Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sweating It


Well, fuck. This experience was a good reminder of why I don't take my own advice.

I guess this "You get what you put out into the universe, whether you like it or not" business is true because not even an hour after telling you all that I did not want to be the one being told, "I acknowledge you," my dumb ass was being acknowledged.

I once again fell into the trap of thinking I was smarter than everyone else. I had planned to volunteer enthusiastically for every activity other than the deep emotional stuff, so I would appear to be a team player without doing things I don't want to do. I had a few "safe" things to talk about to get around whatever they might attempt to drag me into. So when she asked for a reader during morning meditation, I flung my hand into the air because I fucking rock at reading. I would impress her and the group with my excellent inflection and confident voice. And I did great, like I knew I would.

I'm not even getting into the details, because I don't even know if I remember them and don't want to check, but it was something about our visions and dreams and when she asked for my personal interpretation I blah blah blah-ed about my writing "career."  

And then I don't even know what happened. I very quickly realized I was no longer in control of the situation and she was marching me right down a path I didn't even see coming. She's a licensed therapist and former social worker and sneaky, sneaky and a whole lot smarter than I am.

15 minutes of soul searching questions and answers later, I was sitting there with my chin trembling uncontrollably (fucking chin! Traitor! Why couldn't I have just cried like everyone else? I didn't want to cry, but god it sucked to have no control of my damn face in such a weird way) and reciting "The lie that I am living is that I am not enough," into the eyes of my various classmates.

Then she'd tell me that I don't sound sincere, and I appear to always come from my head instead of my heart, and ask me to say it again to someone else--and then ask these people, my new friends, who just watched my chin trembling, how sincere I sounded on a level of 1-10.

For someone who often feels insincere, self conscious, and socially vulnerable, it was a fucking nightmare.

I averaged around a 7, which was fine with me. She seemed surprised that I was okay with that, and I explained that it was only day 2 and I didn't even realize I was living a lie 30 minutes ago; that I'm here to work on connecting better with people, in part, and that I can hear myself and I know it doesn't sound sincere. I was reciting something I've just been told a moment ago and didn't generate on my own.

(Chin and lower lip still doing their own thing.)

She stared at me for a really uncomfortably long time, in a compassionate but searching way. I was a little pissed off at her. She asked if that was my lie, if that fit me. I told her it absolutely did. She asked how it felt and I told her that it sucked--that it felt right and that sucked. She acknowledged me.


Hearing other people's lies is hard. (We usually do this shit at night, which is why I was so easily tricked. She would have gotten me eventually though, and probably will again.) Seeing people feeling raw and exposed in front of a group is physically painful, in a sense. She says we need to make space in our heads so we can hold space for others and that we're going to get all of our own shit out (there's a ton of cursing that goes on, I'm right at home) but it gets really heavy and intense.

Then, stunned and quiet and glassy eyed, we were all sent straight to hot power yoga. By the time we got to meditation afterwards (savasana, which is 99% of the reason I do yoga), we were soaking wet with sweat and the air was heavy and gross with humidity. As my hands splayed out into meditation position, they accidentally brushed the soggy, slick, hot hands of the people on either side of me.

Instead of recoiling as we all normally would, one of them grabbed my hand and squeezed it quickly before releasing and I grabbed my other neighbor's hand and did the same. We lied there with the backs of our hands lightly touching for the rest of savasana. It was...nice.

Then there were hours of learning, and more yoga, and more yoga, and assisting a sweaty almost stranger, which involved massaging and pressing on their butts and whatnot, and practice teaching which is still terrifying, and then circle time again and more lies and more stories and more crying.
At 11 pm, they told us there was one more exercise and told us not to speak from that moment on. They led us to another room that was set up movie theater style with folding chairs. I was hesitant but hopeful that we would be watching a movie. NO SUCH LUCK.

Four at a time they took us to the front of the room and had us stand there shoulder-to-shoulder and look out at the group. And the group looked back at us. And we were stared at for 5 minutes. We were told to stop being afraid of other people, to embrace the discomfort, to create a connection, to be present and see for our own eyes that we were not alone and never had to be alone, to drop our masks and just be. I was fine with it, mostly because I had control of my own face.

Then she led another 4 people in front of us, and lined us up so that we were toe-to-toe and with some people depending on stature, belly to belly and we stared into each other's eyes for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES aka an eternity.

By this point, I was so mentally and physically exhausted that I could have stared into Hitler's eyes with love and softness. I would have done anything in the world to go home. Some people were chastised for giggling. Others cried. I just went ahead and looked at the person in front of me. I would match my breathing to theirs and look in their eyes (with sincerity!) and think about how they were beautiful or wise or kind and how I hoped we could go home soon and how I should have accepted that Tic Tac that was offered to me earlier.

When we were done, they asked us to maintain a "noble silence" and not speak to each other or to anyone at home until after meditation tomorrow--no Facebook, no email, no people. Again, they wanted us to stew in it.

I went home and slept better than I ever have.

The next morning, once we were allowed to talk again, all 3 of my people approached me separately to tell me that it was easy or nice or comfortable to be my partner last night and thanked me, and that made me feel good. I felt sincere. I felt like I was enough.

God, I want to barf just reading it all! Please feel free to roll your eyes, I would too. It's all so not me. How in the hell am I gazing softly into the eyes of strangers and massaging and hugging sweaty people? How did I end up off of the couch and doing yoga for 3.5 hours a day? How am I teaching a subject I don't yet know in front of a group? How the heck has this all happened?

And despite it sounding like a living hell, I don't hate it. I don't even dislike it. I don't dread the next session, I look forward to it. I already miss my people. I'll probably get together with them this weekend, voluntarily.

