Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Big Cheese

What a weekend. Ready for more cheesy goodness? I think the brainwashing is working.

As of Friday night, it wasn't, though. I came home late and typed out a draft to you all that said, "I no longer trust 'the process'!" but didn't post it because I was too tired to elaborate and too beaten down to be sure you would care. I disagreed with almost everything that day and was only able to calm down enough to go to sleep by reminding myself that they couldn't make me do anything, and that I could continue being the old me if I wanted to. And I wanted to.

We've moved on to discussing our relations with the outside world and resolving conflicts and having important conversations. I was interpreting the lesson as having to let jerks be jerks to you over and over again, and that they were asking us to apologize to the jerks for being jerks to us. I wasn't having it. No way was I having it. I told them that I didn't agree with it and wouldn't do it. I told them I thought it was rather insincere, a dumb idea, and a great way to get hurt over and over again and that I wouldn't. I decided I wasn't doing the therapy crap anymore and that I would do my yoga and my teaching and blahblahblah through the rest of it because the feel good bullshit was ridiculous and unnecessary.

We've also moved on to practice teaching in small groups, without the benefit of an outline or a script, just winging it with the sequence all of the time, sometimes under bootcamp-like conditions with noise and chaos because they're trying to make us "unmessable". We all hate it.

They make us do weird shit, like lay our heads on each other's stomachs while we read or lie in a circle head to head (like a flower! they say) and hold hands or, even worse, open our legs wide and hold legs. NO, I AM NOT KIDDING AT ALL, PEOPLE. There is no hesitation in any of this either, we are so tired that if told to put our head on someone's stomach, we scoot to whoever is closest and do so without any panic or upset. At this point we "assist" in poses, which often involves cradling the sweaty body of our partner tightly against our own. My hands are in everybody's hip creases which is not a place my hands want to be. As a treat, at the end of hours of sweaty practice, we were taught to give our partners a full body massage and received one in return. Including the glutes. The glutes is your butt, people. It was fine. I was too tired to care and I really wanted a massage, too.

I smell like other people's sweat by the end, and we all shower in a hose we have tied to a tree. It is often the highlight of our day, after a 95 degree, 90 minute practice, to stand on the hot asphalt and wait for the cold water to come from the hose, sharing soap and splashing and standing there together in the spray until we shiver. Despite everyone's former resistance to touching one another, on the breaks everyone lies around the courtyard braiding hair and giving back and neck massages.

Friends of mine outside of the group have likened it to a sweaty sex cult, and I don't disagree except there's no sex or attraction.

We did more conflict crap that night and I blahblahblahed in my head the whole time and felt triumphant that I was right and was still going to be me and they couldn't make me do anything outside of that room. I was fine. They continued to try to convince us that it wasn't about being right, it was about letting it go and moving forward and that one way or another, whether we could see it or not, we were jerks too. We said whatever they wanted to hear so that we could go home.

We were not jerks. They were wrong.

During morning meditation our teacher said (prepare your eyes for rolling, I totally get that this does not have the emotional impact if you weren't there), "You are all lovable. I know this for a fact because I love you. I love each and every one of you," and without any accompanying emotions that I felt rising up, I realized I had tears trying to sneak out from beneath my closed eyes.

Then it was off to 90 minutes of hot power yoga and I didn't have time to try to analyze why that got me so much. It was a crowded class (they throw us in with regular students once a day) and it was stifling in the room. I was so sore. I was shaking and light headed and thought I might throw up because someone smelled terrible. We're supposed to set an intention for life and practice at the beginning of class and mine is always strength. As I lay curled in a ball on my mat trying to breathe, I did not feel strong. I considered my conflicts and the fact that I refused to resolve them; that was not strong. They cracked the back door for some air at that point, and I used my foot to push it open more every time the teachers turned their backs. I realized that I am kind of a jerk, too, sometimes. I breathed. A friend asked if I needed Pedialyte from the staff fridge and when I insisted that I didn't, he said that I needed to get back up then. I got back on my mat. I did the rest of the class the best I could.

