Signs and symptoms of shock vary…yoga offers a path of recovery

american flag

I thought these lists of symptoms might be helpful as you try and make sense of what you’ve been going through.

Signs and symptoms of shock vary depending on circumstances and may include:

  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Pale or ashen skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation

http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-shock/basics/art-20056620

Emotional Symptoms of Grieving

A person who is dealing with grief will most likely display some of the emotional symptoms associated with grieving. The Mayo Clinic lists the emotional symptoms found with prolonged, or complicated, grief. These can include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • Bitterness
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss
  • Inability to show or experience joy

While these emotional symptoms are normal in the days and weeks after a traumatic event, they can be indicators of a more serious disorder if they do not fade over time.

Physical Symptoms of Grieving

It may come as a surprise that grief is not entirely emotional. There are very real effects that grief can have on the body. Some of the physical symptoms of grieving, according to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, are:

  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Sore muscles

Though these symptoms are normal during the grieving process, you should remember to contact your doctor if you experience any severe physical symptoms.

http://www.psychguides.com/guides/grief-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

I’ve felt a lot of the above symptoms in the last 24-hours. In addition, I only want to eat toast. I’ve had moments when I believed my legs were going to buckle out from under me. I’ve felt myself dissociate—floating out of my body while I fixed my gaze on this tiny red decoration in my kitchen. And I’ve had eight to twelve seriously messy cries.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also felt something else: A need to take care of myself.

You know those people who have a fine-tuned moral compass? The ones who can identify and support the things that align with their values and call out the things that are not? The ones who have a clear sense of right and wrong and are able to move and act on that inner guidance with clarity and courage? The people who stand up for others and for themselves and don’t miss a beat? The ones who can lead? The ones who can follow a great leader? The ones who dedicate themselves to a cause worth fighting for? I want to be well resourced so I can be one of those people. I want that for you, too.

To do any of this, we have to prepare. It occurs to me that maybe the last eighteen years of yoga practice have been preparing me. Maybe you’ve been preparing, too. We aren’t done. We need to care for ourselves and continue to practice. With this, our ability to pay attention and stay focused will improve. Dhāraṇā —dhyāna — samādhi[1] describe the progression of deepening focus.

Attention is important for several reasons. One good reason? It comes with a side of praśānta[2]peace. Yoga describes peace as a symptom of attention. Peace doesn’t mean that everything around us is perfect. It’s a feeling that we can have on the inside even when the outside looks bleak or threatening. Nirodha — a deep state of attention and the flowing peace that comes with it are felt everywhere in us –in our body, breath, mind, and emotions. This is important because attention with peace can give us equanimity. When we can hold the binoculars steady and bring the little bird in the nearby tree into focus, we have a chance at seeing it clearly.  Attention, like binoculars, is a tool that can help us to see something we couldn’t see without.

Patanjali defines three aspects of a yogic path: tapas – effort, svādhyāya- self-reflection, and Īśvara-pranidhana –acceptance[3]. Do some work. Think about what motivates your actions. Know that you won’t always get everything right, and that’s okay. This is ongoing, moment-by-moment kind of practice. It involves Abhyasa and vairagyam[4]making efforts and relinquishing what gets in the way of those efforts. And you know what helps a lot with this? Śraddhā – a conviction, abiding faith, or something you can believe in. Patañjali says when we know and can feel this deep faith, it is a sign that we are very near our goal.[5]

Acceptance doesn’t mean going along with everything is happening. It does mean that we allow ourselves to see our current situation clearly and accurately. Prāmaṇa[6] is clear and accurate understanding. If we can see and understand a situation, then we can address what’s actually going on. If it’s not a good situation, we can go inside ourselves and listen for the guidance that helps us to know what we can do about it. We need viveka – discernment, to do this work and to make sense of the many things that go on in our inner world and the world around us. There’s a lot going on all of the time and viveka is helpful when we need to discern between the stuff we should witness compassionately or even dispassionately and the call to stand up and act.

Let us really take care of ourselves during these next 4 years and beyond so that we are nourished, resourced, clear, perceptive, and strong. May our efforts and practice continue, re-invigorated by our circumstances. Yoga, or whatever practice you cultivate, is going to be as important as ever in helping us all to be the kind of humans and the nation that we want to be.