On the last day of the weekend, sore both emotionally and physically, we were called in front of the group and asked to give up our lies with enthusiasm and declare our new way of being. One by one, the people who had sobbed and wept and trembled before us all weekend, jumped/skipped/danced/jogged to the front of the room and shouted with confidence and a wide grin (in every single case) as we cheered for them.

The lie that I am giving up is that I am not enough, and my new way of being is of strength!

I said it with sincerity. I said it with an exclamation mark.

Now we'll see if I can do it.


JulieStyles said...

Good for you! I'm in awe of your commitment. Congrats and keep going!!!!!

Unknown said...

I LOVE THIS. I barely know how to put what this made me feel into words, but I am so proud of you. That's everything I feel rolled into one sentence. I'm so proud of you. xoxo

Liz said...

This is all so awesome and I am so proud of you. Which may sound ridiculous - afterall, I am a stranger that only knows you b/c we were on the same BabyCenter board b/c we were pregnant at the same time. But all the same, I'm proud of you. You are stepping outside of your comfort zone and that is to be commended. {hugs}

Barbara said...

Wow, it was intense just reading that. Keep up the good work, you're inspiring me to do something.

Bren said...

I am not sure I have ever commented but wow! It sounds so cathartic and scary and wonderful all at the same time. Good for you for doing this!

Unknown said...

So brave Ashley, so brave. Lots of smiling, definitely no sign of eye rolling or barfing. xo

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

What is the cost of this training? Because it sounds better than therapy. And um...I had a shitty childhood with a hot mess for a parental situation. So I've had a lot of {useless} therapy over the years. This kind of made me want to be a yoga teacher. Except minus the touching other people part. Even non sweaty that weirds me out. So like if there was "personal space" yoga I could do that.

But seriously...I am so impressed and genuinely interested as it really does sounds like the best therapy of all time.

KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

Anonymous said...

How lovely for you.

Kind Regards

Renee said...

Wow!! I'm emotionally drained just reading this. What a journey. Like KK says above, I feel like this is the best kind of therapy I've ever heard of. Makes one on one therapy with just you and a therapist seem so dry (literally) and formal and sterile. I just love this picture of the emotional and physical draining....letting it all out of the brain, body, muscles, soul. Wow.

You know, I stopped getting massages a while back because the last two times I got them, I ended up feeling very weepy, and even kinda quietly cried (with sniffle sounds) during one. I talked to the massage therapist about how it felt like the massage was releasing emotions and she was like hell yeah. Lol. Such a crazy connection between mind - body - spirit. I love how you're delving so deep into that connection. What a purge. What a cleanse. Thank you for sharing so many details -- I'm feeling acknowledged just reading your blog. ;-) Love and miss you!!

- The Renee

mom said...

this is huge!! Way to go!!

Jamie said...

These allergies all the sudden...

Unknown said...

Thank you everyone! It does mean a lot that other people are proud of me. It's hard to even share it here, it's all crazy--me and the program both.

I don't think all yoga schools are like this, by the way, I think their particular practice philosophy combined with the main teacher's social work background turned it into this. They did say if you wanted to teach yoga, there were easier ways to get certified but they only created the type of teacher they would hire. (And their teachers are awesome people which is what inspired me to do it in the first place).

PPC, the cost is $3500 (that's why I have to work it, they do have payment plans and full and partial work scholarships. I get unlimited classes too. (And yes, they are making a killing. I do the math when I'm bored and envying their luxury cars.) Remember, I also HATE touching people/especially sweaty people but compared to staring into their souls, it's a cake walk.

I also think the yoga and therapy combined is the only way it would've worked--it's perfect because by the time something gets unbearable (whether it be yoga, learning on the hard wood floor, touching others, or sharing), it's on to the next thing which makes you look forward to anything about to happen so whatever is hurting now will stop. We also get breaks in between and we all share our food and talk about what just happened (or decidedly not, if a lot of crying just happened, but we stay together).

It's also nice that to do yoga, you can really only be thinking about your body and not your bullshit--it's good to get the emotional stuff out and then be mostly stopped from being able to think about it too much.

The two teachers are both the perfect mix of stern/abrupt/no nonsense/sorta scary and kind/loving/motivating/inspiring. There is no manipulating them. Everyone does what they say, with precision and quickly. I can't see a regular therapist commanding that kind of respect.

I think everyone should do it!

And Liz, it is AMAZING you've been around for that long! Color me impressed! 08/06 was awesome(-ly evil).

Unknown said...

Another long-time lurker/reader from Babycenter, I am so impressed and pleased for you. Thanks for sharing!

asnell said...

I'm not going to lie...I rolled my eyes a few times while reading. Then I loved it and felt proud of my weird online friend that makes me feel normal. :) Go Scary Stuff!!

BTW - Target has a T-shirt that says "Keep Calm & Scary On" need that.

Furiously Curious said...

You are a total badass with a big heart. Now that you know for sure that you are enough, go ahead and write that book so we can all go buy it.

Anonymous said...

Someone must be cutting onions somewhere in my neighborhood because my eyes are suddenly all teary.

Ashley, as someone who has never met you but has creeped your blog for a few years now, I can't help but say how proud I am of you. You've come so far emotionally and as a writer. This was my favorite post of yours, ever, of all time. You're amazing and such an inspiration for all of us who also feel like we're not enough. What a relief and wonderful feeling to be able to replace that unreasonable thought with one of strength and positivity!

Thank you for all that you do. Keep up the good work, yogi bear.


Maggie said...

Wow! What an awesome, inspiring, albeit sweaty :) journey! And when you shared that you are "not enough", it really hit home. I think many of us can relate to that feeling, day in and day out. But you are doing something about it, and just maybe I can too. thanks for putting this out there and I am so excited for you and so very proud ! Namaste ;)