Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chapter 1, Part 2

We worked in pairs. One had been instructed to guide, to witness, but not to interfere. No touching, for example, no comforting pats or hugs, and no speaking except for the four allowable suggestions. "Breathe, feel that, what's happening now", and "good". The one riding the wave, was to sit or stand comfortably, focus on an ache or pain that drew attention, and communicate how they felt.

I had partnered with my girlfriend so felt free to complain whole heartedly. As we stepped out onto the deck I was barely aware of what a glorious afternoon it was. I was consumed by my indignation, my outrage. "This is such bullshit! What a waste of time and money! This isn't yoga! I want my money back!!!"

"Breathe" came my friends voice, "feel that". Well... she wanted to play and obviously wanted me to go first... so fine, I would go first. "I feel irritated, agitated, ripped off, and pissed off, and what has any of this got to do with yoga?" "How does that feel in your body?" she quietly asked.

It took me a while to get settled. I was fidgety and had a hard time getting comfortable. I tried sitting on a bench, sitting cross-legged on the deck, and finally chose to stand where a sunbeam could warm my back. "What's happening now?" my friend asked me.

The sun warmed and soothed, my friends' voice calmed and led, and my awareness homed in on a place of chronic discomfort in my back, a couple of inches above the waistline and centered along the spine. I'd been aware if it for a long time and back bends like the Camel always took me there. Secretly I had begun to wonder if yoga was making it worse. With hindsight I see that my yoga practice had, over time, been rooting something out, bringing it up, closer to the surface.

I stood there with my eyes closed, in the warm sunshine, bitching. This is so stupid... what I feel is stiffness in my back... duh! "Breathe" she said, "allow yourself to feel that". All of a sudden I was sobbing. One moment I was complaining and a split second later I was overwhelmed by a deep, convulsive, uncontrollable sobbing unlike anything I could remember experiencing. And, it was so sudden, unexpected, immediate. My body started quaking, my teeth chattering, my jaw locking. "What's happening now?" My friends' voice anchored me but I was unable to speak, mortified by my terrible wailing and convulsive sobbing, but helpless to do anything but sob and wail. "Feel what's happening in your body."

As I observed it, the discomfort seemed to expand from back to front, until it encompassed my entire solar plexus. The closest I can come to putting words to the feeling is, a tight fist or ball of energy inside me.

I felt my adrenal glands surge. Although emotion was vague at first, it clarified and I realized I was feeling extreme anxiety and fear. As soon as I made that realization, the tight fist of energy moved upward until it settled into the pit of my stomach. Almost immediately I felt that sinking feeling of impending doom, dread now mixing with almost paralyzing fear. All the while sobbing with a totally unfamiliar and uncontrollable intensity. That this was happening at all shook me up. Coming so violently out of the blue was alarming. Even so there was a part of me, a witnessing presence, watching, incredulous but curious. I heard a voice in my head say clearly, "holy shit! this is bizarre! what the fuck is going on here"? "Breathe... let yourself feel that" came my friends' voice.