Three years ago, I decided to move to Florida. No matter that I had spent only limited time there, had few friends and no idea what I’d do for work, or that I had never lived more than an hour from where I grew up in Northern California. That day, looking at the beach and feeling the warm breeze on my face, I knew, deep inside me, that someday this would be home.
Following the calling of that intuitive voice, three weeks ago, I landed on the east coast. I found welcoming studios to teach at and a beautiful home to live in, 10 minutes from the beach with palm trees right outside my bedroom window. I was ready for my new adventure in Florida. . . and then. . . I got sick. Next, an old low back injury started aching. Finally, in the middle of teaching a class, it went OUT. For the next 3 days, I could barely walk or even stand without pain and while I can now sit down without bracing myself, it’s still fragile.
I’ve been a mess. And yet, this may be a gift.
Packing up a life and a business, moving it 3,000 miles and then trying to set it all up again is about as crazy and complicated as it sounds. Mentally, I hit the ground running as soon as I arrived, filling out paperwork, planning classes, unpacking boxes, learning the area, updating websites. . . yeah the palm trees were beautiful but I had stuff to do.
If I were one of my students, I would have told me to slow down, breathe, feel and honor my body by only moving in pain-free ways.
Instead, I chose to ride the shame spiral of “haven’t done enough” and my favorite, “not good enough”.
“I’m a teacher. People expect me to be strong and fit. I SHOULD be working out,” the voices in my head screamed.
Fortunately, I’ve learned to pay attention when the S-word (should) comes up. More often than not, the shoulds in my head reflect the judgements of my inner critic (and man, can she be mean). Her voice attempts to keep me in line, telling how I need to be and behave in order to be respectable and lovable. As a Type-A, recovering perfectionist, this voice ruled me for years and she still takes over from time to time, often when I’m scared, stressed or overwhelmed – like right now.
In my rush to get settled in my new home, I didn’t leave any room to process the massive changes I was making. To feel both the excitement of new possibilities as well as the sadness in leaving wonderful friends and close family behind. It was easier to be busy than to sit with the complex emotions swirling around inside.
I believe that my body was trying to do what my mind couldn’t – get me to slow down long enough to be present, to absorb everything I had accomplished and to cultivate compassion for myself, even when I couldn’t make it through more than a single item on my to do list.
My limitations challenged me to up-level my practice by feeling, rather than doing, more.
So I sat down on my yoga mat, deepened my breath and allowed myself to be still, creating space for all the parts of me - even the messy fearful and sad bits to arise. By allowing myself to feel, without the pressure of having to judge or fix the uncomfortable parts, I honor the complex creature that I am and learn to be a little more accepting, a little more kind, both to myself and ultimately to others.
My back is still tender. I still can’t see the bottom of my to do list. I’m still stumbling my way through building a life in a new place. But that’s life – there’s always a reason to be busy, to feel as though we don’t measure up – and that’s why I practice and teach yoga. The safe space it provides allows me to step out of the chaos, reconnect with that wiser voice deep inside and recharge so that I have strength and patience to face the challenges of the day.
Teachers come in many forms. This month I’m grateful to the teacher that showed up in the form of a tender back for reminding me that it’s ok to feel messy and complicated and broken and inviting me to show up for myself with tenderness and care.