Sometimes in your life there are events that shake you up and change you in such a profound way that they cannot be described. I’ve long believed that words and stories have the power to be medicine or poison. In fact I have written two theses about the power of stories and words to create communities, build identities, and help individuals and cultures heal from internal or external trauma.
That’s pretty powerful medicine in my opinion, but that which I received this week transcended all capacity to be defined in such terms. I will try my best, however, to share some of the seeds of growth, beauty, love, and change that myself and 36 other yogis experienced over the last week.
I arrived in victoria on October 24th, fresh-faced and exploding with excitement at the prospect of reconnecting with the One Yoga community, building new friendships, and learning the basics of sharing my practice in the form of teaching. I met my two roommates for the week who quickly became my most trusted confidants and shared in the laughter, joy, pain, and suffering that defined this week.
You might be asking “Pain and suffering? At a hippy dippy yoga teacher training? What the truck, Cait?” Well, in my experience since walking into One Yoga Saskatoon 16 months ago and starting my practice, yoga is not merely a physical activity designed to give you ripped guns and a super perky yoga bum. In the words of one of the amazing teachers I was blessed enough to work with over the past 9 days, every time we go onto our mats we continue the process of shedding what we’re not to become who we truly are. Did you just get shivers? Because I know I did when he shared that wisdom with us. Get comfy, grab some tea, and let me tell you a little story.
5 or 6 years ago (who’s counting really?) I was in the process of finishing up my undergrad degree in English. As many might know a large part of any BA is presentations… and let me tell you I LOATHED them with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. My palms would get sweaty, my heart would race, my words would stumble out over my tongue, and sometimes afterwards I wouldn’t even remember what I had said or done during my presentation. Suffice it to say my number one biggest fear at that point in time was public speaking. It hit me in the gut and made me feel small and powerless. Like I was being judged and found wanting by everyone sitting in the audience. It was not a pleasant experience.
Fast-forward a few months, a couple years, and one amazing professor later to Saskatoon 2009 when I started working on my MA. I had just uprooted myself and moved across the country, knowing no one, sick with the swine flu, and completely missing all my east coast loves. But at that junction I had an opportunity to recreate my story. I was in a new place; with new people and hell I’d just packed up a suitcase and moved by myself across the country. In light of that upheaval, what harm was really going to come from expressing myself to a group of my peers? And so I slowly entered into the fear, fully and completely. I started talking in class at every opportunity, I created a new persona who was strong and passionate about that which she spoke. And slowly but surely the fear started to melt away.
It’s now 2014 and as many of you know I make my living teaching. And this “job” fills me up in a way nothing else ever has. I feel alive and passionate and so thrilled when I stand up in front of a group of people and teach them about the foods that are poison and foods that are medicine. Seeing that moment of clarity and recognition on the faces of those who attend my classes and workshops as they attach some tidbit I’ve mentioned to their own lives and stories is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a yoga workshop and the teacher asked “who are you?” and for the first time in my life I was able to say with conviction and clarity that “I am a teacher!” What I teach is irrelevant, really, as I continue to learn and grow myself, that focus will of course change and grow with me. The most important thing is that I remain a willing and engaged student for the rest of my life, so that I can be the best possible teacher.
From this experience (and too many others to include here) I’ve learned that within our pain, within our fear, and within our suffering lies our greatest capabilities. When we don’t shy away from our fear, or push it down to cover it with smiles and platitudes magic can happen. We need to meet our fear head on and greet it like an old friend who requires love, comfort, and acceptance to heal. The darkness that lives inside of us all is no less important than the light and love. It’s just different. It’s powerful beyond measure and once we accept all that we are, true growth happens.
I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much or as powerfully as I did in the past week. I met my grief, my fear, my anger, my frustration, my regret head on. I opened myself up to it all and felt it fully and completely with every cell of my body. I was lucky enough to be in a completely safe space, supported and loved unconditionally by my fellow students and teachers so I was able to shed some more of who I am not. I broke open over and over again to let more of the light in. I greeted my suffering like a companion and walked with it through vinyasa after vinyasa. And I had teachers and friends who walked with me. Who, with their hearts and souls, let me know that it was alright. That I was safe. And for that I will be eternally grateful. If you feel alone and unsupported know that I’m here for you, just waiting to offer you the support and love you need to heal.
To deny our suffering is to deny a huge part of who we are. An important part of who we are. And we must remember never to compare our suffering to that of those around us. We all feel in unique ways. We all process grief differently. We are all affected by life events differently. But opening our hearts, sharing our stories with those around us, or even just baring our souls and saying “I’m sad. I’m vulnerable. Hold me. Love me.” is a powerful way to be with our suffering, to feel it. Hopefully we can then release it so that though it will always play a part in our creation of self, it will no longer define us or hold us down and stop us from opening our hearts to roar with the world.
As I sit in a gas station parking lot in Chilliwack listening to the rain on my car windows writing up these words and sharing my story, my medicine, I’m filled to the brim with happiness and gratitude. For the people, places, and events in my life who have led me to this beautiful moment of living. Trust in the process, no matter where you are right now.
Thank you for sharing your stories with me.
Thank you for being vulnerable with me.
Thank you for supporting me.
Thank you for loving me unconditionally, as I love you all.
The light and darkness inside of me sees and honours the light and darkness inside of you.