“I am …” How the illness came to sit on my mat.

My first class, I had no idea what yoga was.

Something like Pilates? I was sure it was what very, very flexible people do. In tights. I wasn’t flexible ( and I didn’t wear tights) – and since the birth of my two children, had not even been able to access my abdominal muscles… and that was okay, because concave was okay. Either justifiably bellyful whilst pregnant …. or concave , the ‘rib-cave’ – a remarkably safe place to live… I didn’t think there was a middle road for me. The middle road meant frightening years locked up in a house, too tormented by self hatred to see the world. The middle road meant little-death.

The children … they meant little-life. They were enough – and will always be enough – for me to assemble a surface deep self that functioned – that came out of hiding. I may have watched my relationship with their father erode and explode, and I do still struggle at motherhood. But little-life gives life, even if its a small space to start.

 …yet… the middle road was still mediocre. Grey tones. A Failed Anorexic..

But I went to a class, as  you know.

I went because … I had started university again. Third and final attempt to get through my degree without hospitalization. First attempt to study without the ‘tools’ of starvation extending my curfew to day time hours – where all the world can see. And, as much as it humors me to admit, I started out that journey of de-starv-atizing …. by joining the gym. Skirting peoples eyes and, well, thinking maybe I could look like a dancer if I did this ‘yoga’. Maybe I’ll find a fast track to suction up the waste-line and people will start adverting their gaze from me again. Maybe I’ll re-anorexia-tize, and then university wont matter so much.

But …. yoga happened instead.

Ask anyone who has an eating disorder and they will tell you what sitting with your body feels like. There is simply nothing NOTHING worse. And now … to sit here and often hear the voice in my head “Pause. Soften. Feel your body” as a relief? if there are miracles possible in this world – that’s one of them. Lets not pretend that the anorexia voice has vanished into space – its all still there. Today as i sat down to my laptop I spent 3 minutes checking my thighs as they weighed down on the seat. I deliberately tightened my stomach. I scrupulously scanned my setting for the ‘thinner-than-mes’ (an increasingly common breed of person I am working on making peace with) – You could well be a ‘thinner-than-me’ – but fear not, I promise to respect your mind, even if i feel uncomfortable standing next to your body and being a ‘bigger-than-her’ . 2 years ago I would have cried after you walked away. Because the voice told me that I was no longer okay. That the ‘bigger-than-her’ breed was one of deformity and I had better stay the fuck out of society or else find a collarbone-shaving-cure, stat.

But …. yoga happened instead.

Pause. Soften. Feel your body – I’ve been so fortunate on my journey through yoga. I found people – all these bright shiny souls whose feeling-tones matched their colorful eyes – who took my hand and walked beside me as i discovered the light within myself. The people who taught me asana, the minds who spoke words of impermanence and peace …. the hearts who reflected my own – who in their opening broke open my chest; Moved my shoulder-blades down my back – helped me stumble across this safe, warm, quiet place within my self where i was no one. I was someone. And I was new. Now. To the next. This moment. To the next. I was new and I could heal. I was new and I could feel.

If I hadn’t found yoga … well, there is no if I hadn’t found yoga, because i have. I’m grateful for my daily practice. I am grateful for my teachers – the ones I know intimately, and the one’s I may have only met once – I am grateful for all the brilliant minds out there who offer guidance through their words as we partake on a yogic path … I love the people i walk past on the street and sit next to in class … and I am grateful for myself. I am learning to trust myself, the more that I see less self. The simple thought that i am not one thing, but many, is liberating. I don’t have to be my past, or my future. I don’t have to be my hopes. I don’t have to be my failures. My dreams can be just dreams and my pains …just pain.

I can just be my present – and taken moment by moment – it is possible to work with ease. I hope to one day take the urgency out of my life-experience – I’ll keep the fear, it can serve me well; I’ll keep the sadness, it can release the fear; I’ll keep the pain, it reminds me to make peace with feeling sad. But I don’t want to live in hurry. Happiness, freedom, release is not ‘over there’ – there is no race through life to reach wholeness, there is no timeline to be stuck on …. there is nothing more than now. And the moment i look over my shoulder and reach for the past …. the moment I reach forward and attempt to caress the future … I am robbing myself of the life I have waited for so fucking long to start living. No. I won’t do it anymore. I want to slow down. Pause. Soften. Feel my body. Love. Love. Love.

