I don't know how to explain last night, but I don't know how to let it pass without an attempt to describe what happened and how I felt. It was unusual. It was a lot like the morning of August 1st, 2010, which for various reasons is one of the lowest points of my recent memory. It was a strange juxtaposition, entirely foreseeable, yet ultimately far more severe and intense than I was actually prepared for. I haven't slept well the last two nights. I feel like my scabs have been ripped off and I'm bleeding again. It's a very raw sensation. On the one hand, I love feeling this way, I love the rawness of sleep deprivation, self-imposed semi-starvation, and overdoses of exercise. There is nothing that compares to the intensity of the state I inhabited from August 2010 through October 2010. I felt tremendously alive, capable of anything, as if I could tap into a volcano's worth of fire at a moment's notice. And yet, there is some real sadness that always seems to go hand in hand with this raw state of being. Sadness at what has been lost. Like a glass breaking into pieces or tint added to a gallon of white paint, there is no rewind, no undo. All I can do is look forward and embrace the present moment.
I made plans last night to catch my favorite instructor, Lex's class with one of my fellow teacher trainers, Carrie, before meeting up with Shelley and Jaime to practice teach. I wound up walking up the stairs with Carrie as we attempted to leave our workdays behind us. I think her day had been rougher than mine, but I felt like we both looked forward to Lex's class with optimism, it would be her first one and her first trip to Haute, whereas for me it was roughly my one year anniversary. I ventured into the studio, placed my mat, and stretched out with my eyes closed, retreating inward, diving into my vision of pratyahara. With my eyes and lips sealed, my breath culled the heat out of my body as my tension released. Lex brought the class to life with a greeting and began her theme about samadhi and specifically how active pranayama distinguishes a deep sensation from pain. The concept is that when we lose our breath, it is no longer yoga. And so the twisted evening of irony began.
Of all the themes for me to hear, that one is one of the toughest. My challenge is, and has always been, a difficulty relaxing, difficulty accepting anything below maximum effort. I love to blur the lines between a deep sensation and actual pain, it makes me feel alive. What I love so much about my private sessions, what I crave every Tuesday and Thursday morning is how far Shane lets me explore my phyiscal boundaries. I usually fall to the mat 5-10 times with Shane and it's OK by him to be doing that, he feels comfortable and so do I. Sometimes I wonder if I am hitting mental limits or physical limits, sometims I worry that my brain shuts off before my body, but without failure there is no context of what is too much. When he has me past my edge, I often lose touch with my breath, but he is OK with that and so am I. It's a great physical cue for him, he can use it to judge how much further to push me before the point of complete failure. It's also a great thing to try to work through. So many times in low plank or twisted triangle or cobra or mountain climbers, when I'm gasping short sips of air, a gentle reminder to breath deep and embrace the sensation brings me back in line with my edge. In fact, during headstand today, exploring a gentle backbend, I almost lost control and Shane thought for sure that I was going over, but somehow I managed to save it at the very last possible moment. When I extend beyond my edge, sometimes I can bring myself back, sometimes I come crashing down. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of what I experience with Shane, and not something that is safe or practical within a group class environment.
So, already I'm off kilter because of the message. But, OK, let the message be the message, let me absorb what I can of it. I don't have to reject my inner essence just because the message tells me that what I love isn't yoga. There are other people in this room, maybe one of them will embrace the message for me. Maybe today is just not my day to absorb the message. Relax, accept, let it be, practice, proceed. It is, after all, my practice, I can make it anything I want it to be. So, I tune out the content of the words and focus on the beauty of Lex's tone, the steadiness of her pace, and I even laugh a little when I catch her making a subtle slipup, saying foot instead of hand, and then taking an extra 5 seconds to regroup and start the next series. I find myself spending a lot of time with my eyes closed, as I often do, but even more so than normal this day and I'm not sure why, it just feels right. Perhaps because we are covering balancing series in our teacher training and I'd really like to improve my balance so closing my eyes in simpler poses adds an extra element of balance training. Perhaps I just really want to be in my own little bubble. Eventually, however, I find I am unable to hold my balance with my eyes closed and I open them. My gaze drifts towards the top that the woman in front of me is wearing, it is charcoal and pink, and I've seen it before. As we inhale from extended side angle into reverse warrior I find my brain making a connection before I fully understand where it is going. On the next warrior 1, vera bhadrasana, I see the face in the mirror and realize I am 6 inches from the mat of my ex-fiance.
It's hard to describe the impact of moments like this. I suppose normal people would have noticed much sooner, at the beginning of class perhaps. I don't look around when I place my mat, I retreat into my self, and I try to avoid looking in the mirror as well because my balance is so shaky. I even remember one specific class, one specific moment where I had failed out of standing head to knee and I looked over at Jenna laying down on her extended front leg, standing leg straight, in full expression without a glint of effort and I could not stop myself from staring in wonderment. At the peak of that moment I remember hearing Lex say something like "David, focus on yourself". I was caught in a moment of envy, of coveting another's practice. That is a great reminder, and a lesson I've tried to learn from. To be alone in a room full of people is a delicate dance, a continual path of refinement. But once reality of the present situation is absorbed, it cannot be forgotten or purged. Here I am, on my mat, halfway into class, 6 inches from the woman who has elicited tremendous amounts of emotional pain from my depths. I obviously can't move my mat, there is nowhere to hide. I can't really focus at all. I try to close my eyes and retreat even more, but I'm basically a big steaming pile for the next 30 minutes.
In retrospect, I saw this coming. I didn't sleep well the night before, I woke up super early to write down some thoughts from the weekend. I knew this had to happen, it seemed inevitable. It was almost like a cosmic bear trap that I set out for myself to step into, much like the one that wrecked me on 8/1/2010. Two worlds have collided, my past and present selfs are now indistinguishable. As I sit on the couch, next to Carrie who is a completely ironic, cosmically created, stand-in for my other x-girlfriend, Kerri, Joanna comes out of the ladies room and she and I share a few words about Hunter. Within a 6 foot radius are 3 women, one acting as a metaphorical substitute, who have substantially shaped my life over the past decade. One took me from San Francisco to San Diego, one took me from Vista to Encinitas via Solana Beach, and one took me from inflexible and injured to a new plane of strength and inspiration. An endless well of emotional confusion swirls into one big giant mess. Thankfully I have practice training afterwards, to get my mind out of its self-induced tornado. And even more fortunately, I got to wake up to Shane's reassurance this morning, that it is OK to push me beyond my limits and to smile and laugh while doing so.