out of a circumstance that seems impossible to face. This is how we show up for ourselves. By honoring the shadow that resides within us, we honor our whole and full self. When we honor the emotions that emerge out of it, we become more fully engaged with our spirit, choosing to learn from it rather than to flee from it. Even more foundational is when we honor that emotion, it begins to lose its power over us. Freeing us from the role as the victim into the courageous embodiment of the warrior.
“Even in the maelstrom of turbulence, some place within you will still anchor you faithfully. These inner roots will enable you later to understand and integrate the suffering that has visited. True belonging can integrate the phases of exile.”
The Warrior, the Goddess, the child of light that we are, all of these are a disciplined archetype. It is the essence of our embodiment and will continually reawaken us. It will call upon us to rise out of our shame, our grief, our blindness, and into the depth of what I like to describe as soul purpose living. Living from a place of our hearts’ purpose. Growing up in the fellowship of church and community, I once had a mentor describe God to me as a living, breathing entity. He then went on to share that anything of worth in this life was a living, breathing organism that required discipline, discernment, and consistent care. We have a choice to care for such matter. We are able to decide if and how we deem appropriate to feed those life forms.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means to yoke or to bind. It is often interpreted as “union.” What is being unified is the body with the mind with the soul. As one. Existing in the same space and woven together in a fluid rhythm that I like to call “floetry,” or fluid poetry. The act of asana opens a portal into the disconnected rhythms found in our bodies; the art of meditation and pranayama, that still the fluctuations of the mind. When we begin to still the mind, we tune into the frequency of our spirit. It is in this dwelling place that we are our most authentic self. Beginning, sustaining and continuing the practice of entering into this space is what keeps our life force alive, what enables us to keep going, and what connects us to God, that which is within us.
When I moved to California, I had visions of what I thought my life would look like. I thought if I could just get there, it would all work out. The truth was, I was still delusional of how to get to the richness I so deeply longed to live. This was and continues to be my greatest challenge. By owning my weaknesses, my patterns and choosing to love them, and to learn from them, I am able to face my deepest fears of inadequacy while standing firm in the desires of my heart.
I have found that by acceptance, I am more readily available to show up for myself exactly as I am. I am able to find worth, radiance, unconditional love for myself and for others, and a wellspring of gratefulness for all of it. I am able to fall down seven times, and yet stand up eight. I am able to show up for every cell inside of me and know that it is enough. That I am enough.
“You are the one and only threshold of an inner world. This wholesomeness is holiness. To be holy is to be natural, to befriend the worlds that come to balance in you.”