If someone asked me “how did you recover from anorexia?” I would tell them that I have not recovered. In fact … I would tell them that i don’t want ‘recovery’. I have just …. continued. I have stabilized the parts in me that move too much, in order to bring softness to the stuck side, like finding integrity in eka pada rajakapotasana. I am all the voices. I let them in. I don’t run, but I don’t hide either. I am not an ‘anorexic’ NOBODY is ‘an anorexic’ – just as I am not a ‘yogini’ or a ‘mum’ or a ‘student’. I’m all of that and everything else too. I don’t starve anymore, because I let the lines move. The definitions are hazy and the stencils have all gone broke.

it’s not “I am …..”. its “I AM”.

and yes …. I wear tights.

for yoag post

for the two who are my whole

 

Oh, how we danced today

with lose limbs and crazy squeals

(you called them dragon roars; I felt the fire)

 

We laughed today

You told me to stand still

And I tickled you until you dissolved on me. With me. I wish you could come back within me.

 

We climbed today!

You flew down that slide like you had wings

It felt like the first time I had let you two free, and you still came back to me.

 

I held you today.

we were warm and true and full of light

We danced and we laughed and we flew and we loved.

 

It was just us three.

Like it may always be.

And we loved and we loved and we loved and we loved.

Sian Alexia

blog photo

I’m a Person, Not a Concept

Today I am this. Yesterday I was that. Tomorrow … I’ll be something else.

Ahhh .. it’s a crazy-beautiful relief to drop the need for an identity. At first it went against everything I’d ever striven for – wasn’t that life? Finding WHO you are? Knowing yourself and grounding yourself in that knowledge? I remember university campaigns with these big posters yelling ‘who will YOU be?’ like freaking Uncle Sam. I think they even used that image. No wonder we’re all so damn afraid.

 

I’ve recently found that all of those convictions of ‘self’ that I held were only bringing suffering to my life. For how many days have I spent trying to latch myself onto a definition, then continuing forward by limiting myself to its confines? Far, far too many.

That kind of thought takes from you what you need in the moment, and constantly brings you up against the most devastating of conclusions …. What if I’m not enough? If I can’t win the scholarship, if I lose my identity as ‘the English major’ then … nothing. If that’s all I’ve defined myself to be, one simple failure shatters my glass walls I’d forgotten how to live without. Even if I said was to pin my identity on motherhood, what happens when the kids leave home and there’s all this space you cannot fill? What happens when you’re so tired you’re dropping dishes and growling and your heart screams ‘GIVE ME A BREAK!’ ? I’ll tell you what happens – you fall apart. Because for so long you had told yourself that a good mother does this and this and this …. And if you don’t keep doing it, you’re not worthy of that title. You have lost yourself.

 

But you know what? I encourage anyone out there to lose themselves. Strip it off. Be fluid. Be who it is that serves you best, then observe as the needs change and you shift the boundaries. We are not one thing. Yoga is gradually teaching me (gradually being the operative word here) that opening to the world means feeling the fear and letting yourself undress before all expectations – embrace vulnerability and embrace not knowing. The most ludicrous thing is the expectation I see so often in the world that we not only need to know who we are right now, but we also need to know who we are planning to be in the future. So we are ‘expected’ to lock down, not only all of our precious, present moments to a boxed up form of self, but also lock down our future potential to some lofty idea of ‘should be’. That’s plain criminal. One should never feel the need to rob from themselves the beauty of not knowing. The potential lightness and magic of change. The liberating gift of a blank canvas.

 

I recently had a conversation with someone dear to me about spending time alone. If I look at my life, most of which has been spent inside these little ‘definition boxes’ I’ve just condemned, at surface glance I’ve hardly spent any time on my own. I went from daughter, to teen-lover, to one-nighters, to ten years of commitment and two children … to my current relationship. All without substantial pauses. But I knew there was something missing from that picture the first time I thought about it, and now I know what it is.

I’ve been alone.

I made myself alone – because all of those identity’s I exhausted my body and soul creating, all those confines I gave myself …. One day they began to crumble. And it was like a small death. I died on some level – so harsh and deep were the convictions I would not be worth life without the titles. I stayed in a relationship without love because it allowed me to keep some semblance of surface deep images, keep them floating past the eyes of others, and in turn keep them away. I stayed in a place I felt so small, so alone and so torn apart, because I had HAD to hide. There was no coming back from the loss. I had to just get through the days, willing myself enough courage to escape. That courage never came, and god, I’m thankful for that now.

