Get out of your own way. Led Primary has a way of reassuring me that I am stronger than I think. Stronger….Th(e)n, I think. The count removes space for thinking. And the practice itself opens up in that space. Space is transferred into the now, the physical, the doing. Every time the mind breaks in with chatter, its stories (this is hard, my shoulder hurts, I should skip this vinyasa,) the count drowns it out and requires that I swim with the current or drown.

Last month I went to Breitenbush, Oregon to study with my teacher at a magical little self-sustaining “intentional community,” completely off the grid in gorgeous national forest. Before I went, I kept referring to it as “stepping outside my comfort zone.” You know what you get when you go outside? A look at what is happening on the inside. Inside is my ordered, clean, dry, 5-pillows-in-the-bed-climate-controlled-introverted-comfort-zone. Well, a borrowed sleeping bag thrown on a mattress, constant damp, grunge-y, mildew-y, wet boots, communal, people-y, hippie wilderness was so far outside my comfort zone it offered a view IN. A perspective shift that I’d unconsciously given up experiencing sometime after motherhood and bucolic domesticity settled over my existence.

Encounters with myself through others, newly resonant interpretations of well-read text, and an environment rife with open minded, confidently unusual people, went to work on my construction of my Self.

A yogi whose discipline I admire remarked how hard I worked in practice. Wait, WHAT? Sincerely dumbfounded I gaped at her. “What the hell are you talking about?” That is the last description I would give to my messy struggle through solitary home practice and the obstacles of many years of yoga practice. Asked to clarify, she said, “how many times did you do laghu, a dozen?” A new friend chimed in, “yeah, when I practiced with you last fall I swear every time we looked your way you were at the wall working on kapotasana. Over and over. How do you do that?”

I assure you, there is nothing remarkable about my kapo, or any other asana. That’s why I am doing it over and over. Because it is terrible, and impossible, and I still feel like an amateur, every.single.practice. It never occurred to me to feel good about my struggle, my effort. What the hell? WHY NOT?

My teacher told me once, “you are all effort.” And, I don’t know exactly how HE meant it, but my mind translated it as “you have no skill, no finesse. You’re trying too hard and still mediocre.” I have a healthy self-esteem, (don’t I?) Why did I NEVER question the story my mind wrote based on a passing four-word observation? An outside perspective could convey admiration for my discipline, my commitment to at least give all the effort, to TRY AS HARD AS I CAN, even though I’m not rewarded with much visible progress.

A casual challenge to the construction of my identity opened up a whole new room in my consciousness. A couple other encounters with myself and with others put even more windows in that room. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, or the trees for the forest, or some damn thing. But once I tried looking in from outside in the woods, I could see a whole lot more.

David Garrigues said, “yoga is a mirror, it throws you right up against yourself.” Well, I believe that to be true, but up until I evict myself from that “comfort zone” it is also true that “despite a pair of eyes, you do not LOOK.” The mirror does you no good if you don’t look to see. 

Stop arguing for your limitations, you really don’t know what you can’t do. I will continue to court the impossible. To try and look with the pair of outside eyes. To acknowledge that every step toward mastery in the face of certain failure, IS THE WHOLE F*&%ing POINT.

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