I think one really common misconception, and one that is perpetuated by a lot of folks in the community is that it's all love and light, happy and bright. Holy blue-face, it's NOT! It's more often about getting real with what is real, and understanding where we 'are coming from.'
You know, you can't tell how bright it is unless you've seen the darkness. We have to know isolation and desolation to be able to accept the sweetness in consolation. And each of us has had our struggles. One thing about my community, we can get bragging rights for sharing really openly in the right environment. I've been to enough deep trainings and intensives to tell you all, confidently, no one comes through unscathed... so many are hurt and damaged and have been abused, misused, maltreated, neglected, etc.
It's always amazing to me now when folks are surprised. When someone's carefully created facade finally crumbles and falls and you realize someone you held in high esteem is just as frightened and insecure and triggered as you have been; that we have all failed, been shamed, been hurt.
A long time ago, because I really wanted to be doing the work --- the more profound work of yoga education, which to me means getting deeper than the asana, into all of the experience, and to use this to discern, train and understand --- I moved to the folks who I thought could get me there. I was fortunate to be able to find my primary teacher, Seane Corn.
With Seane and company, (as I'm also talking about the collaborative work of OTM) the shadows are not off-limits, rather, they are the fertile ground for self-discovery. I have often seen and witnessed, as well as had the personal insights myself, that 'our greatest fame is a result of our greatest shame'... the introverted child, who was ignored or neglected will often become a really important, key player; a center of attention. Those who have been wronged will become protectors.... those who were diminished will work on helping others grow.
Many very successful people i know have been startled to 'track their success' to some early childhood or adolescent trauma or traumas. Yes, profound, I would suggest, nearly universal and yet, we are taught to be ashamed of those things, to get over them, to leave them behind, not to be a victim, etc.
The act of denial and avoidance leaves us less than whole. And it leaves us reactive - trigger-able! For what we have experienced either directly or otherwise in our trauma can bring out the worst in us; even though the mirror of that is the best of us.
Case in point: when I was about 11 or 12, a family member of mine inappropriately used me to experiment with sexually. It was not chronic abuse, it was a one-time occurrence. Still, at that age, before kids had access to Cable and Internet I claim true youthful, naivete. I had no idea I was giving oral sex or being made to have intercourse other than the odd physical acts.
I grew up in a family where sexual abuse was for 'another class' of folks, where no one who drank themselves to sleep was an alcoholic because that term was for losers who hit people and got arrested. I grew up in a family where therapy meant you were fucked up and my family wasn't fucked up. Except, like every family it was in one way or another. Even with lovely parents, pillars of the community.
I never said anything, it then 'didn't happen' and I was able to do this really interesting thing which I will call 'compartmentalization' or 'turning it into an ABC After School Special'. That means it went in a mental box, it got stored, every once in a while I would completely review it (I remember a lot of details) but never 'feel' it, just watch it.
I got really good at it; and I got left alone a lot. I liked that. The situation had nuances. My parents were great, but I was the youngest, by a gap. My older siblings had all the home movies, lots of snapshots, the cute costumes. I've got one reel of Super 8, and some hand-me-downs on in the Polaroids. I'd say my parents went back to having a life and mostly allowed my older siblings to raise me. One did more than the other; that's the one I bonded with. That's the one who abused me.
It's easy to see it now, I blamed my parents for being absentees and not caring for me. I accepted the alternative caregiver and then that person abused the trust and me. I had no one to go to, and it wasn't going to be talked about or good, so I just stuffed it away. It didn't happen again, so eventually, it didn't happen.
For about the last five years, every time I'd get into a deep, good practice, and be presented with some good hip-openers, the 'box' would come out of the 'compartment' and I would review it, but again, like I was watching a movie and it was happening to someone else. That only lasts so long; this year, I put the movie in Sensurround and just played it, felt it, mourned it, raged on it, and then said, 'yup, that's me, that's real'.
How'd we get here from Happy, the gentle reader asks?? In one straight line!
While the shame and trauma I experienced made me who I am, someone who is very loyal, protective, takes the leadership role to ensure integrity and moves to places to care for others, my triggers get the exact opposite. Righteous indignation, rage, vengeful, exclusion, condescension, negativity.
If I don't let the story of where I'm coming from be real, then I can't understand where I am. If I can know my triggers, by finding my shame and owning it and learning from it, then I will know that I am here, better, stronger and in service because of it. And, I can hold myself, use my practice, use my discernment, and not fall victim to being held in that space, but rather continue to shine.
I shine brighter because I found the deepest shadow; I find happiness because I don't deny or avoid real sorrow. Never fixed, just keep turning inward and doing the work - the knife shines after the stone.
Make sense? Feel like there might be something there? Do the work, tread lightly but surely; asana practice is the safest laboratory for personal discovery and change. Find yours.
Give thanks and praise - and come back tomorrow for Step 4 - Place Trust in Yourself!