Simply, I asked to be 'left alone to my career' in my 30s, and at one point made the promise (just like the Stones and the Who - you never believe it's coming) that when I turned 40, I'd devote myself to my physical health...
Then, eight years later, I am still very much in love with this woman, and I turn 40... thus begins the story.
I came to yoga with no prior physical discipline or body-awareness. I never played sports; never used my physical body in recreation. I just mainly saw my physical self as a vehicle to move my thoughts about in.
I was lucky, a life of no serious injuries or disease. Working, even though high-stress at times, in an environment that encouraged health and well-being, coupled with a great diet and other positive health choices didn’t leave me in bad shape. Really, just in no shape – just a being that was fairly disconnected from activity other than mental.
At forty, I decided it was time to honor my promise, pony-up and pursue some physical activity. I went to the gym a few times, but frankly the atmosphere and weirdness of the aggression being used to create strength felt unhealthier to me than the workout was worth. Luckily, I have that loving wife who although firm in her desire for me to get some activity, also understood my world.
And it’s to her that still the thanks go – she had asked me to get physical and work on my overall health in my forties back while I was in my thirties. Now, I had retired, had all this free time and was definitely not feeling stressed. So, one day, purely out of guilt – she was working at home 40+ hours a week, walking our two huge dogs in the snow and still going to yoga classes while I sat around and read or futzed – I went to yoga with her. And I hated it.
Let me be really clear, you didn't misread, I didn't mistype... I hated it. Full on visceral dislike. Projection, rage, contempt, those were some of the flavors.
I was uncomfortable, I was in an unfamiliar place, I was being asked to do things I didn’t understand, or couldn’t do. My wrists hurt – the Teacher wanted us to do yoga pushups and I recalled that, in my obstinacy, I almost didn’t graduate high school because I refused to do 10 pushups. You could color me triggered.
Yet, I had also had a great career, where I was highly esteemed and regarded. In that career, I consistently chose the tougher path, the not-so-easy route. I did what others wouldn’t. I was legendary, and rewarded in multiple ways, for going where others wouldn't, for doing the tough work. So, I knew I had this mental challenge under control, but I didn’t know what to do with the sensations and emotions my body was giving me.
When I’m confronted with a lot of information, sensation or resistance, I choose persistence. So, in my newly established practice, I went, again and again, just to see what it was that was happening – mentally, not physically. And, the physical came; as I became more conscious of the vehicle my mind resides in, I got more and more into exploring the physical realm.
Yes, Down Dog was killing my wrists; I literally couldn’t stay more than three frustrated breaths in the first weeks. I did all those things I see now; I still feel it as teacher – students making fists or being on fingertips, or searching for anyway out of the sensation of building bone density.
And, as I was discovering my body, I was become really aware of how the sensations, breath and thoughts were coterminous... so completely insinuated.
I was in my body, but occupied in my mind, hearing more canonical views of many of the perspectives and disciplines I had seen in my work and professional life, I found more of me on the mat.
Let me tell you more of that story in the next post…
Give thanks and praise!