I am always reading other people’s blogs and articles and books about how important it is to be grateful. I must admit that sometimes I don’t particularly like them. It is usually at a time when something has happened that doesn’t seem fair or necessary to experience in life. Then I start to feel that reading and listening to all this seems ludicrous. It should just be a given.
But my mind is not that clever even at this age and my ego starts to creep into my psych. I make all the excuses of why I should feel sorry for myself and not realize how fortunate I am. After all, I’ve worked hard for what I have. Nothing has come that easily for me. My determination and hard work have made me what I am today.
I know sooner or later I’d have to write about how yoga has played such an important part of my life. I have been practicing on and off for over 40 years. I was 16 when I was a young apprentice at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in the summer acting program. A free spirited peculiar man named Jewel Walker was teaching something called yoga incorporated with the Alexander Technique. Now this was Cincinnati, Ohio in 1971 and any practice like that was looked upon as an idea short of witchcraft. There was no lululemon, no fancy studios or designer mats. Most of the time we were in pajama pants and a t-shirt. Jewel had long scraggly hair and always wore free flowing pants with a tank top. He spoke very softly, focused and was very, very relaxed. I just thought he enjoyed some nice weed as it was still heavy in the hippie days and everyone in the “theater” was looked upon as being out there.
Somehow his inner strength made a huge impression on me and I wanted to have that kind of presence. I was trying to find my way as an artist as I knew even then I was destined to be involved in the arts for the rest of my life. I wasn’t sure how all of that was going to work out but I knew I felt at home when I was in Jewel’s class.
As the years wore on I dappled in other forms of dance, aerobics and movement but I always kept coming back to yoga. It seemed to be a place where I could relax, breathe and strengthen my mind and body. There are many forms of yoga but I always seemed to be the most at home with Hatha. The meaning of yoga is union which is a perfect way of describing what it is like when the tension in your body is released by the relaxation of your mind. They say we hold our emotions in our hips and there have been many times when I have started to cry, not from sadness, but from sheer relief that the tension I have held onto has finally been released.
I have had strange thoughts while in the most bizarre yoga position and I think it has been my mind’s way of saying to let go. Listen to my body and respect what it is trying to tell me. I will have worked many long hours on my feet and not notice the wear and tear I am doing to my body. Then I will do an hour of yoga and be reminded the gift my body gives me everyday. I must take the time to give thanks to this miraculous gift of life I take for granted.
I am a cancer survivor and if nothing else, being a survivor has taught me to listen not only to my mind but what my body is telling me. To be aware that good health is vital and can be lost in an instant. That the gift of breath which is the basis of yoga is the basis of life. I don’t know if Jewel was his real name but I know what he taught me at an early age has set me up for life to have something to go to when I need that special support. And that makes him a gem to me.
Being overwhelmed is different than being exhausted or anxious. Overwhelmed is being…well, overwhelmed. It’s when you feel like you can’t quite get a handle on what you are going to do next. It’s when the lists are constant and yet there always seems to be one more thing to do before a certain date. It’s when even finding your keys in your purse can send you over the edge.
I’ve been trying to keep from being overwhelmed in every aspect of my life. I’m learning to say no to things when I always use to say yes for fear I wouldn’t be liked if I didn’t do what was asked of me. I have recently been saying no more often and the reaction is a bit jarring. I am realizing that when I take people out of their comfort zone of what they expect of me in my behavior they are not very happy. In fact they become defensive. They feel like I am being unreasonable. I am not acting in the way they are accustomed. It’s not business as usual.
The hardest thing of being overwhelmed is that I don’t have the strength to put up the armor and pretend everything is all right. I am making decisions on my own without asking permission and that’s the first time in forever that I have let that happen. On one hand it feels like I’m gaining more ground in my personal freedom but in another way I feel like I’m drowning. I so want to be open and vulnerable. I don’t want to feel so out of control that anger seeps in out of fear. I am not strong enough to keep my guard up to say and behave in a way to keep the peace. Peace for who?
Why do we allow ourselves to get in these situations? What is it about the world today that has robbed us of our freedom to choose how we live our lives? Yes, we do have choices and nine times out of ten they are not the choices we are making. But how do we get out of the rat race we have created? And how did we let ourselves get into it so deep in the first place? I don’t know sometimes. I’m too overwhelmed to find an answer!
And then the drama of it all makes me shake my head and realize that at least I am trying to be aware of the fact that I am drowning! That my only refuge is to quiet my mind, take a deep breath and slowly try to prioritize what I really need in oppose to want I think I need. And that’s when I really have to go deep and ask myself the overwhelming questions of life…Who am I? What do I want?
And the overwhelming answer is happiness and joy in me. In me. If I take responsibility of just that right now then maybe all of it won’t be so overwhelming.