[1] YS III.1-3

[2] YS III.9

[3] YS II.1 – kriya yoga

[4] YS I.12

[5] YS I.20

[6] YS I.7

Cosplay as meditation

img_8877

Halloween is a favorite holiday for our clan. The girls love face paint, costumes, and walking the streets of the neighborhood after dark. It’s also the only time of year our house has gobs and gobs of candy stashed in the cabinets. This year, we had double the excitement because on the Saturday before Halloween, the girls dressed up as characters from the British television show, Doctor Who, and Dave took them to a Comicon convention where they could mingle with other science-fiction and super-hero fans. He even dropped some cash for a photo op with the Dr. Who celebrity, David Tennant and Billie Piper.

In preparation for comicon, Dave and I did some internet research. We found that there are a whole bunch of us who spend a few hours and way too much money to put together a cute or even clever costume. But there are also people who have taken this to a whole other dimension. There are a number of professional convention-goers and cosplayers who construct amazingly accurate character costumes. There’s a performance art and role play feel to what they do. They might be hired to make an appearance at the various conventions or to pose for fan photos. Some particularly skilled costume makers construct complicated components for other people’s costumes and make money doing it. We watched a video about a couple that met through their cosplay endeavors and have since married. The young woman talked about why she loves this so much. She spends hours collecting and assembling the different elements of a costume she’s making and she likes thinking about the armor, the weapons and even the personality of person she’ll get to be. She says that when she’s dressed up as powerful, super-hero women, she feels more powerful. People look at her differently. It sounds like some of those super-hero qualities rub off on her.

There are meditation practices that employ religious iconography as the object of focus. If an aspirant spends time, again and again, reflecting on the image, the tools, and the qualities of a figure, then the special figure or diety can have a very powerful influence in a person’s life. Repeatedly thinking about Durga’s lion might inspire courage. Time spent reflecting on Saint Francis holding a small animal or the mudras or hand gestures of the Buddha would offer a different experience. The feelings evoked in this kind of reflection or meditation stay with a person.

Meditation isn’t about “having no thoughts.” A meditative state can come as a result of our efforts to keep the mind directed and engaged with an chosen object of focus. It’s a link, as Chase Bossart says. The stories, images, special gifts, and symbols that go along with the icons can serve as anchors to help us stay connected and engaged and can support the meditative experience. That might be done in contemplation with the eyes closed while sitting on a cushion or in prayer. Or maybe it comes from joyfully recreating every detail of a cosplay costume, thinking about a character’s origin story and adventures, and then spending time embodying the power and the qualities of that character.

St. Francis, Aidan Hart Iconography

St. Francis, Aidan Hart Iconography

Durga and her lion

Durga and her lion

Buddha

Buddha

wonder woman cosplay

wonder woman cosplay

The rewards of yoga practice (It’s not what you think)

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-8-49-00-am

When asked to chose her fav’ Austin destinations, this burger joint was at the top of her list. Extra pickles, two ketchups, please.

My husband makes me laugh harder and certainly more often than anyone else I know. He’s clever and light hearted. He can improvise a catchy song at the drop of a hat and has a knack for an Australian accent. He’s good for a deep belly laugh, but he’ll go for a chuckle, too. He’s good for some word play. Puns make our 12-year-old roll her eyes which makes the whole thing even funnier. This special kind of wit isn’t it’s reserved for the girls. When I come into the room after 20 minutes of Vedic chant practice, Dave finds a way to slip in how en-chanting he finds me. And after my yoga practice, he’s fond of asking, Did you get it right this time? I always smile but that one makes me think…

Why do we practice yoga? Are we doing yoga to get it right or to achieve some level of mastery? Are we going through the steps and ‘climbing the ladder’ because we believe there’s a reward wating for us at the top? Will yoga make us more deserving or more loveable? Is there something magic about the techniques that if we just get them right, they will transform us?

Even though I couldn’t have put these words to it before, this approximates my attitude. I’ve been bartering with my yoga practice. I put in my time, and yoga will repay me with more peace, ease in my body, more insight. The harder I try, the further I’ll go. Even though I know it doesn’t really work that way, it’s hard to give up the belief that I’m in control of yoga and what it does for me. It’s hard to let go of the sense that I can make it happen.

