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Practice Makes Imperfect

I just took a private with my dear friend and brilliant yoga teacher, Lydia Merl. I have had the honor of being her teacher but this was my first time practicing yoga as her student. It was every bit the magical experience I knew it would be. Did I mention there were 25 other people in the room? Well yes, but I was keenly aware that every word she spoke was just for me. In truth, it was a one hour workshop preview entitled, “Practicing Imperfection”. She explained that when we see someone who triggers a reaction in us, it is ourselves we see in them. When we see their light, it is a reflection of our own. She believes that putting ourselves out there in spite of fear is a demonstration of courage. That is when we feel a connection. Then she had us blindfold ourselves. Some people were anxious. I tied mine on without hesitation. I was completely at ease and even liberated. As we started to flow, I wobbled and noticed how closely I had to listen to the cues without my vision. This made my practice feel more real. It was me practicing on the mat without noticing anyone or anything in the room. There were no Lulu leggings to admire, no interesting people to look at and no mats to admire which often serves as my distraction when the mind starts to wander. My energy was totally a function of the yoga. I loved getting lost in myself. I gave no thought to how others might perceive me or what I thought of them. I felt less struggle and more empowered. All the games that come with the ego, asmita, were eliminated. My body and soul danced to her every word as if she and I were the only two people on the planet. Yet I took comfort in knowing I was in a room full of yogis using their other senses to make some sense out of life.

This week felt like it was in black and white rather than in color. It was as if I was observing my life through a filter on Instagram that I wanted to change. In my teacher training we’ve talked about avidya. “Avidya can be understood as the accumulated result of our many unconscious actions, the action and ways we have been mechanically carrying out for years. Our habits or sam skara cover the mind with avidya, as if obscuring the clarity of consciousness with a filmy layer. The goal of yoga is to reduce the film of avidya.”

I am struck by how much has bubbled up in me as we study the Sutras. The Yoga Sutra, widely regarded as the authoritative text on yoga, is a collection of aphorisms outlining the eight limbs of yoga. When I allow my shadow to direct my thoughts, I do not see myself accurately. I give power away when I fold into fear. Yet when I stand in my own light, I can see all things as they are. Addressing self-doubt in my unconscious has unearthed uncomfortableness for me. I didn’t anticipate how intimate my teacher training would be. I expected to enhance my knowledge of anatomy, fine tune my cueing and deepen my understanding of teaching yoga. Instead it has invited me to open doors that have been closed, and I am realizing how much energy it takes to hold on to things, rather than to let them go. Last week I read the words “letting go” out loud and a volcano of emotion erupted. My throat started to tighten and hot tears rolled down my cheeks. It wasn’t a moment I made a decision to share with Caroline, it was a physical reaction to something in my body. I immediately thought of my dad and how much pain must still remain buried in my heart. There is always more to do.

Most days my soul shines. However, on a cloudy day when I let my mind get the best of me, I feel unnecessary suffering, “duhkha”. My shadow is self-doubt and fear, which often go hand and hand. When I give in to them, my light is dimmed. I have never been more clear that feeling a reaction to these triggers is not silly or small, but in fact quite large. Today, when Lydia spoke about facing fear, she described it as an act of bravery. The moment she spoke the words, something in me shifted. It was a moment that literally took my breath away. Participating in a teacher training one on one has stirred up some deeply rooted seeds of self-doubt which were planted way back in my childhood. It has also afforded me the extraordinary opportunity to grow in ways I never imagined. My practice has shed light on dark places in my soul. My teaching has cultivated a venue for me to share the opportunity yoga presents. I now face the opportunity to let go of old fears that I have been carrying around since I was a little girl. “She” believed the horrible things her dad told her almost every day. That little girl lives and breathes in me. It is her burden I have been dragging around like a bag of rocks for most of my life. And I am blessed to do this work with someone I deeply admire and respect for her knowledge and her impeccable heart. She holds a safe space for me just by being who she is.

This morning my mom came up from Miami to help me organize my house. She understands how deeply the emotional component of letting go runs in me. I am in the process of transforming rooms filled with cherished childhood memories to spaces for children to visit when they come “home”. This is the ultimate test and is requiring me to let go of things that take up unnecessary space in my life. The letting go theme has been cropping up everywhere. I just gave away the clothes that Dylan didn’t take to California at his request. One of the greatest gifts I unknowingly gave him is the ability to let go without hesitation if something isn’t serving its purpose. I am grateful that his freedom is the silver lining to my struggle. I am currently on round 3 of cleaning out my own closet. I have been sorting through old pictures on my phone and even deleted a few hundred Facebook friends I don’t even know who were interesting but mostly just taking up space on my feed. I fancy myself a collector but realize I often hold on to things just because letting go is so hard. I am comfortable with more than I need but happiest when I have just enough

The take-home message for me is that the work I’m doing is in fact courageous, and the willingness I have to excavate old stories I’ve been telling myself, is to be honored. I am grateful to the teachers in my life who come in the form of friends, mentors, yoga instructors, children, mother and husband. They present endless opportunities for me to practice my imperfection. My goal is to show up for myself daily by either rolling out my mat or rolling up my sleeves. Every time I step onto my mat, I learn about how I live. When I step off, life holds a mirror up for me to look into and there’s no app or filter to edit the parts I don’t like. Today reminded me that I can also look into the eyes of any person and connect to a part of me. I am in the throes of self-study and it is work. Today it was a one hour workshop and Monday it will be the Sutras. Next week I will practice imperfection spending time in New York City with my daughter and soon enough the opportunity will manifest itself during the holidays with family. This is actually a gift. Each and every day we are offered opportunities to check ourselves. How can I be where I am on my journey without judgment or criticism towards myself or others? This was the question I heard playing over and over in my head today and one I will continue to ask. While I loved wearing the blindfold because it forced me to look inside, I realize that the real perfection comes in being willing to live imperfectly without it. This mini workshop allowed me to experience the living, breathing definition of Namaste, “the divine light in me, recognizes that same divine light in you.” I drank up this message. Every word she spoke was as powerful as every movement on the mat. It was a happy hour that left me feeling intoxicated in the best way possible. So here’s to Lydia and to all of you who show up, roll out your mat and use your breath to learn more about your practice. And cheers to those of you who roll up your mat and take it with you out into the world. Practice makes imperfect.

Yoga Journey offers free monthly mini workshops and they are indeed a gift. On Sunday, January 15th, Lydia will be teaching the full workshop version of this workshop. You can register for this online. It is not free but it will be the best investment you can ever make… in yourself. I hope to see you there.

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