It’s been awhile since I’ve done yoga. I can’t remember exactly when it slipped away from my normal morning routine, but feeling the soreness in my body from this recent injury reminded me that yoga is how I deal with and prevent my body hurting, and I haven’t been regular with it. This morning when my alarm went off at my ideal wake-up time I was able to get up, not sleep for another hour. I know the recent time falling back is working to my advantage. I got a glass of ice water and headed straight onto my yoga mat in my garage. I opened you tube on my phone and pulled up the Yoga With Adrienne channel. There in the new videos was a yoga practice for writers. For writers! Of course there was a new yoga for writers video and of course I found it on this my day to return to this practice. A secret message uncovered just for me.
At the outset of the video I didn’t think I could pull it off. My heart was racing so fact in my chest and my breathing was shallow. My mind felt like my dog Buddy used to look after I had provoked him to such a high level of chaos that he would growl and lunge and bark and run fast in circle around the room, set off by merely the turning of my head and an intense eye-to-eye glare. As the video started in a lot of stillness, it became obvious to me how much I needed the intention of taking pause.
I am eating on my lunch break now at school while I am typing this. I scarfed down the second half of my chipotle saved from my dinner last night, and as I started in on my banana I thought again how I could sure benefit from a moment of pause right this minute.
<P A U S E>
3 deep breaths.
As I laid in my garage this morning, I noticed a familiar shadow on the wall cast there by the track for the garage door I believe. I need to draw that shadow, I thought. I’ve seen it many time, but never thought of it consciously, and now I want to capture it. It is a long skinny body with two eyes a surprised mouth and arms outstretched as if it say, “Wait, don’t go.”
Seeing faces like this is very common for me. In fact, when I lay on my yoga mat, above me on the ceiling there is another face. This one I did capture during my recent participating in Inktober. I imagined how these different faces that appear to me, that have appeared to me all my life, could be personifications of my ghosties. They do have a sort of haunt to them as they are always faces oddly pieced together in shadows and highlights, in machine parts, stains, bits of nature, food, etc. It makes me think of the boy who sees dead people. My ghosty faces just appear in the woodwork. Like literally the woodwork - in the bark of trees and the wood grained paneling in my childhood bathroom. It helps to give fear a face, or several faces, and these work especially well as ghosty faces since these are the sort that are here and then gone depending on how I piece together the details around me. Is it a tree or is it a face? Is it a shadow or is it a being? Am I seeing it, really seeing it, or is it in the outskirts of my unconsciousness, a pattern that hits me again and again and again until one day I take pause and breath slowly long enough to say, “Oh hey there little guy. You’ve been there a long time, and I’ve never actually acknowledged you and said hi.” To notice fear you have to take pause and sit with it and get really familiar. Even now as I type this I don’t think I could draw this skinny little shadow from memory. I just have a faint idea of what it is I saw.
At some point during the yoga practice this morning I realized I had started breathing deeply again, and my heart had stopped racing, and I could keep my mind still. I believe the practice itself was a little over 20 minutes, so I wasn’t there long, and it was relief that I could calm myself down. It made me excited to return to my mat again later this evening or tomorrow morning. It made me wiling to make the extra effort to get myself there because it felt so good. Later when I was washing my hair in the shower I found myself being more mindful of my own touch. I wash my hair nearly everyday. How long has it been since I’ve actually felt my own fingertips on my scalp? It’s hard for my mind to go gallivanting off into the never ending abyss of fears when it is sensorially committed to this moment right here and now. When I am lost deep somewhere in the abyss perhaps the reminder to feel the touch of my own fingertips on my scalp, lock eyes with the shadow man on the wall or put down my banana mid bite so I can chew, pause and breathe will give me something solid to touch down on. Making friends with my ghosty is a matter of pausing, acknowledging and choosing to not get swept up in that frantic energetic current that used to set off my dog with a head turn and a vicious eye stare. Sometimes I can stop it before it takes me away, sometimes I am not mindful enough to notice. Even knowing this is helpful. Bringing it to light, writing about it helps me to be more aware next time and the time after that.
Last night in art therapy I taught my little people how to draw and paint a ghost. We used fluorescent paint, oil pastels and chalk that all glowed in blacklights. While they worked I read them the book How to Make Friends With a Ghost. On one page it talked about how you can’t find a ghost. The ghost must find you. And that ghosts usually come to people who are kind. One of the girls in class, sucked air in and whispered, “I’m kind.” She paused and then she said a little louder, “But this is fiction.”
I related so well with the way she responded to the book. I could see myself as a little girl whispering the exact same thing - “I’m kind” and contemplating if this ghost finding me thing could really happen. I’ve been thinking about the sort of kind that I am, and why me as a kind person would have so many ghosts that find me. I think it is because my sensitivity is what makes me kind, and my sensitivity is also what makes me alert and open and accepting of new discoveries and secret messages. Fear wants to show itself (not show up, but really show itself in specifics rather than generalities) to a person who cares enough to learn and listen and change. This is the sort of person who won’t ignore the ghost, run from the ghost, blame the ghost or minimize the ghost. I actually believe my fear can be a powerful teacher and motivator, as long as I am dealing in specifics and looking that ghosty in its eyes.
The book also talks about growing old with your ghost. Of course the ghost itself doesn’t age, but what struck me in thinking of this ghosty as my fear, is that my fears will never leave me. Sure they may morph, ebb and flow in intensity, taking on new faces, showing up in the woodwork and shadows, but as long as I am breathing and growing my fear will be a constant companion. I can see it as a friend and asset and confidant or I can see it as a ghoulish haunt out for my destruction and insanity. I choose to see my fear as in my best interest. A lucky little friend showing up every time I take a risk. It cheers me on when I want to proceed. It puts its cold little fingerless arm on my shoulder every time I need to take a deep breath and say, No. It honestly doesn’t expect one thing or another from me, it just points me in a direction, like a weather vein. It is knowledge about myself. See enough ghosties, or spend lots of times with the same few, eventually that knowledge grows into wisdom you can build on.
I’m finishing this piece of writing up from bed once again. I’m thinking besides going for a cup of sleepy tea and a a piece of toast with butter and honey as a bedtime snack, I would like to go visit my yoga mat one more time to end the day. Just a short little practice in gratitude for all I’m learning about listening to myself, my body, my ghosty. My friends will be there - on the ceiling, on the wall, and my mat will serve as a touchpoint and an honoring ground for just how much I am learning about myself through this writing and releasing process. Every day is a day worth healing…just a little bit more.
One thing I failed to mention about my morning is that I spent a good hour tracking down something in my life that was bothersome to me. I wanted to know where it was stemming from. There were feelings to sift through - anger and really maybe with that anger a propensity to shut down as a defense mechanism to keep from getting hurt again. The more I unpacked it I found that closer in and deeper down there was fear. Fear is at the center of all my growing and expanding right now. I remember reading once that when all the other emotions have been stifled, a single one takes over - fear. I wonder if learning to feel all the feelings again could have an effect on fear, lessen it maybe. It’s worth a try. So I spent what time I could give it this morning tracing it back and further back. Getting to some of the roots. Or at least close. It felt good to dig. It felt good to get specific. To see some of my ghosties right in their face.
I paused in the last few paragraphs of writing this for some yoga. I finished my toast. I’m back in bed sipping on my tea. Honey Vanilla Chamomile. Healing comes in the specifics.