Lately, I can feel myself wanting something even more from my yoga practice. Through yoga, I can have feelings of profound connection to some deep essential part within me –a part that’s inextricably linked to the special thing inside of everyone else. This experience is an antidote to my long-time attachment to loneliness. I want more of that connected feeling. I want to remember that essential part. And, even though I don’t know exactly what it looks like, I want whatever comes next…on a tray… with pickles and two packets of ketchup.

Because I’ve been wanting more, I can feel myself trying harder. There’s a quiet urgency as I come to my mat in the morning. I’m reading books in hopes of uncovering a secret key hidden between the lines. I’m doing the stuff that I think I’m supposed to do, because I want to receive something in exchange. But there’s tension. I can know the motivation isn’t correct. There’s wisdom inside nudging me to remember that trying harder hasn’t been the way I’ve experienced personal growth in the past. It isn’t the way I’ve made strides in my self-understanding or my relationships. That growth always happens when I do less. It comes when I’m not begging for it. It sneaks in when I finally accept something about my life or myself, I soften and I let go of the struggle. When I make space and open to what is, that’s when something shifts. I don’t make it happen. It’s offered. Grace.

My practice is essential, not because it’s what’s required for spiritual advancement, but because it prepares me to recognize grace when it’s offered. Daily practice readies my system — body, breath, mind, personality and emotions, to function well and to be content and balanced through the dramatic ups and downs or while I wait. Īśvara pranidhana encompasses this notion of grace. I can do what’s best, not because I’m are striving for a particular result, but because it’s the right thing to do. It isn’t service performed in exchange for goods or reward.  It’s action without attachment to the outcome (Bhagavad Gita Ch 2:47).

We don’t have to work hard for it, but I think it is hard work to consistently see ourselves with a loving and honest lens. At least it is for me. But that’s exactly what practice can help us to find. Less effort or striving can nurture an internal environment that’s suited for this gentle, patient, compassionate work. It requires dedication, not because we’ll get kicked out of the club if we slack, but because having structure and regular committed time supports us along the way. It supports us while we wait.  It helps us know our true nature (YS I.3) and this mystery of receiving gifts of grace.

***I offer individual yoga sessions and support for those who would like to begin or deepen a personal practice.  You can read more about the process on this website or contact me  to learn more.  I’d be happy to hear from you!

Radical Acceptance

img_8775

Two things I read this week have really stayed with me… in that way that puts a wobble in the things that I’ve held onto for stability. I know that if I reeeeally allowed myself to embrace the way of being that’s put out in these words, then a radical shift would have to happen.

The first one comes from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. He quotes Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature:

The problem’s not that the truth is harsh but that liberation from ignorance is as painful as being born.  Run after truth until you’re breathless.  Accept the pain involved in re-creating yourself afresh. These ideas will take a life to comprehend, a hard one interspersed with drunken moments.

NAGUIB MAHFOUZ, Palace of Desire 

The second comes from The Power of Now 

Accept — then act.  Whatever the preset moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.  Always work with it, not against it.  Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy.  This will miraculously transform your whole life. –Eckhart Tolle

Both speak to acceptance of what is. Sometimes what is is painful and uncomfortable. What if we accept that, too? Or what if, beyond just accepting it, we ‘run after truth until we’re breathless?’ Accept it as if we had chosen it?”  This would be radical and empowering.  And, I have to admit, it sounds kind of scary.

 

When it’s unconscious, it’s easy to overlook

fullsizerender fullsizerender

 

The other day, my daughter walked home from school with our neighbors.   When I went by to pick her up, she was busy playing with her friends so I sat down with my neighbor and we visited. This neighbor and I have had some nice conversations since she moved in last year. We talk a lot about our kids and the neighborhood school. We might share how the most recent trip went or who’s coming in from out of town for a visit.  This time, sitting at her kitchen counter, we had a different kind of conversation.  We talked about experiences of motherhood and marriage. We shared stories about other times in our lives. I confessed that I kind of like my husband’s work-travel and that it’s been good for me and for our marriage. My neighbor talked about how she felt when she lived abroad, what her life was like when her oldest was a baby, and how she’s learned so much about herself since then. There were things I could relate to and things that surprised me about what she said. The conversation was less like neighbors chatting and more like the start of a friendship.