She played "Let it Be" for savasana and I found myself quietly crying again.

By lunch the early adopters and overachievers were having their difficult conversations with people in their lives and were feeling pleased with themselves. As a group we congratulated them heartily and listened eagerly to the results but privately a few of us agreed it was best to let sleeping dogs lie and to just move forward by acting like everything was okay. I knew I was wrong as I was saying it but it felt right.

By the time we got back in for anatomy class, I was radiating wrongness. I knew I was wrong. I knew I was sad. I knew I was missing out. I now dreaded the conversation AND the call about the conversation.The teacher asked a few times if I was listening, so I made a point to look in her direction and nod while she talked about bones and muscles. I was not listening. I eventually crept out of the room, grabbed my phone, and snuck across the parking lot barefoot, hoping no one saw me through the windows.

I made my call. I was awkward in my approach. I cried. I followed the script for the first few minutes. Despite all of that, it went great and cleared up some personal conflict.

I floated back into class, feeling lighter than I have for years despite the conflict not lasting that long. I glowed through mumbo jumbo about lactic acid. I felt strong. I again felt like I can do things that scare me. It felt good to not have to be right. We went from anatomy to circle time without a break and they asked again who had already had their conversations. I flung my hand in the air and the teacher's eyes stopped when they reached me.

"Ashley? Now you're saying you had your conversation? How have you had your conversation, when you've been here?" she looked exasperated. "People--"

"I snuck out during anatomy."

Both teachers looked at me, the therapist with delight, the anatomy buff with maybe a flicker of irritation but also interest.

I apologized for doing it that way. I told them that I knew I wouldn't do it if I waited, but knew I truly wanted and needed to do it. I told them that I had an epiphany that I fear awkwardness so much that I create it. I told them that I thought they were full of crap all weekend and how I could only sleep at night by assuring myself that I didn't have to listen to them. They laughed and assured me that they were full of crap a lot of the time, and that I didn't have to listen to them, that this was for me and not them. I thanked them with sincerity for putting this particular crap on the table, and I thanked a classmate who had quietly encouraged me, and I thanked everyone who had their conversations before me.

Don't worry. The worst of the ooey-gooeyness is about to end.

Once our weekend was over, we all loitered in the parking lot. We have to take turns cleaning the studio and everybody stayed to help. The first weekend we all rushed back to our families, the second weekend we were all hesitant to part. By 8am the next morning, everyone was on the group texting app missing everyone else. Everyone, even the most resistant, had their difficult conversations, it was like a domino-effect, and even if the talk didn't go well, the group lavished that person with compliments and understanding and sincere declarations of what they love about them.

 After being forced on each other for 3 solid days, I think it's funny that we all talk through text all day long--I'm talking 60 messages a day. We make plans to practice teach, to go to class, to go to lunch, to go to Miami, to go out on a boat, to go to a concert, to go to each other's houses all as a pack. We celebrate any success and rally around any concern.

When anyone mentions that at the end of our next weekend, we'll be more than halfway through, the fact is met with a kind of quiet uncertainty instead of the wild celebration it inspired in us after the first weekend.

We like each other. We like this crazy shit. We like to touch and be touched and we like to love and be loved. It's like we are the only ones who understand how weird we all are and the thought of not having the group is hard to think about.

All that being said, I'm still a jerk. I'm not ready to resolve all of my conflicts and there are some people that I really don't feel very interested in having back in my life, but I'm open to the idea that maybe one day I'll be more open to additional resolution. (My teacher the therapist might sigh in a defeated way to hear this, but I think baby steps are still big for me. I don't think people go from kind of being a jerk to not being a jerk at all within one weekend.)

Sorry if I made you dry heave with any of this. I understand. It makes me roll my eyes too, and I'm the one who likes it.

I can't believe I like it.


Unknown said...

Wow. I am so insanely proud of you. This is all so inspiring. It's so incredible to see you grow through all of this and how far you're coming. And I agree, baby steps are even HUGE for us sometimes. So so encouraged by you and all of this. Keep it up, lovely!!!