I’ve been alone.

I stood alone with myself and held my first born. I loved him and I loved how much his father loved him. But I stood alone. I had shredding, persisting guilt like a knife to my throat some days ‘you don’t love him enough.’ – it was an awful, powerful, depressing voice that robbed me of many days I could have spent with joy. I didn’t know how to enter the motherhood tank, I swam instead on the outer edges, too afraid I’d drown in there.

I’ve been alone.

One day I had enough. I knew – somewhere deep and inaccessible; hidden behind layers of overgrowth – that I was done with being something. I wanted to be free. I wanted to feel passion and love like a child – I wanted to run and crave and I wanted to love and I wanted to be present with my children, so they could find freedom too.

I’ve been alone, and this point in my life is about connection. More than that … I’ve found that one can move out of the small apartment with many locked doors, to an open plan life – full of integration, but with enough space to move, feel, think and grow. Love lives there.

I thank yoga for giving me expression. I thank my family and dear friends for allowing me to change without judgement. I thank the universe for showing me that I am not a thing or a state of mind or a job or a feeling. I’m none of that and all of that and will be something else.

Today I am this. Yesterday I was that. Tomorrow … I don’t know what I’ll be. Maybe I’ll be sad and crave a definition. Maybe I’ll find joy and open my arms above my head. Maybe I’ll be something in between. But I’ll be. I’ll be here. And that is always, always, always Enough.

 

I’m a person, Not a Concept. (Lo Fang)

Sian Alexia ( or something like that)

When Gentle and Open don’t Work.

open

 

Finding a way to be open in this world is a brave and beautiful thing. I’ve always had an open heart – even if at times a closed body or mind – my heart has always extended beyond my own borders and settled in places that need love or give my heart strength. I love knowledge, ideas and emotions. The good and the bad – it all feels Real. Some of it’s nourishing; some of it painful. But the openness has been a saving grace … without it I may not have found the fertile grounds from which to reseed … to revive and keep beating.

To be open is to be vulnerable … but aren’t we all? With an open heart I can see my vulnerability and respect it. I am made of flesh and bone. I can break and I can grow. I’m human, and in my humanity I need to be …. Gentle.

Finding a way to be gentle with myself – that wasn’t so easy to nurture. My whole life I had been told – like many of us who survive – “You’re so strong” “You can beat this” “Be brave” “Don’t give in” … and I was. I built extra layers around myself. A mask of indifference. An accent of the robust. A casual smile on the surface. How to divert the eyes from the triggers.. then meet their gaze, the green turned to grey. To say out loud, with feeling, “Yes. I am okay. Yes. I am much better, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you …”

But gradually I learnt (am still learning) that being strong was no longer what I needed. What I needed was to NOT be okay. To let the trauma in. To sit with the fear  and the loneliness; the anger and the shame. I had to cry. I had to hurt people.  Let my voice shake. And sometimes I had to stop answering the calls and the queries, and listen to myself. I have to be gentle. The steel I placed in my bones is too heavy to bare for life. So slowly, little shaving by shaving, I’m finding a way to go back to The girl, Without. Most days I forget this … but some days I remember. Those days of remembrance are nourishing – by letting myself be in pieces, I can love those misshapen and ill formed edges. From easing off the tension …. I found space. And in that space luxurious joy and delight. Real Love.

I  can reveal to myself the beauty that lies in being through …. being.

 

But … I suggest that sometimes, open and gentle don’t work.

They seem, and often feel, a match made for Life. Open hearts and gentle approach can be like massaging the world with luminous fingertips. Sharing warm embrace with all we love. Lately, though, I’ve found gentle isn’t always enough. There is a need for depth. ….gentle touch needs to be rough…and some days open hearts need a gate in front of them. When one opens without a strong resolve? The result can be exhausting and cold. The result can be standing naked in front of love and not having the strength to embrace it, nor the will to step back.

Open hearts often need a strong hand nearby, to protect ourselves from the harm that comes with the good. For not all we open to will serve us. Gentle stride and touch is so necessary … but is it too weak to push back the fear and lead us to the road where we find release? Don’t we all need a closed door to retreat behind when the rain comes?

Maybe there is “too open” or maybe there is ” too gentle” ….but today, I feel that there are just times – few and far between-  when Gentle and Open Don’t Work.

 

Sian Alexia.