Archive for November, 2009

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Yoga School Drop Out

November 26, 2009

When I told my mom that the realization felt like a ton of bricks hitting me, she said something disarmingly poetic:

“Maybe it wasn’t a ton of bricks hitting you, but a door opening, and a blast of wind hitting you.”

Maybe indeed.

I’ve been really struggling with my advanced training program.  As I put it a couple posts ago: “Right now I’m just trying to find apertures where I can, and compassion for myself where I can’t.  As I learned in AA, ‘take what you want and leave the rest.’”  I’ve been thinking a lot about that saying; though it’s used to refer to the AA program itself, I realized it can have multiple meanings.  When an alcoholic wants to begin a life of sobriety, one of the most important things he or she usually does is stop going to bars, and seek out community apart from her or his drinking buddies.  You can’t “leave the rest” if The Rest is constantly in your face, if you’re too close to The Rest to see what you want to take otherwise.

So I’ve been sitting in training, tense, angry, frustrated not knowing how to find space and compassion toward a spiritual system that doesn’t resonate with me, too close to it to remember why I was there.

Then I went into four days of silent retreat with two of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Sharon Salzberg & Sylvia Boorstein.  The moment I got to the retreat center – a fantastic refuge called The Garrison Institute – I felt calmer, content, at home.  And when I sat down for the first Dharma talk, and my first meditation in months in that elegant, touching, simple Vipassana style – as embarrassingly cliche as it sounds – I felt like I was jumping into pure, cold, clear water after days in the desert. Just 12 or so hours later, when I began the first full day of silence and meditation, it hit me.

I had to drop out.

Now, I was not looking to come to this conclusion. I had hoped to find wisdom and compassion on how to deal with training, not how to leave it.  But over and over, as I sat my retreat, the answer kept coming to me: in the choice of words of my teachers, in my meditations, even on the insides of tea bag tags.  I just reread my notes right before and right after I had this insight.  Just before, Sharon had been discussing how we commonly look at strength as a herculean effort to hold on, but that in reality, strength is the ability to let go, gracefully and gently.  I remember bursting into tears when she said this, and writing the answer (as a question): Do I want to drop out of school?

We then meditated. Or rather, the rest of the 100+ participants meditated.  I cried.  I quietly sobbed.  If you ever read the blog I used to write for a certain online publication, I spoke once on my history with crying – that, in particular, I often cry when I’m hit with resonant truth.  So I cried. I cried and then I wrote a list of all the questions, issues, struggles I might have with this decision.  The very first of this kind was: “I’ve never dropped out of anything big like this.”

I come from a family mentality of “you finish what you start.”  When I was miserable as a fat little girl in a leotard getting laughed at in gymnastics, I still had to finish… when I came home crying, not ready for sleep over camp, I went back as a day student… there’s only one other major program I’ve dropped out of – Catholic confirmation class.

The mirroring of that major decision to this one was stark: the issues of spirituality, of seeking my own path, most powerfully, of the questioning that is such a huge part of my personality, my inability to take anything at face value, and the fact that at 28, I can celebrate those parts of me instead of feeling guilty, alienated, or abnormal for my lack of faith.

So. I declare proudly. I’m a yoga school drop out.  I’m going to start studying yoga on my own terms, with a focus on mindfulness and compassion and Buddhist precepts, and we’ll see where this open door and gust of wind takes me…

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For Love or Alcohol

November 3, 2009

I’m beginning to think I’m terrified of men.

If you haven’t read this, I suggest you do.  This particular blogger gives words creatively and intelligently to something I think about often: that my body reacts like I’m in danger when a man is hitting on me.  On the rare occasion I even moderately allow the interaction to continue, I’m in a constant discussion and renegotiation with myself about whether or not this person wants to rape and/or kill me.  I never fully allowed myself to think about it in those terms until I read this blog.  I always chose to blame myself instead – that I’m shy, insecure, confidence-lacking – but what she had to say really resonated.  I think a part of me works on the basic assumption that men want to cause me physical harm until strong evidence proves otherwise.

As a heterosexual female, might I say, that really blows.

It’s come to the surface over the course of the last year or so in intimate situations.  As I’ve insinuated (read: declared awkwardly more times than appropriate), it’s been a very long time since I’ve slept with anyone. Well over a year. But twice in that time I’ve had the opportunity to go forth and have stopped things dead in the water, and I think a huge part of that is not the clichéd, “fear of intimacy,” but literally fear of the man himself.

Interestingly, there’s something else these two occasions had in common that all other previous sexual interactions had not: I was sober.  I’ve made a couple of regrettable and/or potentially dangerous sexual decisions in my life – slept with someone in a relationship, taken a man home I barely knew, etc. – but I was never hindered by any driving fear on those occasions.  I didn’t feel great about the decisions in the morning, or when they didn’t call, or when their Myspace profiles (yes, Myspace… it was a while ago) informed me they were in a relationship just weeks after I got “I’m not ready for a relationship…” but at least I wasn’t laden in fear in the moment.

But then again, I had STD scares and even a cervical cancer scare after many of the “one-nights” I’ve had, and have sat sobbing in my therapist’s arm chair about whether the test would come back positive or negative… so perhaps that fear just gets transmuted, postponed.  But at least in the moment, with alcohol in my body, when sex became available I didn’t suddenly break away, frozen in terror of that destructive thing they carry around in their pants, afraid of their advances and aggression, of the sheer maleness of them.

I realize it’s a good thing to be able to listen to my body clearly and cogently, to know when I don’t feel ready, but at the same time, I’m a pretty, 28 year old, single woman with no sex life to speak of, and feel like I should be able to just enjoy the experience when it arises… so to speak.  It makes me feel inadequate, hyper sensitive, immature, child-like… like I still haven’t learned how to play the game, and I’m still afraid of the stadium.

My only hope is that should I finally find myself dating someone, and if he can manage to wait until I’ve garnered enough evidence in his favor, that “love” – whatever that means – will allay my terror.  For love or alcohol, I think it’s a far more rosy ideal to choose love… if it ever manages to find me.