Later that evening, I was fondly remembering our conversation and I started to wonder… why did I find any of what my neighbor shared surprising? I didn’t know much about her and she hadn’t talked about any of those things before. Why wasn’t all of it just new information instead of surprising new information?  As I thought more about this, I realized that somewhere along the way, I created a story about her and her life. My mind filled in all the missing information about her with some made-up, inaccurate details. When my neighbor told me about her actual, interesting life, I was surprised because it didn’t match with the boring story I had written in my head.  Through that experience, my unconscious assumptions were brought to light and I sighed with relief. This is goodAs I become aware of these stories, I can do something about them. Yoga and meditation practice continue to provide me with tools for self-reflection. I’ve seen many old hurts healed and my life gradually transform by means of this ancient wisdom and personal practice.  But at almost the exact same moment I felt the relief, I had another not-so-pleasant realization: Wow. There are thousands of unconscious and inaccurate stories running in my head and influencing my interactions with people around me all of the time. A woman reminds me of an elementary school kid who snubbed me on the playground and I make snap judgement about her. Someone’s posture, expression, clothes, or tone of voice trigger feelings and reactions based on past experiences and that colors my interaction with the person in front of me. I’ve dedicated time and refection to stories of prejudice, racism, and sexism that are out there and in me causing harm, but those aren’t the only ones that are operating. I now see that all sorts of inaccurate stories and unquestioned assumptions can get in the way of connection, not just the obvious or alarming prejudices. These stories, any stories other than the one about the present moment, are obstacles to clear perception and can keep me from getting to know someone. I still have plenty of work to do.

We may not be aware that we are coming into a conversation with impressions and assumptions about a person, but I guess that’s the thing about the unconscious — It’s at work and we don’t even know it. Personalized yoga practice gives us space and time for self-reflection, and can help us uncover the unconscious stories that play a part in our relationships. Yoga is a whole-person experience. Movement, breath and meditation work on us in subtle yet profound ways providing tools to support clear perception about ourself and others. This visit with my neighbor helped me to see that any stories, even the ones that seem harmless or neutral, can cloud my ability to get to know an awesome person…. one who happens to live  right next door.

If you’d like to know more about how yoga can help you to be more present with friends, family, co-workers, and yourself, and watch these relationships improve, use the contact form to send me a note.  I’d be happy to meet with you for a complementary 15-min call.  It’s a great place to start, and there’s no obligation.  I hope to hear from you!

Abhyāsa Vairāgyam: Effort and Relinquishing

img_8274

I’m not sure what happened, but I forgot about blogging until 8:38pm on Thursday night. This is surprising because I’ve written and published something every single Thursday since June of 2011.

I’ve given up some old habits recently and I’ve found that this requires much discipline and causes a surprising amount of unrest and upset to my system. I didn’t expect it, really. I’ve been making my way to this point for several years, now – trying out quitting… coming back.  But I think I’m really ready to actually let these things go. This time, the letting go has happened without much fanfare. I decided that it was time and I stopped without much conversation or buildup. But I find it does require energy. The energy that I’m putting towards these efforts means I have less for the other things I need to do. Like remember things.

I’ve heard from my teachers that Mr. Desikachar would say that you can measure the strength of a person’s practice not on what they can do, but on what they can give up. I don’t think he was talking about forcing a change onto ourself as a measure of how much ascetic and painful torture we can endure without whining, but as an exercise to see how attached we are to the things that we enjoy. Or how much our balance and sense of peace depends on the weekly chocolate bar we get at the check out line, the evening run we have to take to unwind, or the glass of wine before dinner. Maybe giving something up that we enjoy is something that lets us see if we have our attention, our sense of self, or maybe even our joy anchored in the right place.

In the past, I’ve ‘let things go’ but I haven’t really. I must not have been ready. I’d decide to give it up and then thought about whatever it was constantly. My body might not have been indulging in the behavior, the substance or the distraction, but my mind was totally linked to it. This time, it’s less dramatic. It feels like I’m waiting for the old stuff to flush out of my deepest tissue layers. I’ve noticed these occasional pangs of wanting, but I’m not obsessing. Even so, I’m a little thrown off. I get confused about the timing of things and my dreams have a different quality. I’m likening the new patterns to a transplanted organ. Right now, I’m still recovering from the surgery. I’ll have to remember to take the anti-rejection medicine for a while. Then, maybe after a long time, it will be more normal and the new thing that I’ve taken in will be a part of me.

