pause & feel
"But what does that feel like?"
I'm pretty sure the first time someone asked me that, I experienced a complete failure of vocabulary to accurately assess -- and explain -- my inner experience.
"What do you mean, what does that feel like? It feels like... sensation?"
Trying to "tune in" felt like moving closer to a static-ridden television screen in hopes of seeing... something. Maybe it's like Magic Eye? Nope, just noise.
For a long time I operated in the category of generalizations. Labels I'd learned to apply to my feelings like happy, sad, good, bad, like, don't like, seemed to be descriptive enough for most inquiring minds. In yoga, there were poses I liked (hello pigeon!) and poses that I didn't (skip the long-held chair pose please), but that was about as far as my relationship with desire and repulsion took me.
Finally, I found myself immersed in trainings and workshops that led me into a whole new world (cue Ariel) and gave me a new strategy to describe and understand my own experience:
Experience it. Fully. This is the most obvious step. THE MOST. But for many, it's the hardest: setting our awareness on something so simple as our physical sensations can prove next to impossible. As Stephen Cope writes in The Wisdom of Yoga:
"We've given awareness a very simple object - the breath. And such a simple directive: Stay!! Stay, Lassie, stay. Stay on the breath. But Lassie just keeps romping off to play in the woods."
The very intention to rest our awareness on our experience is enough to make a gal feel squirmy. There's SO MUCH happening in there: future planning. Digestion of that gluten I shouldn't have eaten. Wondering what that person is thinking - are they looking at me? No, behind me. And on repeat, this thought: God I suck at meditation, everyone else is SO much more zen than me. It's no wonder the inner world isn't a place where we love to wander around and poke into the shadowy corners. There's stuff. Uncomfortable, unknown, irrational stuff.
But until we get in there and feel it, it hangs out - like an unmarked box in a closet, taking up space and energy as we try to ignore its presence every time we bump up against rough cardboard corners.
There comes a moment when we get uncomfortable in the crowded space of our inner world. And the only way to change that? Is to get still, get quiet, and feel.
It's goddamn uncomfortable to muck about in exactly the things we've been avoiding experiencing. Its true. But through discomfort is the only way we can remove their weight from our being and create space for growth, expansion, the realization of our greatest potential.
We are, my friends, like lobsters. (watch that video now.)
We must be willing to pause, and feel.
Develop a deep and committed relationship with our inner world in all its oddity and beauty. With the signals that our physical being provides moment to moment as we rub up against irritations.
Instead of speeding up to move past an experience - whether an intense or challenging posture, or an intense or challenging emotion - slow down.
Allow it to be present. Felt. Seen. Witnessed.
Allow yourself to absorb whatever information, insight, or feedback it is providing.
I have a sticky note in my purse that says "Pause and Feel". Friends have joked about making business card-sized "Pause and Feel" reminders. (Have any of you done it?) Whatever reminder you need, slow down. Tune in - even if for now, you're tuning in to static. Feel it. Check it out. Give it a nod. And see what it has to tell you.
Are you a (mostly) really nice person who struggles with healthy boundaries?
Ya know. When you overextend yourself and realize you've left nothing for lil' old you. Yes, you.
Join me on March 31 at Barre & Soul Portsmouth for my newest workshop: Healthy Boundaries for (Mostly) Really Nice People. You won't regret it. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to say YES once you know where NO is. Register here.