Painfully Aware or Gently Present

I’m trying to do more things that are good for me. Because I want to be a better person, a different person. Someone who can take pride in herself. I know I should not be thinking these things about myself.  I should not be approaching my goals in yoga or mindfulness practice with the hidden agenda of “new-me-ness.”  I know I’m supposed to be accepting myself, in my entirety, right here right now.  And right now, here I am, in my living room upside down.

After practicing for many months, I can finally do a full backbend from the standing position in yoga. There, see, self? I can be committed, I can be healthy. For a second, I’m proud. A rare feeling, pride pulls the trigger; what haven’t I got to proud of, why don’t I always feel this way? A well rehearsed script, I’ve memorized this scene. Because I am lazy, judgmental and too sensitive. In my reflection, I can see my backbend is off. I am bent too far in my lower lumbar region. My upper spine unwilling to compensate, plateaus. I’m straining. What’s to be a gently spaced curve, appears more as a series of harsh edges and right angles.

I spend more time in the preparation for events than the doing of them. Being new to yoga, makes me feel unprepared, so I read a lot about it. I read that I’m doing something wrong. In my haphazard backbendings I’m not supposed to be doing opposite stretches to recover. That once I have concaved my spine, the impulse to convex it, is in fact incorrect. The best thing I can do for my spine is a series of neutral stretches and then to Simply Sit.

Any yogi knows yoga has a spiritual component that rejuvenates more than your body. Sitting, I think about what I’ve read about the backbend, not the how, but the intention behind it. It is a heart opening pose. It releases stress and tension that we carry in our chest. Simply sitting with my heart open I feel for myself, not about myself. I, like all of us, must do things in order to have a “right placeness,” because belongingness is a basic human need. This makes sense, I make sense. Mindfulness has allowed me to be present through observing and I’ve noticed that my actions and thoughts are valid, I’ve accepted them. Because this makes sense to me, I am less ashamed. I have compassion for myself, softly bridging the gap between self-improvement and self-acceptance; between painful awareness and gentle presence.

Three months ago I could barely lean back while standing. Now I can lean all the way back without falling, it just looks like a little rickety. This reminds me of something. I get a vivid image of my three year old niece my niece and I applying makeup on ourselves in the bathroom mirror. She puts way too much and in all the wrong places. She gets up close to the mirror, pauses for a moment and takes in the finished product.

“It’s a lil’ bit messy, but it still looks good.”  I recall seeing her satisfaction, her okayness, her belongingness and even her pride, and I felt it too. Her electric pink blush against the backdrop of unashamedness, an unfamiliar combination. I remember us laughing together. What would it be like she thought about herself the way I thought about myself. What if my little cherub didn’t know her own goodness?  It would be painful for me, because I know her and I know she is whole, perfect and lovable. It’s not a one sided relationship, she loves me, cherishes me even. What kind of model of self-acceptance am I providing? What does she feel about me? What would she feel about how I thought about myself? She knows my goodness, my wholeness.

My backbend is a little bit messy, but it is still good. I am a little messy, but I am good. When I opened my heart without compassion for myself, I felt shame about the distance between me and my higher self. I know I should be on the self-acceptance route instead of the self-improvement one. But I don’t want to backtrack or start over. I want to accept myself and be better.  I need a bridge.

Instead of reading how my backbend is wrong, I know that it is good and could be better. I read about ways to improve it. Many people have difficulty with an area of their spine. This is a common human experience. I feel connected to others in this struggle. It’s a common experience that is about more than just your body. In a full backbend the heart is far above the head the heart is opened. Anxiety, insecurity and stress are released and I feel them. This is what it feels like when a person struggles this way. I am doing okay, this is hard. I want to live with my heart open for the sake of it being open, not for a great looking backbend.
I lay shoulders down and begin to lift just my legs and hips, they are good at this. I slowly extend my arms straight on the mat keeping my shoulders on the ground. Bridge pose. I feel the parts of me that work well first and I thank them. I feel the parts of me that need work and I breathe into them. I do not need to push, I’m grounded. I’m doing things that are good for me. Because I am worthy person. A good person, worthy of goodness. I am someone who can give love freely when her heart is open. I can bridge the gap between me and my higher self through love and compassion. I am proud. My heart is full. I sit with it, simply full.

Nightly Narcissist

I was orbiting my own world for a stretch,

as a moon if I had to speculate.

Not that you’re making me,

but I know it felt better to do it in darkness.

I had some semblance of objectivity out there as an uninstructive observer.   

Duped by the distance and lack of light.

Just noticed the dizziness, revolving around.  

The pull inward.

The force I have heard tell about, by which all things are measured.

My arm raises not in question or conquest,

Not even on purpose,

Just to change my trajectory by three degrees so that I may get a glimpse of another realm,

one not within my purview.