Underneath Impossibility

About three years ago I heard and answered the call for a healer and yoga teacher training. From the moment I felt like this was something I wanted to do there immediately were fierce thoughts and beliefs that it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen – that I wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) get to do it.

In the orientation to learn about the program I was crawling out of my skin, climbing the walls with fear and trying to find a way out – I didn’t believe the group would accept me because of something I was working with from my past. I didn’t think I had any right or deserved to be there and yet I so very much loved what the teacher was describing the program would be. I felt myself yearning for healing and being denied. I was completely distraught at feeling like this was something I was called to do and yet being told internally that I couldn’t go. I cried the whole way home. In my panic and tears, I reached out and explained and was soothed enough by the teacher’s kind words that I decided to continue applying to the program, despite the intensity of my reaction.

I was so very clear and adamant from the first day I read about the program that I was not going to be a yoga teacher from this training. I was interested in the healer aspects of the program. For my own healing and something that was also drawing me towards it to offer to others.

I had been practicing yoga for about seven years prior to this about once a week. I didn’t think I could really “do” yoga well but something kept pulling me back and I kept going. It could have been many things. But, seriously, who was I to teach? I believed I had zero ability to form a mind-body connection, no knowledge of the body, and that I could barely do the poses myself. How was I supposed to teach them to other people?

I remember telling the teacher in my interview that I didn’t think my practice was advanced enough for the training, and that I didn’t posses the ability for muscle memory but that I was more interested in the healer program anyway. Trying to find another way out so I could continue to believe I wouldn’t be able to do it, and didn’t deserve to go, while still desperately wanting to.

She accepted me. The path set, and off we went – a small group of us in the training.

I repeated my intention to myself and to others – I am not here to be a yoga teacher. I am not going to teach yoga. There’s no way I’m going to teach and here are all the reasons and excuses as to why. It’s completely impossible. Out of the question.

Another aspect of the requirements for the training was a daily practice. Crap. How the heck is that supposed to happen? And in the morning? I was resistant to this idea but could tolerate it at arms length.

Knowing this requirement, a few months before the program officially started I upped my practice from one class a week to three, determined to meet the goal of a daily practice.

I still felt out of place in my body but definitely stronger (and quickly) from going to class so often. I felt like I could at least participate in the poses with some more confidence and ability.

The day before we concluded our first module we received homework. One assignment had to be done each day and it was suggested it should be in the morning.

I nearly broke down on the spot. Deeply triggered, shaking, and panicked at the thought of trying to fit something else into the morning. How was I going to do that? To add a yoga practice and now this too? Even though it might only take a few minutes it was another thing to incorporate and I couldn’t do it. I saw the “reality” of my mornings flash before me. Typically I stayed in bed until the last possible moment, dragged myself out, rushed through a shower and left for work after some breakfast. It felt like too much to get up earlier in order to do two things.

Working away in my agitation and anxiety (or outright fear and panic to be honest) I found myself saying (or screaming), “I can’t” and “I don’t want to”. I don’t want to have to do something else in my morning. It’s already so hard to get up. It’s already so hard to get up… I don’t want to get up.

Something resonated.

It wasn’t that there were these other things being placed in my day. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the practice or homework. It was that for a really long time I hadn’t wanted to get up at all in the mornings. I hadn’t wanted to get up.

Now it felt like I was being forced to and all systems escalated at the threat of this shift. How would the familiar depression keeping me in bed stay alive? It reared its head within that anxiety. I don’t get enough sleep because I can’t fall asleep – I hadn’t slept well in years – I need to stay in bed until the last possible minute. More fear. I don’t have any energy. I don’t want to get up. I hadn’t wanted to get up in years.

That realization deeply shook me into seeing that it wasn’t what was being asked of me at all that was causing the panic. As soon as I could see the truth behind my reaction I knew that these morning practices were just the opposite of my response – they were exactly what I did need. The fear of letting go of that sleep was great but the fear at understanding the reason why and letting it remain true was greater. Why stay in a state of not wanting to get out of bed? I did not want that to be my truth.

