"You are here to find out who you are."
This cannot be the first time these words have come out of his mouth or even the first time I've contemplated what they might mean to me but I have no memory of being head down four inches from the floor in Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose watching the sweat rain onto my towel and feeling my sinuses back up into my head because I'm situated incorrectly for draining tears and snot efficiently.
In our culture, whether we want to admit it or not, everything is about our results. What have we done? What have we not done? What are our five year, ten year, fifteen year goals? What do we hope to accomplish before midlife or retirement? How do we shape our lives? Around which set of desires or achievements or definitions do we move forward? What has us decide at any point that 'this is not working for me' or 'I do not want the rest of my life to be like this' and even if I can't really define what 'like this' is, for the most part what I am abandoning and what I am moving toward is a set of accomplishments, something I can check off the bucket list. It almost never has a damn thing to do with 'who am I?' At least not directly.
If I happen to ask myself who am I in the process of getting, acquiring, even being (open, loving, vulnerable, caring, strong, an asshole (yeah, we are those things too)) then there is that but it's a byproduct, nothing of central importance and it falls by the wayside. Or I might remind myself that I am an open, caring, passionate woman but that is in the context of a goal. Always. In other words, I don't walk around asking myself if I'm being open, caring, and passionate unless I'm off track and then I check into a way of being which happens to contain or not contain those three words (those three words are only important to me. you have to get your own words). I'm still not asking the question, who am I? The closest I get is the periodic question, 'why am I here?'
Why am I here might be, why am I in this @#$@#$@ing job? what is my purpose in life (please don't start me because depending on the day I'm either going to bitch slap you and say, your purpose is whatever you decide to make it or I'll get all metaphysical and read your tea leaves. today could go either way)? how the hell did I end up at the ass end of Long Island when I was looking for the Whitestone Bridge (now THERE is a really meaty question which I've been trying to answer since about 1993)?
But mostly 'why am I here?' is either a short term or gratuitous question. It's like peering into your naval for a bit too long. You are here because somebody birthed you. Next. OK, I take it back about the tea leaves; it's a bitch slap sort of day.
I have different feelings about the 'who am I?' question though. There's some weight to that question and I think the first part, or maybe a really hard part is learning how to actually ask it. I think you have to stop wanting to acquire, be, go to, have, do, before you can ask the who am I question. I don't mean forever, I just mean you have to let those things go and that's really freaking hard because it's all we've been conditioned to do, at least in this part of the world. We know nothing about self-denial and everything about pain avoidance. We are a bucket list society and god help us if we don't get to do at least, oh, I don't know, half to three quarters of what's on that bucket list? To hell with the cost. I'm watching it happen around me and I am astonished. I understand, I want to see the penguins too.
I am in the studio slogging myself through two sets of twenty-six asanas (except the last of which there is only one) and I am meditating on who I am. I have decided I will make Salabhasana, Locust Pose, my bitch. This is so hard for me it often takes every bit of will power I have to do the second set because I will tell myself just about any story to justify lying face down on the mat instead of inverting my arms, inserting them under my body, raising my legs, and rolling my body forward again. Anything. I would rather do anything I am thinking each time I complete the first set but I've had enough of this and Salabhasana will be my bitch and I will make her mine and never roll out of the posture again. I get stronger and roll forward further every time. I don't ever like it. I don't have to.
Locust is number seventeen. It takes this long before I come to one I really don't want to do. Even Dandayamana Janushirasana and Dandayamana Dhanurasana, Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow are worth at least a total of three minutes of frustration between them but I don't dislike them or find them uncomfortable. I just fall down a lot and get back up and I get back up because I want to finish on one leg with one locked knee even if I'm just holding the other leg BECAUSE the yoga student tries but the yogi gets back up and tries again. And again.
I embrace Ustrasana. I come to the top of my mat and notice I am dizzy on the way up for no good reason other than I know what's coming so I might as well just have at it, decide I'm going to do it, and go for as long as my strength and/or breath will carry me for today. For some reason I can't breathe in Camel pose or I never could breathe and I'm just now noticing or I am breathing and I just think I'm not breathing. If I had to pick I'd say I'm just noticing now because there's a seventy-five percent chance I wasn't breathing in the past and maybe even had my eyes closed. This is traditionally how I get through things which are terribly frightening if only just for that one moment when I break through the meniscus of the act. What would happen if I kept breathing and my eyes were open? I am breathing now probably because I have decided to love Ustrasana above all other asanas, even Supta Vajrasana, Fixed Firm where I place my ass between my impossibly bent knees, fall backward until my head touches the ground behind me, wrapping my arms over my head, arching my body upward, and making a human bridge. Of the twenty-six asanas this has always been my release; asana number twenty, approximately seventy-seven percent through the practice.
I have decided to love Camel because it is the most difficult in terms of emotional courage and currently physical endurance at least through the second set. I am still coming out of the second set about five seconds early, remaining on my knees until the asana is over before I roll over into savasana. Camel is number twenty-two and in choosing to accept this pose, give myself up, recognize where and who I am in those twenty seconds I am aware as I come out of the last set that life if short, fleeting, there are only four of the twenty-six left and it is almost over. Before I approached camel this way I was never so clear about time. Take it when you can get it, rush through nothing, stay present through everything because this is all there is.
The answer to who am I changes every time I'm in the studio and changes with each pose, sometimes second by second depending on how hard I struggle or release. I don't think there is ever any fast and hard answer, the point is always in the asking so I can speak my contract, to be an open, caring, passionate woman which is to remind myself that I am committed to being those things in the world but they're only loosely related to who I am.
Asking the question, who am I and honestly accepting the answer in any given moment allows a shift in that given moment. I may not like the answer I come up with while lying on the floor not wanting to invert my hands, rolling them under my body, palms down but the opportunity in the asking is to change the action which presents a slightly different answer.
Who am I is always changing, the question is, are we asking? Are we listening? Are we shifting according to observation?
Who am I drives who I am being which drives...
It's taken me four days to write this post. That's a record. I generally never come back once I've started and stopped.
Time to pick up Elizabeth and head to the studio.