I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.
A few years ago, I took up hot yoga. Bikram yoga to be specific. For the uninitiated, hot yoga is typically a ninety minute class, twenty-six poses, at a balmy one hundred and four degrees.
It’s the fifth circle of hell.
The first time you take a class, it is all about not throwing up. They really discourage people from leaving the room once class starts. First of all, you cannot maintain that delightful temperature if people are opening and closing the door all the time. After all, the point is to stay, and release all of the toxins by sweating them out.
Also, they are sadists.
The first several classes I attended I spent the entire time arguing with myself- trying to negotiate my release from what felt like a hostage situation.
My least favorite pose was camel pose- a modified backbend in which you are on your knees and your hands are on your ankles- your head is tilted back and your back is arched. Every class, when it came time to do that pose, I would either burst into tears or be overcome with nausea. Every single time, in the middle of holding that pose, I would have to talk myself out of bolting for the door.
It works- hence the sobbing- if you can stay still for it.
Every time I was on my way to class, I dreaded it. I dutifully drank my coconut water and thought about how much it was going to suck. I was always right in my assessment. Every time after class, after I stayed through the pain and sweat and tears, I felt exhilarated and LIGHT.
See, people, I’m a runner. Not like my friends Kate and Jen, who like, actually RUN. When no one is chasing them.
I know. It defies understanding.
I run from discomfort. I run from anger. I run from conflict. I run from pain. I run from stillness.
When my Favorite and I have a disagreement, my instinct is to get the hell out of Dodge. When I feel too vulnerable, too exposed, I flee. Part of that is having spent so many years feeling as though my emotions were too messy, and a terrible inconvenience.
It’s funny- I have people ask me all the time how I can lay myself bare about such personal things in my writing, and put it out there. That’s actually really easy for me. It’s in the room that I struggle.
I am slowly learning to stay still- learning to lean in. To live with the uneasiness that comes from allowing myself to be seen for who I am, warts and all. I’m learning to trust in my relationships, that they can withstand being tested by conflict and honesty, and realizing that if they can’t- that’s great information.
There is a reason that yoga is referred to as a practice. Maybe we aren’t IN relationships, so much as we PRACTICE them. Imperfectly, perpetually learning, and trying, and failing, and forgiving.
Now, when I’m in conflict or I’m anxious I still instinctively try to negotiate my way out of it, but I am getting better at being seen and making myself heard. And practicing staying in the room.
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Oh, and yesterday I had an article up on Huffington Post. So, just your typical Monday…