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

the magic word for peace

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…

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I, the Comfort Addict

Yesterday I signed up for my first 10 day Vipassana retreat in November. There is a wait-list for women’s spaces, but I do see this as a commitment to attending one – if not in November, then at the next opportune moment. The ‘code of conduct’ as such for the retreat is a lot stricter than the 5 day retreat I did last year at the Red Hat Temple – there are many things that I am going to struggle with. The most scary – no smoking or yoga for 10 days …

As I was filling out the form to sign up, I must have paused with my finger hovering over the ‘x’ button a dozen times. If I’m going to commit myself to 10 days straight meditation, I at least need yoga to help ease things through! And no smoking – how can I concentrate on the task if all I can think about is nicotine withdrawals. No way! And no writing? … okay, now this is just getting ridiculous. I am better off cultivating a stronger home practice at home, where I can be comfortable and supported by the familiar tropes of my life.

Ah. right there. I didn’t press the ‘x’ button, because in explaining to myself why I shouldn’t go, I revealed why I need to go.

I am a comfort addict.

I hide from my anxiety by holding fast to the familiar things that give me safety … escape from fear. Smoking for me is far more than just a habit – if it were, I would have quit long before I was paying $50 for 30g of tobacco! It is a functioning part of my complex system of anxiety management – I visualise it like someone hooked up to an ECG machine (I remember those things well) – each little wire tapping into a part of me that needs to be recorded and measured. In order to manage my anxiety – I got so damn good at locating the fear and strapping it down – one part got nicotine; another, starvation. The part that comes and goes got periodic wine-submersion. And the parts that were a little more fluid were treatable with yoga. I got so good at it – I am so good at it – that it took me most of my teenage and adult life thus far to figure out that I had anxiety at all. I had micro-managed it to the point of dissolution – but there was a cost. One I am still paying daily.

Such a complex system is destined to glitch. All these different wirings are set at precarious angles, ready to spasm if the environment changes. They thrive in homeostasis … it feels like ECT if I try and rewire the system. I pull back. I can’t bare the fear.

I am now at the point where I want some of that space and energy back. I am resisting the wiring and seeing how exhausting it all is. I want to let go … and I cannot move whilst pinned down by so many nails. I have to pick away at them one by one, and face the spasms of fear, rage and pain that come as a result. Some days it’s too hard – thus i cannot speak of this process in the past-tense. Yet.

I read an article that a friend shared yesterday about the life of Shinzen Young, titled “A Small Price to Pay for a Different Kind of Life”*, which talks about his journey to a monastic life. Something moved in me as I read it. Instead of torturing myself with the usual What are you so afraid of Sian?, I started to ask, What price can you put on your own freedom?

and , like is expressed in Shinzen Young’s piece, the choice became obvious. I will give all of it – I will pay the highest price for a Different Kind of Life. Perhaps not “One hundred days subtracted from my life” just yet … but 10 days? 10 days to try and break free from the hooks, and the wires and the damned strong convictions that keep me so stuck? A very, very small price to pay.

To be continued – the thoughts are still fresh and the path not walked on yet.

*(http://www.lionsroar.com/a-different-kind-of-life/)

Rumi

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

doesn’t make any sense.” — Rumi.

 

This is potent, to me. I drink up the words – they speak to the part of me that so desires stillness, and love. And clarity.

 

… “even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense” … it sounds like the end – the end of suffering. Of wanting. Of painful desires and pleasurable ones too.

I want to feel that.

I … I …I  …. See, I am so far away. I am still waiting for the word that follows “I am …” I cannot yet leave it as I Am.

 

Where to from here?