I landed in LA on July 6th, 2018. I remember so vividly my life one year ago: I had just landed back in New York after leading a retreat in Belize; the next day I got my second tattoo - the one on my left side body that says “may all beings be happy and free”; the day after that I taught what would become my first annual Usher class and met a person who irrevocably altered my world in every way possible. This last year has placed me in situations and circumstances that forced me to reveal the person that I doubted was inside of me by unraveling all of my protective casing. I have done things I would never thought possible both personally and professionally. I dove in head first and fully involved myself in relationships that I would have immediately shut down and blocked off in prior version of myself. Those relationships and situations did not all work out well. But, I'm still here. I wanted to experience every part of my life in such a full way that I had never been interested in committing to before. So, I made a change.
Cut to present day.
I arrived in a new place that is very different from my old home. It’s been a week and my body still thinks it’s on east coast time. I wake up every day at 4am, like my heart doesn’t want me to forget what I left behind just yet. I feel like I should be acclimated already. I’m impatient. I’m annoyed. And mainly with myself. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. All of this tells me that I haven’t fully arrived yet. Sure, I walked through the arrival gate at LAX, I picked up the keys to my new home, I bought a car and got insurance and changed my address and changed my bank and did all of the things that said “I’ve have arrived”. Part of me is still somewhere else. It’s not here. It’s not now. It’s disconnected from what’s happening. My body is here but my brain and my heart are not fully here.
This is a big old defense mechanism. We arrive with our bodies, and that seems to be the easy part. Our minds and hearts are often floating somewhere else. Separating these parts of us that are hyperconnected is a way of blunting the experience of the present moment. If our minds and hearts aren’t truly involved in the place that our bodies are, we won’t feel hurt or disappointment or rejection or failure or heartbreak so keenly. In doing so, we mute the rest of the experience of our lives. I’ve found that the more distant my heart, mind, and body are from one another, the worse decisions I make, the less in alignment with my true self I am, and ultimately, the more unhappy I becoming in the long term. My first week in my new home has taught me about arrival. So I’m going into this next week consciously recognizing the ways in which I don’t arrive fully.
Use these tools to show up more fully when you notice you’re doing everything in your power to run away.
Ground yourself in the physical experience of this moment. Your heart is one place, your body is wherever you left it while your mind decided it was going to go far away from the here and now. Bring all of you back to right now. Start with your eyes closed and notice all of the sensations from the gross to the intimate. Is a ray of sun hitting your right knee? Do you feel the breeze tickle your left forearm? Do you feel the sharp edges of the bench your sitting on cut into the back of your hamstrings? Can you hear cars or ocean waves or bees zipping by or dogs barking in a far off place? What does it smell like where you are? Maybe you open your eyes and see the dark green leaves on a tree or the swiftly moving clouds dance across the pink and purple sky at sunset. There is so much stimulation from the outside world. Sometimes it can be a distraction that takes us out of full presence. However, we can use the overwhelming amount of sensory input from the larger world to anchor your mind body and heart into right now. Notice all of the details. When the mind starts to wonder to thoughts of the past or plans for the future, come back to the details of right now. Notice how they change ever so slightly moment to moment. Rest your hands on your body snd remind yourself that you are here.
Fully breathe your body. The breath in the yoga practice is the focal point for the mind and the heart because it can only exist in the present moment. Thoughts can take us to anxiety about the future or rumination over the past and our feelings will come along for the ride. When the focus comes to the breath, we anchor all of these seemingly disparate parts of us in the present moment. The thoughts become about right now. The feelings are in response to what is happening right now. The body is already existing in the right now. Yet, it is so easy to walk around for days or months or even years holding the breath, never fully exhaling or inhaling. Usually, when we hold onto the breath like that, it is because we are trying very hard not to feel something or thinking something that the rest of us already knows to be true. If we separate our hearts minds and bodies, of course those feelings and thoughts will be less. They might be so dull that we can barrel on through our existence and tolerate whatever circumstances are in direct opposition to our truest selves. The more deeply we commit to a breath or meditation practice, the more suppressed feelings or thoughts might come up. Let them. You will never experience more than you can handle, though sometimes it might feel that way. Fully breathing will expand the limits of joy. It will let you fully inhabit happiness and tranquility and love. That alone is worth it in my eyes.
Encounter fear with some hard honesty. When we find ourselves separating these intricately linked parts of ourselves, so often it comes back to fear. Consciously, we might not realize it. Untangle your thoughts by writing them down in a stream-of-consciousness journalling exercise. The first five minutes, your mind might have some resistance; allow yourself to get completely lost in writing down as many thoughts as you can. They will lead you to some very interesting thought patterns. Honestly assessing why we are afraid will help us to understand why we’ve put up one of our best defenses. Fear can sound like many different things: I’m afraid of being hurt. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of not being good enough. I’m afraid that this person won’t value me. I’m afraid of being betrayed. I’m afraid of needing other people to help me. This small sampling of what fear can sound like has probably invade our thoughts more than once. Fear gets lumped into a general category. When we take to the time to get interested in the specificty of our fear, make friends with it, understand the root of the fear, it becomes much simpler to encounter fear and make choices that are not based in it. Living courageously doesn’t mean living without fear. It means making friends with fear. Living courageously takes fear into consideration and, knowing the potential consequences, then decides the possibilities on the other side of it are worth it. Arriving on the other side of fear takes the whole self being in the same place at the same time.
This year marked a ton of firsts for me including fully involving myself in people and relationships - no one-foot-in-and-one-foot-out, no half hearted commitments, just completely and utterly all in. It was not a graceful transition into learning how to fully arrive and to be completely transparent, I still don’t fully arrive 100 percent of the time. It is still terrifying, and when things don’t work out, it’s incredibly painful. Part of me, looking back, wishes that none of it ever happened so I didn’t have to feel all of these hard and heavy feelings. The other part recognizes that the sharpened experience of “the negative” means the heighten experience of “the positive”. We don’t get to expand in only one direction. As our capacity to understand and feel grief deepens, so does our ability to feel joy and awe and wonder. We need something to compare it against so that we understand exactly what it is we are moving through. My commitment for this next week is to arrive fully in as many situations as I can. That means feeling some hard feelings but also some amazing ones. This is the only time we get to experience this life, why not get fully invested in it? Why not arrive?