Yoga Sutra 1.12 abhyāsavairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ

Make some efforts (abhyāsa) then relinquish what is getting in the way of your effort or goal (vairāgyām) so that you can reach a state of yoga (nirodha)

Awareness is good. Tools to do something about it is life changing.

Sylvia Colle, 1954 oil-on-canvas.  Balthus (French 1908-2001), collection of the St. Louis Art Museum

Balthus (French 1908-2001). “Sylvia Colle”, 1954 oil-on-canvas. , collection of the St. Louis Art Museum 

Differentiation: The ability to be in emotional contact with others yet still autonomous in one’s emotional functioning.*

I wish that when I was a kid—a ‘sensitive, moody, emotional’ kid, someone had talked to me about this idea of differentiation. I think it would have been so helpful to know that some people can be especially affected by the moods and energy of other people and that sensitive people can learn healthy ways to hold onto themselves during those interactions.

Having the language to describe something like this along with the awareness of what happens is usfeul. Having practices that help to establish one’s emotional autonomy is life changing. It’s empowering. Practice is where we develop tools to use in all sorts of challenging moments that help regognize when we are getting pulled in a difficult direction and can do something about it. Regular practice can also influence and change what we believe to be our relationship to ourself and to others. We can go from distrust or fear in these relationships to something more secure and even joyful. This pursuit has been central to the work I’ve been doing through yoga.

When I began, I participated in group yoga classes. These experiences laid the groundwork for this work. The biggest change came with individualized practice and a relationship with my yoga mentor. Regular individual practice, with the guide of a yoga teacher, provides the method and the support for personal growth. The practices and philosophy of yoga can take us a very long way toward becoming the kind of person each of us wants to be.

If you’d like to know more, contact me. I offer a 20-min call to anyone who has questions about individual vs. group yoga or wonders if it’s the right time to begin a guided personal practice.

—–

*I came across this definition in the book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. It’s an excellent book, though it’s not an easy one. There are stories of people who have suffered terrible tragedy and trauma and whose addictions have cost them greatly. Reading this has also provided plenty of opportunities to look at my own addictive behaviors (not easy either). Mate paints a very thorough picture of the different biological and psychosocial aspects of addiction and gives us hope for those who want to recover and heal. The book has stirred a lot in me. I highly recommend it.

 

Unconditional Positive Regard

carlrogers

 

Last week, I blogged about a really special kind of love and appreciation that isn’t tied to things that I do or say. It isn’t given on the condition that I’m in a good mood or recently showered or productive. It just is. I’ve been thinking a lot about this – how sweet unconditional love and acceptance is and how important it is for healing and change. I’ve also been wondering how to get there. How do I offer this love to myself and to others even when someone is being shitty and difficult? How do I do this for myself when I have a really strong samskara or habit of seeing myself through a different lens? How do I hold onto this kind of unconditional acceptance when a situation feels incredibly dark? All this has been swimming inside of me and then I came across something so relevant in the book I’m reading! The Humanistic American psychologist, Carl Rogers (1902-1987), believed that when we are accepted and appreciated for what we are rather than what we do or say, then we are more able to take risks, accept occasional failure, and be open with people. He calls this Unconditional positive regard. That’s it! That’s another, less sappy way, of talking about accepting ourself and others!!! Rogers says our sense of self-worth is related to receiving this kind of acceptance. Self-worth is key to facing challenges and achieving goals and it’s this special combo that allows us to become who we are meant to be. Unconditional positive regard is a key component of self-actualization. Yoga agrees.

Yoga says the ability to hold unconditional positive regard for others is a question of identity. If we identify ourselves and others as a beings that are, in essence, full of light, then all the other stuff that we do, think, feel, and say is something else. It is behavior, but not who we are. It’s thinking, but we aren’t our thoughts. It’s a feeling, and feelings change. When we have the perspective that each person is good, wise, and light-filled, even when their behavior sucks, we can connect to that.  From this place, the efforts we make to improve ourselves become a way of removing the obstacles to clear perception. It isn’t about how horrible we are as a person, but about letting go or changing the things that are keeping us from perceiving or knowing the light within. Cultivating a perspective that lets us get to know this light inside, puruṣa, can make it easier to hold this unconditional positive regard for our self and each other.

Am I doing the things I need to do to be a good person?

je-8888

self-acceptance stud-muffin who also sings karaoke.