And so I started.

On my return from the first module of training I set my alarm early (we’d been waking up for a five a.m. practice while away so this shouldn’t be that big of a deal). I got up and found my mat and moved, in practice. From that first morning the shifts were powerful.

Suddenly I had all of this space and time. I could take the time to cultivate some energy or move more easefully into my day. I had time to be with myself in a way that wasn’t painful or trying to avoid the day. No more getting up at the last minute and rushing out the door. I loved it! Suddenly there was all this expansiveness of time to be in. How wonderful.

Beyond that love I found so quickly that I was getting up to do something I enjoyed. I enjoyed the practice and it became so easy to get up because there was something I wanted to get up for. That, alone, was huge. I wanted to get out of bed. I could even fit the homework in each morning. That immediate resistance and thoughts that there was no way I could do this, overturned.

As the training continued, I still clung strongly to the belief that there was absolutely no way I could be a teacher. I remained reticent to the idea and firm. I repeated my resolve to anyone who asked me about the training. The teacher encouraged all of us to stay open to the possibility from the beginning, even if we didn’t think we wanted to. We were doing all of the work anyway, so keep considering it. She invited us to participate in the first exercise and if, after that, we didn’t want to fulfill the requirements for the teacher training, that was fine but we needed to decide that day.

I was still definitely sure when we were asked to lead our first mini lesson: a guided shavasana.

I was nervous at first with my two fellow students lying in front of me. The five minutes we had to fill stretched before us and as I began something took over. I watched as the two of them started to sink deeper and deeper into relaxation. Whatever had just happened – I loved it!

Within moments after that experience I returned to the group and shared, “so, um… I think I maybe… sorta…. wanna… teach”. I was shocked, excited and amazed.

It felt as though something swooped in at the last moment before the path would have been closed off and overturned all of my thoughts and feelings on the possibility. It had been months of being so clear on what I believed and yet months in parallel of a very small sliver of keeping the possibility open – which grew large enough to overturn those firmly held beliefs. And in that moment, more opened to me as I opened to more possibilities beyond my restricted beliefs.

This past January a studio asked if I wanted to teach a Sunday morning meditation & gentle yoga class. I felt vague hints of those clawing fears and doubts about sleep and not wanting to get up (because I always slept in on the weekends – I needed to – didn’t I?) creep back in like ghosts. Mixed with slight panic at the idea of this change were the subtle thoughts that I didn’t believe I could get up that early and teach. Familiar. Instead of months this time it took hours and after some consideration I felt called to say, “yes”.

And, of course, now I love it. Waking up early on a Sunday morning, heading over to start the day with other wonderful people in community and offering something that I enjoy being a part of. What better way to start off a day than that?

From not believing I could do the training at all (going so far as to believe I wouldn’t be welcome in it), to not believing I wanted to or could to teach, to not believing I wanted to wake up in the mornings (or could) – I can see how that’s all they were – beliefs. The beliefs were beyond strong and integrated so deeply into whom I thought I was that it didn’t seem possible for them to shift or change.

I was gripping so tightly to those beliefs because it felt like they defined me. Propped me up. Created who I was. It was all I knew. Within that construct, my possibilities seemed limited (which helped reinforce those beliefs and kept me contained where I was even though that place was painful). I didn’t have to change at all if I continued to believe these things about myself. But the familiar energy around the beliefs grew to be too painful to not change. The depression and anxiety and depletion of energy were at a point where they had to change and, as they let go, the beliefs shifted too. They worked in concert and at odds with one another over and over again.

Each belief was definitely powerful and strong enough that it could have prevented me from ever changing or moving forward on this path (and tried to!). As encouragement to stay open to possibilities wove into the mix and the subtle awareness of what I needed mixed in with conflicting views of what I wanted (to both stay in bed and to practice for example) over time and through practice, the beliefs shifted, faded, disappeared (or can at least now be recognized when they float up) and I grew into a version of myself that a former believed was simply impossible.

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