by Kristin Black
New to yoga, I signed up for a beginner, Ashtanga style class. There I was, trying to find balance in poses while a litany of negative self-talk spun stories in my head. Wobbling in triangle, you are not strong enough. Failing to reach my toes in forward bend, you are not flexible enough. Sweating in downward dog, you are not dog enough . . . well maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. I wasn’t enough.
I didn’t even realize at the time that this line of thinking was impacting every aspect of my life.
I lived small, choosing a career path after scanning the employment ads; I picked accounting for the job security. It was acceptable, definable. Any gathering involving more than two people required industrial-level antiperspirants, and immediately after I would analyze every detail of everything I said for fear of revealing what a fraud I was. I was swimming in the ocean with my face in the water but my eyes shut tight to my own wonders.
Finally, after an hour of sweating, straining, and shaking we collapsed into savasana, corpse pose. To my surprise, it took only a few moments for my breathing to fall into a restful, easy state. I lay there with my eyes closed, succumbing to the mat and the floor and for the first time in a long time, felt completely supported.
But while my body and breath relaxed, my mind raced on. My mind is a wonderful thing; it loves to analyze situations from every possible angle. It loves to take a number of seemingly disconnected points and weave a common thread between them. It also loves to torture me. Quite frankly, she can be a bit of a bitch.
The thing is, I’m pretty sure my mind believes it’s doing the right thing. Stuff happens. Bad things happen. Sometimes you get hurt, and after awhile you get stuck in a state of high alert all the time. She is keeping me safe. At least that’s what she believes.
The instructor is guiding us in the most soothing tone. He is instructing us to relax our bodies even more. My muscles and bones are melting downwards, letting go and then letting go even further. I finally stop thinking and just listen to the sound of his voice. Then, in the quiet with the internal chatter on pause, in that brief space, I heard the notes of a long-forgotten lullaby.
“Let go of all trying, you are already perfect as you are.”
Let go of all trying, you are already perfect as you are. Perfect. As you are. Tears flooded my eyes and streamed down my cheeks in a silent release. My chest surged with a knowing in response. I had been trying. Trying so very hard. Trying to be a good daughter, good student, good employee, and good lover. Trying so damn hard to be good enough. Twisting in every direction, racing to silence the scream inside demanding but what about me? What about me? I realized in that moment that it was those thoughts and feelings that rendered me bound yet hollow. What I presented on the mat was a reflection of the turmoil on the inside.
My heart laughed, rejoicing at the opportunity to finally be heard because she knew all along what the mind didn’t. That there was no need for the not enough. That there was nothing to be gained from berating. That life was meant to be enjoyed and that my very being was already enough, already perfect.
My mind had been struggling to make sense of things. Trying to understand my feelings. But she is sorely incapable of that task. Feelings belong to the heart. For the heart knows things, especially what is important.
Things haven’t changed overnight. The mind is strong, but I do take more opportunities to intentionally find space and quiet, to listen ever so carefully for the messages my heart is sending me. When I pay attention, I notice them. And when I notice them, I say yes.
Since then I have married, changed jobs, begun a meditation practice, become a mother, attended classes in art and theatre, and even gone out on stage with a local community theatre troupe. Following my heart has enabled me to do things that my mind would never have even conceived.
Now in times when the anxiety flares up and my confidence shrinks, I return to my mat. I wrap as much self-love as I can muster around myself and return to a place where a soothing voice turns off my mind. The mind can learn, and some days that soothing voice is my own, and I remind myself to let go and accept myself as I am and where I am.
Turns out I am dog enough.
Kristin Black lives in a hockey obsessed suburb in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her son, husband, and a cat that sleeps on her face at night. She’s an introvert, balancing work and home while seeking the joy in the ordinary.
Photo credit: “asa_yoga_meditating” by Minoru Nitta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.