I was driving to work today and I was thinking about waking up with my husband, Dave, and the class I was about to teach, and my car on the road, and the big white fluffy clouds in the very blue sky, when I caught a glimpse of this unpleasant story that was running in my head. It was going on in the background, mostly undetected, until I had this small, bad feeling come up. Kind of like tuning the radio to get better reception, I tuned into to this stream of thoughts. As the static cleared, I could feel what was happening just under the surface of my conscious thought, “Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing the things I need to do to be a good person.” I was worried because I didn’t reply to a student about scheduling and I failed to complete some paperwork for my yoga therapy program that I really wanted to finish. I didn’t feel bad and think, “I’ll take care of these things this afternoon,” I felt bad about myself. I realized, When I don’t accomplish certain things, then I can start to feel low. A little less worthy.  A little less loveable. 

Then I thought about Dave. Being with him is a good way to get some self-acceptance beamed right through me. I can sit around all day and not accomplish any tasks or projects, and Dave doesn’t give off any hint that my lack of productivity makes me a less valuable part of the family. If I suggest that I’m having a hard time accepting how little I got done, he might point out a few simple things that I did or comment that resting is good and we all need it. There are days when I accomplish a ton of stuff. On those days, Dave sincerely appreciates what I do, but he doesn’t love me more because of it. I get the feeling that he just loves me. Sick or well. Happy or Sad. Productive or not. He’s glad I’m on the planet.

It’s a very special gift to be on the receiving end of this kind of love.

I turned into the parking lot and the icky feeling I had earlier was gone. In its place was relief: I don’t have to work so hard at justifying my place on the planet. Openness: Neither does anyone else. And beneath it all, I was aware of another story playing through the brain-frequency of radio waves: Nobody has to change. There isn’t anything wrong with who we are. There isn’t anything that we must do to be worthy of love. We are all good. We are all lovable. We are all worthy. 

 

 

The help of a good teacher

Alexander Technique work at the Ojai Women's Retreat.

Itsuko and Carol offer hands on help with Alexander Technique at the Ojai Women’s Retreat 2016.

I have a pretty good sense of what is going on in my body and I think a lot about what is happening in my spine, so it’s so wonderful when someone can help me to see or understand something that I haven’t felt before. This happened during my retreat experience in Ojai, California last week.

The retreat was interdisciplinary. I taught a daily yoga practice and yoga sūtras and Carol, my wonderful teaching colleague, presented the parts of the workshop on Āyurveda and the Alexander Technique. I didn’t have any experience or expectations of the Alexander Technique, though I knew it had something to do with improving posture and letting go of tension in the body. Carol did a great job introducing the technique and giving us ways to practice the principles of the method. We had language to help us remember and stay with the main concepts, and with the help of another wonderful AT teacher, we each received some skillful and gentle hands on work.

It was during this part of the classes that I had a remarkable experience. Itsuko worked with me and as she gently slid her open hand across my lower back, it was able to let go a little bit. It felt easier and lighter there. Her soft and skillful touch at the back of my neck let me feel that I could move my head forward and up and let go of some of the holding and tension there. I could sense the length come. And then her hand went toward my mid-back. She said something like, “you don’t have to work so much here” and I felt, for the first time, the reaching and straining that was coming from that place. I made some subtle adjustments and noticed the back of my spine round slightly toward her hand. This was fine and pleasant. Something also happened in the front of my spine. In a place tucked in behind organs and protected by the lower ribs I began to release. But this time I didn’t feel ease. I had the ache of letting go of something that I’ve been gripping for decades and whatever was being held in started to spread. I imagined a jar that’s been sitting at the very darkest spot under the sink catching years worth of drips from a very slow leak… I had knocked it over and it was spilling into me. I felt relief, but I also felt some sadness and confusion. I had to sit still for a few minutes and notice that.

There’s so much we can learn with the help of books, stories, self-observation and reflection. It is a valuable and essential part of the work that we do. But having the support and guidance of a knowledgeable and attune teacher is also very important – even essential. There are things that we can’t see about ourselves because we’ve been with them for so long that they no longer operate at a conscious level. Kind of like the joke where one fish asks his fish friend, “how’s the water?” The other fish says, “what the heck is water?” The help of a teacher or someone who can help us to see our own structures or patterns in a kind and truthful way is an invaluable part of our learning and growth. I’m greatful for Carol and Itusuko for being those teachers for me this week.