Many times in yoga classes I tell people that my job is to help guide them to their own awareness, to their own experience and feeling. It is my job to provide a safe space for them to unwind, and an environment conducive to exploration, curiosity, mindfulness and care.
Sometimes students will ask well what do I do once I become aware of that some ‘thing’??? A few examples of ‘things’ that have happened in recent sessions to help clarify: Student realized when they transition from one pose to the next that they hold their breath; another noticed they use their abs to hold themselves up while doing a lunge; and another became aware of their tendency to use their brain to ‘think’ the movement into reality.
So, when practitioners ask me what to do with their awareness, sometimes I will have an answer for them, and sometimes I will just let them be, and hold space for them to grapple with the question for a while. I have wrestled with this question myself many times you see, and I have had moments where I have chased my awareness; wanted an answer in it; wanted some resolution or confirmation of the next move. Although each moment of awareness WILL yield an answer, it’s one of those things where the harder you look for the answer the more it eludes you. Awareness is always moving, it’s like water in a stream, flowing over rocks, around branches and tree stumps, boulders and riverbanks; the path of awareness is shaped by what shows up along the way, and more importantly, by your ability to allow it to move it’s way through.
For me, when I become aware of that ‘thing’ for the first time, I try to adopt a sense of curiosity, almost like when I meet someone initially and I want to get to know them: I ask questions, I take note of the person’s preferences and sensitivities, I listen to them and receive who they are. Likewise in a moment of awareness of a new pattern in my mind, or compensation in movement or breath, I get curious and engage in some inquiry with it.
Gently at first I begin to observe, simply bearing witness to this ‘thing’ as I get acquainted with it. When I am able to really allow this process to unfold while I am on my mat, there is a peacefulness that arises, an ability to accept what is happening moment to moment and to be open to the response that I have to it as well. What I have recognized is that this openness to the response, is actually TRUST. Like I can trust the conversation happening between my body, my mind, my emotions AND my awareness. Trust for me begins to feel like there is inclusivity inside, a conversation made available between what I know to be true and that which I question; as though the answer lies in the curiosity and sitting in the uncertainty of it all. The more I allow the ‘I don’t know’ to exist, the more I feel answers rising up and I am led to feeling safe in my body again and again. This builds Trust that I am able to really be with what is showing up, all the ‘things’ I am noticing/feeling; and that NOTHING is actually wrong with me. (CONFESSION: I have spent most of my life believing that something was very wrong with me; I didn’t trust; didn’t know this experience of assurance and inclusion inside, and the result was always a sense that I somehow ‘missed the boat’, would never get it right and would never belong. I didn’t know that it was Trust I was missing until recent times, and as my ability to feel and hold space for my experience IN MY body emerges, so grows my capacity for inner big T Trust.)
So what does Trust actually FEEL like? For me, it is my feet on the ground, connected to the earth. Simultaneously, a lightness from my feet to my pelvis that is integrated, steady, strong. A sensation of fluidity in my pelvis, between hip bones through to pubic bone; I can feel my anchor there. When I first began to feel it, it felt like I was ‘inside’ my legs for the first time. My bones felt perfectly stacked, floating in the sockets and the muscles providing a hub of support at my centre. Standing felt proud, tall, effortless and light. My head and shoulders felt more connected to heaven than earth but yet my feet could stomp heavy and rooted into the ground. There was a firmness in my mind, and yet everything felt flexible. A powerful sensation and one I am committed to cultivating more and more.
I suppose this sensation might be connected to my root chakra being open and flowing, the place where our innate sense of safety, security and survival reside. For most of my life this has been very held, restricted, and energetically-inclined folks might say this chakra was ‘blocked’ in my body. Trust is felt for me in the opening of this space and an ability to stand firm in my choices. To feel confident that my decisions are right for me, gentle in how I approach the world, and soft in approaching the heart (whether my own or another).
There is a tenderness to self-Trust, a rawness that allows for great exposure but the risk doesn’t feel so great. A willingness to be held by my body, my friends, my family, the universe: a great surrender. I have been playing with this great surrender in Savasana (The final resting pose at the end of yoga practice for those who don’t know, where you lay in ‘stillness’ for some time to rest and integrate the practice.), and seeing how much Trust can come into the space for me. It’s hard to let go into Trust like this: eyes closed, body open and receiving, falling into mother earth’s palm. I watch people in classes coming and going from that surrender, learning Trust, in every class. It takes practice.
Trust is a skill, and like any skill, it builds on itself and grows stamina and strength over time. The refinement of Trust seems to me to bring more clarity around decisions, and a feeling of gratitude when awareness is illuminated.
I suppose some could say it is simply a feeling of balance that I achieve in these trusting moments, but what I am recognizing it as now after having experienced it more regularly is something like an inner faith. A faithfulness to my own being: heart, mind and body. A consideration that all my choices, thoughts, feelings, and actions are just as they should be and that I DO in fact know what’s best for me. Comfort within. The ability to sit back and say aaah, I am okay.
So, it may be helpful to know how am I feeding this inner-faithfulness now, how am I nourishing it? There are 6 main ways that I do this:
- Before I ask someone’s advice or their opinion on a decision I am pondering, first I ask myself. I pose it as a question just like I might ask a friend, and then I wait for the answer. I don’t spend time ruminating on it, or analyzing it, just pose the question, then wait for the answer.
- I ask myself is it ABSOLUTELY true, before I confirm it as my Truth. The work of Byron Katie with this one, it’s pretty plain and simple. If it is true, then it’s in my heart and I work with what is in that place, and if it’s not, then I drop it or move myself through it to find closure with it.
- I get on my mat everyday. I move, I breathe, I listen, I lay quietly. I move gently, breathe softly, and listen deeply. Repeat. The amount that this informs trust and confirmation of inner faith in myself is something I cannot express enough.
- I LISTEN to the answers that rise up. There is an inner wisdom inside, a quiet but fierce voice that whispers. I believe she has ALWAYS been there, and the more I get acquainted with her, the more intimately she shares the Truth with me. THIS is a relationship I am interesting in investing in, but it requires that I let my guard down and I really listen with my whole being (body, mind, heart, ego).
- I DO NOT do things that make me feel a sense of self-betrayal. (e.g.-My body revolts against me, while my mind pushes through and talks smack like, “come on, what’s your problem…don’t be such a wuss!”) I do not invest in experiences that rock me so much that I can’t find my center. I choose to baby step into deeper waters when and only when the answer is yes from deep inside. And when it’s yes, I fall in whole- hearted and it seems to consolidate this skill of self-trust all the more.
To me, this is the deep practice of yoga: cultivating self trust, self reliance, and a resilience of spirit. It goes well beyond the mat, but the mat is where I realized how lost I was and how absent this big T was in my life. Those who I have looked up to most through my life are people who are firmly rooted in the ability to believe that they are capable, that the decisions they make are the right ones and that they can own every single choice as their life unfolds. There is a profound grace and fierce courage in a person like this, and I aspire to it every day.
In Trust, from my Fierce Heart to yours~