(Written November 14, 2018)
The point of practice, the essence, is the heart. (Love. Acceptance. Compassion). If we only create flexibility in the body then we have missed the point entirely (Richard Freeman, 2008)
“I am traveling to open my heart,” I told her.
Five weeks ago I left on this journey. Not so much a journey to see historical ruins, or drink the best caffès and wine, or visit museums, but a journey back home to myself. This journey will continue for another five to six weeks. Nearly everyday feels like the start. Nearly everyday has a revelation, some painful while most fill me with joy and gratitude.
You may be asking why does one need to leave their home, their routine of life, to find “home?” I have asked myself this same question several times while on this trip. As I sit with other families, barely able to communicate with a shared verbal language, and engage in their daily life routines there is a moment of ironic laughter: “Silly American girl, paying money to go and be with another family in order to find connection, to find simplicity, to find peace, to feel ‘at home.’ All the way out here, away from the comforts which give her those very qualities.” I laugh, I question my decision to go for so long (mostly in the moments of frustration or loneliness that come when trying to navigate a land I am unfamiliar with – “easy and efficient” train systems are not so easy and efficient when you don’t understand the language or have a working knowledge of the geography), and then I smile. I smile because yes, sometimes we need to step far outside of what makes us comfortable in order to explore what is working and what is keeping the wheel of *samskara turning.
Many that know me would be quick to say my heart is always open; I have no issues diving into something passionately and quickly, in fact it is what I do often. But, in my *svadhyaya, I have come to notice that while on the surface I am open and willing, deep down rooted in both my nervous system and subconscious there is apart of me that is closed. A part of me that is filled with fear, doubt, and mistrust. Being on your own in a foreign land will bring you up close and personal with these truths, and this journey of mine is helping me to unlearn the conditioning of my past.
I have learned not to trust, to always be waiting for something to go wrong; for someone to hurt me. But it is not just others that I don’t trust. I have learned not to trust myself. I listen to others, I don’t tune-in to my intuition, I live “on guard,” my nervous system (and heart) in a constant state of fight or flight. I had really begun to feel this deeply inside of myself. I was running out of my fire, my light, my passion. I was depleted. Always moving fast: practicing, working, thinking, pushing myself to become…what? The more I pushed and worked, keeping myself in a constant state of busy, the farther away from myself I was moving. Because when I stopped moving I had to feel. I had to look at the ways in which I was hurting myself. I had to accept responsibility for my thought patterns and reactions (conscious and subconscious) and understand that all of my suffering was self-induced. I was not a victim of others doing me wrong. I was a victim of my own mind; my ego and my attachments.
In yoga we attribute suffering to raga (attachment) and dvesa (aversion), and an inability to let go. This has to do with fear. Fear of feeling. Feeling alone, lost, unloved, and unworthy. Clinging/attaching to what feels good and pushing away/averting what feels bad. Oddly enough, sometimes what our nervous system and brain think feels “good” is actually the pain and the suffering. If we have experienced deep hurt or loss, it is a protective response to stay in such mental states as to safe guard against being hurt again. If we stay in a place of being on guard; always looking for proof of wrong-doing (which is a very painful state to live in); then we can not get hurt or lose again. When we do this we experience life from afar. I had become so attached to “my” pain story that I was disconnected inside; I did not know how to let myself experience love, joy, and ease in life. My travels have given me the opportunity to slow down. To see the ways I protect and hide myself. To come out from under my crab shell and swim in the depths of this beautiful, wondrous, painful and joyful life. In my writings to come I will share with you pieces of my journey. The inner and outer. The beautiful places I have walked upon, the nature that has filled me up, the people I have met who opened my heart, and the connection I have found within myself. And yes, there will also be accounts of delicious caffès, wine, and amazing architecture and histories of the lands that I have visited, because after all, that too is a part of the journey (allowing yourself to enjoy).
With much love and gratitude,
*samskara: habitual patterns of thinking and behaving; mental and emotional grooves; pscyhological imprints.
*svadhyaya: Self-study; reflection. The fourth of the Niyamas, which are the second limb of yoga.