Lisa said...

Wow! What a soul-changing, life-altering experience. After just two weekends! Just think of the higher plane you'll be on when this is all done. Seriously...I'm a little envious! It's so easy to just sail on down the river of denial and pretend that things are all okay, or that it's OKAY that they're not okay...but secretly knowing it's NOT okay that it's not okay! But not knowing how to even begin the change that needs to happen...so ya just keep on sailing...

How do you think this will change the dynamic of your immediate family? Such a fundamental change in your whole self has got to have an effect on your daily life, right? Good for you, and I mean that sincerely!

Cindy * GoodHaus Design said...

Ashley, this stressed me out on your behalf. I'm glad this is ending up being such an amazing experience for you! It reminds me of how Christians are taught to forgive... in part because of how it sets the forgiver free. That is difficult stuff, man. xo

Unknown said...

Good question on how it will affect my immediate family, I wonder that too. Sometimes it's scary to think that I will go through all of these changes but the people around me will not, you know? I think that's why the group is so intense right now because it's the only way to keep that feel good feeling going since we get it.

I will definitely be better for it, I'm already less afraid of people because I realize that everyone in the group has fears and conflicts and anxiety. It's very telling to realize how clearly some people's life lies are lies and makes it easier to think mine is too. And there's something freeing about realizing everyone is scared and uncomfortable and that some are just better at hiding it.

There's a family at the studio whose two young adult kids went through the program and now the mom is there and the dad will do it next. I think that's incredible, and I envy that these young people will go out into the world having experienced this.

Furiously Curious said...

Please excuse me, I don't know how I missed this, but who are you guys calling for the difficult conversation? Is it someone you already know? I don't mean to be dense but I am dying to know how that works. And, I am proud of you.

Unknown said...

We have to call people we have conflict or unresolved issues with or who we want to acknowledge. People seem to have plenty of people to call, unfortunately (lol).

Cholly said...

I have wanted to try yoga but I don't sweat due to cancer treatments. I joined the spa membership at the yoga studio. They said that the yoga rooms are at least 85 degrees. Any thoughts for me?

Unknown said...

Cholly, I'd speak to someone at the studio because they would know better. We only heat rooms for power vinyasa which is a fast flow yoga and I sweat until I'm soaked. Hatha is a much slower flow, where we do a series of poses that will work up to perfect one specific pose. Slow Flow Restorative is what I truly enjoy because it's like spa yoga--deep poses, supported by props, a good teacher will give you a little back rub or love and meditation time is great. If I were you, I'd try to find maybe a therapeutic or gentle class to begin but I'm not sure about heated rooms for you and definitely no power vinyasa. You need something gentle and slow to start with. I feel like power vinyasa is more of a body/fitness yoga and slow flow or hatha is more calming (to me).

Cosmos said...

Wow! This is life changing for you. Thank you for sharing, I enjoy the posts.

Unknown said...

Ashley, it's Claire again, your equally awkward, slightly stalkerish person-follower-virtual one sided-friend.

Can I say how unbelievably proud I am of you? I have been reading your posts since Little Kid was about 2 and noticed how many similarities there were between him and my son and also noticed how similar we are in terms of social awkwardness and the feeling of being so "outside" in the world.

I had a similar revolution in my own life last February when I decided to revisit my own love of softball and join a co-ed team where I knew no one and it was literally the most terrifying experience of my life. It became such a liberating experience to let go of some of the anxiety and just do and just go.

I hope you can continue on this amazing journey. I have to say that when I changed myself and the way I dealt with the world around me, it took some time for my family to adjust to the "new me" but they all caught on eventually. I hope it is the same way with you.

Good luck!
P.S. I just joined your "follower" after following you for 5 years...yeah...I know...

Unknown said...

Beautiful Ashley! xo

Maggie said...

Wow. making me think about my much needed conversations and maybe, just maybe, I am a little bit closer. Thank you. It keeps me up at night and things like this make me see that the good sleep will come with the conversation. *sigh* hoping it is soon......